Kanye West has been married for ten days, and he has that new-husband way with the ring still, pulling it on and off like it's something he might yet undo, or do again. The ring is gold, and understated in a way that not much else about Kanye West is. He sits in the lobby of New York's Mercer Hotel—the same hotel where he and Jay Z recorded most of Watch the Throne—reflecting on the distance he's come. "I am a black American male from Chicago," West says, "who had my rehearsal dinner at Versailles and then got married in Florence with a view of the entire city."
He is one year removed fromYeezus, the record that took all of West's prodigious pop gifts and made a show of immolating them one by one. He is one year removed from telling anyone who'd listen that he was going to burn the entire fashion industry down, or at least he would once they let him through the door. Now they kind of have: He's got a capsule collection with A.P.C. out now; a line with Adidas that debuts with footwear this fall; and somewhere off in the distance, a new menswear line. He's also got a new record—maybe even a full-on pop record, though he hasn't decided yet. He knows he is no longer the most popular man in rap. "Currently that spot is taken," West says. "Let's be honest—he got last summer.”
"You know. There’s only one person."
“Yeah. He got last summer. And I’d never given it up till last summer.” Now he’s thinking about taking it back. “It’s a real question for me. Do I want to?"
Meanwhile, he's reckoning with what it is to be a father and a husband and a decent human. He's happier now—"You see I haven't name-dropped and said a bunch of negative stuff about people," he says at one point—but no less homicidally competitive or less convinced that he's the next Steve Jobs. He'd like to spend more time with his family. He'd also still like to build amusement parks. It's a contradiction, one he's only begun to resolve. And all the while, he can't go outside with his wife, Kim Kardashian, without having his photo taken. His entire waking life has become a performance, a manifesto, a fashion shoot.
Most of the time, he's cool with that fact. But not always. "I hope we don't see no paparazzi today," West says. "Because I'm still getting acquainted with these jogging pants I threw on. Like, 'That's not my statement!' "
You got married a week ago. You're the lead subject in practically every tabloid on the planet right now. Are you comfortable in that position, having that many eyes on you?
That wasn't my goal. My goal is just to be respected as a man when I walk down the street with my family. I don't care what your job is, you're not gonna talk down to me, you're not gonna try to get a rise out of me. I'm a man first. And in establishing that, some interesting things have happened. [laughs]
Like that TMZ video from last year, where you're walking with your pregnant fiancée with your head down to avoid the paparazzi, to the point where you walked into a sign and hit your head. Then TMZ made fun of you for walking into the sign. How do you live like that?
It's difficult. And then put on top of that the idea of going and taking meetings with people, and people say, "We don't want to work with you, because we saw you get mad about running into the sign."
Does that kind of mockery feel like an effort to de-fang you?
But also, there's no fangs. I don't have fangs. I'm a porcupine. I'm a blowfish. Like, I'm a—what's the fish that blows up?
Yeah. I'm a blowfish. I'm not a shark, I'm a blowfish. So that perfect example about me hitting my head, it's like a blowfish. I wasn't coming out of my house going to a paparazzi's house to attack them. I'm defending my family in front of my own house. I'm defending my name as someone's screaming something negative at me. That's a blowfish. People have me pinned as a shark or a predator in some way, and in no way am I that. I wouldn't want to hurt anyone. I want to defend people. I want to help people.
Can I read you something? The New York Post's Page Six has an account of your wedding that reads, in part: "Kanye returned one hour before the wedding and didn't like the all-white bar that was in front of the Gold Toilet Tower. He took a saw and started sawing it in half himself. Two men held the bar stable as he sawed, and sawed, into the bar, defacing the entire front, screaming at everyone around him. He said it looked like a bar from Texas. Then he ordered two pieces of raw wood to be nailed onto the front of the bar. Once the wood was in place, 'Now,' he said, 'it's art.' The Italian construction teams looked at this guy and couldn't believe what they were seeing."
For the person that wrote that, were they involved with anything last year that was as culturally significant as the Yeezus tour or that album? They didn't even talk there about the photographs, or the dress, or Andrea Bocelli singing, or the marble tables. They're like: "It's a gold toilet." No. The bathrooms—that usually would be a porta-potty—were wrapped in a fabric that was neutral to match the fort. The bar was terrible, and the wedding planner didn't approve it with me. I was having issues with this wedding planner the entire time on approvals, and I get there and they threw some weird plastic bar there. So the same materials that were used to cover the bathroom, we said, "Let's just use that, because this is all we have to make the bar look better." Which it did, in the end. And anyone knows that you cannot pick up tools yourself, because of—what are those rules about the workers?
Yeah, unions. You can't do that. It's illegal. That's false.
Then they say you gave a forty-five-minute toast to yourself.
And what I talked about in it was the idea of celebrity, and celebrities being treated like blacks were in the '60s, having no rights, and the fact that people can slander your name. I said that in the toast. And I had to say this in a position where I, from the art world, am marrying Kim. And how we're going to fight to raise the respect level for celebrities so that my daughter can live a more normal life. She didn't choose to be a celebrity. But she is. So I'm going to fight to make sure she has a better life.
How does it feel when you read something like that account of your wedding or you see a photo of you looking glum at a zipline go viral?
My feelings don't matter anymore.
Of course they do.
No. One of the things that I said at the speech was, anyone that's at this table has had to defend me or Kim or both of us at some point in their life. Ask a boxer: "In the third round, when he hit you from the side on your ear, how did that specifically feel?" You wouldn't ask a boxer that. Because you know they're there to fight. Meaning now you know I'm here to fight. I'm here to fight for the re-education of what celebrity is. To say, "Yes, we are celebrities, but yes, we're also innovators, we're also inventors, we're also thoughtful."
Photo Credit: Patrick Demarchalier (GQ)