Kanye West: 'Generally rap is misogynistic'

In a long interview with fashion website Showstudio, the rapper candidly discussed class, race, family and the roots of hip-hop’s problem with women

Michelangelo and Picasso, so often celebrated for their contributions to art history, now have something else in common. Kanye West likened himself to both artists in a circuitous two-hour interview that saw the Chicago rapper and fashion designer speak candidly about social class, race, misogyny in rap and the pressures of fame.

“All of my aspirations are things that currently only 60-year-old white people do,” West said, in the video interview live-streamed by fashion site Showstudio. When asked why he referred to himself as a creative genius and visionary, West said: “Because otherwise I’m called celebrity. I’m called nigger. I’m called rapper. And when they use the word celebrity, nigger or rapper, it’s not in a positive way. So I have to define who I am.”

Kanye West interviewed by Lou Stoppard for Showstudio, on 6 October 2015

During a conversation with journalist Lou Stoppard that veered from personal anecdotes about struggling to break into fashion – “me sitting here, trying my hardest, and everyone laughing at me” – to family memories, West outlined his positive vision of a society that overcame class hierarchy.

“I want everyone to win. I don’t even want to be in competition with everyone,” he said. “I just want people to be the best thems and live the happiest lives possible. If you keep information and opportunity away from a certain group of people, then it’s destiny that they’ll stay part of a lower class.” West’s comments on class echoed views he’d shared during an interview in March, when he’d talked about class holding people back from success more than race.

West’s optimistic outlook didn’t keep him from frankly addressing questions about racial politics in America. He spoke about the legacy of slavery contributing to African American people’s reluctance to speak with confidence and carve out their own space in public life. “Blacks, especially in America, have been raised with a slave mentality – they don’t feel that they have the right to speak as loud as possible,” he said. “And every time you hear a black person speaking as loud as possible, somebody’s going to say: ‘Look at those niggers over there’.”

Over the course of the inteview, Stoppard asked West questions submitted by his friends, peers and fans. Most focused on race, fame and when West’s forthcoming album would be released – still unconfirmed, for those wanting to know. “You want to deliver genius, you want to prove people wrong and prove people right that are fighting for you,” West said, before likening the pressure of expectation around the album to being pulled apart by horses in all directions.

Lighter moments arrived elsewhere. London mayor Boris Johnson asked what West would do to make London better – “widen the streets” – while West’s wife Kim Kardashian West asked what he would choose for his last meal. He opted, diplomatically, for some of her home-cooked fried chicken. But a fan-submitted question about the portrayal of black women in rap lyrics saw West offer one of his more hesitant and convoluted responses. “I definitely think generally rap is misogynistic,” he said, after a pause. “Not that that’s justifying the culture.”

Kanye West in LA last month with his wife Kim, who is pregnant with their second child.
Kanye West in LA last month with his wife Kim, who is pregnant with their second child. Photograph: MediaPunch/Rex Shutterstock

West spoke about rap music responding to trends, and communicating the current zeitgeist at the time that its lyrics are written. “There was a time when we had Afrocentric rap, and everybody was more like how Common is – ‘my queen’ and all that,” he said. He described misogynistic lyrics as an outlet for men who’ve found themselves belittled, turning towards the women in their lives and lashing out at them in order to feel validated.

“So let’s take that to the idea of a black male in America, not getting a job, or getting fucked with at his job, or getting fucked with by the cops or being looked down upon by this lady at Starbucks. And he goes home to his girl … and this guy is like … you just scream at the person that’s the closest to you.” West linked the use of misogynistic and violent language in rap to a “lack of opportunities” before switching tack and discussing hatred and racism.

Between sharing his pride about his wife’s former stepfather Caitlyn Jenner’s gender transition and labelling himself a humanist rather than feminist, West maintained that he understands his privilege as a celebrity. “Do I worry about being in the public eye and raising kids? Yeah. Any situation you’re in you’re gonna worry about raising kids. But it’s champagne problems, too. There are people who can’t feed their kids. I’m not gonna sit here and complain about these issues.”


Tshepo Mokoena

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
The Kanye West talk white people couldn't handle
The audience had sat through a symposium on the rapper – but when I asked whether white people deserved Kanye, they headed for the exits

Judnick Mayard

24, Jun, 2015 @11:00 AM

Article image
Kanye West announces architecture arm to his company Yeezy
Rapper announces Yeezy Home project on Twitter, saying: ‘We’re looking for architects and industrial designers who want to make the world better’

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

07, May, 2018 @8:21 AM

Article image
Kanye West launches mysterious countdown
It seems likely the ticking clock on the web is leading up to an Adidas event at New York Fashion Week

Guardian music

06, Feb, 2015 @8:01 AM

Article image
Adidas chief exec: Kanye West ‘didn’t mean what he said’ with antisemitic comments
Bjørn Gulden said West, who praised Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, wasn’t ‘a bad person – it just came across that way’

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

20, Sep, 2023 @9:56 AM

Article image
Kanye West recruits London students for debut fashion collection

Rapper has Central Saint Martins students working on his Paris fashion week collection, reports say

Sean Michaels

22, Sep, 2011 @10:44 AM

Article image
Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco address the Charleston church shooting
West freestyles about race in America, while Lupe Fiasco writes an open letter to white supremacists

Guardian music

22, Jun, 2015 @9:05 AM

Article image
The 10 best Kanye West moments – in pictures

Ten years on from the launch of his debut album, relive Kanye West's highs and lows…

Tom Lamont

07, Feb, 2014 @12:00 PM

Article image
Kanye West slavery comments spark backlash: 'He's putting targets on our backs'
Black cultural figures from Ava DuVernay to Will.i.am and Spike Lee have condemned Kanye West for saying ‘slavery for 400 years ... that sounds like a choice’

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

02, May, 2018 @3:18 PM

Article image
Kanye West: Wash Us in the Blood review – an intensely potent study of race and faith
This new track sees Kanye at his very best, corralling his anger with masterful focus into an apocalyptic vision of America

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

30, Jun, 2020 @4:40 PM

Article image
Readers suggest the 10 best … Kanye West moments

Last week we brought you our 10 best Kanye West moments. Here, we present your thoughts on the moments that should have made the list

Observer readers

13, Feb, 2014 @12:30 PM