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Kanye West talks to Charlamagne about Donald Trump, issues with JAY-Z and Obama

William E. Ketchum III

 // May 1, 2018

Owen Kolasinski/BFA.com/Shutterstock

—with additional reporting by Danielle Cheesman

Several weeks ago, Charlamagne Tha God revealed that he had a conversation with Kanye West. While it initially seemed like a private meeting, Kanye would later tweet that the interview had bidders - and now, that conversation has hit the web. Over nearly two hours, Kanye speaks to Charlamagne about everything: his issues with JAY-Z, why President Donald Trump appeals to him, his history with Barack Obama, and more. Watch the video, and see some of the main takeaways below.

kanye west / charlamagne interview
Kanye West

ON HIS ISSUES WITH JAY-Z:

“That concept that he gave me the money, that’s what frustrated me. The money, he got from Live Nation. Roc Nation managed me at the time, that’s something normal, that they would get me a touring deal. But the fact that it was worded that it came from him? That made me feel like I owed more than just the money itself, than the fact that it came from him. It put me in a bit more controlled situation. … That said, I think there was some love in that, because Jay did have to cosign for it, when Live Nation and these other companies wouldn’t cosign for me. I was in debt, Jay did have to go up and say, ‘I’ll cosign for Ye.’ Jay did something that was positive, but the fact that I didn’t receive the information in the right way. … I’m out here in Hollywood, my mom passed, I don’t know who I can trust.

"Jay did (the lyrics of "Kill Jay Z" from 4:44) in a brotherly way. He could’ve done a whole song. That was just a bar. He could’ve got every single piece of information about my life, and gotten my finances. … We texting each other, it’s positive energy. I haven’t seen him, but I can feel him.

"I was hurt about them not coming to the wedding. I know they were going through some things, but if it’s family, you’re not going to miss a wedding."

ON HIS ‘RANTS:’

"I think to do the rants was brave. We’re in a place now where bravery is more important than perfection. Feeling is more important than thought. People put so much thought into what’s going to happen. I think the rants came from a place of bravery, and I had enough of the politics. That’s where we are. People are speaking their truth, people are expressing themselves. I’ve been waiting on this moment."

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ON A TEMPORARY LACK OF CONFIDENCE:

"One of the things that was incredible when I got out of the hospital, was I had lost my confidence. You could see it. That’s why i say ‘sunken place’ and all this. I never had the empathy for people who lacked confidence. I had so much of it, I didn’t know what it was like to be without it. … I don’t know exactly what it was, maybe a doctor can do an explanation. Maybe it had something to do with coming to the breakthrough. But also, it was incredible because it was forced humility. Previously, I would’ve looked at humility as a negative. But that humility gave me time to grow."

ON LEAVING NIKE FOR ADIDAS:

"I’ll tell you some regular man shit that every man deals with: my girlfriend has a child. We hae a baby. You make decisions in your life based on providing for your family. … I loved Nike. When I was young, I used to sketch the swoosh and everything. It was heartbreaking for me to have to leave Nike, but they refused me to allow me to get royalty on my shoe. I knew YEEZY was the hottest brand in the world, but I couldn’t get royalties. … But it was nothing to build. Now we’re building factories. It wouldn’t let me build anything. Generational wealth, more ideas. My friend was at Chris’ house, and he expressed that he got a royalty because he was a store. I’m Yeezy, and they wouldn’t give me a royalty? That was the final straw. I was talking to Puma, and I was talking to adidas. The person who didn’t sign me at Puma definitely needs to lose his job. … Yeezy is a unicorn. It’s a billion dollar company. We were at $15 million two years ago, and we’re going to hit a billion this year."

ON BARACK OBAMA AND CHICAGO:

"Obama met with me and my mother to let us know he was running for office, because I am his favorite artist of all time. … I’m like, ‘oh this is dope. We’re about to have a black president, this dude is mad cool, he’s from Chicago.’ You saw the video [where Obama called Kanye a jackass]. He never called me to apologize. The same person that sat down with me and my mom should have communicated to me directly. ‘Ye, you know what it is man. I’m in the room, it’s just a joke.’

"… You know I’m your favorite. But I’m not safe. But that’s why you love me. So just tell me you love me, and tell the world you love me. Don’t tell the world I’m a jackass. I’m fighting hard enough. Something about me going on stage was similar to what you were doing. I’m fighting to break the simulation.

“I also had a problem that Obama’s from Chicago and Chicago’s the murder capital of the world. I got a number of things that made me say, just like how there’s racist Trump supporters, there’s things where I’m like, ‘Well, maybe this could make a difference.’ It’s not a magic wand. You know what? It’s not his fault. You see that gray hair on that man? You don’t know what that man was dealing with. ... So we wanna be supportive and be aligned also, but this isn’t like an absolute soundbyte. This isn’t an absolute opinion on either one. This is complex. Because there are voices. I might be president one day so I might be in that situation where it’s harder for me to explain to the masses why something isn’t happening that they feel the concept of “President” should be able to fix. So to Obama, I understand, bro. I understand like Jay not coming to the wedding, they just had an altercation, I understand, but I have my feelings also so it’s complex.”

ON MEETING WITH DONALD TRUMP:

“I’m not gonna back down at that. I’m not gonna let myself off easy by saying ‘Aw, I met with Trump just cause I was going through something.’ I ain’t gonna give the universe that. Nah, I’m gonna face it and they gon’ face me. This was the ‘Ye that wanted to do something to change something. And I would meet with him today and we’ll talk about Chicago first. We’ll talk about some more things. We could eventually get into a lot of elements. But we start there.”

ON THE FUTURE OF YEEZY:

“The same design perspective that can sell a $300 t-shirt, we’re just gonna give it. And eventually that’s who we’ll be. You look up 5, 10 years from now and Yeezy will be the biggest service provider of apparel and one by one, every year, we’re gonna take one, two, three, ten people that would’ve normally ended up in a fashion house, would have went to Nike, would’ve went other places and we’re going to Calabasas. We’re building factories.”

ON FAMILY:

“I am in too good of a position to take a job where I have to be away from my wife and my son and my daughters. That just don’t make no sense. For what? Family is your most important currency. I got a cousin that lived in Florida I flew out here. I’m tryna get as much family as close to me as possible. That’s one of the reasons why Kim won’t end up in a hospital; she got her family close.”

ON WHY TRUMP APPEALS TO HIM:

“I don’t have all the answers that a celebrity’s supposed to have, but I could tell you that when he was running, it’s like I felt something. It’s like the fact that he won, it’s like it proved something. It proved that anything is possible in America. That Donald Trump could be president in America. I’m not talking about what he’s done since he’s been in office, but the fact that he’s been able to do it. Remember when I said I was gonna run for president? I had people that was close to me, friends of mine like making jokes, making memes, talking shit. Now it’s like, oh, that was proven that they could’ve happened. I felt the non-conventional. Even from what we doing in fashion to me being the kid with the pink polos, to me being outspoken, to me being ostracized ‘cause of the Taylor Swift thing, or the George Bush thing, or who I’m dating, who I’m marrying, what I’m talking about, all of this is like an ‘outsider’ thing. So when I see an outsider infiltrate, I connect with that. I liked it. It showed you that anything is possible. It shows you that, even like Virgil [Abloh] working at Louis Vuitton, Trump being in office, it’s a time for the unconventional. I’m not a traditional thinker. I’m a non-conformist. So that related to the non-conformist part of me. But I’m also a producer. I like to segue things. I like to take “Otis,” chop it up, do it like this. So, what’s the ‘Ye version? The ‘Ye version would be the Trump campaign and maybe the Bernie Sanders principles. That would be my mixing stuff, but I think both are needed.”

ON HIS FEARFUL HOSPITALIZATION:

“I hit the glass ceiling. You ever seen a bird fly into a window? They don’t know it’s glass. That was me. When I hit that hospital, that was a bird flying into the window. And I could’ve not made it out of it. But I survived and shit. I’m happy it happened. I’m happy to see it have gone to the other side and back. I wanna point out the moment when you’re in the hospital bed and you’re next to your friend and you tell them, ‘Don’t let this person leave my side’ and they put you inside of an elevator and take all your friends away from you. That was the scariest moment of my life. I thought I was gonna get killed. My wife wasn’t in town, so I told my boy[s] like, ‘Don’t leave my side until my wife gets here’ and they have this moment where they’re forced to leave your side. That’s something that has to change. If a pregnant woman is delivering a baby, [they] guarantee whoever the people [are], her sisters, the dad, they get to stay next to them til the baby is delivered. [Highly sensitive people], you paranoid [about] everything. You don’t believe nothing. You just seeing through all of the simulation. Everybody’s phony, everybody’s an actor, all this shit. And then they make your friends, the only people you believe in, leave your side. I can’t express to you how traumatizing that moment is. And then you wake up drugged the fuck out.”

ON MEDICATIONS AND THEIR EFFECTS:

“Most definitely [on medication]. I ain’t gonna say [what]. It’s an imperfect solution to just calm me down. But there’s a lot of ways to calm down. Let ‘Ye be ‘Ye. There’s power in being controlled and clam. X-Men really understanding how to really use his power, or Superman. That’s me. This is like once the kryptonite is gone, I got the confidence, everything is possible. Building acres, raps, stadium tours, design, companies, ideas to ignite the next generations, like everything is possible. And I’m just a vessel. And that’s my job in the universe. As a servant to the world, I have to be me. I’m not as good of a servant if I’m not ‘Ye. I want to create music that’s therapeutic. I feel “Real Friends” is in the territory of what we’re creating.”

ON 'COLLEGE DROPOUT' 'YE AND THE FUTURE:

“I think he’d be happy, satisfied, and he would believe it. You know how people say, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t believe it.’ I always believed it. I always know what it is. There’s documentation right now, this is just the age 40. This is a version of a ‘College Dropout’ ‘Ye. We standing on my first property. So, I’m gonna be one of the biggest real estate developers of all time, like what Howard Hughes was to aircraft and what Henry Ford was to cars….We’re going to develop cities.”

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