Kanye Lectures at Oxford University on Genius, Class & a Whole Lot More

Kanye West annoys a lot of peo­ple because of his ego, and because he doesn’t rely on oth­ers to call him a genius. He’ll tell you right away that he is one, and a mis­un­der­stood one at that. But is that entire­ly a bad thing? Con­sid­er Picas­so, who Kanye men­tions in this off-the-cuff, occa­sion­al­ly ram­bling, very Kanye talk record­ed at the Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty in March of 2015. Picas­so was a man round­ly con­sid­ered by biog­ra­phers and fel­low artists (not to men­tion the women who mod­eled for him) as a rag­ing ego­ma­ni­ac. He thought he was God, but for­tu­nate­ly Picas­so didn’t have Twit­ter to announce it. (Kanye, how­ev­er, wrote “I Am a God”). Time and dis­tance and death have soft­ened what to many peo­ple was a rep­re­hen­si­ble blowhard because of the beau­ty and mag­nif­i­cence he left behind. So what about Kanye?

Over 40 min­utes, which you can watch above with the help of this tran­script to deal with the rather poor audio, West makes the case for becom­ing a mod­ern Renais­sance per­son, and aim­ing to be not just as famous as a Picas­so, but–and here’s where most of us shake our heads–better than Picas­so.

How dare he? But Picas­so was very good at brand­ing him­self dur­ing his lat­er years, toss­ing off draw­ings to give to busi­ness own­ers instead of pay­ing cash. He and Dali were more shame­less in fact than West in turn­ing fame into gold. Why not set your sights on sur­pass­ing that ego? Picas­so was 56 when he com­plet­ed “Guer­ni­ca”. West has a ways to go.

There’s plen­ty of “Kanye” moments in the talk. He com­pares The Matrix to the Bible. He talks dis­mis­sive­ly about $5,000 sweaters while design­ing such goods. He lets you know that Oba­ma has his pri­vate num­ber. He talks class.

But there’s also ample evi­dence that Kanye real­izes the place he has found him­self and isn’t plan­ning on squan­der­ing that chance. Two years after the divi­sive album Yeezus, Kanye says this.

One of my biggest prob­lems, one of my biggest Achille’s heels has been my ego. And if I, Kanye West, the very per­son, can remove my ego, I think there’s hope for every­one.

The video above was made avail­able online this week, thanks to the Oxford Guild, the stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion that host­ed Kanye’s lec­ture.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Mal­colm X Debate at Oxford, Quot­ing Lines from Shakespeare’s Ham­let (1964)

Do Rap­pers Have a Big­ger Vocab­u­lary Than Shake­speare?: A Data Sci­en­tist Maps Out the Answer

Stephen Hawk­ing Won­ders Whether Cap­i­tal­ism or Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Will Doom the Human Race

Watch Picas­so Cre­ate Entire Paint­ings in Mag­nif­i­cent Time-Lapse Film (1956)

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast, now in its sec­ond sea­son. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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Comments (5)
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  • Votre says:

    Nar­cis­sis­tic Per­son­al­i­ty Dis­or­der is nar­cis­sis­tic per­son­al­i­ty dis­or­der, regar­dles of whether one is actu­al­ly a ‘genius’ or not. And in the case of Mssr. West, only his NPD is indis­putable.

  • ebeeb says:

    The dif­fer­ence between Kanye West and Picas­so is that Picas­so pro­duced things of val­ue. What­ev­er his foibles, Picas­so was orig­i­nal and high­ly skilled; Kanye West is mere­ly deriv­a­tive. Just because you say you’re a genius does­n’t make you one. And here’s noth­ing amaz­ing or avant garde about say­ing every­one else is just ~jeal­ous~.

  • Wolfdaughter says:

    John Lennon pro­claimed his band big­ger than Jesus, beat wife(s) and fre­quent­ly aban­doned his fam­i­ly and is reg­u­lar­ly lav­ished with embar­rass­ing, hyper­bol­ic praise. Kanye inter­rupt­ed Tay­lor Swift at an awards show and called him­self a genius and is shit upon hard­er than near­ly any oth­er main­stream fig­ure today. His discog­ra­phy is flaw­less and he played a huge role in shift­ing the direc­tion of music in the last decade. Not that it’s nec­es­sary, but time will vin­di­cate his state­ments.

  • White says:

    You, are a moron.

  • skyhigh says:

    kanye is a bril­liant artist if we con­sid­er his ego as his pri­ma­ry art form. which is entire­ly rel­e­vant in rela­tion to art and celebri­ties these days. even open­cul­ture’s descrip­tion for the video is pri­mar­i­ly about kanye being ‘kanye’ rather than kanye say­ing any­thing pro­found­ly sig­nif­i­cant.

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