Kanye West, “Harder Than You Think” (Originally Published October 2007)


Did you really say, “I don’t normally dress like this,” when you first met her?

You know that’s probably one of the most insecure lines you could say to a stylish woman, right?
[Laughs] Yeah, you didn’t hear “All Falls Down”?

You say you’re hated on a lot, but how do you feel when a rapper like Beanie Sigel throws shots at you because of your flamboyant style?
When I heard it on the radio, it messed me up. Like, “Damn, Beanie.” But I was like, how do I approach this? It’s not like I can come at Beanie like, “Man, I’m about to see you for that.” Beanie ain’t no studio gangsta. But I’m really happy that he brought it up, because I would read blogs sayin’, “Kanye’s gay.” But it’s just the constant battle with Black people and being gay. Like, we’ll call something gay to diss it to the highest extent. It’s a hood mentality—that’s the way we think. So, in hindsight, I’m glad he spoke on it, so I could speak on it. But maybe that was a little too grown for hip-hop, to say we shouldn’t gay-bash. ’Cause hip-hop has a young, don’t-give-a fuck mentality, anyway.

It’s the most homophobic genre of music.
Extremely homophobic. But niggas ain’t gonna be callin’ me gay, and I’m not gay. Don’t disrespect me. I don’t have a problem with gays, but I don’t be lookin’ at niggas. I’m not accepting that shit. That goes for everybody that’s writing a blog or anybody that said it in a barbershop. Don’t fuckin’ call me gay. And if a nigga really feel like they wanna disrespect me like that, come speak to me face-to-face, and whatever it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be. And this ain’t no threat. This is just how serious I’m takin’ it. Ain’t no once you-reach-the-10-million-mark Eddie Murphy shit with me. Shit, look at the “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” video. I got the No. 1 record in the streets, and my pants is tighter than a muthafucka in that.

Obviously, you like to go against the grain. But how exactly does that affect your writing?
I feel like my lyrics are, if not the, then equal to, the realest lyrics out. Because it’s so honest that there’s no reason for me to back it up. I connected with so many people without talkin’ about guns and drugs. Because rap music is about being hard—P.E. all the way back to Melle Mel. So all you have to do is talk about hard shit. For real people, shit that’s hard is going to work every day. It’s harder to go to work 365 days than shoot a person in one day. I think it’s harder for me to write raps than rappers who talk about guns, because, at any given time, you can say, “By the way, I got the 9 on me.” That shit always sounds hot. Picture going into the booth, and you’re competing with every rapper talking about guns, and you need to make some shit that has as much impact without talking about guns. And there’s nothing about wearing a pink Polo that would make anybody believe that I would hold a gun.

So you feel the conditions in which you work should be taken into consideration when critiquing your success, because most rappers don’t face the same things?
Yes, because I have an uphill battle every time. I have a hard job because I wear tight jeans and I don’t really fit the dress code. I got a hard job because I talk so much shit. But the thing is, I’m not talkin’ shit. I’m just saying, “Did you experience that one 45-minute session with me fuckin’ with the kick on ‘Good Life’?” So when interviewers ask me how I feel about the record, and I say it’s the best thing out, it’s because I put that much work into it. If Steve Jobs or Bill Gates put some new shit out, they gonna be like, “This is the coldest shit out.” When you have media training, you’re supposed to buffer your shit, so when people come up to you like, “That was really good,” you’re supposed to play stupid, like, “Wow, you really think so?” Because people can’t really handle the truth. But I am the truth. I’d rather be hated for what I am than loved for what I’m not.

Recommended for You

Around the Web

Best of XXL