LOS ANGELES -- For
all of the cocksure arrogance that South Side native Kanye West
presents in public, the 27-year-old hip-hop phenomenon remains
refreshingly wide-eyed about his success in private.
When I ran into West moments after the end of the Grammy Awards
at the Staples Center Sunday night, I congratulated him on his three
wins and told him he'd be on the front page of Monday's Sun-Times
for dominating the telecast.
"Really? For real?" he said. "My moms will see that!"
Millions of viewers around the world saw West deliver a
show-stopping performance on Sunday with another Chicago great,
soul-gospel singer Mavis Staples, and they heard one of the most
memorable speeches in Grammy history when he accepted the best rap
album prize for his debut, "The College Dropout."
While West joined an elite club by garnering 10 nominations --
only Michael Jackson and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds have earned more
-- he claimed only three of the prizes. (The others: rap song for
"Jesus Walks" and R&B song for ''You Don't Know My Name,'' a
collaboration with Alicia Keys and Harold Lilly.)
A Wilco toast for 'Ghost'
After Kanye West, the other big Chicago winner at Sunday
night's Grammy Awards was
The group bested an impressive slate that included Bjork,
Franz Ferdinand, PJ Harvey and Modest Mouse to claim the
best alternative album prize for "A Ghost Is Born." The 2004
album also won for best recording package, thanks to the
design by art directors Dan Nadel and Peter Buchanan-Smith.
"We were shocked that we were nominated and even more
shocked to have won," said Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy,
"especially considering the people we were up against. We're
really happy. Hell, we feel like Norah Jones. We swept the
These are the first two Grammys for Wilco, whose only
previous nomination came in 1999 for best contemporary folk
album with the Woody Guthrie tribute "Mermaid Avenue."
In the press room backstage, 75 reporters from around the world
shouted and booed when West lost best new artist to fluffy popsters
Maroon 5 and Song of the Year to John Mayer, who won for the tepid
But "The College Dropout" is expected to shoot back to the top of
the charts next week thanks to the exposure. A whole new audience
was wowed by West's performance of "Jesus Walks," and the show
solidified his standing as one of the pop world's most innovative
producers, performers and songwriters.
In announcing the nominations, the academy that sponsors the
Grammys noted that West is a rare triple threat. But he also funds
and directs his own videos, and he plans to make a movie. Make that
a quadruple threat.
Sporting his flashy white suit and an elaborate design shaved
onto his close-cropped head, West spoke to the press shortly after
the end of the Grammy telecast. As usual, his comments displayed an
impressive self-assurance and a lightning-quick wit.
Q. Kanye, how lame is Maroon 5?
A. [Laughs.] I love Maroon 5! We talked about this before
they won: With awards, they try to make it seem like it's one
winner, but we're all winners for the fact that we're here. We're
winning in life, with our music reaching so many people. Maroon 5 is
too good; it's like if I was against Outkast last year -- it would
Q. Why weren't you nominated for Producer of the Year?
A. Considering that I got so many nominations, it seemed
out of place. I was like, "What about producer of the year?"
Q. Sometimes artists aren't nominated because their
label forgot to put them up in that category.
A. Oh, they nominated me for everything! They also put me
up for best video and best [CD] cover. [Laughs.] What about best
video? I haven't made any money off my album because I spent so much
on my videos!
Q. Did having something to prove inspire your
performance in the gospel tribute tonight?
A. God inspired me. The opportunity to perform and deliver
the message at the Grammys was a dream come true.
Q. Gretchen Wilson said at the Grammy nominations press
conference that you went up to her beforehand and apologized for the
comments you made after the American Music Awards [criticizing the
Dick Clark-produced event]. Can you comment on that?
A. Everything I do, even when I'm stunting -- Write this
down: ['Stunting'] means saying something that someone else would be
saying on your behalf so you don't seem arrogant [laughs] -- I don't
do it to hurt anyone else. I'm really a class clown. Comedians like
Jamie Foxx, they can get away with so much. I can say something that
I think is funny, but I can't joke or have a good time. In that
situation, I felt like I might have been doing something to hurt
someone -- Gretchen -- so I apologized to her. But I don't apologize
to Dick Clark or the AMAs, because they should never have had me
perform and be nominated for so many awards and then not win any
I'm one of those new artists who just want to believe that
everything is on the up and up. But now I see that with those other
awards shows, it's all political. I could have been political, too,
being that I was so hot at the time. I could have said, "I'm not
going to perform if I don't win." But that would have taken away
from my dream as an artist. I would prefer to honestly lose than to
Q. Would you have preferred to win more?
A. Oh yeah, definitely! I'd have preferred to win 10!
Q. You just scored another hit producing the Game. Will
you continue working with other artists?
A. If they're signed to my label! [Laughs] Like
[keyboardist] John Legend, who's already certified platinum, and
[Chicago rapper] Common, whose new album is coming out and who's
coming back. He is real hip-hop.