Superstar singer, rapper and producer Kanye West has reunited with animator/cartoonist Bill Plympton to create Through the Wire: The Words and Lyrics of Kanye West, a hardcover book collection of West’s hit lyrics, illustrated by Plympton, that will be released in November by Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
The book was acquired and edited by Atria Books v-p and senior editor Malaika Adero, who said the initial printing of the oversized book will be about 35,000 copies and it will be priced at $22. Adero said the book was dedicated to West’s late mother Donda West and described it as “graphic memoir” that featured West’s comments on each song as well as illustrated versions of 14 of West’s lyrics, “that give insight into the man that we know.” The book includes lyrics to such songs as the title track, “Through the Wire”, “about this faith and getting through a car accident that left his jaw wired”; said Adero, “School Spirit”, “about his school days, fraternities and all that,” and “Space Ship”, “about his days working for The Gap and about the perils of fame.”
Although the book will pub in November, Adero said Atria Books plans to rev up promotion and marketing for the book after the first of the year. While the book reunites West with animator/cartoonist Plympton, who created the animated music video for West’s 2004 tune, “Heard ‘Em Say”, the images used in the book are not comics. In fact in a phone interview with Plympton from his animation studio in New York City, he said he wasn’t making comics these days. “My films have been so much more successful,” he said, “I may use the animation images to turn some of them into graphic novels.” But he was excited about the new book. Plympton said the idea—create dynamic illustrations of West’s lyrics—came from his agent Jim Fitzgerald, who put together a book proposal for West’s mother prior to her death. “She was a teacher and loved books and they really connected,” said Plympton. Subsequently Fitzgerald and his assistant interviewed West to get background information about each of the lyrics, his vocabulary and phrases and presented the information to Plympton.
“I did sketches based on the interviews and sent them off to Kanye,” said Plympton. “He loved all the drawings. There was very little communication between us but there were no problems,” he said. Plympton said his relationship with West began when the singer called him out of the blue in 2003—apparently as a kid West had seen and liked Plymptons’s short animations—and asked him to produce a animated music video for the song “Heard ‘Em Say”. There was a catch—they had to do it in one week. “The film director Michel Gondry had a shot a music video for Kanye, but he didn’t like it,” Plympton said. “It was tough—all the money went to the Gondry shoot—but we got it done and I loved doing it.” Plympton said that “Kanye is very intelligent and his work is like a Broadway opera. He brought that to this new book project as well.”