Kanye West’s Fourth of July declaration, via Tweet, that he was running for president lit the internet on fire, even as pundits were trying to discern how serious he was. Over the course of four rambling hours of interviews on Tuesday, the billionaire rapper turned sneaker mogul revealed:
- That he’s running for president in 2020 under a new banner—the Birthday Party—with guidance from Elon Musk and an obscure vice presidential candidate he’s already chosen. “Like anything I’ve ever done in my life,” says West, “I’m doing to win.”
- That he no longer supports President Trump. “I am taking the red hat off, with this interview.”
- That he’s ok with siphoning off Black votes from the Democratic nominee, thus helping Trump. “I’m not denying it, I just told you. To say that the Black vote is Democratic is a form of racism and white supremacy.”
- That he’s never voted in his life.
- That he was sick with Covid-19 in February.
- That he’s suspicious of a coronavirus vaccine, terming vaccines “the mark of the beast.”
- That he believes “Planned Parenthoods have been placed inside cities by white supremacists to do the Devil’s work.”
- That he envisions a White House organizational model based on the secret country of Wakanda in Black Panther.
And that’s just for starters. For much of the phone calls, his core message, strategically, was that he has 30 days to make a final decision about running for president. At that point, he says, he’d miss the filing deadline for most states, though he believes an argument could be made to get onto any ballots he’s missed, citing coronavirus issues. “I’m speaking with experts, I’m going to speak with Jared Kushner, the White House, with Biden,” says West. He has no campaign apparatus of any kind. His advisors right now, he says, are the two people who notably endorsed him on the Fourth: his wife Kim Kardashian-West, and Elon Musk, of whom he says, “We’ve been talking about this for years.” (Adds West: “I proposed to him to be the head of our space program.”)
An hour into the interview, the hedging was done: He says he definitely plans to run in 2020, versus his original plan in 2024. The campaign slogan: “YES!” His running mate? Michelle Tidball, an obscure preacher from Wyoming. And why the Birthday Party? “Because when we win, it’s everybody’s birthday.”
If it all sounds like a parody, or a particularly surreal episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, West doesn’t seem to be in on it. Calling from his ranch near Cody, Wyoming, where he says that he registered to vote for the first time on Monday, West denies it is a publicity stunt for his upcoming album. (“I give my album away for free.”) A few weeks after he ended two separate text chains with me with the message “Trump 2020” and a fist raised high, he insists he’s lost confidence in the president. “It looks like one big mess to me,” he says. “I don’t like that I caught wind that he hid in the bunker.” West also says that he contracted the coronavirus in late February, though he maintains that had nothing to do with his thoughts on running this year.
That said, he won’t say much more against Trump. He’s much less shy about criticizing Biden, which certainly won’t tamp down the idea that the Birthday Party is a ruse to help re-elect Trump. “I’m not saying Trump’s in my way, he may be a part of my way. And Joe Biden? Like come on man, please. You know? Obama’s special. Trump’s special. We say Kanye West is special. America needs special people that lead. Bill Clinton? Special. Joe Biden’s not special.”
From there, he holds forth on pretty much everything else, and occasionally breaks into spontaneous freestyle raps (“If I catch a vibe, I’m gonna catch that vibe”).
Rapper Kanye West speaks during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval office of the White House on October 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. GETTY IMAGES
ON HIS NATURAL POLITICAL PARTY
“I would run as a Republican if Trump wasn’t there. I will run as an independent if Trump is there.”
ON HIS PREVIOUS SUPPORT FOR TRUMP
“Trump is the closest president we’ve had in years to allowing God to still be part of the conversation.”
ON HIS MAGA HAT MOMENT
“One of the main reasons I wore the red hat as a protest to the segregation of votes in the Black community. Also, other than the fact that I like Trump hotels and the saxophones in the lobby.”
ON DISCUSSIONS ON RACE WITH THE WHITE HOUSE
“One time I talked to Jared Kushner who was saying we don’t have Black leaders, we just have hustlers. Why? Because they killed all the Black leaders.” (Requests for comment from the White House and the Kushner Companies last night were not immediately returned.)
“That is a form of racism and white supremacy and white control to say that all Black people need to be Democrat and to assume that me running is me splitting the vote. All of that information is being charged up on social media platforms by Democrats. And Democrats used to tell me, the same Democrats have threatened me…. The reason why this is the first day I registered to vote is because I was scared. I was told that if I voted on Trump my music career would be over. I was threatened into being in one party. I was threatened as a celebrity into being in one party. I was threatened as a Black man into the Democratic party. And that’s what the Democrats are doing, emotionally, to my people. Threatening them to the point where this white man can tell a Black man if you don’t vote for me, you’re not Black.”
ON HOW THE RACE WILL BE DECIDED
“Let’s see if the appointing is at 2020 or if it’s 2024—because God appoints the president. If I win in 2020 then it was God’s appointment. If I win in 2024 then that was God’s appointment.”
ON THE CORONAVIRUS CURE
“We pray. We pray for the freedom. It’s all about God. We need to stop doing things that make God mad.”
“It’s so many of our children that are being vaccinated and paralyzed… So when they say the way we’re going to fix Covid is with a vaccine, I’m extremely cautious. That’s the mark of the beast. They want to put chips inside of us, they want to do all kinds of things, to make it where we can’t cross the gates of heaven. I’m sorry when I say they, the humans that have the Devil inside them. And the sad thing is that, the saddest thing is that we all won’t make it to heaven, that there’ll be some of us that do not make it. Next question.”
ON DECIDING TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT
“It’s when I was being offered the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Awards at MTV. I remember being at my mom’s house, my mother-in-law, because my house was being worked on, she calls me ‘son’ and I call her ‘mom,’ I was in the shower thinking, I write raps in the shower. It hit me to say, ‘you’re going to run for president’ and I started laughing hysterically, I was like this is the best, I’m going to go out there and they’re going to think I’m going to do these songs and do this for entertainment, how rigged awards shows are, and then say I’m president. And I just laughed in the shower, I don’t know for how long, but that’s the moment it hit me.”
ON HIS FOREIGN POLICY
“I haven’t developed it yet. I’m focused on protecting America, first, with our great military. Let’s focus on ourselves first.”
“I am pro-life because I’m following the word of the bible.”
ON BEING A POLITICAL NOVICE
“I have to say with all humility that as a man, I don’t have all of the pieces in the puzzle. As I speak to you for what a political campaign—a political walk, as I told you, because I’m not running, I’m walking. I’m not running, we the people are walking. We’re not running anymore, we’re not running, we’re not excited—we are energized, Someone can say, ‘Hey, I got a brand new car for you, it’s across the street and you get so excited you run across the street and get hit by a car trying to run to your new car. That’s how they control the Black community, through emotions, they get us excited, we’re so excited, but then for 400 years the change doesn’t truly happen.
ON THE NEED FOR RACIAL HEALING, AFTER GEORGE FLOYD
“Well, God has already started the healing/This conversation alone is healing and revealing/We all need to start praying and kneeling… another bar after that, but when a rhyme comes together I’m going to complete it, not inside the lines created by organizations that we know as our reality. The schools, the infrastructure was made for us to not truly be all we can be but to be just good enough to work for the corporations that designed the school systems. We’re tearing that up, what we’ll do is we’re not going to tear up the Constitution, what we will do is amend.”
ON BLACK HISTORY MONTH
“Oh one other thing, Black History Month. That is torture porn because when that comes up what we do is we see—and by the way, if I get that vibe—that’s the process and we are going to a beautiful, uplifting, fun, creative process as a people, as America collectively, and show the world how great we are. So here we go. Black History Month every year they gotta remind us about the fact that we couldn’t vote, they meaning white supremacy construct, and I said that with the CT at the end, I knew what was I was talking about…Our minds are so much more infinite than what’s coming across TikTok or Instagram, what’s trying to influence our children and the next generation of who we are.
ON HAVING COVID-19
“Chills, shaking in the bed, taking hot showers, looking at videos telling me what I’m supposed to do to get over it. I remember someone had told me Drake had the coronavirus and my response was Drake can’t be sicker than me!” (laughs)
ON RUNNING IN 2020
“God just gave me the clarity and said it’s time. You know I was out there, ended up in the hospital, people were calling me crazy. I’m not crazy. Between all of the influences and the positions that we can be put in as musicians—you go on tour, you put out all these albums, and you look up and you don’t have any money in your account. It can drive you crazy, through all of that I was looking crazy because it wasn’t the time. Now it’s time. And we’re not going crazy, we’re going Yeezy, it’s a whole ‘notha level now. N-O-T-H-A.
ON JOE BIDEN
“A lot of times just like political parties they feel all Blacks have to be Democrat. This man, Joe Biden, said if you don’t vote for me, then you are not Black. Well, act like we didn’t hear that? We act like we didn’t hear that man say that? That man said that. It’s a rap. We gonna walk, all the people. Jay-Z said it best. For the other candidates, I just gracefully suggest y’all bow out—Trump and Biden, gracefully bow out. It’s God’s country, we are doing everything in service to God, nobody but God no more. I am in service of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, and I put everything I get on the line to serve God.”
ON DEVELOPING POLICIES
“I don’t know if I would use the word policy for the way I would approach things. I don’t have a policy when I went to Nike and designed Yeezy and went to Louis and designed a Louis Vuitton at the same time. It wasn’t a policy, it was a design. We need to innovate the design to be able to free the mind at this time.”
ON THE WAKANDA MANAGEMENT MODEL
“A lot of Africans do not like the movie [Black Panther] and representation of themselves in…Wakanda. But I’m gonna use the framework of Wakanda right now because it’s the best explanation of what our design group is going to feel like in the White House…That is a positive idea: you got Kanye West, one of the most powerful humans—I’m not saying the most because you got a lot of alien level superpowers and it’s only collectively that we can set it free. Let’s get back to Wakanda… like in the movie in Wakanda when the king went to visit that lead scientist to have the shoes wrap around her shoes. Just the amount of innovation that can happen, the amount of innovation in medicine—like big pharma—we are going to work, innovate, together. This is not going to be some Nipsey Hussle being murdered, they’re doing a documentary, we have so many soldiers that die for our freedom, our freedom of information, that there is a cure for AIDS out there, there is going to be a mix of big pharma and holistic.”
ON PRAYER IN SCHOOLS
“Reinstate in God’s state, in God’s country, the fear and love of God in all schools and organizations and you chill the fear and love of everything else, so that was a plan by the Devil to have our kids committing suicide at an all-time high by removing God to have murders in Chicago at an all-time high because the human beings working for the Devil removed God and prayer from the schools. That means more drugs, more murders, more suicide.”
“I haven’t done enough research on that yet. I will research that with the strongest experts that serve God and come back with the best solution. And that will be my answer for anything that I haven’t researched. I have the earplug in and I’m going to use that earplug.”
“When I become president—let me make some promises—the NBA will open all the way back up from Nigeria to Nanchang and the world will see the greatest athletes play. The world will experience the change in their element. The money is gonna come back. I love China. I love China. It’s not China’s fault that disease. It’s not the Chinese people’s fault. They’re God’s people also. I love China. It changed my life. It changed my perspective, it gave me such a wide perspective. My mom as an English professor taught English in China when I was in 5th grade.”
ON CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
“Thou shalt not kill. I’m against the death penalty.”
ON POLICE KILLINGS
One of my to-do lists is to end police brutality. The police are people too. To end laws that don’t make sense. Like, in the George Floyd case, there was a Black guy that went to jail and it was his first day on the force. So if it’s your first day on the force and it’s your training day, and this OG accredited cop with 18 violations already starts filing out, are you going to jump in front of that person and lose your job that same day? Especially in this climate when 40,000 people lost their jobs? This man was put in a position where—and also he probably didn’t realize that the cop was going to take it that far, he probably was so scared, in shock, paralyzed, like so many Black people. I’m one of the few Black people that would speak openly like this.
ON HIS OTHER PRIORITIES
“Clean up the chemicals. In our deodorant, in our toothpaste, there are chemicals that affect our ability to be of service to God.”
ON HIS CAMPAIGN SLOGAN
“Well my second album is called Late Registration. I got a rap … The other thing is, my campaign is Kanye West YES, not YEP, not YEAH. YES. YES. YES… When I’m president, let’s also have some fun. Let’s get past all the racism conversation, let’s empower people with 40 acres and a mule, let’s give some land, that’s the plan.”