Following a much-discussed appearance on this weekend's episode of "Saturday Night Live," Kanye West sat down with TMZ's Harvey Levin on Monday and discussed a wide range of topics: the 13th Amendment; the reaction to his "Make America Great Again" hat on SNL; and the fact that his next album will be delayed until November. Then, Levin brought up West's plans to move back to Chicago, his hometown.
"What you are doing in Chicago is undeniably great and inspiring. . . . A lot of the African-American community there is in trouble, and you are there to help," Levin said, before making his segue: "So I'm all for free speech. But when you wear that hat, which is a symbol of Donald Trump, I don't understand why that isn't a mixed message? Because Donald Trump has not been a friend of the black community."
West, wearing his red MAGA hat, listened as Levin ticked off Trump's actions, such as criticizing the intelligence of Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., CNN anchor Don Lemon, basketball star LeBron James and former president Barack Obama. "I get the free-speech issue, but doesn't that work against what you are trying to do?" Levin asked.
West responded that in the hip-hop culture, artists can take "anything that someone considers to be negative and make it positive." Levin wasn't convinced.
"How do you make Donald Trump's statements positive when he talks about embracing white nationalists, embracing people like David Duke, coming down on Colin Kaepernick, saying these 'sons of bitches' should be fired?" Levin asked. "I don't see he's done anything good for the black community, and frankly nothing but harm. I don't understand how it's not a mixed message?"
At this point, the interview started to echo another recent TV appearance by West. In August, he sat down with ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, who asked about West's forceful statement after Hurricane Katrina ("George Bush doesn't care about black people") and compared it with West's support of Trump. West paused, Kimmel cut to a break, and they never returned to the question. West got lots of criticism for his lack of response; but the rapper shot back on Twitter that he was never "stumped," he just wasn't given time to answer.
This time, West took another long pause, but the camera didn't cut away. "Do you feel people can grow?" he asked Levin.
"Yes," Levin said.
"For someone to grow, they need to know that they got love, that someone loves and someone is leading with love or a group of people are leading with love," West said.
"But he has been on this path for years now where people have criticized it and he has just amped it up," Levin said. "At a point don't you say, 'He is who he is'?"
Things took a turn, as West started to get very distracted; he paused again and asked a man off-camera if he could move out of the way, because he was blocking a woman who was "channeling power" and giving him strength through the interview. As this dragged on, Levin suggested that they take a quick break.
"No! No, no, no," West said. "We are not going to Jimmy Kimmel the situation. No, we are not going to come right back. . . . We are going to give me time to think. You asked me a serious question, and I am going to take time to think about my answer."
They went back and forth for a while, as West asked Levin to repeat the question, then argued that Levin was merely stating his opinion. Finally, Levin went with, "Do you give up on somebody growing when they are unrelenting?"
"Now you asked me the perfect question, you set me up to win," West said triumphantly. "We never give up on anyone. Now let me make that more positive: We move forward. We give love. We keep going. We keep having the conversation until the conversation turns to love. We keep going. I have been calling Colin this morning, reaching him, so I can bring Colin to the White House, and we can remove that 'sons of bitches' statement and we can be on the same page."
This attempt to get Kaepernick to the White House, after Trump called National Football League players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality "sons of bitches," was an interesting one - though Levin didn't press him on it. Instead, Levin asked: "Do you think in the process of trying to change Donald Trump he can do a lot of damage to the African American community, to the gay community, to women? Do you think that is a real possibility, that he could do serious damage by the time he's gone?"
"The universe is on our side, and things will be better," West said.
"That was a good end," Levin said. "That was actually a good end."