Gateway exclusive: Kanye West speaks to the Oxford Guild in the biggest talk of 2015

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An introduction from The Oxford Guild

A full transcript of the video is included a the bottom of the article.

Kanye West spoke to the critically acclaimed and award-winning Oxford Guild Society, Oxford’s, the UK’s and Europe’s largest and oldest professional society, dating back to 1897, with over 120 events a year, over 12,000 members (completely free to join), over 60 sponsors, over 120 events a year and a committee of over 120, on Monday 2nd March 2015 at 3pm.

This was an unprecedented, history-making opportunity to hear from and ask questions of such a high profile figure and was a truly exciting event and a momentous occasion at the historic Oxford University Museum of Natural History which was established in 1850. Over 5,000 students balloted for the event which was announced 16 hours before it was due to take place and Kanye had widely been described as one of the biggest speakers that Oxford and any society in the UK has seen in the past decades. This was the most oversubscribed event at Oxford in over 15 years and received truly global media coverage.

Chairman Abbas Kazmi who hosted and organised the event said that, ‘It was a true honour to be able to host and welcome Kanye to the Oxford Guild, and the reaction since the event has been huge! The event was covered in over a thousand newspapers, magazines, websites and TV and radio outlets globally in over 100 countries (everything from BBC World News and TIME to MTV and Vice's Noisey) and I had to juggle a huge number of press calls, emails and quote and interview requests! I’ve even had people emailing opportunistically to put his team in touch so they can organise their own events (the most bizarre was for someone’s 16th birthday party!)

It was amazing President Obama himself commented on it on multiple occasions, let alone one, and it even featured in a Kanye song with Tyler, the Creator and Lil Wayne. It is great to see the hard work pay off after having spent many hours negotiating against the odds and keeping things under wraps to secure this event which is a real coup for the Guild, which I am proud to see continuing to grow from strength to strength, reaching even higher heights and winning ever more national best university society awards and accolades.

Special thanks must to go the committee for their efforts, enthusiasm and commitment which make sure the Guild continues to be the premier university run organisation not just in Oxford but across the UK and internationally. The event was incredibly well organised and put together at short notice – the Guild has a unique, tried and tested, successful ticketing policy for its largest scale speakers and social events.

We do not want students to waste their afternoons queuing outside the Union chamber in Frewin Court for example, only not to be let in and to be left disappointed. Nor do we want students to ballot and then not turn up leaving empty seats which have been taken by others. We minimised these risks by opening a random ballot list and ensuring every seat was used by those who were successful in the ballot. Never content with complacency and settling, there are plenty more high profile speakers, exciting events and developments to come - we have been working industriously behind the scenes ahead of next year and would recommend you watch this space!’

President Obama himself commented on it on several occasions in the past few months, Kanye mentioned it when he received his honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and it even featured in a Kanye song with Tyler, the Creator and Lil Wayne. Now that Kanye has announced he intends to run for President of the United States in 2020, the talk is even more relevant and the video gives viewers an insight into the man himself’s past and inner thinking. He discusses all sorts of topics, ranging from the fashion industry to politics, race and philosophy, and at a time when Kanye West is so present in the media (there are few cultural icons that are featured more prominently in the media in 2015 than Mr West), this is well worth watching exclusively here! We have also attached a full transcript of Kanye’s talk below. This was a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging speech from the legendary Kanye West and we hope you will enjoy watching the video recording online. 

Full transcript

(after clearing the stage): I thought that was aesthetically better.

I’ll just start with one question. I wanted to vibe off an idea, to take an idea and then I can riff off of that…they said I’ve got 20 minutes to speak or so, and I might go longer.

Okay can you hear me all the way at the back?

Okay so anyone that wants to ask a question, raise your hand.

“I want you to talk about and reflect on your progression from The College Dropout - from Freshman Adjustment actually - to Yeezus and your future work. I want you to talk about your aesthetic and how it’s progressed.”

Okay so the key words that I heard there - and everyone please be completely quiet, because I can literally hear a whisper, and it’ll throw off my stream of consciousness, and the best thing is when I can get my stream of consciousness going that’s when I give the best, illest quotes. Literally, a whisper can throw it off.

So the two words that I vibe off right there were aesthetic and progression.

I was having a discussion with a designer that I want to use for my next season and actually, I saw his work and I didn’t even realise until I talked to him that he had studied with [inaudible]. I felt that type of energy through his work. Anyway, I was discussing my background, because a lot of people didn’t realise I’ve been to art school since age 5 and art competitions since age 14, and I ended up going to college for a bit on an art scholarship and I had a scholarship to three schools, the Saint Saviour, the American Academy of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago. And I went to the American Academy of Art because it was the biggest scholarship, and my mother couldn’t afford to put me in any of those schools, and she was a professor at a school that I could have went to for something that she could afford, so she got a discount.

Today was the first time that I realised, that if I could do that again I would have gone to the Art Institute over the American Academy of Art, that I would have researched where I could have got the best and the strongest education. And I’m sure this will end up online, so I don’t want to diss any of the students that are currently at the American Academy, I’m sure it’s equal to the Art Institute of Chicago by now, but at the time that I was going I would look around at the work of the class and not feel inspired by the teachers, and I kinda, the idea of being a fine artist, that’s a really difficult profession to get into, to be respected in, to make money at. And maybe the goal for some of the people was just to work at an advertising agency or at a record label, or to, you know, not truly end up just being [inaudible] or something.

My goal, if I was going to do art, fine art, would have been to become Picasso or greater.

That always sounds so funny to people, comparing yourself to someone in the past that has done so much, and in your life you’re not allowed to even think that you can do as much. That’s a mentality that suppresses humanity.

I talked to Ray Kurzwhile the other day and the conversation was quick, but he touched on the idea of thinking faster and reading faster, and I just thought it was super important to go meet with him - and I’m going to touch on aesthetics, it’ll come to aesthetics and the progression from me doing that first [inaudible] to So Help Me God [inaudible].

Some of you here probably remember the night the Donda tweets came through me and I started talking about professions that you guys are going into in the future that seemed they had nothing to do with a rapper. But what I was talking about a band of thinkers that could remove religion, race, gender, and politics, and somehow come together to find solutions for a broken planet.

We have the resources as a civilisation to find a utopia, but we’re led by the most greedy, the least noble, and what I notice about creatives is that, and one of the reasons why I get into trouble, is, not only do I want to design video games, or make music, or ride bikes, I think one of the most important things to my ability to create so much in the past twelve, thirteen years is my desire to play sports. I approach creativity like a sport, where if I have a drawing I react just like a jock: LOOK AT THAT FUCKING DRAWING RIGHT THERE YEAH!

And I guess, of course we’ve been taught, as people in this room that you are, that to think on an aesthetics, creative aesthetics, because we’re all creatives here, we’re all born artists. Some people are artists of business, some people are artists of composition.

Particular for the aesthetic driven creatives, we were taught to hide our black fingernail polish and put our head down in the back of the class and not notice out of fear that someone might laugh at one of our ideas - that our idea could become a mockery or a failure in some way.

There’s a Bible saying, “No weapon formed against me shall prosper”. Recently I’ve been doing interviews and I’ve had to go back to this verse because I don’t think there’s a living celebrity with more weapons formed against them, but I also don’t think there’s one more prosperous. So what weapons have prospered? The smoke and mirror of opinions.

I was sitting with Steve McQueen, he shot the visuals for All Day 2 days ago, it’s completely different to the Brit awards. And I told him - this so it doesn’t get taken out of context, I’m going to use the word “like”. I’m not saying it is, I’m using it as a comparison. So people that want to say “Kanye goes to Oxford and tells everyone that this” what I’m about to say. And I’m not telling you this. I’m telling you what I told Steve McQueen in private.

What I said was The Matrix is like the Bible of the post information age.

I compared it like, when the hundred guys, the thousand guys come at Neo, those are opinions, that’s perception, that’s tradition. Attacking people from every which angle possible. If you have a focus wide and you have master senseis like Laurence Fishburne and you have a squad behind you, you literally can put the world in slow motion, like Michael Jordan talks about the rim being wider. And it felt to me, from first hand, as first hand experience, you know - it’s still February, right? (security guard shakes his head, everyone laughs).

For two months, my team - by the way, I don’t know the days of the week. I just go to exactly when my appointment is - we’d just look at each other and say, it’s still February. For the sheer mount of work that we were able to put into the world. Some of the stuff had been worked on for years coming, months coming. But nonetheless they just came back to back to back to back. Answering every crazy interview question, slam dunking, blocking every shot, catching every rebound. Aside from the right that I don’t have to give my opinion publicly about artists, I probably would have been batting 2000. I know that’s incorrect also.

This humanity that I talk about, this civilisation that I talk about, this future utopia idea I talk about…it can only happen through collaboration.

One of the things that I love about Elon Musk, and I kind of - you know, I love Steve Jobs, he’s my favourite person, but there’s one thing that disappoints me. When Steve passed he didn’t give the ideas up. That’s kinda selfish. You know that Elon’s like “yeah, take these ideas”. Maybe there are companies outside of Apple that could work on them and push humanity forward. Maybe the stock brokers won’t like that, the stock holders wouldn’t like that idea of Steve giving his ideas out, but ideas are free and you can’t be selfish with them.

I think that that’s been a progression of mind with the advent of a human being named Drake (laughs, smirks, crowd laughs) you know, this idea of holding onto a number 1 spot. And then you get this guy that comes and blows out the water every number 1 of any band ever. Be it me or Paul McCartney. And at the point, you know, when you’ve lost the idea of holding onto that concept, you can leave the mountaintop finally, and walk down, and readjust, and see what your position on earth can be.

And I’ve had all of these mixed emotions, mixed feelings, based off you know, bigotries, walls, perceptions that I’ve had to deal with. Ones that drove me to titles like Black Skinhead or I Am A God. Now I understand that I’m a servant. And with my voice, and with the information and my ability to build relationships with amazing people, speak to amazing people. Call Elon Musk out of the blue, or call Obama out of the blue…he calls the home phone, by the way.

With that, I have a responsibility to serve. Why do I say the Matrix is “like” the Bible? What is my definition of the Matrix? [he never answered this]

I work with this artist names Vanessa Beecroft, and she, before our presentation in New York, the Adidas collaboration, she bought my daughter some toys.

I’d see toys that people would buy for my daughter and I’d say this toy isn’t quality. I don’t want my daughter playing with this, and it would seem elitist or something, but no, there’s not enough love put into this, this is just manufactured with the will to sell, and not the will of giving inspiration.

But Vanessa is very irreverent and very focussed, she’s like my eyes, she’s a piece of my brain. She bought my daughter these three wolves, knowing the whole collection, that it’d play with the song Wolves, and based on this concept. And when my daughter saw these wolves, I’ve never seen her happier. She was going so crazy, she was grabbing one, she was riding on top of one, she was just raving around, I’ve never seen her happier than this moment. That level of happiness seems to be the thing that we’re fighting for every day, that we’re trying to buy back, trying to work for, that we’re trying to hope, you know especially in America. Like, in America people really do wear $3000 shirts. For real. Here and in Stockholm people will be like “oh dude, that’s like a $3000 shirt”.

I’m assuming I’m probably wearing a $2000 shirt but I got it for free from the designer so.

But that joy, that idea of joy, what makes you happy, what makes you happy inside. We’ve been sold a concept of joy constantly, you know, through advertising, through car advertising, through fashion branding. It’s not the concept of time, time with your family, time with your friends, the little time that we do have on earth, the existence of the human race and what we do with that. It was somehow sold to us through a Gucci bag or something.

I have something I say all the time, and I’ll say it again - Time, in my opinion, time is the only luxury. It’s the only thing you can’t get back. If you lose your luggage - I’m not gonna say the obvious brand of luggage that I’d normally say because I’ve got a meeting with them soon - if you lose your expensive luggage at the airport, you can get that back. You can’t get the time back.

And everyone knows that when you’re younger, time moves way slower. Summers take so much longer, class takes so much longer.

It feels like people do everything in life - Imma speak from an American perspective - to get this BMW, this Benz, to get this town home, to get 2.5 kids exactly. One of them has to be small, y’know.

And you’re looking for this moment where you sit in your BMW after all the work that you’ve done and all the accolades that you get, and how big your house is and everything, and somehow you think you’re gonna get that level of joy that my daughter had when she received those wolves. As you’re sitting in traffic in your BMW, it’s something that feels empty. To everyone who reaches that point. This concept of the selfish human, this idea of separation by race, or gender, or religion, or age, or my favourite thing to hate, class.

People say it takes a village to raise a child. People ask me how my daughter is doing. She’s only doing good if your daughter’s doing good. We’re all one family. Like literally, last names aside, we’re all one family, and we have the ability to approach our race like ants, or we have the ability to approach our race like crabs.

And it’s so many ideas that create division, there are certain things that, in a way, some way, race, whatever.

This is a generation that is far less racist - yes, small remnants that even thinking of calling someone certainly a racial slur. 

White people that listen to rap say nigger…in the privacy of their own home.

That idea has passed. We’ve had The Cosby Show, Obama’s president, Beyonce’s great…that’s passed. But there’s still something that you’re being taught every day, and especially in the UK, and that's division by class. Our main focus, in my opinion, and since I have the right to say this in front of you guys, to give an opinion and if you like it, you like it, if you don’t, send it right back. Our main focus…Imagine a world, let’s remove war first of all, imagine a world with no war, and imagine if everyone’s main focus, more so than going to the club, more so than [inaudible], their main focus was to help someone else.

I was joking with an interviewer earlier today…people talk about the amount of viewers the Brits get, or the amount of viewers the Grammys get. They need to do award shows for the Nobel Peace Prize, but I guess that doesn’t sell as many MasterCard commercials. Why did I mention a brand [looks disappointed]…I had two things…I was trying to get a flawless victory on my speech! I’ve had two demerits already, two missed free throws. No offence to MasterCard…but that was a big fucking logo right in the middle!

You guys have been taught, without you knowing it, ways to separate yourselves from each other. If you’re separated, you can be easily controlled. If you’re too busy pointing fingers at each other, as opposed to holding hands, you can’t get anything done.

You know, Chris Rock called my album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy…um, Chris Rock and everyone else at every single media publication called My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy the best album of the past 25 years. This only came through collaboration.

One of the most memorable things about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was Nicki Minaj, and the fact that she kicked my ass, on my song, on one of the best albums...the best album - I’m just saying what the critics said - of the past 25 years. The best album of the past 25 years that I spent a year and a half making, after I was exiled from my country, it was a personal exile, but exile. To come back and deliver the magnum opus of a work, and to be outshined…to be beat by a girl, basically.

This was necessary. I think it was one of the most important points of working on that album, was to not stop her from her moment because of how good she is. Just think of a comparison, but not a complaint. If you think about why did it take so long for the new Yeezys to come out? Why did I have to leave one group and go to another group? Why did that group not want to speak to me? I think the Yeezys I was doing over there were comparable to that Nicki Minaj verse. Because these guys would work for three years on this project, and “We’re gonna break out this shoe we’re gonna wrap it up in [inaudible], we’re gonna put it on this celebrity!”. And the head’s son would come and say “my favourite shoe is the Yeezy”. And it’s like “ahhh, I can’t hear about these YEEZYS anymore!”. Like everyone saying “My favourite verse is Nicki’s”, “I can’t hear about this verse anymore!”. But because, not just saying because, because it was gonna work for her anyway, but let’s just say that in some way in helped give her exposure. She was able to go on and become a successful, and fly, and run, and dream, and provide. And it was not locked because of my ego.

One of my biggest problems, one of my biggest Achille’s heels has been my ego. And if I, Kanye West, the very person, can remove my ego, I think there’s hope for everyone.

When I talk about collaboration and the creative process, the best idea wins. I studied the way Steve Jobs approached Pixar, the way Steve Jobs approached Apple, the way Disney approached Disney, with the animators. Because you get these creative animators that come in and “this idea and I’ve got to do this idea do this and that” and people have seen…I’m proud of the consistency of the performances I’ve done since I’ve been out here. And it comes from four would-be egomaniacs being forced to work together. The best lighting guy on the planet, the best staging guy, the best video director guy, another staging guy, a guy with a laptop for no reason [inaudible]…To be able to deliver, back to back to back, extremely successful, inspiring, groundbreaking, visual, visceral, creative moments that otherwise would have been challenged. And the kid from Chicago screaming in interviews and from the top of the stage for 40 minutes in a row. I’ve had to pull that card out a few times. Not particularly screaming, but remember, I will scream.

My momma taught me if I was in a grocery store and I’m by myself and a stranger grabbed my hand, scream at the top of your fucking lungs. If I’m at an awards show and a stranger grabs my hand and they say okay so we’re going to use these moving lights, or we’re gonna play the music right now before we define the look, or we’re gonna keep the cameras cutting in a traditional TV way. I’ll scream at the top of my fucking lungs.

People say I have a bad reputation. I think I’ve got the best reputation in the building. Because they want you to have a reputation of tucking your black nail polish into your pockets and sitting in the corner of the class, and not fighting for your ideas out of fear of being ridiculed. Someone not liking your thoughts, being embarassed, being talked about the next day, not being accept, being an outsider. Being crazy.

That’s another one of my favourite ones, to be called crazy.

I’m nowhere near as smart as either of my parents. They’re both educated, they both have PHDs. So I always feel embarrassed when I speak in comparison to - I mean mom was head of the English department. My dad is an incredible orator and humanitarian. Just five years ago he stayed at a homeless shelter to help. He worked on an idea of good water and created these water distilleries in somewhere between Maryland and Delaware, I’ve forgotten the exact location. And he put together this good water distiller cafe, where kids could also read poems, [inaudible] to play, people would come and just read, get on the internet, have everything driven by clean water.

I remember calling him when he was busy nailing the planks of wood together himself. You know, I’d given him some money to work on the idea. I remember when I was young and saw my dad working on computers, this was before Steve Jobs, everyone thought they could start a computer company, like my dad started a computer company. And I remember the guy that he was working with ended up being a bad guy, and not knowing what he was doing, and being borderline like a scam, like “computers are gonna be the next big thing, let’s start our own computer company”. And the guys that helped him, that he had the voice to find, that he looked at whatever the version of Craigslist was back then, to find, didn’t have the same motivation, didn’t have a high enough skill set to match up to his vision, to his dream, for it to be considered to be a success. But the success is that his successor will be successful in his lifetime. You could say “oh but you are successful”. I’m successful in learning about the beauty that is afforded rich people. But in learning that, being brought up, middle class, it’s something that is beating out of my chest, that screams out. “Wait a second, I was middle class, and I didn’t get to see none of this shit!"

So let’s have an NBC telethon moment, and say that beauty has been stolen from the people and is being sold back to them under the concept of luxury!

It’s not illegal to not listen to music. It’s illegal to not wear clothes, and also possibly extremely cold. That means someone is proposing an idea on you that you legally have to do! Clothing should be like food. There should never be a $5000 sweater. You know what should cost $5000? A car should be $5000. And you know who should work on the car? The people who work on the $500,000 cars. All the best talent in the world needs to work for the people. And I am so fucking serious about this concept that I will stand in front of anyone and fight for it. Because I was 14 and middle class. I know what it felt like to not get what I have.

People say to me “But you’re successful, what are you crying about?”. I’m crying about the people. I’m crying about their daughters. Our daughters, as one family. What good is it. What good is anything that everyone can’t have. Every ism. They think we’re done with racism. What about elitism, what about separatism, what about classism? That’s all.