In New Orleans in 2013, he announced, "Anybody that’s a fan of me is really a fan of themselves."
Kanye West recently dropped the track list from his upcoming album, The Life of Pablo and he'll debut it when he livestreams his show from Madison Square Gardens tonight on Tidal. When West played New Orleans on December 5, 2013 on the Yeezus tour, I walked away bringing a little literary analysis to the concert, largely on the strength of an extended mid-show sung/spoken passage. Recently, Andrew Kahn and Forrest Wickman published their transcriptions of all the spoken spots from the 2013 shows at Slate.com in a piece appropriately titled “The Gospel According to Yeezus,” and it shows that these extemporaneous spots took place at each stop on the tour, and they were different each night. The lack of self-awareness I wrote about at the time shows up in each of the pieces that I read, but some were more combative while others were more professorial.
He described the section of the show as “talking my shit,” then semi-free associated whatever followed, but he hit a lot of the same notes each time as he spoke about belief in yourself, and more to the point, his belief in himself. “The problem is: me, as Kanye West, and my level of confidence and self-belief,” he said in New Orleans at the then-New Orleans Arena. “The problem is, when more people have the same level of confidence as Kanye West, that’s when they can’t control anyone. And it’s not like, we’re out of control. We’re just not under their control.”
The transcriptions are genuinely interesting, but while Kanye dissected the reason people don’t like him, he overlooked the most basic one. I’m sure he’s right that there are more people than I’d like to believe who are threatened by a wealthy, intelligent, powerful, bold black man, but there are also many who have a hard time listening to someone who seems to spend so much time contemplating his relationships with his audience, the media and industry and still not understand them.
Still, part of what makes Kanye a great rock star is that he’s one of the few people who would stop his show dead for 10 minutes to talk about whatever’s on his mind, and to lay out his thinking the way he did. The moment was one of the central features of the show, along with the mountain that dominated his stage. Like so much about him, it was too on target to dismiss, but too flawed to take without question. If you were there, here’s the text. If you missed it, here’s what you missed.
I would like to ask y’all one question before I go on. I’m feeling like … I need to know what y’all want. The question is: [Singing] Can I talk my shit again? Can I talk my shit again? Can I talk that shit? Can I talk that shit?
[Speaking] I don’t know what it is recently, it seems I’ve been upsetting a few people. I don’t know what I’ve done. I feel like I’ve just been being the perfect, you know, silent … I don’t know why anybody would be mad. [Singing] Don’t know why anybody would be mad. You know I always say like, if I get in so much trouble for telling the truth, so much trouble, so much trouble, so much trouble for telling you the truth, then the rest of the time, the rest of the time, what are they telling you? Then the rest of the time, the rest of the time, what are they selling you? What are they selling you? If I get, if I get, if I’m the one that gets in so much trouble, so much trouble all the time for telling the truth, then what are they telling you?
[Speaking] I feel like, I’ve never heard anybody say these words: “I don’t like Kanye.” You ever had to deal with that? I was on my way to the concert and shit, and I even saw three people, uh, picketing. And it’s like, I never asked nobody to like me. Because anybody that’s a fan of me is really a fan of themselves. I ain’t here to try and down nobody. But at the same time I ain’t fittin’ to let nobody take me down.
Anybody that’s a fan of me is really a fan of themselves.
[Singing] I ain’t here, I ain’t here to down nobody. I ain’t here, I ain’t here to try to clown nobody. But I would never let nobody take me down. I would never let nobody take me down. I don’t try to hurt nobody. I’m not—I don’t want to hurt no one. But if you try to hurt me I’ll take you down. If you try to hurt me I’ll take you down. I don’t want problems with nobody. I don’t want problems with nobody. But everything I read seems like everybody gotta a problem with me. Problem with me. Problem with me. Problem with me. Problem with me. Probably because they can see … someone who might change things that they’re used to. Someone who might change everything. And it’s not that I can change anything without you. But with you, we can change everything. Together we can change everything.
[Speaking] The problem is: me, as Kanye West, and my level of confidence and self-belief. The problem is, when more people have the same level of confidence as Kanye West, that’s when they can’t control anyone. And it’s not like, we’re out of control. We’re just not under their control.
[Singing] How many times can people try to shit on your dreams? How many times can people try to shit on your dreams? [Speaking] … you know I notice a lot of people have been looking at me like I’m crazy and shit. But don’t let nobody tell you that I’m crazy. Sometimes I just look up and say, “Am I the only one that’s not crazy?” Feel like I’m the only one that will risk everything for the truth. [Singing] Because they can never make me lie to you. And I know the truth will set us free. And I, I know they want me to behave, but I would rather just behave. See I know they want me to behave, but I would rather just be me, rather just be free.
[Speaking again] And I changed up, … I changed my style over this past week a little bit because, you know. I was frustrated, I was turnin’ up on niggas all the time, you know. And I know people want to come and see me turn up and everything, and … It don’t mean that I don’t have frustrations, but some of these names that I named started calling me back, so its actually working. So I guess this like a calmer version of me. ’Cause I realised there’s two kinds of people: There’s dreamers, and there’s haters. And I know that, the only difference between the dreamers and the haters is that the haters forgot about their dreams.
[Singing, unclear] And no weapon formed against me shall prosper. No words formed against me shall prosper. No words against me shall prosper. No words, no words. In other words, no weapon formed against me shall prosper. No weapon formed against us shall prosper. No words, no words, no words. No words, no words. I see freedom in sight.
[Speaking] Willie Lynch theory … was rules for the slave masters that if you beat the strongest slave in front of everyone else, then no one else would do anything. So anytime you read anything where they try to beat me the fuck up, that’s because they want everybody to shut the fuck up and don’t get out of line. [Singing] Don’t get out of line. Don’t get out of line. But I’ve been drinking that Ye juice, and I’m turning up at all times.
[Speaking] But tonight I’m kind of relaxed, you know, I ain’t gonna lie to y’all and I shit ... [Turns to walk away, then stops, beginning to sing]. And you if you believe you can be anything please raise your hands right now [raises his hand]. If you believe you can be anything please raise your hands right up. And if anybody told you different when you go home can you tell them to shut the fuck up right now. Tell them Yeezy told me to tell you to shut the fuck up right now. Tell them Yeezy told me to tell you to shut the fuck up right now.
[Singing] They say I’m possessed. … I keep it behind, I keep it behind me always. Mmm. And there’s nowhere to go now, and there’s no way to slow down. [Exits stage singing “Runaway”]