Interview and Photos by Jordan Edwards
Last fall, West's "Euro$tep" became one of the most recognizable songs on social media. Produced by Cedes, the track became a favorite of professional athletes. Stars like Patrick Mahomes and Alex Morgan, as well as teams like Manchester United, used the track on Instagram Reels.
The intro came out before the entire song. West knew his vocals had to match the energy of its now iconic beat, and he succeeded. "Euro$tep" has racked up more than 22 million Spotify streams and become a sports anthem.
Like the track itself, West has taken an unusual path to success. A UCLA grad and former management consultant, he quit his job to focus on music. So far, so good.
Since the song's release last April, West has released multiple singles, including his latest, "Checks." We met up with him in LA to get the full story of "Euro$tep" and where he's going next.
West: The Story of Euro$tep
Tell me about your new single “Checks.” Do you consider it a sequel or reaction to Euro$tep?
No - not a sequel or reaction to "Euro$tep." I don't consider any of my songs follow-ups to the records that came before, no matter how big or small. To me, they are all standalone, honest snippets of what I'm feeling at the time. "Checks" is a song that's about achieving success through hard work, determination and not taking no for an answer. Not giving a fuck what anyone else thinks or says. The lyrics are just a reflection of where I'm at and what my mindset is when it comes to my career in music, as well as what's to come. I think the beat is a big highlight of the song, with lots of moments of contrast, a catchy melody and a low end that really knocks. On top of that, hopefully listeners will find the messaging substantive and inspiring as well.
After the success of Euro$tep, have you changed the way you make or promote music?
No. My guiding principle has always been the music and the intention behind the music, and I would never change my process because of external success. The success of Euro$tep happened as a side effect of the way I make and promote music, so I would never change what got me to the dance. The external success comes because of the internal substance and process, not the other way around. The way I made and approached Euro$tep was the same as the 18 songs that came before, and will be the same for the ones that are to follow.
What was your exit strategy for leaving your consulting job? How did you know it would work?
No strategy, just go 200 percent in music and make sure to not have a Plan B. As far as how I knew it would work - I know it sounds trite, but I just did. There was never an iota of doubt that it wouldn't work out. I think from the outside it probably seems like hindsight is 20-20, but I always felt a deep sense of purpose and destiny with my path in music. It's a level of personal confirmation and certainty that I understand is hard to convey to anyone that isn't me. But I feel like I found my thing that I'm supposed to do, and when you find your "one thing", no one can tell you different.
What advice would you give someone who wants to quit their day job to pursue music?
Well, it's easy to say "just do it", but I think to a degree that would be irresponsible without doing some real self-assessing first. I would say do some honest reflecting and examine why.
1. Are you any good? If not, are you willing to put in the reps to become good enough?
2. Why do you want to pursue music? Is it because you like the idea of what a successful career in music will give you? Or how it will make you seem to others? Or is it because you love it and it's the one thing that you gravitate to the most? If the answer is one of the first two, don't bother. If it's the latter, then you're onto something.
I'd say set aside 6-12 months and write/record as many songs as you can. Then just start putting them out. I feel like most artists get too caught up in the minutia when they first start (album covers, social media, outfits, management, networking, clout, seeming like you're legit) when all of those things pale in comparison to just making really great music. If you concentrate on those things first, and don't have music that stands out, it won't work out no matter how much you think it will. But if you have really great music, all of those other things are self resolving issues.
So I'd just say: (given you've done the requisite reflecting and believe in your skill/passion 2000 percent) You have questions? Fears? Uncertainties? Great. Put out 30-50 songs. Most of those questions and fears will not exist by the time you finish that process, and you'll have a clear path (and a career) that you've created through chaos.
In terms of flow, who did you look up to or try to emulate?
It's hard to name an artist, because when I write, I don't consciously think about where I draw stylistic inspiration from. I don't try to emulate anyone, because I think that's the wrong way of going about finding your unique sound. Of course, my personal style has been shaped and forged by all the artists I grew up listening to and currently listen to. A few that I really looked up to growing up were Mobb Deep, 50 Cent, Lil' Wayne, Drake, Kanye. Even non-rappers like Ed Sheeran - whose cadences in melody are very rap-y and rhythmic in nature. A few others I love and respect are Rick Ross, J. Cole, Russ, Nipsey, G-Eazy.
You play instruments right? Is there a different musical side to West that we haven’t seen?
I do - I play piano and guitar. A different musical side? Probably, and with time, my goal is to have all of that represented in my catalogue. I don't try to write in a certain style or mood, or fill a certain gap in the catalogue - my only north star is what I'm feeling when I'm writing. So whatever genre comes out is just a product of me trying to be myself and make something I like. As far as I'm concerned, whatever genre or shape it takes by the end of the process is merely the side effect. But sooner or later, yes. I love to sing. I think it's one of my strengths as an artist, but I haven't really released anything that really highlights that side of me. Obviously I love pop music, but in the future maybe more singer-songwriter or stripped down records that really highlight what I can do vocally.
What’s next? Will there be a full length album?
Another single coming soon. Then more after that. Tour next year. But yes, definitely a full length album. It's just a matter of when it's the right time to drop it. I've been prioritizing growth the last three years, so it didn't make sense to drop a full length project when the audience didn't exist to justify it. I think right now, it makes more sense to drop singles until I get a little bit bigger, that way I'm making each song work harder for me. But soon enough, I'll drop the album.
Notice I didn’t actually ask about "Euro$tep" itself. People have to watch the video for that. But I have to ask a basketball question: Are the Nuggets going to repeat next season? Who do you have in the East?
Haha that's tough to say - I'm gonna say yes because if you're the champs, you deserve to be the favorite. They were the best team in the West all year. I also love seeing beautiful basketball that isn't only hinged on starpower or a popular team. So I love watching the way the Nuggets play. Big athletic wing defenders, knockdown shooting, brilliant passing and team basketball. I just think they play the right way, and good basketball always tends to rise to the top. In the East, I'm going with Miami once they get Dame.
For more from West, follow him on Instagram and TikTok.