Kanye West Explains Why He Blew Up On Sway & Just How Deep The Question “HOW SWAY??” Was

Throughout the last dozen years, Kanye West lyrics have dealt a lot with wealth and finances. On The Life Of Pablo, “No More Parties In L.A.” is a series of verses:

A 38-year-old eight-year-old with rich nigga problems / Tell my wife that I hate the Rolls so I don’t never drive it / It took 6 months to get the Maybach all matted out / And my assistant crashed it soon as they backed it out.

On “All Day,” West rapped: “Ball so hard, man, this shit cray, nigga / And you ain’t gettin’ money ‘less you got eight figures.”

However, in recent days, the Chicago, Illinois Hip-Hop superstar alluded that things may not be as they seem. On Saturday, February 13, West revealed—via Twitter—that he was $53 million dollars in debt:

The same day West released what is being billed as his seventh solo album, T.L.O.P. He sent a barrage of tweets over the next 60 hours, both seeking financial aid from the likes of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Larry Page, as well as accusing past business partners of preying on his situation:

West also compared himself to Walt Disney and Lebron James:

In the series of tweets, West did state that investors had in fact contacted him in response to the tweets, including some billionaires. He did not publicly state who these people were, or if they had backed Kanye’s ventures.

One partner West did suggest by name was Adidas, who he credited with making the Yeezy Season 3 event at Madison Square Garden last Thursday (February 11) possible. While presently dealing with the athletic apparel giant, West suggested a greater, more lucrative partnership. West also stated that his fashion enterprises were partially to blame for the $53 million debt:

Kanye then pointed to two prominent radio personalities, and specific November, 2013 interviews with The Breakfast Club and Sway In The Morning.

Going back to those conversations West referenced this week via Twitter, he’s now saying what he alluded to in no uncertain terms. Following the release of Yeezus, and a series of “rants” (as the media deemed them) while on the corresponding tour, West was taken to task about his relationship with brands, consumerism, and creativity.

That discussion famously boiled over with Kanye’s longtime friend Sway, who had been a supporter of the artist before fame and fortune.

In the interview with Sway, (16:00) Kanye West compared himself to William Shakespeare, Andy Warhol, Walt Disney and others—and sought the new Medechi family—a 14th Century Italian dynasty that funded the arts. After the impassioned speech, West’s demeanor shifted when Sway Calloway asked the artist why he does not self-fund his ideas and “empower yourself?” When Kanye sharply replied “How, Sway?” it led to a controversial explosion of West repeatedly touting “You ain’t got the answers.” In the transcript of that exchange more than two years ago, West asserted that he spent $13 million of his own money “trying to empower” himself.

According to West’s 2016 tweets, he was in debt then—as a husband and father. At that time, Kanye did not reveal publicly that he was under financial duress. As the tensions shifted in that conversation, West angrily stamped, “I just told you I lost the money because I did not have the knowledge of how to do [it]…” When Sway followed with, “Okay, so you don’t have money. That’s your answer! You don’t have to turn up! This ain’t no fucking show!” West would reply that he was not trying to disrespect the show or embarrass the platform, but compared the conversation to the film, Glory. “We all slaves! Back in the days, if slaves had enough money, they could buy their own freedom. We all slaves—we slaves to Nike, we slaves to [Mercedes] Benz, we slaves to public perception, we slaves to [what] someone might say after the interview…” in regards to the fashion and business industry. He would later say, “I invested my own money, and lost money. I made t-shirts that made money. I made music that made money. But at the end of the day [Universal Music Group Chairman & CEO] Lucian Grainge still cuts my music checks—as powerful as my voice is, Lucian still runs 50% of the music industry. François Pinault owns Balenciaga [Fashion Show], [Yves] Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney. [Bernard] Arnault owns Louis Vuitton, Celine, Givenchy. Renzo Rosso owns [Maison Martin] Margiela, Diesel, Marni, Viktor&Rolf. These guys got factories. They run that! The thing that compresses me is time versus money: integrity, money, and relevance. Because as I work on clothing more, I’m not rapping as much. So I’m not in the middle of that Future mix, ’cause I do that feature. I’m not rappin’ as much [thus] I’m not having as much finances. I’m losing relevancy. The relevancy is part of my power that allows my brand to be big. That’s what I’m sayin’: you juggle so [much].”

In those same 24 hours (November 26, 2013), West appeared on Power 105’s The Breakfast Club radio show. There (6:00), he weighed slavery against brands such as Mercedes-Benz, as well as the institution of diamonds. “When we born, we born artists—we born free–and then we held down by society’s perception of us. We just don’t want be embarrassed. And I took the opportunity to look as stupid as possible.” He used wearing a kilt during a Watch The Throne Tour stop in Chicago. He criticized Nike for the structure of their deal, as it did not include certain royalties. “You want me to work for Nike for two more years? What I look like trying to tell my daughter in two years that I been working tryin’ to make Nike still hot—and not have the backing to really support and protect her? ‘Cause she in a position of royalty like the prince and princesses out in London. But they got more paper—they got heritage. Me and Kim [Kardashian-West], we on our grind, we have to do what we have to do to get to this point to be able to support our family. But we ain’t there yet. We ain’t financially there to the point to make sure North [West] is safe at all times. That’s the reason I’m turnin’ up, right now.”

As further context, West also interviewed with Zane Lowe during the same time period and lamented the fact that an artist with his talent did not have the same financial backing of others in the fashion world. “All I need is the breakthrough. The joint venture for my clothing. Same as Stella McCartney has. I could name so many people that have joint ventures, a backing to be able to express themselves that way. I need that outlet,” he said. West went on to add,  “I’m so frustrated. I’ve got so much I want to give. I’ve got ideas on color palettes. I’ve got ideas on silhouettes. And, I’ve got a million people telling me why I can’t do it…That I’m not a real designer.” West also elaborated on just how seriously he has taken the craft over the last decade, “I’ve dedicated the past 10 years of my life to [fashion]. I’ve spent 80% of my time working on this and 20% of my time working on music.” And, to drive the point home, he drew an analogy to his music, “For me to do the Yeezys and not have a joint venture backing deal with Nike the next day would have been like if I made ‘Jesus Walks” and was never allowed to make an album…And then people say ‘why you mad?’”

Given this newly disclosed context do you view Kanye’s conduct with Sway differently?

Related: Kanye West Claims The Life Of Pablo Will Never Be Available For Sale