Kanye West performs live in New York City in October 2012.
Credit: Briana E. Heard
Kanye West set down for a four-part interview with BBC Radio 1's Zane Lowe and opened up on what it's like to be a god. And having achieved godlike status, what West wants most is to be a designer.
"I have reached the glass ceiling," West says. "As a creative person, as a celebrity. When I say that, it means, I want to do product, I am a product person. Not just clothing, but water bottle design, architecture, everything, you know, that you could think about." (Part 1 of 4 video clips is embedded above; audio of the entire interview—which is very much worth your time—is available below.)
Architecture is a subject that comes up again and again in West's interviews lately, whether it's the Le Corbusier lamp that he says inspired his latest album, Yeezus, or the pyramid-shaped screen designed by OMA for a film West produced for Cannes. But in his interview with the BBC, he doesn't just compare his work to architecture, he declares that he needs to be doing architecture.
"If you're an architect, if you're a world builder, if you have all these ideas—if you're Gaudí, and you want to build buildings—and you don't ever get that out, what's going to happen?" West asks. "As a creative, for you to have done something at the level of the Yeezus, and not be able to create more" is a source of perpetual frustration for West, he says. Note that at 36, he's accomplished a fair deal already.
"This is the reason why I'm working with five architects at a time," West says. Fair enough—but which five architects? Here's a list of five that he is or should be working with to get to the "zenned-out place" where he's succeeding with his design collaborations.
1. David Benjamin
David Benjamin, cofounder of the design and research studio The Living, is collaborating with plant biologists at the University of Cambridge in England to 3D print materials that mimic the forms and structures of bacteria.
Credit: Noah Kalina
This one's easy, because Kanye West is hanging out with David Benjamin. The director of the Living Lab at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Benjamin has played drums in Los Angeles before he started studying architecture at Columbia in 2002. He has since designed a pop-up stadium for Nike—with whom West collaborated on the Air Yeezy—and continues to work on the Advanced Data Visualization Project with Thomson Reuters. If there's an architect who's interested in more diverse fields than Kanye West, it's David Benjamin.
A scene from the pop-up stadium Benjamin created with New York–based design group 2×4 for a Nike block party in New York’s SoHo neighborhood.
Credit: The Living
A rendering of Benjamin’s proposed Pier 35 EcoPark along
New York’s East River, designed in collaboration with Natalie Jeremijenko. The waterfront attraction will measure water
quality using mussels.
Credit: The Living
2. Zaha Hadid
Credit: Giovanna Silva
People tend to refer to both Zaha and Kanye by their first names, so there's that. There's also the shoes. "Shoes," West says in the interview. "You put on shoes every day. You walking down the street with no shoes? Somebody might think there's something wrong with you."
Hadid's collaboration with United Nude Studio looks like the kind of thing West is desperate to accomplish. When West talks about "new slaves," he says in the interview, he's talking in part about people who are addicted to fashion—so he and Hadid have that in common. And her work? That's got to appeal to West's idea of minimalism.
The Nova shoe by Zaha Hadid.
Credit: United Nude
A grand stairway inside the center leads to one of its many levels.
Credit: Hélène Binet
3. David Adjaye
Credit: Adjaye Associates
Kanye West wants nothing less than to be remembered as one of the greatest people of all time. He doesn't hesitate to sample Nina Simone's version of "Strange Fruit," one of the most important songs of the century. (He also calls himself a god, so there's that.) "We culture," West says. "Rap the new rock and roll. We culture. Rap is the new rock and roll. We the rock stars." He's not going to stand for a National Museum of African American History and Culture (designed by David Adjaye) that doesn't include him, right?
African Museum by David Adjaye
Credit: Courtesy Freelon Associates
4. Jeanne Gang
Credit: Chicago Tribune
Yeah / And you say Chi City / Chi City, Chi City / I'm comin' home again / Do you think about me now and then? / Do you think about me now and then? —Kanye West, "Homecoming"
Just two geniuses (one of them a MacArthur Genius) running Chicago. If the 2013 National Design Award winner and fellow Chicago native aren't already friends, we need to make that happen.
Studio Gang's 2010 Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.
Credit: Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing
5. Frank Gehry
Because, let's face it, Kanye West is not going to be satisfied until he is the biggest brand in the world.
Credit: Melissa Majchrzak
Walt Disney Concert Hall by Frank Gehry
Listen to the full interview here: