Is the Q&A the perfect form for a nation to actually listen to what Kanye West has to say? The most interesting musician currently working, West is also constantly misrepresented in the mainstream and tabloid media, whose reports paint him in “crazy” colors that often carry undertones of racism — particularly after the perfect storm of hooking up with the world’s most successful celebrity, Kim Kardashian. And in a new GQ cover story, he’s got plenty of insight to share.
Perhaps fatherhood and marriage have given us a different version of West after the confrontational scream of last year’s Yeezus, an album publicized with a lone Q&A in the New York Times. A year ago, he was refusing to talk about his family life; now he’s into enthusing about Kim K, sweetly: “You mean to tell me that this girl with this fucking body and this face is also into style, and she’s a nice person, and she has her own money and is family-oriented? That’s just as cool as a fucking fighter jet or dinosaur! And just as rarely seen.”
He has a sharp take on why people are jealous of Kardashian:
[Y]ou’re mad because basically Kim is the type of girl that, her entire life, if you were in school with her, most people would be studying and up late nights, but for some reason she would have the skill set to go and grab the one book, turn to the exact page, and just magically say, “That’s the exact answer.” Or she could wink at the person who had done all the work and get it done anyway.
The thing is that even though Kanye and Kim have a public-facing persona — an image that comes through in tabloids, media, and even uncomfortably TMI/”art” shoots (specifically, their risqué cover of L’Officiel Hommes) — we don’t have much of an idea about what they actually talk to each other about, or have in common. Sure, you’ve read about Kim and Kanye, but can you imagine what their home life is like?
This particular Q&A isn’t tied to any specific release — there’s some information on a new album (probably out in September), and the pleasure of hearing West talk, extravagantly, about his artistic process — and it feels the most sincere when he’s discussing his marriage, his new baby, his feelings for Kardashian, and his interest in his family. This different side of the musician is super-endearing. Perhaps the next version of Kanye West is going to be a little bit of a dorky dad thing, and that’s cool, as he says:
“Family is super cool. Going home to one girl every night is super cool. Just going home and getting on the floor and playing with your child is super cool. Not wearing a red leather jacket, and just looking like a dad and shit, is like super cool. Having someone that I can call Mom again. That shit is super cool.”
Did you tear up a little bit at “having someone that I can call Mom again”? I did, honestly. Kardashian, America’s Mona Lisa canvas, the woman we project our fantasies and judgment upon, may be a pretty good partner. She tells West to tune out everybody else. “And what I had to learn from Kim is how to take more of her advice and less of other people’s advice,” he says. He also tells you that to win at life, you “need a lot of Kim K skills, period.”
It’s easy to be snarky about those Kim K skills, particularly with last week’s free app release of her game, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. But there does seem to be an honesty and a willingness to communicate in this particular Q&A that previous West interviews didn’t have. Maybe it comes back to what he says that he’s learning with Kim: “how to communicate as a team,” and the ongoing process of refining his “verbal creative communication.”
While more vulnerable in this interview, West is still a fascinating mix of bluster (comparing the French fashion socialite Carine Roitfeld’s attendance at his wedding to Walt Disney, in a confusing analogy) and truth: Yeezus, “basically a protest in music,” came out too soon. “If ‘New Slaves’ had come out right after the Clippers incident, it would have seemed more timely,” he says. He also calls the second verse of that song the best rap verse of all time, and compares it to Coming to America and Anchorman. West is well aware that whatever he does next, it’ll change the way people look at things: “I am an arbiter of taste, and people think that I have the ability to make things cool — or if I’m doing it, it should be cool.”
Look, I have no idea what the secret life of Kimye is like. But the vulnerability, the way that West seems like he loves and respects Kardashian, and values the new things she’s teaching him? Well, the only other people who get put on that pedestal in his interviews are the likes of Jay Z and his late mother, Donda West. West’s willingness to discuss what Kardashian brings to the relationship in this Q&A, revealing the squishy feelings that he has while, crucially, not elaborating on what Kardashian’s skills are — it’s the perfect celebrity balance of bringing us into his life while also keeping us at a distance.