There’s a lot to digest in the New York Times profile of Justin Vernon (b.k.a. Bon Iver). Going from a woodsy, indie dude to the musician du jour for mega-star rappers in between albums — and netting a Grammy for your troubles — will do that. But perhaps nothing illustrates the way Vernon’s life has changed in between Bon Iver, Bon Iver and his upcoming album 22, A Million than the anecdote he shares about arguing with Kanye West over the definition of the word “humble.”
“I got in a friendly argument with Kanye West about the word humble once. He said, ‘Have you ever looked up the word humble?’ I was like, ‘Actually I don’t know if I have.’ And he showed me the definition of it, and it’s far more self-demeaning, kind of the problematic Midwestern ‘Sorry!’ mentality, than I realized.”
In some ways, Vernon said, the conversation helped him shed a bit of that apologetic Midwestern vibe in himself:
“I took a lot out of that conversation. Ultimately, I think it’s great to serve others and everything, but I think there’s a certain point where it’s diminishing returns for the people around you if you’re not showing up and being who you are.”
Though the bits of Vernon’s new album that we’ve heard are bolder and brasher than anything he’s ever done, you shouldn’t think he’s pulling a full Kanye. While the line between his work with West and a song like “33 ‘GOD‘” is clear, Vernon says Yeezy’s obsession with legacy, credit and his place in the pantheon didn’t quite rub off on him.
“It’s important to me to not pay any attention to questions of, ‘What’s your legacy going to be?’ or ‘What are you going to leave behind?’ or ‘How do you work into the current scene?’ or ‘How do you relate to the chart-toppers?’ I find all of that stuff not only distracting but kind of the opposite of what it all means.”
The whole interview is definitely worth a look. And it’s the prefect thing to get you hyped for 22, A Million, which drops on September 30.