Not Exactly Eloquent, Kanye West’s Speech Said More Than You Think
If you thought it was kind of difficult to understand Kanye West’s longwinded and much-punctuated acceptance speech at the Video Music Awards, for his Video Vanguard Lifetime Achievement moonman, then you’re not alone. After almost four minutes of applause, Kanye calmed the crowd’s thunderous applause with a simple clearing of his throat. What followed was often inscrutable and difficult to follow, but the content of the speech says much, especially when you’re not listening, but reading.
Kanye began his speech with a circumspect “apology” to Taylor for his larger-than-life, beyond infamous interruption of her acceptance speech in 2009:
Bro. Bro. Listen to the kids.
First of all, thank you Taylor for being so gracious and giving me this award this evening. I often think back to the first day I met you, also. I think about when I’m in the grocery store with my daughter and I have a really great conversation about fresh juice and at the end, they say, “Oh, you’re not that bad after all.” It crosses my mind a little bit when I go to a baseball game and 60,000 people boo me; crosses my mind a little bit. If I had to do it all again, what would I have done? Would I have worn a leather shirt? Would I have drank a half a bottle of Hennessy and gave the rest of it to the audience? Y’all know you drank that bottle too. If I had a daughter at that time, would I have went onstage and grabbed the mic from someone else?
Off to a good start, so far. He’s rethinking his choices in light of becoming a father and growing in wisdom. He continues:
This arena, tomorrow, is going to be a completely different setup. This stage will be gone. After that night, the stage was gone, but the effect that it had on people remained. The problem was the contradiction; I do fight for artists, but in that fight, I somehow was disrespectful to artists. I didn’t know how to say the right, perfect thing.
Somehow, even within this apology, West’s ego is obvious. Because he has an opinion, he believes he has the right to assert that opinion, and not within the parameters of an interview or another similar platform, but immediately, on national television, and without filter or second guessing. Kanye goes from idea to action, and thoughts are unnecessary.
I have a lot of respect for Kanye as an artist, but this apology was none at all. He continues with his speech, now snubbing the very institution that has brought him onstage for 13 minutes.
I’m not no politician, bruh. And look at that. You know how many times MTV ran that footage again? Because it got them more ratings. You know how many times they announced Taylor was going to give me the award. Because it got them more ratings. Listen to the kids, bruh!
I still don’t understand award shows. I don’t understand how they get five people who work their entire life, won, sell records, sell concert tickets, to come, stand on a carpet and for the first time in their life, be judged on the chopping block and have the opportunity to be considered a loser. I don’t understand it, bro! I’ve been conflicted. I just wanted people to like me more. But f*ck that, bro! 2015. I will die for the art — for what I believe in — and the art ain’t always gonna be polite.
That last bit is particularly telling, as Kanye equates his existence and his persona, as the very embodiment of art. But the thing is: if he had written a song or created a work of art expressing his idea, then yes, politeness is moot. Politeness, as he rightfully asserts, has no place in art. But rushing the stage in 2009, pretending to fall asleep seven years later when Taylor Swift once again won Video of the Year over Beyonce, and then once again criticizing the likes of Justin Timberlake and Beck as lesser than their counterparts is emphatically not art. It’s Kanye, on an ego trip.
And his criticism of MTV falls flat, contradicting his ideology. He slams MTV for making artists feel like losers, and then props up this award-show system by deciding, with his godlike power, which artist is the best, therefore relegating all others in the category to the role of “loser.” Why not rush the stage and call out MTV? Why not have an anti-award-show party and give everyone moonmen? Why does your opinion matter so much, Kanye?
I don’t know what I finna lose after this. It don’t matter, though; It’s not about me. It’s about ideas. New ideas. People with ideas. People who believe in truth. And yes, as you probably could’ve guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president.
New ideas? Or your ideas?
Despite all of this, despite all my critique of this acceptance speech, if Kanye West runs on a ticket with Taylor Swift in 2020, they have my vote.