Kanye West is under fire today for claiming that he will soon be a bigger cultural and civil rights icon than Nelson Mandela.
In an interview with WGCI radio in Chicago, the notoriously self-promoting rapper said that the 95-year-old South African leader's recent death will finally allow people to focus more of their attention on West's own accomplishments.
In the studio to promote his new music video Bound 2, the conversation soon turned to the day's biggest news out of South Africa. West was asked who he thought on the world stage today could possibly replace Nelson Mandela in terms of leadership, and his unconventional answer left heads spinning.
"I am the next Nelson Mandela," West responded. "I'm only 36 years old, and when I look at everything I've accomplished, it's the only comparison that makes any sense. By the time I'm 95, I'm going to be a bigger hero than he ever was.
"Nelson Mandela did a lot of good work, don't get me wrong. But I think I'm on track to do something even bigger. I liberate minds with my music. That's more important than liberating a few people from apartheid or whatever.
"Not to say Mandela wasn't for real. I have mad respect. I just think we need to keep things in perspective here. Anyone can be replaced. And I think I'm well on my way towards being the next great black leader. I'm already worshiped around the world. And there's more to come."
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Former South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela died yesterday after years of declining health. His legacy of peaceful reconciliation has been universally praised by political leaders, the media and ordinary citizens around the world.
Kanye West, for his part, is known for going to extraordinary lengths to focus attention on himself. His reaction today was so unusual, however, that host Adrian Cronauer decided to challenge his assertions.
"What have you actually done for civil rights?" he asked. "Have you been involved in any campaigns? Any political activities? It seems to me comparing yourself to Mandela is a bit of a stretch."
"I've blazed a trail with my career," West responded. "I faced immeasurable racism when I entered this profession. I mean how many black rappers can you name that came before me? I was a pioneer. And now I'm doing the same thing in the fashion world.
"Not to mention I have a bigger market than he ever did. Mandela was working in South Africa, which has, like what, six people? I started my magic here in the USA and then I took my business global. Worldwide baby.
"I just want everyone out there to know. I see y'all crying on the TV. Being all sad. Just know that Kanye's gonna carry on Mandela's legacy. There's nothing to worry about. I got this."