Kanye West on Michael Jackson and How the Media Tries to 'Wacko Jacko' Him Too

West talks with Pharrell

June 11, 2020

It’s no ground breaking news that Kanye West has a God complex. While some take it with a grain of salt, others, particularly the media, often scrutinize his world views and outlandish comments, which are often met with a bit of backlash.

And while West has become one of the most divisive personalities in entertainment, you can’t deny that at the end of the day Kanye is just being Kanye. Whether you miss the old one or relish in every new persona he embodies, there is no denying he’s an artist and musical genius among many other things.

In a recent interview for i-D Magazine’s Faith in Chaos issue, Ye sat down (well talked on the phone) with Pharrell. During which the two covered a plethora of topics, including their respective and historic careers, the importance of Virginia (Pharrell’s hometown) to modern Black music, and how essential American manufacturing is moving forward.

And of course one topic that can never be avoided when Yeezy is involved, Kanye touched on his treatment from the media. This time comparing himself, and even Pharrell, not to God but to a King, well the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

West spoke to how both Jackson and Pharrell have inspired him, and how in their own ways they both had a play in redefining black culture. In addition, he elaborated on how he feels as though the media has plotted to tear him, and other Black cultural figures, down in a similar way over the years.

"It felt like you really tore down the walls and the doors much like Michael Jackson did a generation before," Kanye told Pharrell. “In a way he‘s very similar to Michael Jackson, in the ways where Michael Jackson was doing covert, super gangsta stuff, like he’d just pop the needles off. He kissed Elvis Presley’s daughter on MTV. Black culture used to be… we used to be fronting all night, but Michael was doing stuff that was different to what we were programmed to understand as being what we should do. He bought The Beatles’ back catalogue. That was Mike Jackson, right there.”

Kanye continued, “We should have something that says we can’t allow any company to tear down our heroes. Not on The Shade Room, not on social media and especially not in documentaries. I’m like every time the media isn’t happy with me it’s like, ‘Here they go. They’re gonna come and Wacko Jacko me.’ Which in some ways, they’ve tried to do.”

With that said, given that for this interview both were on the phone; Kanye calling from his ranch in Wyoming, and Pharrell from somewhere in Miami, Pharrell navigated the conversation to the social, physical, and economic effects of the ongoing global pandemic, and what life will look like post-coronavirus.

”I think we need to be clear that this is a plague we’re living through at the moment," he said. "I don’t think there will be such a thing as a new normal – it doesn’t do enough justice to the difference in who we were pre-pandemic... Life’s going to have a different kind of gravity than it’s ever had before. It’s also gonna make us really separated. We’re disconnecting from each other even though online we’re probably more connected than we’ve ever been."

He continued with an optimistic prediction: "But I also know that love is going to be a very deep emotion. Something people really feel you know. You can’t just shake a hand or hug a person and exchange that feeling in a way you could before… But we have been through many plagues before. We have been through pandemics. We survived. We’re gonna make it. In a lot of ways we got ourselves into this, we gotta get to work to get through it.”

Kanye made a few initial comments on the matter before stating, "there’s nothing else that needs to be said..." However, Pharrell pressed Ye to keep going, reminding him there are many people interested in hearing his views.

West obliged, addressing the issue of economic disruption, and how Americans need to come together to ensure everyone has access to necessities. Recalling a conversation he had with music executive Abou "Bu" Thiam, who pointed out the differences of being poor in America versus poor in Africa.

"We got on the concept of what it meant to be poor in America, and then I started the sentence and I said, 'When you’re poor in Africa…' and before the sentence was finished, Bu interjected and said, 'You’re better off there than in America, because if you’re in Africa, the community won’t let you go hungry.' That’s the type of mentality that we’ve gotta apply moving forward [after] this pandemic. That’s the change that must happen.”

Kanye went on to say that in order for people to change the world, they must first change their mindsets. "We have this time to pause and reflect, to ask each other how we’re really feeling... I believe that things can be simplified. We’re over inundated with everything and now we have the opportunity to readjust and focus on the essential and the simple things."

The interview was released just days after Kanye donated $2 million USD to various charitable causes and paid for George Floyd’s daughter’s college tuition. And then joined protesters in his hometown, marching for reforms to both city police and the public schools in Chicago. However, the conversation itself, between the longtime friends and collaborators was held a month ago, so the current state of civil unrest due to systemic racism and police brutality wasn’t discussed.

Read the full conversation among friends via i-D

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