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
"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
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.)
Wilco toast for 'Ghost'
West, the other big Chicago winner at Sunday night's Grammy Awards
was alternative-country-band-turned-art-rock-group Wilco.
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
"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 Grammys!"
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
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
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 be hard.
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?" [Laughs.]
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 win dishonestly.
Q. Would you have preferred to win more?
A. Oh yeah, definitely! I'd have preferred to win 10! [Laughs.]
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.