Kanye West Shouts Out Cultural Pioneers In Times Interview

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By Maurice Bobb

Kanye West didn’t just get introspective in his rare interview with the New York Times, the self-proclaimed “35-year-old 5-year-old” rapper also got reverential by paying homage to a laundry list of different cultural pioneers he respects. From cartoon/fantasy king Walt Disney to trailblazing NBA Commissioner David Stern, to Dead Prez and Mos Def, the legendary Quincy Jones and Fiona Apple producer Jon Brion, Yeezus gladly tips his hat to the visionaries and innovators that he holds in high regard. See a cheat sheet of his shout outs below.

Jon Brion (Fiona Apple producer): “I really liked the sound of some projects that Jon Brion had worked on. I was always considered this crazy hothead kid, but I would always just go and just really break bread with someone who I respected. I will completely bow to anybody I respect.”

Cam’ron/Mase: “Before, when I wanted to rap, my raps sounded like a bit like Cam’ron; they sounded a bit like Mase.

Dead Prez: “And it wasn’t until I hung out with Dead Prez and understood how to make, you know, raps with a message sound cool that I was able to just write “All Falls Down” in 15 minutes. Yeah, that’s how I discovered my style. I was just hanging out with them all the time in New York. I would produce for them. You know, I was able to slip past everything with a pink polo, but I am Dead Prez. And now, because I was able to slip past, I have a responsibility at all times.”

Mos Def/Talib Kweli: “Dead Prez helped to get out of me and Mos Def and [Talib] Kweli, they helped to get out of me.

Jay-Z: “But Jay-Z was an amazing communicator that made the soul sound extremely popular. I was able to put it, sloppily rap it, on top of the platform that Jay-Z had created for me.”

Activist/Poet Gil Scott-Heron: “I am in the lineage of Gil Scott-Heron, great activist-type artists.”

Miles Davis: “But I’m also in the lineage of a Miles Davis — you know, that liked nice things also.”

Walt Disney/Henry Ford/Howard Hughes/David Stern: “I’ve been connected to the most culturally important albums of the past four years, the most influential artists of the past ten years,” Kanye said. “You have like, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, Nicolas Ghesquière, Anna Wintour, David Stern.”

Quincy Jones: “I was trying to do different things with orchestras. It was just a vibe that I was trying to get at, a sound I was trying to mix with hip-hop to try to see how far I could expand it. I guess that was a Chicago thing, like Quincy Jones.”

Justin Timberlake: “I remember when both Gnarls Barkley and Justin [Timberlake] lost for Album of the Year, and I looked at Justin, and I was like: ‘Do you want me to go onstage for you? You know, do you want me to fight”.”

Michael Jordan: “It could be clearing a path to make it fair within the arena that I play. You know, if Michael Jordan can scream at the refs, me as Kanye West, as the Michael Jordan of music, can go and say, ‘This is wrong’.”

Def Jam producer Rick Rubin: “For him, it’s really just inside of him. I’m still just a kid learning about minimalism, and he’s a master of it. It’s just really such a blessing, to be able to work with him. I want to say that after working with Rick, it humbled me to realize why I hadn’t — even though I produced “Watch the Throne”; even though I produced “Dark Fantasy” — why I hadn’t won Album of the Year yet.”

Steve Jobs: “It’s always going to be 80 percent, at least, what I want to give, and 20 percent fulfilling a perception. If you walk into an old man’s house, they’re not giving nothing. They’re at 100 percent exactly what they want to do. I would hear stories about Steve Jobs and feel like he was at 100 percent exactly what he wanted to do, but I’m sure even a Steve Jobs has compromised. Even a Rick Owens has compromised. You know, even a Kanye West has compromised. Sometimes you don’t even know when you’re being compromised till after the fact, and that’s what you regret.”