A week and some change has passed since part 1 of the lengthy (2 hours and 25 minutes) Drink Champs episode featuring the artist formerly known as Kanye West (now simply known as Ye) aired on November 5th.
The internet, particularly Twitter, was abuzz with clips, snippets and quotes, as the self-proclaimed ‘king of culture’ rambled on about virtually everything under the sun his scatterbrain self could think of. From his family, his favourite rappers, his ambitions, his current projects, his wealth and a host of other random things.
Last week Friday, November 12th, part 2 of the interview dropped. While it’s not nearly as long as part 1, not to mention as helter skelter, it’s fairly long – running for a little under 1 hour and 20 minutes.
With a much more poised demeanour, Ye was joined by Larry Hoover Jr and the two talked at length about the latter’s dad’s (Larry Hoover Sr) incarceration. Ye also speaks candidly about mental health, Taylor Swift, Donald Trump and much more in the interview.
Now that the interview has aired in its entirety, we undertook the lofty task of condensing and synthesising the five most interesting talking points (to us at least), centering on hip hop, from both part 1 and part 2 of Ye’s Drink Champs appearance, hosted by N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN.
Ye’s opinion of other rappers and artists
Ye was brutally honest about how he feels about some of his industry peers and associates. During the “Quicktime With Slime” segment of the show – where N.O.R.E. asks a series of ‘this or that’ questions, he asked Ye to pick between Big Sean and Pusha T. Without hesitation, Ye picked Pusha T. Soon after, he went on a tirade about how signing Big Sean is the worst thing he’s ever done.
Holding up a fake tombstone and joking about signing the Detroit rapper, he said, “When I die, on my tombstone it’s gonna say ‘I deserve to be here because I signed Big Sean,’”. When asked to clarify, he crudely said, “I’m saying that the worst thing I’ve ever done is sign Big Sean.”
Continuing, Ye said, “Nah, man, they let that—I know this man mama, bro…”… “You know what I’m saying? I changed this man family, and both John Legend and Big Sean, when I ran for office, got used quick by the Democrats to combat they boy that actually changed they life. And that’s some sellout sh*t, and I don’t rock with neither of them, and I need my apology.”
Later on, N.O.R.E. asked Ye to pick between Common and Talib Kweli – two conscious emcees who have been pivotal in his own career.
Ye answered, “Oh, definitely Common. Are you—man … Common is a thousand times better rapper than Kweli. What is you talkin’ bout?” And in true Ye fashion, he kept going, “No, but also, Kweli be gettin’ up, and like, ‘come back home.’ Home where, nigga? … That’s my issue, man, and all these backhand—’oh yea, you know, Ye, he’s a billionaire, but fuck him being a billionaire … he not like Dave Chappelle, he not like down with the people, he not…’ If I’d be like you, Kweli, I’d be where you at. Now if you take the average, 99 percent of people, say, ‘do you wanna be Kweli, or do you wanna be Ye, mo’ people gon’ wanna be Ye, Kweli!”
He would later say, “I love Kweli, I never really liked the way he rapped…” when speaking about how he pretended to be a backpack rapper in the early years of his career (more on that later).
While it’s Ye’s prerogative to hold whatever opinion he holds about other people, it is quite clear that if you’re his friend or associate, and you admonish him in any way, he takes it personal. He does not like it when his friends go against him. A lot can be said about whether that is fair or not but it certainly came as a shock to those who were at the receiving end of his wrath. Both Big Sean and Talib Kweli, respectively, responded on social media, that Ye didn’t have that same energy the last time he was with them, which was recent for both rappers.
Big Sean responded with a series of Tweets below:
Talib took to Instagram in a series of posts clarifying his stance on him and his antics but also mocking him by exposing some of his ghostwriters:
For Talib, he has previously been critical of Kanye’s support of Donald Trump and Candace Owens, and doubledowned by saying that he is consistent in both his public and private critique of Ye’s actions.
Ye on Drake AND VERZUZ
N.O.R.E. didn’t make the mistake of forgetting to ask Ye about VERZUZ, asking him if he would compete in a VERZUZ match up. Answering eagerly, Ye said: “Oh absolutely! But I would need about four people to go against me at one time … I need producers, I need people who make good albums, I need people who made radio hits, I need every single Gemini specifically.”
N.O.R.E. then got specific and asked if he were to go up against his sometimes-friend-sometimes-foe Drake, who would win? Ye was succinct, declaring, “I’m winning every situation … Yea, absolutely.” He continued with a second confirmation, referring to a certain OVO Sound premiere of one of his unreleased tracks, “Life of the Party”: “But it already happened, he played one of my leaked songs and it was better than every other song this year.”
Ye then spoke in more detail regarding his beef with Drake:
“[Drake won’t] do a diss, like an outright diss song where it’s a headshot. He’s gonna set it up like war. … He gonna do stuff like, live five blocks down the street from you … DM every single girl in your family, every single girl around your family, all your niggas’ girls … This is professional rap. All that’s there, so, if he throws out a bar … it might be only—like Pac said, ‘You and I know what’s goin’ on.’ But it’s all psychological.”
What most people seem not to understand or at least appreciate about VERZUZ is that regardless of how it may look on paper, anyone can be beaten because it depends squarely on the track selections that will be made on the night of the match up. So, while Ye has an infinite pool of choices to select from, given his monumental talent and output, it doesn’t guarantee that each song he selects will be the right one to do the job against Drake.
With that said, there’s definitely sibling rivalry between Ye and Drake and Ye does seem to have a handle on where exactly the issues between them stem from. In an interesting turn of events however, on November 9th, a few days after part 1 of Ye’s interview on Drink Champs aired, a video surfaced online of Ye standing next to J. Prince, reading a letter to Drake. In the video, the letter Ye is reading is seemingly him extending an olive branch to Drake, asking that they squash their beef:
Time will tell as to whether Drake accepts or not.
Ye on Nas being his favorite rapper
Ye was asked who he would pick between Jay Electronica and Nas. He didn’t hesitate in answering: “It’s Nas, ‘cause Nas my favourite rapper Nas. ‘Cause it’s Nas. What do you mean? It’s Nas. Nas is Nas… he’s like… ordained in our video game to be the best rapper… you know what I mean? It’s Nas, his name is synonymous with greatest rapper – you know what I’m saying?”
This is one revelation that may come as a shock for many who might not know of Ye’s reverence for Nas. Considering that Ye is much closer and has worked much more frequently with Jay-Z – who has long been pitted against Nas for the greatest of all time crown, it does come as a surprise that Ye has and is so vocal that Nas is his favourite rapper of all time.
A little known fact is that Ye’s very first professional production credit was on Jermaine Dupree’s 1998 debut album Life In 1472 on a song called “Turn It Out”, which featured Nas. Ye would later ghost-produce a song off Nas’ 2002 The Lost Tapes album called “Poppa Was A Playa” (though it’s frequently credited to Derick “D-Dot” Angelettie) before he blew up as Roc-A-Fella affiliate producer the following year.
Ye then worked with Nas on many other occasions, producing and rapping alongside him for both their respective albums. He even famously rapped “I’m just a Chi-town nigga with a Nas flow…” on the opening song, “Dark Fantasy”, off his classic My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, while before that, on the DJ Premier song “Classic”, which also features Nas, he rapped, “What do it take to be a legend like Nas is?”
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment borne off his love for Nas remains the latter’s 2018 album NASIR, which was entirely produced by Ye. Interestingly, this also came off a promise Ye had made to Barack Obama that he would make beats for a Nas album:
Ye on Just Blaze Copying Him During The Making of Blueprint
Still continuing with his “Quicktime With Slime” segment, N.O.R.E. then asked Ye who he would pick between Just Blaze or Swizz Beatz? His response was scathing.
“Swizz Beatz, definitely, because Just Blaze is a copycat, you know. He gets credit for The Blueprint, and I did the first half of The Blueprint, and he just copied my half. I mean, look where I’m at today and look where he’s at today,”
Just Blaze responded gracefully to Ye’s assertions:
As Ye was saying the stuff he was saying about Just Blaze during the show, someone in the background yelled, “Bink’s gonna love this” and as predicted, he did. Bink, the Roc-A-Fella Records affiliate and producer who also contributed production along with Ye and Just Blaze on Jay-Z’s seminal album The Blueprint, has previously said the same thing about Just Blaze being a copycat. Therefore, in agreement with Ye, he shared a clip of Ye’s comments about The Blueprint and was apparently pleased they were on record.
“I’m a leave this rt here,” he wrote in the caption. “now call him bitter for telling the truth!! and yes to the guy in the background, I was super happy to hear this. GOOD MORNING…Ye and I crafted that album period! Ye brought his sound and I brought mine!!”
Once again, Ye has his prerogative to think what he wants to think, however, it doesn’t always mean his conclusions are true. One just has to do a little bit of digging to ascertain some of his claims. The same goes for Bink.
The key component of the production on Jay-Z’s The Blueprint is soul samples. Virtually all the producers on there (Bink, Kanye West, Just Blaze, Timbaland and Trackmasters) were given an assignment to make soulful, syrupy, chipmunk beats. That’s what they all did (with the exception of Timbaland and Trackmasters of course). Now, where does Kanye get off saying Just Blaze copied him?
Both Ye and Just started getting production placements around the same time in their careers. They were both on Mase’s group Harlem World’s 1999 album, The Movement. Kanye produced “You Made Me”, “Minute Man” and “100 Shiesty’s”. Just Blaze produced “I Really Like It” and “Family Crisis”. Listening to all those songs produced by the two producers on that album (which was released two years prior to the The Blueprint), one can tell that Just Blaze was already developing his production skill set towards the soulful, syrupy, chipmunk style of sampling, which makes Ye’s allegation that he copied him moot.
Ye on Co-opting Backpack Rap In Order To Blow Up
When Ye got his big break in 2002/3 to finally be a rapper on Roc-A-Fella records and not just a producer, what made him unique was that he was a mainstream rapper who could by all means assimilate to the ‘money cash hoes’ or ‘gangster rap’ aesthetic that was the order of the day during that time, yet he chose neither route. Instead, he branded himself as a backpack rapper who literally carried a Louis Vuitton backpack as part of his image.
Backpack rap can loosely be defined as blue collar rap for the working man, a no-frills perspective on everyday life, socially conscious and soulful enclave of rap championed by emcees such as Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Slum Village and all emcees of that ilk. As much as Kanye kept the company of his Roc-A-Fella affiliates, Freeway, Beanie Sigel and the man Jay-Z himself, he inexplicably had a strong attachment to the backpack community. Afterall, Talib Kweli and Mos Def are the ones who gave Kanye a handful of production placements on their respective albums after Jay-Z and Roc-A-Fella signees (see the production credits on Talib Kweli’s 2002 album Quality and Mos Def’s The New Danger). Ye would also go on to feature Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Common prominently on his debut album, 2004’s The College Dropout.
However, one of the most startling revelations Ye made on Drink Champs was that he only posed as a backpack rapper – his heart was never in it.
He said, “I’m sorry to the backpack community, due to the fact that I was from the streets, but had never killed anybody, it was just easier for me to pose like a backpacker. But I actually really love street n-ggas and I don’t really listen to backpack music like that,” Kanye said. “I listen to Cash Money, Jay-Z, Lil Baby.”
N.O.R.E. then pointed out that many of Kanye’s early collaborators were in the backpack community, to which West responded that he was “using” their sensibility, taking the opportunity to shit on Talib Kweli once again, “I apologise, once again, to Kweli. I’m sorry. I never fucked with your raps,” Kanye laughed.
Amalgamating backpack rap sensibilities with the accessibility of commercial hip-hop was an integral component of Ye’s early appeal. He was aware of it and unashamedly rapped about as much on songs like “Breathe In Breathe Out” off The College Dropout when he said, “First nigga with a Benz and a backpack, Ice chain, Carti lens, and a knapsack”, on Late Registration’s “Touch The Sky” when he said “Back when they though pink polos would hurt the ROC., before Cam got the shit to pop…” and the Yeezus’ controversial song “I Am a God” when he says, “Pink-ass polos with a fuckin’ backpack, but everybody know you brought real rap back”.
With this revelation on Drink Champs – Ye saying that the whole aesthetic was simply a calculated decision – it will be hard to enjoy songs like Slum Village’s “Selfish”, Dilated Peoples’ “This Way” and Little Brother’s “I See Now” with the same fervour.
Thanks a lot, Ye!