During a three-hour van ride departing the desert set of Kanye West’s ”Touch the Sky” video, EW’s Karen Valby asked the rapper, ”Do you ever allow yourself to just be dull and quiet? Just zone out with a good book?” He replied, ”No, I don’t. I feel like I’m too busy writing history to read it.” Valby’s Q&A with West in the forthcoming issue (EW’s West cover story will be the one that doesn’t have him posing as a tortured Jesus Christ) is full of such pronouncements, but while it’s become commonplace to snicker at West’s grandiose opinion of himself, let’s give him his due.
First, his near-universal critical acclaim, eight Grammy nominations, and multiplatinum sales suggest that his self-regard isn’t entirely unwarranted. Second, when he does screw up, he’s his own harshest critic. Of his two disappointing videos for ”Heard ‘Em Say,” he says, ”’Heard ‘Em Say’ is my favorite song of all time that I ever did! So why couldn’t I have had a good video for it? Man, I feel like I sent my gifted child to a bad school.” Of the high standard he sets for himself, he says, ”When I’m working, when I’m creating my gifts for the world, I want it to be good. I’m like the guy in The Aviator. They already made a movie about my life story.” (Reminded that Howard Hughes ended up lonely and insane, West says, ”Well, I hope I can avoid that part.)
Does West live up to his own boasts? Should he just shut up and make music, or has his unchecked outspokenness become as essential and entertaining as his performances?