I know people want to talk about the American Dream, but my dream is a world dream. It's a world in which everyone's main goal would be to help each other. The first thing I told my team on New Year's Day was, "You know, people say bad news travels fast, but this year let's make good news travel faster." You get back what you put out, and the more positive energy you put out, the more positive energy you'll get back. We had to do a lot of fighting in the past couple of years to get people to understand what we want to do, what we will do and what we're capable of doing. Not just me -- or my DONDA creative team, or my design team, or my music team -- but an entire generation that has the information highway and the ability to access information. Information is not only power; it's simply everything. It can be a scary thing for people to think universally, to think in terms of the world. It's not traditional. There's a lot of people who want to make sure things don't become a hybrid, but the Internet has opened up every conversation, literally and metaphorically. It starts as homogenizing, but this hybrid-ing, this interbreeding of ideas, is necessary for us as a race to evolve. (Thank God for Steve Jobs.) For example, there was an embroiderer at a fashion house who was in her 90s and she refused to give anyone her technique. She said, "When I die, this technique will die also." I think the opposite of that. I think it's so important for me, as an artist, to give Drake as much information as I can, A$AP, Kendrick, Taylor Swift, any of these younger artists as much information as I can to make better music in the future. We should all be trying to make something that's better. It's funny that I worked at the Gap in high school, because in my past 15 years it seems like that's the place I stood in my creative path -- to be the gap, the bridge.
It's beautiful when you can connect a purpose to things that you've spent a lot of time on. I feel very positive about the future. People are starting to recognize and just give me a chance to be looked at, respected and a part of the conversation. I really appreciate that my collection at New York Fashion Week was accepted positively. The moment that I saw Alber Elbaz, he patted me on the back and said, "Keep going." It's important to believe and it's equally important to pay your dues.
I was speaking at a fashion award ceremony -- I gave the head of Milk Studios, Mazdack Rassi, the first award of the night -- and I talked about the concept of "the fashion insider." I believe that everyone is a fashion insider, because it's illegal to be naked. But in all seriousness, the fashion world can say, "Yo, you know what I mean: the inside insiders." I saw this article that asked, "Should Kanye leave fashion to the professionals?" That question is really ignorant, in a way, because the second I sell my first T-shirt or my first shoe, doesn't that make me a professional? And when you sit down with Riccardo Tisci at the Louvre and he pitches the idea of you wearing a leather kilt, which could be considered by all of your gangbanging friends as some sort of a dress or skirt, at that point you are now a part of the fashion world. You have paid your dues to be an insider. I paid my dues when I had to wear a kilt in Chicago, and friends would say, "What's your boy got on?" But there are warriors that have killed people in kilts in the past. Who gets to decide what's hard and what's not hard? When I saw this kilt, I liked it. I was into it. It looked fresh to me. I felt creative; I didn't feel limited by some perception.
It's funny to be so famous and noted for one thing, and to have so many people try to box you out of another form of art, even if you've proven you're an artist of one form. My goal isn't to "break through the fashion world;" my goal is to make usable sculpture. My goal is to paint. My goal is to be as close to a five-year-old, or a four-year-old, or a three-year-old, as possible. If a three-year-old says, "I like the color orange," he's not giving an explanation to an entire world that can give him a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down on whether or not he should like the color orange. I don't care about the thumbs-up or the thumbs-down. Fashion is something that's in my heart to do -- in my spirit. There's no world that can stop me from what I love. Not the rap world, not the fashion world, not the real world. But it hurt me as a human being to see that article written, with the amount of work that's there and the potential and what I know I will eventually do. But behind bravery and courage is the ability to brace for pain, not the idea of never having pain or trying to avoid pain. Bravery and courage is walking into pain and knowing that something better is on the other side. I heard this quote from Steve Jobs: someone came up to him when he was working on something and said, "Hey, just do it. It will be easy." And he said, "Wait a second. Anything halfway good is at least medium hard." There's no easy way out. Just choose what you want to focus on. Right now, over 70 percent of my focus is on apparel. I haven't even given my College Dropout of clothing yet. We're still on mixtapes.
When I was working at the Gap at 15, I don't think I had any desire to actually make clothes, but I always felt like that's what I wanted to be around. I loved the fabrics, I loved the colors, I loved the proportions. Abercrombie was too expensive for me and the Gap was too expensive for me. Even though I worked at the Gap, I didn't get enough hours to get a discount because I was a part-time employee, because I went to high school. At that time I focused mostly on painting and basketball, but then I took two steps away from my potential career as an artist. I had scholarships to Saint Xavier, the Art Institute of Chicago -- I went to the American Academy of Art on an arts scholarship, but I stepped back from that to paint in a different way. I chose to paint sonically. To chop samples in a Warhol-type way. I just looked at civilization: I'd have an assignment to do an ink drawing that took me two weeks, three weeks, and I'd show it to my friends and they'd say, "Cool. My friend can draw. Now let's go play ball. Let's go downtown and talk to some girls." But when I'd work on a track, I'd work on it for just that afternoon -- chop up a sample, put some drums to it. And if my friends liked it, we'd make a tape of it and play it all the way downtown. We'd listen to it all night, keep rewinding it. I made a decision at that point to focus on painting with sound instead of painting visually. I loved music. I loved it more than I love it now. But I think that can happen with anything. You can live in New York for 10 years and say, "I now want to move to San Francisco." It's just harder for me to do music now, period. It's easier for people who focus on it all day and who are younger in their concept of what they want to do with it. I am not what I would consider truly a musician. I am an inventor. I am an innovator.
Graduation was an innovation. 808s & Heartbreak was an innovation. The song "Niggas in Paris" was an innovation. "Only One" was an innovation. "FourFiveSeconds" was an innovation. I care about innovating. I don't care about capitalizing off of something that we've seen or heard a thousand times. I'm not a capitalist in that way. I'm an innovator. That's my job. I like two things: I like innovating and I like making things better. It's not that I always have to invent things that are new. Sometimes I can take something that's there and attempt to make a better version and that's what gets me off. Bottom line.
I heard a comment -- a joke -- about the Tidal press conference being an Illuminati moment. If there was actually an Illuminati, it would be more like the energy companies. Not celebrities that gave their life to music and who are pinpointed as decoys for people who really run the world. I'm tired of people pinpointing musicians as the Illuminati. That's ridiculous. We don't run anything; we're celebrities. We're the face of brands. We have to compromise what we say in lyrics so we don't lose money on a contract. Madonna is in her 50s and gave everything she had to go up on an award show and get choked by her cape. She's judged for who she adopts. Fuck all of this sensationalism. We gave you our lives. We gave you our hearts. We gave you our opinions!
Let's just tap back into the real world for a second -- we can have children. Let's be thankful. We can raise our kids, let's be thankful. But how about we raise our kids in a truthful world, not a world based on brands and concepts of perception? Perception is not reality. When I look in North's eyes, I'm happy about every mistake I've ever made. I'm happy that I fought to bring some type of reality to this world we choose to stay in right now, driven by brands and corporations.
I also love people being inspired to follow their dreams, because I think people are oppressed by smoke and mirrors, by perception. There isn't an example of a living celebrity that has more words formed against him, but just a little self-belief can go a long way. I think the scariest thing about me is the fact that I just believe. I believe awesome is possible and I believe that beauty is important. When I say "beauty," what's your current definition of beauty? When I think beauty, I think of an untouched forest, only created by God's hand. I think of a gray sky that separates the architecture from the background and creates these amazing photographs because you don't have to block the sun above you when you're taking the photograph. I think beauty is important and it's undermined by our current corporate culture. When you think about the corporate office, you don't see the importance of beauty. I think all colors are beautiful and in a corporate world only one color is. But another thing is that I believe money is important. I think that artists have been brainwashed to look at money as a bad thing, and it's not. I think they're equally important in our current civilization.
When I was 10 years old I lived in China, and at the time they used to come up to me and rub my face to see if the color would rub off. It was really fucked up, but I feel like it was preparing me for a world perspective that a lot of my friends who never got a chance to travel didn't get. Now my perspective, a lot of times, is so much wider than someone who's limited to the concept of any particular so-called world that's not the real world. I take into account all of what's happening, from the boom of business in San Francisco to the poverty in Africa -- and that is wide perspective. When I was in fifth grade in China, when kids would come up to me and touch my face, it was like they had never seen a black person before, but that was a while ago. That was 20 years ago and of course we've come a long way now. That's not the current state of mind. On "Never Let Me Down" I rapped, "Racism's still alive, they just be concealing it," but for the next generation that's not necessarily true. Racism is something that's taught, but for the new post-Internet, post-iPad kids that have been taught to swipe before they read, it's just not going to affect them as much. They realize that we are one race. We're different colors -- my cousins and I are different shapes and we're all from one family. We're all from one family called the human race. It's simple as that. This race is up against some interesting things -- poverty, war, global warming, classism -- and we have to come together to beat this. It'll only be as a collective that we can beat this, and we can. We can create a better world for ourselves.
People have asked why I don't speak out -- on social media, for example -- about events in this country. The way I see it, it's not about a post on social media from me when there are people dying. There's people in Chicago dying. There's people all across the globe dying for no reason! There's people who'll never have the opportunity to live their lives for terrible, nonsensical reasons. I care about people. I care about society. I care about people being inspired. I care about people believing in themselves, because that's the scariest thing. The modern population cannot be controlled by the system -- they break the system.
One time I was at the dentist's office and I was given nitrous gas and I was vibing out -- I guess that's my version of Steve Jobs and his LSD trip -- when I had this first thought: What is the meaning of life? And then I thought, To give. What's the key to happiness? Happiness. What do you want in life? When you give someone something, should they give you something in return? No. We don't have to expect to be compensated by the person we give to. Just give. I'm a Christian so I'll speak in Christian terms: God will give you tenfold. Then I said in my mind -- I'm still under the gas and getting my teeth cleaned -- But I just want to be remembered. And I immediately corrected myself. I said, It doesn't even matter if I'm remembered. I came out of the gas and had a completely new attitude on everything. It's fine to not get credit for everything; it's almost better. For the amount of things that I really want to do, it can only work if I'm credited for about 20 percent of them. Because if I'm really credited for the amount of things that I'm going to do and what I want to do, it's just too much. The reward is in the deed itself. The times that I've looked like a crazy person -- when I was screaming at an interviewer or screaming from the stage -- all I was screaming was, "Help me to help more! I've given all I've got. I've gone into fucking debt. It's all I've got to give. But if I had a little bit more opportunity, I could give so much more." That's what I was screaming for. Help me to help more.
As told to Gabby Bess.
Kanye wears a Duke's vintage t-shirt, Kanye West x Adidas Originals shirt and vintage military pants. Nori necklace is his own.
Read more about our American Dream issue here.