Kanye West has a humble side, and he's not afraid to show it.
"I'm a very, very down-to-earth person," the rapper says in a phone interview from his New York City home, downplaying much-talked about award show tantrums. "I mean, I stay in the middle of the city in New York. I'm just a very honest person with music and with supporters and at award shows. It's like I'm at war or like I'm on the court. But in real life, I'm laid-back and just want everyone to have a good time and help as many people as possible."
On Thursday he'll do just that by headlining the Kanye West Benefit Concert at The Chicago Theatre. The event will benefit the Kanye West Foundation, a charity designed to help kids stay in school. The foundation was created by West's mother, Donda, who died in 2007 after complications following plastic surgery.
"It just makes me happy that we have really great people involved that can help to keep my mother's vision of education in an innovative way alive," West says.
West is passionate about the foundation because it also promotes a music production program designed to motivate students to stay in school and graduate. It's the very thing that West, who famously titled his debut album "The College Dropout," wishes he'd had. He jokes that maybe he would have stayed in school longer. (He dropped out of Chicago State University, where his mother was the English department chair.)
"I thought back to when I was in high school: I was very into music, but the equipment was really expensive and hard to get a hold of. The basketball court at school was free. Or it was free to play a violin or a drum set, but the way music on the radio is made, there was nothing in high school that helped with that," he says.
So far the West Foundation has helped 200 kids in Los Angeles learn to write music and use music studio equipment, and West hopes in the future he's able to expand his efforts.
And as for his hip-hop persona?
"When I go back to rapping," he says of the fifth studio album he's working on, "I might have to go back to war. I just might have to."