Kanye West ‘Doesn’t Have a Malicious Bone in His Body,’ Justin Bieber ‘Wants Normalcy,’ Says Scooter Braun

During a standing-room-only Q&A at the annual MIDEM conference, the mega-manager also discussed philanthropy and work-life balance.

Scooter Braun and Shirley Halperin

Scooter Braun confirmed today that, as noted by Variety last week, he and Kanye West are working together again and he is helping the artist with the rollout of the five albums he’s in the middle of releasing. The pair had announced in April that Braun was no longer in a management relationship with the artist.

“We’re still working together,” Braun said in a Q&A with Variety executive editor Shirley Halperin at the MIDEM conference in Cannes, France on Thursday. He acknowledged differences of opinion, but confirmed that the two never stopped talking and are again collaborating on projects like the recently released “Ye” — they were often side-by-side during West’s album-release party in Wyoming last week.

“I always get nervous about explaining Kanye, because only Kanye can explain Kanye! He’s my friend and I’m his adviser. He’s always hated the word manager, and that’s why we get along, because I hate the word ‘manager.'”

He hastened to add that the relationship does not imply unconditional acceptance of West’s public statements.  “I wanna say, just to be clear, I disagree with some things that he says — and I tell him,” Braun said. “And we have very long, intelligent conversations about it. A lot of the things he says that people get so upset over, aren’t really what he meant.” Braun did not specify which statements he was referring to.

“He has a very big heart, he has a big heart for people, and he’s now told the world publicly that he is bipolar. There’s not a malicious bone in his body, it’s not who he is,” he continued. “And I can tell you from working with him, he is truly a genius, he’s always the one who makes me think, damn, why didn’t I think of that.

“This might surprise you, but he’s the best listener I’ve ever worked with,” Braun said. “He’s very thoughtful of others and he listens. I always tell him, ‘I want to help translate you to the world.’

“And who knows how long it’ll last this time?” he laughed. “But we had a very successful release last week and we’ve got another album coming at midnight tonight! [West’s collaboration with Kid Cudi, “Kids See Ghosts.”] That’s why I haven’t slept much.”

Halperin asked about the concept behind West’s involvement in five seven-song albums, including two of his own. “We’re in a weird place with ‘what is the point of an album?’ coming out of a lot of people’s mouths,” he said. “With Kanye it was a combination of ‘I have more to say than just one album, I want to put out lots of projects’. And there’s a lot you can convey in seven songs and make [the audience] want more — and he’s already telling me other albums that he wants to do with other artists.”

“Some of the stuff he says is just the greatest,” Braun added. “He told me eight or nine months ago, ‘I think you’re the Kanye West of managers.’ That’s the biggest compliment a manager can have!”

In the wide-ranging hour-long Q&A, Braun also expounded on topics ranging from the One Love Manchester concert organized in the wake of a terrorist bombing at an Ariana Grande show to his work with Justin Bieber and the expansion of his company, SB Projects, which currently boasts some 66 employees.

Speaking of Bieber, and the scrutiny he faces having grown up in the public eye, Braun said, “I’m really proud of him, and he deserves the credit. He as a young man said, ‘I don’t like what I’m doing with my life and I want to change.’ … He’s found God, he’s walking around without security because he wants normalcy. He’s being a human, he’s going through the process.”

Braun has hopes that Bieber, along with clients like CL, will have new music ready for release sooner rather than later. “‘Despacito’ was great, but let’s go,” cracked Braun in front of a standing-room-only crowd gathered at the Palais des Festivals.

Recounting how he and Spotify founder Daniel Ek became friends (Braun sought out the Swedish entrepreneur when Ek was 25 and Braun was 28 and they both appeared on a 30 Under 30 list), Braun relayed the message to the audience that, rather than trying to get an audience with him, “It’s more important you meet each other,” he said. “If you want to know how to find the next Spotify, it’s somebody in this room who hasn’t done it yet. … It’s a youth-driven business, it’s a youth-driven world. Speak to each other, invest in each other, and one of you guys is the next Daniel Ek.”

As for how he balances the demands of his job and his life (Braun is married with two young sons), Braun said he’s become more efficient at the office in order to be able to go home and spend time with his family.

Reactions on social media to the keynote speech noted Braun’s humility in equating success with opportunity. “Anyone who says they make their own luck is an asshole,” he said. “The fact that I was born in the country I was born in, and given the opportunities I was given. That alone means I won a lottery… So I don’t take it for granted… The only way I can make sense of it is giving back, or making chances for people less fortunate.”