"When I talk, it's not a rant, it's a symphony of ideas."
The long-awaited Kanye West episode of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast finally happened over the weekend, and it wasn't the train-wreck some people were anticipating. Kanye's recent erratic history needs no introduction, but over the course of the three-hour conversation – which saw Kanye dominate the mic – he appeared calm and collected as he took Joe (and tens of millions of listeners across the globe) through his unconventional thought processes.
Opening right off the bat with discussion about his current presidential campaign (he's still running for 2020), the long conversation then jumped around to defining moments in Kanye's life: his passion for programming video games and video game music as a young teen, getting fired from his job at the Gap for stealing khakis at 16, through to his ascension as a world-renowned rapper and producer, to the dark side of the music industry, his mother's passing, his work as an entrepreneur, his reinvention as a god-fearing family man, to broader discussion on the issues of race, medication, mental health, COVID, his controversial views on abortion, and his plan to reinvent society as the leader of the free world (a more serious run for 2024 election looks on the cards).
The conversation was all-encompassing, with Kanye sometimes jumping to and from three different topics in just as many minutes, and yet this was Kanye's strongest selling point as a serious presidential contender – if we're comparing to nothing but Kanye's other public appearances in the last couple of years.
The long-form format of Joe Rogan's podcast, combined with Joe's general manner of letting his guests say their piece before carefully questioning them in order to fully understand their points of view, proved to be the perfect stage for Kanye to just be Kanye for a full three hours. It gave him the time and the room to present and flesh out his ideas – whether one agrees with them or not is a different matter entirely. If nothing else, Kanye, over the course of three hours, revealed that there was indeed some method to the perceived madness.
At one point, about an hour or so into the podcast, Kanye apologises for going off on yet another tangent, to which Joe responds, "but isn't that what you do though? When anybody ever talks about you to me, they say, 'He's all over the place,' and I say, 'I think that he's got a different power source.'"
Joe then offers up the following analogy in an attempt to put his finger on Kanye's volatility: "If there's a universal power, most people have like a 20-watt charger. The way I describe you, I say I think that motherfucker's got like a 150-watt charger and these ideas are just coming at them. So you do go on these rants that sometimes need to be dissected into individual things. But overall, you're incredibly productive. So my question is, why do people think there's something wrong with you?"
To which Kanye, who has been diagnosed with synaesthesia, which, among other things, causes him to "see" sounds, responds, "I think very three-dimensionally. I don't think in the black-and-white lines that I've been programmed to think in. And I think in full colour, so when I talk, I have to describe a thought in five ways."
"We enjoy food that has multiple seasonings in it. We enjoy music that has multiple instruments. So when I talk, it's not a rant, it's a symphony of ideas, and when you collect them, you say, 'Oh these are all these things that connect' … I just tell the truth, and telling the truth is crazy in a world full of lies."
A tad melodramatic that last bit, but overall, Kanye did a decent job in opening up to the world about the inner machinations of his unconventional mind, staving off the simplistic 'crazy Kanye' criticisms of the past for the time being. At least now, with this interview, those who disagree with his views – of which there will be many – can meet him on equal mental grounds when doing so.
Perhaps the real winner here was the long-form discussion. In a world full of 280-character tweets and 15-second Insta stories, it was refreshing to hear one of the most influential cultural voices of the last decade-and-a-half have a chance to sit back, relax, and just give his side, without fear of being taken out of context, or without being pressured into a viral soundbite by a biased interviewer with five minutes and falling ratings.
Granted, Kanye hasn't been the best advocate for Kanye. A quick scroll of his Twitter will attest to that. But it's precisely that energy and erraticism that has been the fuel for creation that has revolutionised hip hop, and wider popular music as a whole. For better or worse, Kanye's mind does work differently – it's the same mind that gave us The College Dropout and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the same mind that continues to invent and reinvent itself in a seemingly perpetual cycle of non-stop creation.
Kanye West is definitely not normal. But he's far from crazy.
You can watch the whole interview below, or listen to the episode in its entirety on Spotify.