FEATURE: Kanye West, Between The Lines
When Will Smith made the leap into having his own sitcom at the height of his rap popularity, the gamble paid off for Hollywood’s current leading man, as fans were able to accept the Fresh Prince in a new arena. When Eddie Murphy, at arguably the height of his acting career hit the world with his singing on “Party All The Time,” heads weren’t exactly hailing Murphy as the next pop sensation. Point being, it takes a lot for the public to see celebrities in a different light. Kanye West is undoubtedly well aware of it, and most likely doesn’t care whatsoever.
The 808's & Heartbreak savant has earned his stripes in the music game, but now with help from author J. Sakiya Sandifer, decided to throw his hat into the literary world. More inspiring bits and pieces than “War and Peace,” West and Sandifer’s Thank You And You’re Welcome is an attempt to impart some of the truths that the MC/producer has used in his own life. In a candid chat with XXLMag.com, Kanye along with Sandifer breaks down why the book is so ill, why Ye refuses to swap verses with artists and how he’s using this format to become a better person.
XXLMag.com: 'Ye, you’re very particular with the people you work with. What was it about Sakiya that made you wanna get down with him for this book?
Kanye West: It was just his style of book writing. When he wrote Think,Think,Think and Think Again, I thought he created a genius format of these major bullet points with graphics connected to them and expounding upon the idea and I said, "this would be a perfect way, the perfect medium to get out these quotes that I was trying to express." I was always trying, in these interviews, to express to the world my theories on life but people would exploit it, chop it up, make me look like a lunatic and everything because my thought was unconventional. And it would always be packaged by people who didn’t have my best interest or the same purpose because I just wanted to put out these ideas for people to vibe with them and maybe apply it to their life, if they chose. Instead, magazines would usually try and take the stuff and sensationalize it and make me look like a monster.
XXL: What was the creative process, taking Kanye’s thoughts and putting them into this format?
Sakiya: What was the process like? It was like dealing with an extension of myself because we have so many similar thoughts. It wasn’t really a big fight on getting the ideas out. Like we both scrutinize sentences the same. We both scrutinize variations of [the color] yellow the same. So, it was like an extension of me, so I was like, lemme just go and do this.
XXL: What’s the science behind the name, Thank You and You’re Welcome, because even that might be, on the surface, mistaken as being sarcastic…
Sakiya: Well, when we decided to put the book out during the Glow In The Dark tour, I just thought the name that was so ingenious, to hand the concert-goer a product that said Thank You and You’re Welcome. Like we’re giving you something as well as getting something.
Kanye: The title is the ultimate win-win. That’s what we were going for. Every moment should be a Thank You and You’re Welcome. You should try to have that and not be over used or misused or abused, but you’re using each other in an equal way. Both parties are needed. That’s what that means.
XXL: One of the things that was eye-catching about the book was the graphical treatment, how some words are emphasized and bold and right in your face. It kinda reminds me of a book I’m sure you’re familiar with, Saul Williams’ “Said The Shotgun To The Head.” What was the reasoning…
Kanye: You know what, I’m not familiar with no books. I don’t know no books, dead ass. That’s what we wrote in the beginning. I didn’t read 48 Laws [of Power], I never read “The Secret.” And Saul Williams is a good friend of mine, but I’m sorry…you know what? There are people who are genius designers that don’t know any other designers’ names. But they don’t have to know them! Because they brought in an idea that was new and fresh. And that’s the reason why we wanted to break the rules. But I’m sure, since Saul Williams is a genius poet and a creative, that, you know, there’s a chance other people might have a similar graphic style or theories but we didn’t base this off of anything, off of any familiarity.
XXL: So with this being a totally original message, what is it that you want people to take or believe from this?
Kanye: I want people to believe in their flyness and conquer their shyness. I didn’t want it to be a book that was about me. I wanted it to be a book that was about the reader. They have the option of taking these things and applying it to their lives and I’ll just give you an example of how it helped me. I overcame things because of having this type of unconventional thought in this type of situation. Situations where you’re leaving Chicago and everybody wants to give you a chain or let you borrow their car so that when you sign your record deal they can have a percentage of your record deal and I’m the type of dude that was like," no." And everybody’s looking at me like, "why wouldn’t you just take it?" And I’m like, "I’d rather have nothing and do everything on my own than to over use or misuse someone." And those are the type of ideals that allowed me to be able to move to New York on my own, do my own album and bring a lot of my dreams into fruition. And it took what some people might call arrogance and cockiness to believe in myself and this book is just telling people to believe in their self.
XXL: So what’s been the reaction to the book from readers?
Sakiya: I’ve definitely gotten a lot of positive feedback on my blog, how people say they’re applying these things. And the most common one is people say that once they read it, when they’re giving advice, that they’re quoting the book. That’s the ultimate compliment.
Kanye: He said it.
XXL: There’s a part in the book where you reveal that you won’t swap out verses with artists, meaning no one charges for the verses if you return the favor on their project. That practice is very common in the industry. Why are you so averse to it?
Kanye: Because the work might change. The economy changes. Shit, the dollar might be up on the pound. And throughout my whole career, it’s been like…seriously like…nah. I have a way too good example, but I can’t give it because it involves names and could be taken the wrong way [laughs].
XXL: The “Banister Theory” in your book is very powerful, speaking on how if one factor is removed from a situation it totally changes. What’s something that, once it was removed, changed things for you?
Kanye: Just removing fear, which is connected to the “missing banister” theory. To be fearless, to believe in yourself. But even with that, to know when you need to improve on things too, to know when you need to apply that. You know, know that I’m a good artist, I don’t feel that I’m the best artist that I can be but I feel like I’m a pretty successful artist. I’m applying these ideas to being a better person. Sometimes you focus on being an artist so much that you forget about being a better person. I’m applying it to become a better person because sometimes in my "think it, say it, do it" it’ll come off so heavy-handed and it’ll offend people in ways that I’ll say, "ok, I’m really good at doing records, I’m really good at doing this and that, obviously there must be something that I am doing wrong in certain interviews. But I do feel like there’s improvement that I can make. I’m never the type of person that just says “I'm a rock star, I can just do this. Nah, I wanna be a dope person all together. So there’s principles in this book that I can apply to myself and become a doper person.
Sakiya: Yea, that too [laughs]. – Anthony Roberts