NEW YORK (AP) - Kanye West considers a certain "SexyBack" singer his biggest rival.
"My biggest inspiration and biggest competition is Justin Timberlake," the 29-year-old rapper tells XXL magazine in its October issue, on newsstands Sept. 11. "He's the only other person that gets an across-the-board response and respect level - black radio, white radio."
"If Justin hadn't come out and killed the game, I can't say that my album, singles and videos would be on the same level that they're on," he says. "We push each other. I look at me and Justin like Prince and Michael Jackson in their day."
A sly dig at 50 Cent? Earlier this month, the 31-year-old gangsta rapper, whose real name is Curtis James Jackson, promised to quit his solo career if West's new album, "Graduation," outsells his upcoming CD, "Curtis." Both albums are due out Sept. 11.
West, a six-time Grammy winner, tells XXL that he's "never cared about being No. 1." Record sales, he figures, aren't as important as how the music connects with people.
"I feel like my lyrics are, if not THE, then equal to, the realest lyrics out," he says. "I connected with so many people without talkin' about guns and drugs. ... It's harder to go to work 365 days than shoot a person in one day."
Further, "there's nothing about wearing a pink Polo that would make anyone believe that I would hold a gun," he says.
West realizes his flamboyant style and less-than-humble public behavior - like throwing fits over not winning music awards - could hinder his chances for success.
"... When people come up to you like, `That was really good,' you're supposed to play stupid, like, `Wow, you really think so?"'
"Because people can't really handle the truth," he continues. "But I am the truth. I'd rather be hated for what I am than loved for what I'm not."