Kanye West has made himself a staple at the MTV Music Awards aka MTV VMAs for stealing a moment, so it was no surprise that he took the time to give a speech about being “Famous.” In his four minutes of stage time, he compared himself to Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Howard Hughes, Harry Truman and Henry Ford before unveiling his new video at Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards.
West described himself as a “thought leader” in a rambling speech that included a defense of his “Famous” video and shout-out to former flame Amber Rose.
West said people stay impoverished when their esteem, resources and role models are taken away. He said that he and other guests at Sunday’s show, such as Puff Daddy, Jaden Smith and wife Kim Kardashian, are “undeniably the influencers, the thought leaders.”
The rapper also addressed his “Famous” video, a nominee at Sunday’s show, which shows the nude likenesses of various celebrities including Taylor Swift and Donald Trump.
“This is fame, bro,” the rapper said, name-dropping Trump, Rose and “Vogue” editor Anna Wintour.
“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.
“She’s someone I’ve been in love with since I was 22 years old,” he said, before embracing Rihanna with a kiss. “She’s one of my best friends in the world. She’s a living breathing legend in our industry.”
It was a slightly awkward moment in an otherwise adorable, heartfelt speech by Drake – and his landing in the region of Rihanna’s neck was the gif that kept on giving on Twitter.
Surprising the 28-year-old singer with the top award after her record four performances, Drake recalled first meeting Robyn ‘Rihanna’ Fenty in 2005 at a Toronto diner – where she shot the music video for her debut single “Pon de Replay.”
Helmed by Director X, the duo would team up years later for February’s “Work” music video. But in Drake’s eyes, Rihanna’s accomplishments are not nearly as awe-inspiring as the person that she is.
“What’s most impressive isn’t the endlessness of stats, awards and accomplishments – what’s most impressive is the person,” the 29-year-old rapper explained. “She succeeds by being something in which no one in this industry does which is by being herself – the same girl from Barbados surrounded by the same friends. We love the videos which change their artistic vision from year to year. But most of all we love the woman who hasn’t changed from day one.”
Where was he headed? We’ll never know. He leaned in. She leaned back. He skimmed her cheek before moving south.
Vulture.com tweeted it was “The curve to end all curves.” The Twitter account of the VMAs itself put the kiss on a loop, tweeting: “I’m just gonna leave this gem right here.”
“When I think about the Video Vanguard Award and receiving this tonight, all I can think of is my country,” the Barbadian said. “They’re gonna be so proud. This is the first Vanguard to land anywhere close to my country.”
She opened up about her career, saying that it’s about more than just herself.
“My success… it started as my dream, and now my success is not my own,” she confessed. “It’s my family’s, it’s my fans,’ it’s my country’s, it’s the Caribbean’s as a whole, it’s women’s – I have to thank you guys for supporting me over and over.”
The two have dated in the past, having known each other since they were kids.