Kanye West Oxford Speech: “If I Can Remove My Ego, There’s Hope For Everyone”
Kanye West gave a typically wide-ranging and wild speech at Oxford University on Monday, talking about everything from The Matrix and the Bible to greed and emptiness to President Obama and daughter North.
According to the Oxford Tab, which transcribed the full talk, West started off by warning that the 20 minutes he was allotted may not be enough, and ordered everyone in the room to be “completely quiet,” saying, “I can literally hear a whisper, and it’ll throw off my stream of consciousness, and when I get my stream of consciousness going that’s when I give the best, illest quotes.”
So, what were West’s best, illest quotes? Well, West started off by revealing he once wanted to be a painter that could rival Picasso, and used that as a jumping off point to talk about suppression and separatism. West said:
“Some of you here probably remember the night when the Donda tweets came through me and I started talking about professions that you guys are going into, that seemed they had nothing to do with a rapper. I was talking about a band of thinkers that could remove religion, race, gender, and somehow come together to find solutions for a broken planet.”
West argued, “We have the resources as a civilization to find a utopia, but we’re led by the most greedy and the least noble.” The star shared his belief that seflishness and other people’s opinions are preventing a seamless society, and drew a comparison between the Bible and The Matrix that he recently shared with Steve McQueen:
“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 mirrors of other opinions.
What I said [to McQueen] was The Matrix is like the Bible of the post-information age… I compared it like when the hundred 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 master senseis like Laurence Fishburne and you have a squad behind you, you literally can put the world in slow motion.”
West explained, “This humanity that I talk about, this civilization that I talk about, this future utopia I talk about… it can only happen through collaboration,” and cited Steve Jobs as an example. The rapper said:
“I love Steve Jobs, he’s my favorite 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, but ideas are free and you can’t be selfish with them.”
He went on to deem himself a “servant, with my voice, with 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.” West then used North’s toys to talk about quality and luxury, and how they relate to happiness. He shared:
“I’d see toys that some people would buy for my daughter and I’d say this toy isn’t quality. I don’t want my daughter playing with this. There’s not enough love put into this, this is just manufactured with the will to sell, and not the will of inspiration.
[Vanessa Beecroft] 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 so happy. She was going so crazy, she was grabbing one, she was riding on top of one… 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, especially in America…
We’ve been sold a concept of joy 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 and what we do with that. It was somehow sold to us through a Gucci bag or something.
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.”
It feels like people do everything in life to get this BMW, this Benz, to get this townhome, 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 you’ve done and all the accolades you get, and you somehow think you’re gonna get that level of joy that my daughter had when she received those wolves. And when 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 favorite thing to hate, class.”
West added, “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.” The problem, says West, is when the rest of the world doesn’t see itself as “one family,” and argues, “We have the ability to approach our race like ants, or we have the ability to approach our race like crabs.”
“This is a generation that is far less racist – yes, small remnants remain of even thinking of calling something of a racial slur. White people that listen to rap say ‘n-gger’… in the privacy of their own home. That idea [racism], has passed. We’ve had The Cosby Show, Obama’s president, Beyonce’s great… that’s passed. But there’s still something you’re taught every day, especially in the UK, and that’s division by class. Our main focus, in my opinion… Imagine a world with no war, and imagine if everyone’s main focus, more so than going out to a club, their main focus was to help someone else.
I was joking with an interviewer earlier today…people talk about the number of viewers the Brits get, or the number 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…
You guys have been taught, without you knowing, 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, rather than holding hands, you can’t get anything done.
West then gave a personal example of when he was happily outshined by someone else: Nicki Minaj. He explained, “You know, Chris Rock called my album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy…well, Chris Rock and everyone else at every single media publication called My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy the best album of the last 25 years. This only came through collaboration.” West continued:
“One of the most memorable things about MBDTF was Nicki Minaj, and the fact that she kicked my ass, on my own song, on one of the best albums…the best album – I’m just saying what the critics said – of the last 25 years. The best album of the past 25 years that I spent a year and a half making, out there. I was exiled from my country, it was a personal exile, but exile. To come back and deliver my 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.”
The controversial performer later declared, “One of my biggest Achilles heels has been my ego. And if I, Kanye West, the very person, can remove my ego, I think there’s hope for everyone.” He went on:
“My momma taught me that if I was in a grocery store and I’m by myself and a stranger grabbed my hand, scream at the top of your f-cking lungs. If I’m at an awards show and a stranger grabs my hand and they say 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 cut the TV cameras in a traditional way. I’ll scream at the top of my f–king lungs.
People say I have a bad reputation. I think I’ve got the best reputation in the building. 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… That’s one of my favorites, to be called crazy…
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. ‘Wait a second, I was middle class, and I didn’t get to see none of this sh*t!’
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 illegal to not wear clothes, and also possibly too cold. That means someone is imposing an idea on you that should 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 that work on the $500,000 cars. All the best talent in the world needs to work for the people. And I am so f*cking 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.”
West concluded, “People say to me ‘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.”
That’s all? Wow. And we didn’t even feature everything West said, which also included a backhanded Drake compliment, the revelation that West doesn’t know the days of the week, and how he’d be “batting 2000” if he didn’t get in trouble for dissing other artists. He also got mad at himself for mentioning Mastercard, saying, “I was trying to get a flawless victory on my speech! No offense to MasterCard… but that was a big f*ckking logo in the middle!” Well then. What do you think of West’s comments?