Donald Glover Won’t Give Up On Kanye West, Calling Him His GOAT Rapper Despite… Well, Everything

It has been a while since we heard new raps from Donald Glover — also known as Childish Gambino — but even though he’s mostly focused on his acting career of late, rap remains near and dear to his heart. In a new interview for Complex along with his Mr. & Mrs. Smith co-star Maya Erskine, Erskine asks Glover for his pick for greatest rapper of all time, receiving a surprising and thoughtful response: Kanye West

After he says Kanye, he of course has to immediately address Erskine’s skepticism. “I know that’s controversial,” he admits. “But I feel like we would not have any of the rappers we have now without him.” He’s likely including himself in that assessment, as his work as Childish Gambino fairly oozed influences like Kanye and Lil Wayne — at least, up until he went full P-Funk with Awaken, My Love.

And he’s not wrong about the others, for what it’s worth. Kanye was a huge factor in bridging the ’90s/2000 “underground vs. mainstream” divide in hip-hop (in Slack, I said he brought Rawkus to Roc-a-Fella, which he pointed out several times on his debut project The College Dropout). So without Kanye, perhaps there’s no J. Cole, who was also a Jay-Z acolyte despite rapping much more like Canibus or somebody from the backpack rap circuit.

Drake famously included an interpolation of Kanye’s “Say You Will” on his breakout EP So Far Gone, leading to an up-and-down working relationship that turned into an all-out rivalry. And Kanye’s fellow Chicago rappers like Lupe Fiasco, Common, and Twista were all buoyed by their associations with him, while he directly signed and revitalized the careers of cats like Big Sean, Kid Cudi, Pusha T, and Travis Scott.

However, his legacy’s been tarnished somewhat thanks to his insistence on being a contrarian to prove his “genius,” which has led him to supporting virulent bigots like Donald Trump and espousing his own antisemitic views. Glover, who’s no stranger to controversy himself, is probably taking that into account when he cites the controversy ingrained into his pick — but he’s also standing on it, which is admirable in its own way.

Watch Donald Glover and Maya Erskine’s GOAT Talk clip above.