Words by: Venessa Satten and Leah Rose
Photo: Estevan Oriol
D.W.E. is the shit! What, you think that’s an arrogant statement? Well your interpretation of arrogance is about to be challenged. Are people with a whole lotta drive to make it really, really big one day big-headed dummies, or are they just people who know they can do anything they put their mind to? This is the question D.W.E. had been pondering since we met up with Roc-A-Fella Records’ lone backpacker, Kanye West, at the plush NYC Sony Studios. As you may or may not know, the super sped-up soul producer-turned-rapper from Chi-town was in a car accident back in October 2002. Even though he was temporarily put on life support and had his jaw wired shut for six weeks he was still able to throw the dynasty sign in the air and record “Through the Wire.” The college dropout, which happens to be the title of his debut album, is known for being quite a self-assured fellow. So in our own little White-girl world, we thought it would be a blast to find the root of Kanyeezy’s conceit and play with it for a little while. Well, we’re not sure if we really accomplished what we set out to do, but one thing is for sure, we managed to piss him off!
Leah: Do you think people misinterpret you?
Kanye: Definitely. They always try to paraphrase what I’m saying, but my words might have three meanings/ they try and make it something one-dimensional and I’m not one-dimensional.
L: So there’s a lot people are missing?
My first album is College Dropout, my second is Late Registration, my third will be Graduation and fourth will be Good-Ass Job. And then they’ll say, “Do you think he’s overly optimistic to think he’ll have four albums? Is he arrogant?” So I can’t have a plan of what I hope to do?
Venessa: There’s a line between being optimistic/arrogant versus just confident?
L: Everyone says that you’re really arrogant.
Word? ‘Cause I know exactly what I want in life and I feel like I have the abilities to do it? That makes me arrogant? This feeling that I have of confidence is what makes the music. Only a confident person could make a song like “Get By,” want to put a choir on it, and fight with the label for them to give me $10,000 to get Harlem Boys Choir instead of $3,000 for Hezekia Walker. Me, I love Dame Dash, and people say he’s arrogant.
V: I hope Dame is not your goal imagewise…
Dame Dash is one of my idols because he says he’s gonna do shit and he does.
V: Does a hit song make you more confident or arrogant?
It humbles me because I don’t have to speak to overcompensate for what people don’t believe. So then I don’t seem arrogant anymore ‘cause right now I’m not being arrogant, I’m just predicting the future.
V: Thin line?
I don’t think so. I told people I want to sell ten million. If you shoot for the stars at least you’ll land on a cloud.
V: Do you really think you’ll sell ten million?
Yes. It is arrogant to say that?
Why? Who’s to judge what’s arrogant?
V: Everyone. You determine what you think of someone on your own.
So if Lauryn Hill or Alicia Keys said they’re gonna sell ten million, would you consider that arrogant?
So anyone who’s calling me arrogant is saying they fuckin’ doubt me. And they looking at me like, “Who the fuck are you?” Anybody who’s calling me arrogant, fuck them. “Who the hell are you to think you’re gonna do something with yourself?” This is just times ten what people told me in school when I said I was gonna make beats for a living. Fourteen years old in study hall playing wack-ass beats with no idea how to play the keyboard saying, “Janet Jackson’s gonna buy a beat from me one day.” [People doubt] what the future may hold because the average person can’t do it. To think I’m above average is not being arrogant, that’s just confidence.
V: To think you’re above average, is that a superiority complex?
I don’t think I’m superior. People ask me if I feel anything special about the fact that Biggie died at Cedar Sinai. [That’s where Kanye recovered after his accident in 2002.] If a bum died there that days that’s equal to if I had lost my life or if Biggie lost his, and please excuse me for saying Biggie and my name in the same breath – that might come off arrogant, too. Eighty percent of my raps aren’t about me, but about me putting myself in the shoes of what I feel the listener is going through at the time.
L: How do you identify with what a stranger is going through?
How did Maya Angelou write about it? I feel like I’m gonna personify the people because I relate to the people. That’s one of the reasons I dropped out of college.
L: D.W.E. dropped out of college, too!
Yeah! [Kanye gives Leah a high-five. Gets up off the couch to wander through Sony Studios. D.W.E. follows] How do you say it again?
L: Double White-girl Explosion.
Double White-Girl Exposure.
L: Explosion not exposure.
Oh, explosion. That’s even freakier. [Sings, “Is anybody feeling freaky?”] The arrogant Kanye West is walking through Sony right now. The asshole enters the room. The asshole holds the door. The asshole has home training. The asshole has taken over their tape recorder. The asshole is listening to his song.
V: Why does everyone involved in hip hop have to wear diamonds all the time?
Why? You have something against diamonds?
V: No, but it’s like you’re only cool if you wear diamonds.
That’s what hip hop is all about from day one.
V: Being cool?
No, it’s about….
V&L: Being cool.
It’s about letting people finish sentences. It’s coming from not having anything, getting money, and instead of investing in something where people can’t see, we gotta show people to start off with that we got money. [To rapper Consequence, who’s passing by] And I’m an asshole ‘cause I told them I was gonna sell ten million, and they said, “Ew, that’s kind of arrogant.” Thanks for shooting down my dreams, killjoys.
L: Are you into being called a backpacker?
That was some marketing shit I did ‘cause I was on Roc-A-Fella. I feel comfortable at those type of hip hop shows. There’s two places that most of these rappers came from: the streets or the headphones.
L: Has the label tried to censor you?
Yeah. That’s another thing that makes me arrogant. They can’t change anything I do creatively ‘cause at that point I’ll just put my shit out on the streets. I don’t have to rap ‘cause I make beats for other people. So you can’t force me to have an R&B single and put some mamis and papis on my hook.
V: Anything you wanna ask us?
Yeah, what you doing later?
L: Is the Lauryn Hill song [“Self Conscious”] gonna make your album?
She cleared the publishing. That was arrogant for me to have that on my demo? “Oh, you do, do you? You’ll never get that cleared!”
V: So you’re insulted when people call you arrogant? Notice that about yourself at all?
Yeah. I think I might have arrogant tendencies. I think it comes from arrogance when I say shit like, “I’m the best dressed rapper,” or something.
V: Are you?
I am looking kind of fly, you don’t think so?
L: That’s a nice camel tweed blazer you’re wearing. Are you gonna get your jaw re-broken?
I’m not positive because I don’t know how it’s gonna end up the next time. It’s already a little different. I was gonna get another arrogant thing. I was gonna get veneers.
V: Anything else you wanna add?
Damn, I’m feeling really stupid right now. I don’t know if you read any of my interviews, they always end off with a really stupid statement. I thought the best quote that was a true Kanye quote is when I said, “I wave just in case they see me. If they don’t, you can’t please everybody. But if anybody has a chance, I do.”