Kanye West has been on a tear lately as he promotes his recently confirmed new album So Help Me God. His latest appearance was as a guest lecturer at Oxford University, where 5,000 students entered a lottery for the 350 spots to attend. The lecture, which was hosted by the Oxford Guild Business Society, began today around 3PM at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and went for about a half hour.
UPDATE: Here’s full video of Kanye’s lecture.
Since the release of Yeezus — and even more so as he enters the realm of high-fashion — Kanye has been pretty vocal about classism and how it has morphed to become a front for racism, and this was a major theme in his lecture. He weaves together Beyoncé, Barack Obama, and rap music into a succinct argument that ends up addressing consumerism:
We have so many opportunities now. Obama’s president, Beyoncé’s cool, and white people who listen to rap say “nigger” in the privacy of their own home. But something that you’re being taught everyday without even realizing it is class. People think we no longer have racism. What about elitism? What about classism? There should never be a $5,000 shirt. You know what should cost $5,000? A car. And you know who should be making that car? The guy who is making a $500,000 car. They should be doing things for the people. They should be making things for the people. We’re looking for that joy you have as a child, and so people go out and buy a BMW or a Benz, and they sit in their Benz, and they realize there’s something so empty about doing that.
But what is worthwhile to the rapper? Ideas, and his new-found understanding of his role as a servant. He also praised Drake, again, for being an incredible rapper:
Ideas are free. Something that’s happened to my progression as an artist with the advent of a person called Drake, who blew out every Number One of any band ever, be it me or Paul McCartney. I understand that I’m a servant. And 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 also emphasized how we’ve been fed the lie of “joy through advertising” and that time with the people you love is the only thing that will actually bring us joy:
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.
And it wouldn’t be a Kanye appearance without a few over-the-top demands. He asked the students to remain completely silent, saying, “If I hear so much as a whisper then I lose my stream of consciousness.” On the heels of that, he addressed his own ego, admitting that sometimes it has been a problem for him but using his own flaw as a source of hope for his audience:
My Achilles’ heel is my ego. But if I, Kanye West, can remove my ego, then there’s hope for everyone.
He casually dropped the news that Steve McQueen directed a video for his recently debuted new track “All Day,” and shared a snippet of his conversation with McQueen, in which he compared the Bible to The Matrix
I was sitting with Steve McQueen, he shot the visuals for All Day 2 days ago, it’s completely different to the Brit awards. I’m telling you what I told Steve McQueen in private. What I said 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.
The Tab, a cross-country university newspaper, also live-tweeted some great Kanye quotes that range from earnest comments on racism to name-drop stunting:
"We have the ability to approach our race like ants, or we have the ability to approach our race like crabs." #YeezOx
— The Tab Oxford (@TheTabOxford) March 2, 2015
"Obama calls the home phone, by the way." #YeezOx
— The Tab Oxford (@TheTabOxford) March 2, 2015
You can read a transcript of the entire lecture here via The Tab.
[Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images.]