What happens when you give Kanye West four minutes to do whatever he chooses?
That was the question heading into Sunday’s VMAs after reports that producers gave the polarizing pop disrupter the green light to do whatever he wanted onstage.
So what did he do? He emerged onstage and approached a podium and immediately began to pay tribute to, well, himself.
“I am Kanye West. And that feels really great to say, especially this year,” West started, amid chants from the audience.
West was there to premiere his new video, “Fade,” but before that he wanted to talk. And talk, and talk.
“Later tonight ‘Famous’ might lose to Beyonce but I can’t be mad, I’m always wishing for Beyonce to win,” he joked, making reference to his controversial stage-crash.
The rapper went on to defend “Famous,” his polarizing music video that featured an art display of West and celebrities and public figures like Donald Trump, Chris Brown and George W. Bush lying naked in bed.
“It was an expression of our now, our fame right now, us on the inside of the TV. The audacity to put Anna Wintour next to Donald Trump. I put Ray J in it, bro. This is fame bro. I see you Amber,” West joked pointing to his ex-girlfriend in the crowd. “My wife is a [gangsta], not a lot of people’s wives would let them say that.”
West referenced the ongoing crime in his native Chicago. And he strongly defended himself against Taylor Swift’s claims that he didn’t consult her over the song.
It was one of his usual freewheeling, remarkably self-indulgent stream-of-conscious rants that has made him an incendiary, unpredictable figure in pop music. And, love him or loathe him, he’s an exciting watch.
West then introduced the premiere of the Tidal-sponsored visual for “Fade,” a single from his recent hit album “Life of Pablo.”
Starring R&B singer Teyana Taylor, the video featured the singer clad in workout attire and voraciously dancing in an empty gym. West didn’t appear in the clip.
The VMAs have infamously provided the backdrop for some of West’s most scandalous moments.
There was the earth-shattering interruption heard around the world, when a miffed West — woozy off half a bottle of Hennessy — stormed the stage when Swift was named the winner of the female video award instead of his pal Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” at the 2009 ceremony.
"Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'ma let you finish,” he said to a then-19-year-old Swift, “but Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!" He was met by a wave of boos and flipped off the audience as he returned to his seat.
The two made up and Swift even presented him with his Video Vanguard honor at last year’s awards. (That reunion was short-lived, though after West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, leaked audio of Swift and West discussing a song in which he planned on dissing her.)
West’s appearance might have stayed clear of courting controversy — but it certainly reminded us of why the rapper can be as exhausting as he is entertaining.
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