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Mentally, physically, and spiritually
January 20, 2014 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Director Steve McQueen interviews Kanye West
posted by Artw (17 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
His first question was a tough one.

STEVE MCQUEEN: It's hard to make beauty. People often try, and more often than not, everything starts to feel sort of cheap or kitsch. But you express yourself in a way that's beautiful. You can sing from the heart and have it connect and translate, which is a huge thing for an artist to be able to do. So my first question is: How do you do that? How do you communicate in that way?

posted by sweet mister at 10:39 AM on January 20


This was an incredibly interesting interview.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:50 AM on January 20


Great interview. I respect both of these folks a lot, and I love Kanye's music, even if I he still comes across very flaky and self-aggrandizing sometimes. Then again so do many other brilliant musicians that don't get reviled for it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:11 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


An interesting aspect of the portion of the interview on Bound 2:

In the earlier, Power 105 interview where Kanye was on the defensive about Bound 2, he characterized the video as such:
I wanted [the video] to look as phony as possible. I wanted [smiling broadly] the clouds to go in one direction, and the mountains to go in one [i.e., another] direction, I wanted the horses to go over there. Cause I wanted to show you this IS the hunger games. I wanted to show you this is the imagery that's been presented to all to us, and the only difference is there's a black guy in the middle of it.
...
I'm like Maria Ambromovic, this is like performance art. Cause I ain't got a problem with looking stupid.

He describes himself as wanting to make a "white trash tee-shirt" - as trying to make it a kind of satire. This is his perception of "the dream" as defined by White America, and he wants us to know it. Yet, in this interview, which strikes a reverential tone about the video, we get the following:

I think people are afraid of dreams, and that [the Bound 2 video] is one of the closest things to the way that dreams look and feel, or the way joy looks and feels, with the colors. You know, I think there are rules to fashion, with the all-black everything, and rules to art, with white galleries. There are rules to how a lot of things are: the concrete jungle, stone pavement, brick walls. There are even rules to what a Brooklyn apartment looks like. But this video completely didn't respect any of those rules whatsoever. [laughs] It's a dream, and I think the controversy comes from the fact that I don't think most people are comfortable with their own dreams, so it's hard for them to be comfortable with other people's dreams.

The video represents something aspirational, a dream-like representation of something that he wants. These two interviews seem to be somewhat at odds with each other.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:17 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


Unless his dreams are parodies of White America.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:34 AM on January 20


i don't really see those statements as that far apart. dreams are weird places where the details are wrong, but everything still feels right. it can be a place of joy but still be like a white trash tshirt - finding joy in places you didn't expect. it's kind of what he's made his career on - taking things that seem at odds and putting them together is a pretty good description of his style in producing, song writing, fashion, etc.
posted by nadawi at 11:41 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]


We've been taught since day one to stop believing in our own dreams. We've had the confidence beaten out of us since day one, and then sold back to us through branding and diamond rings and songs and melodies—through these lines that we have to walk inside of so as to not break the uniform or look silly or be laughed at. So I hope that there are people out there laughing. Laugh loud, please. Laugh until your lungs give out because I will have the last laugh.

I totally believe him. Great interview between two really interesting and thought-provoking artists. Thanks for posting.
posted by billiebee at 12:47 PM on January 20 [4 favorites]


God I fucking love him.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:25 PM on January 20


I don't think there's ever been an artist as successful and influential as Kanye that has been so heavily criticized. I would extend that and say there are few people as intelligent as Kanye who are so frequently dismissed as stupid or trivial.

This, to me, is extremely powerful:
It's not a matter of me believing in myself that's so scary to everyone, it's the idea of everyone else starting to believe in themselves just as much as I do that's scary.

Wow. Thanks for posting!
posted by MetalFingerz at 1:43 PM on January 20 [6 favorites]


Also re: the Bound 2 imagery, it's not that uncommon to want something and be disgusted by it/with yourself at the same time, though it is uncommon to discuss it a lot, especially in public (as it's self-torturing and vulnerable), which is what makes Kanye an (incredible) artist IMO. Everyone focuses on the egomaniac at the VMAs and no one focuses on the struggle with that ego in the music.

I love Bound 2, video and song (though song more), and I am still distressed by the amount of flak it got. Such a fascinating song, so vital in how form echoes content, so engrossing, gahhhh

He's just awesome, I love him so much.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:49 PM on January 20 [4 favorites]


I love Bound 2, video and song (though song more), and I am still distressed by the amount of flak it got

I assumed part of that was the general ridicule bestowed on Kim Kardashian. The amount of bile that society has deemed acceptable to spew on her - on both of them - is staggering to me.
posted by billiebee at 2:01 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


it's kind of what he's made his career on - taking things that seem at odds and putting them together is a pretty good description of his style in producing, song writing, fashion, etc

I can't comment on the writing and fashion parts, but by and large his success at production has been about the fact he's simply really good at it and did the tried-and-tested things better and in subtly different ways than most other producers. The beats he built his name off of weren't taking samples from anywhere particularly unusual for hip hop (yes, even King Crimson)--soul, jazz, in some cases fairly well-known breaks, even--which isn't exactly something you'd call revolutionary in itself. But his early signature style pretty much set hip hop on fire and soon everyone was like "oh hey let's do that thing Kanye did on To The Wire." Even his later stuff where he moves away from samples--he's not really putting disparate elements together that others don't. He's usually either doing it better than they did or else doing it for a different audience because of his wide appeal (by this I mean stuff like Yeezus--enough people have tread that ground before with beats, but it certainly never would have gotten to an audience like Kanye's before).
posted by Hoopo at 3:57 PM on January 20


I don't think there's ever been an artist as successful and influential as Kanye that has been so heavily criticized.

Really?
posted by Vibrissae at 4:55 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


it's not that uncommon to want something and be disgusted by it/with yourself at the same time

This has been one of the themes in his writing since the beginning, since "All Falls Down". Anybody who claims that he's glamorizing materialism simply isn't familiar with his work, which expresses deep ambivalence about materialism at every turn.
posted by chrchr at 4:57 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


In case anyone else is as ignorant as I was:

No, not that Steve McQueen.

I read the first few paragraphs and thought: "Man, dude sure knows a lot about hip-hop for a white centenarian."
posted by 256 at 11:58 PM on January 20


These two interviews seem to be somewhat at odds with each other.

Going to Maine, I see what you're saying, and I do think the two interviews are in conflict a bit. I did think that West was saying in the first interview that the "dream" image that was being held up to white America was totally manufactured and packaged up, as in The Hunger Games -- it was the dream we were being sold by corporations or whoever, and it was totally unreal. It was something that was being fed to us that we really shouldn't want, but we did.

Then, in the second interview, I did think he was saying that these were dreams we really had for ourselves, and that we should be comfortable with owning up to, but most of us weren't. But the dreams themselves were good, and we should be comfortable with acknowledging our own desires.

I think maybe West might go back and forth on this a little. I think he may go back and forth internally over whether we're supposed to want the images being presented in the video because I think he has the same sort of conflicting relationship with money and with expensive clothes and stuff. I've read him talk about this in conflicting ways in other interviews. On one hand he realizes that HAVING ALL OF THE MONEY is not the point, but on another hand he wants to get what he deserves as a sort of modern Michelangelo. On the one hand he realizes that corporations and advertising try to trap you into wanting fine clothes and possessions so that they can get your money (and maybe in some ways keep black people down?), and on the other hand he wants fine clothes and possessions because he appreciates them as fine art, and moreover he wants to sell fine things to his fans.

I think whether or not we're supposed to want what's at the center of the images, the main point of the video is still effective, which is that it is supposed to be startling to see all of those images, but with a black man at the center of them. So in the same way West was taking the confederate flag and making it his flag now, he was taking white American tropes -- the wild horses running out West in the technicolor sunset (!), the white dude in a white trash T-shirt riding a motorbike, etc. -- and making them his. So whether it is real or not, good or bad, whatever those old tropes meant West is appropriating them. I do like that.

WEST: As my grandfather would say, "Life is a performance." I'm giving all that I have in this life. I'm opening up my notebook and I'm saying everything in there out loud. A lot of people are very sacred with their ideas, and there is something to protecting yourself in that way, but there's also something to idea sharing, or being the person who makes the mistake in public so people can study that.

This is one of the things I really, really like about West. He is leaving it all out on the table and he doesn't care if people hate or make fun of him. I'm not sure if he can keep doing that, in some ways I hope he protects himself a bit, but I do think it's brave and badass.
posted by onlyconnect at 8:23 AM on January 21 [3 favorites]


I read the first few paragraphs and thought: "Man, dude sure knows a lot about hip-hop for a white centenarian."

Especially one that's been dead since 1980.
posted by stenseng at 4:14 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


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