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Kanye is Complex.
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By Noah Callahan-Bever
Computer-Generated imagery by Chris Milk
Kanye says that It usually comes effortlessly, but tonight he’s just not feeling it. And he’s sorry, too; he knows you must be bored. It’s 10 p.m., the night before the Grammys, and he’s trying to find the perfect ’fit for the evening. This process began two hours ago with a mauve Balenciaga tuxedo shirt he had purchased that afternoon at Barney’s (where you and he ran into Puff, of all people…but that’s a story for another day). He quickly assembled a dressy outfit around the piece and then proceeded, one by one, to replace each item in the look, until, 120 minutes later (take a second to consider all the mathematical permutations of a six- or seven-piece ensemble chosen from the 13 racks of clothes in the bedroom-sized “closet” of his Hollywood Hills home), he has arrived at a simple but sharp jeans-and-leather jacket look, which he says he likes because it looks like he just threw it on. Attributing these two tedious hours to narcissism should be easy—he’s known for it, right? But you can’t. It’s just not that simple.
Kanye West is performance art. He’s an idea. A brand. A mission. An inspiring, infuriating, over-the-top and constantly evolving contradiction of values that are articulated sometimes abstractly, and often heavy-handedly, through the man’s every expression—be it producing, rapping, singing, designing or, more often than not these days, just living. Whether it’s the curation of his clothing tonight, the selection of his beautiful, bald date tomorrow, the spare, design-forward architecture of his Los Angeles and Manhattan homes, or the costume party he and his posse threw in Paris during Fashion Week, it’s all presentation—a new vision of the world, starring him as the catalyst.
So it’s clear that tonight is not about ego at all. In fact, just like all the art he’s made in the wake of his mother’s passing and the dissolution of his engagement, it’s entirely about id. He’s just throwing paint at the canvas like a 5-year-old, waiting for lightning to strike, for his unconscious mind to see the pattern, to put together the outfit that will capture imagination. Effortlessly.
In the midst of all the painstaking spontaneity, Complex caught up with Kanye canvassing Beverly Hills for the perfect Grammy bow tie—and had a conversation that may make you laugh, think, roll your eyes and even like him. All without trying.
You’re driving us through L.A. with no driver or bodyguard—
Kanye West: Yeah. I’m rich and I’m famous, but I try not to be extra with it.
[Laughs.] Has the recession affected you?
Kanye West: Yeah, I try to avoid it overly affecting me. But some shit has happened, like Best Buy was supposed to [shoot and produce] the tour DVD and they pulled out of it. I definitely got hit with that, because not shooting it was not an option, so I had to pay for it.
Did you consider how a recession might affect the reception of the “Martin Louis King” video you made in Paris?
Kanye West: People tune into me for escapism. When you went to the Glow in the Dark Tour, you were literally transported to another planet. I know there’s anti-rich sentiment right now, with corporate people not using their jets and Obama saying heads of banks can’t make more than $500,000, but I really feel like that tape embodied me and what Louis Vuitton is about. I’d like to think I give optimism to people when I stunt. When I have a pink watch on or tight jeans on, people talk shit about me, but if I wore all gray and black, who would be the one to wear all the bright colors? How depressing would it be if I was always depressed, or should I say, the press. I’m here to entertain people and to be the one that does the crazy, bold stuff so they can live through me and get their mind off the recession and the war and whatever else is going on in the world.