For the majority of his nearly two-decades-long spell in the public eye, Kanye West has kept a watchful eye over everything in his professional life. From the hands-on approach that he adopts with his apparel line and shoe empire to the simmering anger that he can unleash when there’s not enough bass in a mix, keeping everything on his terms has always been of paramount importance to the famed producer/rapper.
After all, this is a man who stopped releasing his output via physical copies in order to ensure that he can discreetly tweak the album whenever he sees fit.
These days, however, it seems like Kanye’s desire to keep everything within his grasp has transitioned from his artistry to the wider world’s perception of his personal life.
In the recent spree of Instagram live videos that chronicled his attempts to gain entry to his daughter Chicago’s birthday party, Kanye expressed a desire to take the reins in terms of how he and his family’s personal lives are portrayed. Or, as he put it, the ability to “calmly and legally take control of my narrative.”
In what seems like a concerted effort to do exactly that, Kanye recently sat down for a long-form discussion with Hollywood Unlocked’s Jason Lee. Much like the previous instances where he submitted himself to lengthy interviews with the likes of Charlamagne Tha God and Zane Lowe at other notable crossroads in his journey, the new, 44-minute long chat has yielded no shortage of revelations and controversy-courting soundbites.
So, as Kanye reportedly sets off on the creation of Donda 2 in earnest, it’s time to break down all of the pivotal talking points from his lengthy chat with Lee.
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Given that it actively fuelled the lyricism behind his recent collaboration with The Game, it comes as no surprise that the dynamic between himself and his now-estranged wife Kim Kardashian took up much of the interview’s runtime.
After decreeing that what he’s going through “can’t be captured in a headline,” Kanye sought to detail what he saw as underhanded treatment by the Kardashian camp when it comes to his kids.
“Earlier this week, when I went to go and pick my kids up from school, security stopped me at the gate and that was not finna happen,” Kanye declared. “I bring them back and North is like ‘I want you to come inside and see something’ but daddy isn’t allowed in the house. Now, I’m hearing that the new boyfriend is in the house that I can’t go into and that’s where I call my cousins. My cousins is real opinionated, you know that. I had two directives… Tell her that security not finna be in between me and my kids and don’t have my daughter wearing lipstick on TikTok, don’t have her on TikTok at all, without my permission.”
Described by Ye as an ongoing process of “poking the bear,” Kanye didn’t mince his words when it comes to what he will and won’t tolerate from the family that he’d once married into.
“My expectation is to say, ‘Look, we ain’t gonna be playing these little games, these little throw a stone and hide your hand moves. But then, if I scream or react, it’s like, look at him, he’s crazy. Then I wasn’t crazy when I put the creative director at [Kim K’s] SKIMS. I wasn’t crazy when I made 2 billion dollars.”
When asked about where the friction arose between himself and the mother of his four children, Kanye was candid about the toll that his very public appropriation of the red MAGA hat took on his partner. In turn, leading him to believe that what Kim ultimately wants is for him to follow the status quo in a way that Kanye has been incapable of throughout his entire career.
“There’s a lot of people around Kim that can influence her. You know, she’s making certain decisions, she’s just looking for safety and a safe place to be because I do these ideas where like, man, if I’m the only person that’s not with Hillary, then she’s getting like, attacked so much, telling me I can’t wear the hat,”
“And she just, as a woman… Women just want security and comfort. But, you know, what she’d ultimately like is a husband to play the role of what’s happening in Hollywood already, but that’s not the case, you got Ye and I’m here to improve upon the situation.”
Elsewhere, Kanye verified the previously disputed claims that there was another unreleased sextape starring Kim and Ray J. In fact, Ye went as far as to disclose that he went and retrieved it himself, only to be left aghast when Kim kissed her now-boyfriend Pete Davidson on national television just hours later.
“How you gonna bring me to SNL and kiss the dude you’re dating right in front of me?” Ye passionately enquired. “Everybody’s like, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ After I went and got the laptop from Ray J that night, right? I met this man at the airport, then got a red-eye, came back…delivered it to her at 8 am in the morning. I gave it to her, and she cried when she saw it. You know why she cried when she saw that laptop? It represents how much she’s been used. … It represents how much people didn’t love her, they just saw her as a commodity.”
On top of making the audacious claim that Kim is “the most transacted-upon being other than Santa Claus or Jesus Christ,” Ye also suggested that the interview had a broader societal implication as he is setting the tone for how to prevent fathers from being forcibly removed from their kids’ lives.
“It’s all about taking the father out the home,” he said in the interview’s concluding moments. “I’mma be so close that I’ll be walking distance. I don’t play when it comes to my children and the media ain’t finna play with me and run this narrative. This is for anybody going through a separation where people intentionally do things to be mean and hurt you and play games then culturally, it’s ok?”
“I’m Jesus gang,” Ye remarked. “I’m about family. Me and my kids’ mom, we’re not together, but I’m still going to be the best dad…. They can go on SNL and make jokes. They can make jokes in the media. They can plant stories about whoever I’m dating whatever they want to do. They can block deals, they could do all that type of stuff.”
“But I’mma tell you straight up, don’t play with my kids,” Kanye reaffirmed. “Whoever y’all work for, whoever y’all think the family is working for, I’m telling you right now, don’t play with my children. And it’s going to be all legal. It’s going to be all legal, baby.”
Considering that many of these remarks were said with Kanye’s gaze fixed directly down the lens of the camera, it’s clear that if there was any point that Ye wished to emphasize during the interview, it’s this one.
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Although previous long-form discussions with Ye have generally coincided with either the impending release of a new project or in the immediate aftermath of a record dropping, his standing in the music world was a tertiary concern for him during the Hollywood Unlocked convo. That said, some of his ongoing grievances around GOOD Music’s former proteges did bubble to the surface.
“This is my biggest issue with Big Sean and John Legend,” Kanye said as part of a larger point around people striving to minimize his impact. “They just went too easy…I changed both of these people’s lives and they’re about that, ‘oh don’t pay attention, he’s a rapper, he’s this.’ And it’s like yeah I’m a rapper and obviously, I’m a genius too, and yeah this is America.”
“I love John Legend, I love Big Sean, I love these people,” he continued. “But people gotta know, man, you can’t be like down on someone that changed your life in public. Especially not in the middle of when I’m running for office.”
Later, Kanye also spoke of times where he lobbied for John when he was being overlooked in favor of other artists, and also claimed that he narrowly averted Big Sean losing his deal “a bunch of times.”
Transitioning from current foes to those whom he’s since reconciled with, Kanye quickly refuted claims that The Free Larry Hoover concert with Drake was covertly competitive. After Jason Lee proclaimed that he “tricked” Drake into a “Verzuz battle and beat him,” Ye countered with the revelation that well-documented Kanye fan Drizzy actually curated his performance.
“No I did not, this man wrote my setlist.”
Hot on the heels of the release of “Eazy” with Game and Hit-Boy, some fans would’ve tuned into this interview with the expectation that they’d receive an update on the status of his proposed new project. Instead, the only clarification that they received from Ye was the news that collaboration with Cardi B was inbound.
“I was finishing that verse for your girl,” Ye revealed. “I always believed in her, ever since she was on the show [Love & Hip-Hop].”
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Four years on from the furor around his “slavery was a choice comments” at TMZ and his emotional outburst during his one and only presidential rally, it’d be understandable if Ye was reticent to discuss his political views in an interview format. However, it seems like Kanye has no lingering hang-ups of the sort.
Adamant that he will “not be canceled” despite what he sees as the best efforts of culture at large, Kanye went on to discuss his infamous red headwear and, for a brief moment at least, appeared to show a degree of remorse over how it was received.
“I wore the hat for the freedom of opinion. My mom was born into a drinking fountain, she was told what fountain she could drink in and her, my grandfather, my father, they fought for the right to vote.”
“I will say, I take responsibility for the fact that it hurt peoples’ feelings,” he conceded. “I also say, I believe now, that people, not just Black people but people across the board, they’re realizing that you have to let Ye be Ye. I take accountability for when I’ve been ramped up and not had the right mood and attitude, but it was necessary for me not to take the programming and not take the bullying and manipulation.”
“I feel like a lot more people are along for the ride now. I am a future president,” he matter-of-factly claimed in the interview. “It might not be two to three years from now, but ain’t never been a situation I went in that I didn’t make better. I’m an industrialist! I opened the first sportswear factory in America since World War II.”
After espousing a theory that claimed that abortion was instated as a tool to prevent the black population of America from growing, he then shared a pearl of wisdom from one of his musical mentors, claiming that “the fathers have been strategically taken out of the homes since the 80’s. Drugs have been strategically put there, the guns, the dracos, all of that. Jay-Z said something really amazing to me. He said ‘it’s like crabs in a barrel, but crabs shouldn’t be in a barrel.'”
In what was one of the more unexpected revelations from the interview, Ye revealed that he was eager to meet with Bernie Sanders. But, according to West, his attempts to make contact were spurned by the prominent democrat’s camp.
“I always wanted to meet with Bernie Sanders and he refused to meet with me, but I always thought that there were things that he agreed with that the earlier administration agreed with. This is just around the time when I was wearing the red hat. Bernie met with Cardi but wouldn’t meet with me. I just felt like, if I’m this polarizing of a character, why not meet with us?”
On Battery Charges
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Although it was captured on video, Ye has been slow to broach the pending battery charges that were filed against him by 40-year-old Justin Poplawski. But rather than issue any denial in the face of a potential $2000 fine or six-month jail term, Ye seemed proud of his handiwork.
“I got into an altercation with somebody that wants to make money off my autographs,” Ye explained. “I just finished these two songs, I came from the studio, and this dude, he just had this real attitude, like ‘what you gon do?’ I’mma just tell you, that blue COVID mask ain’t gonna stop that knockout.”
Considering that he has ambitions of obtaining public office, the tone of Ye’s sitdown with Jason Lee both made perfect sense and yet strayed from the intended path on several occasions. For the most part, Ye tackled the speculation surrounding his personal life in a more reserved and statesmanlike manner than we’ve grown accustomed to. With that said, there were more moments in which his comments towards the Kardashian family will likely be seen as combative in ways that may undermine his calls to control the narrative.
Although it may have been a throwaway comment, his suggestion that he and Jason meet up at regularly scheduled intervals to discuss “what happened last night” and provide “context” to what’s being reported could suggest that this isn’t a one-off and in reality, this interview could mark the beginning of a new era for Ye in which visibility and transparent communication with the public is more of a priority than ever.
Kanye West and Julia Fox attend Paris Fashion Week, January 2022 – Marc Piasecki/GC Images/Getty Images