Read Kanye West’s Blunt, Poignant VMA Video Vanguard Award Speech
The 2015 MTV Video Music Awards produced more talked-about moments in one night than the show has garnered in years. Nicki Minaj blasting Miley Cyrus. Cyrus’ surprise new album. The return of (a high-flying) Justin Bieber. But in terms of poignancy, thoughtfulness and spontaneity, nothing beat Kanye West’s evocative, heartfelt and brutally candid speech for his Video Vanguard Award. Who cares that he never mentioned any of his videos? The rapper-producer bit the MTV hand that fed him, showed true feelings and ended his 10-minute speech with a presidential bid. Read West’s full speech:
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 Hennessey 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?
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.
I sat at the Grammys and saw Justin Timberlake and Cee Lo lose; Gnarls Barkley and the FutureSex/LoveSounds album. I ain’t trying to put you on blast, but I saw that man in tears. He deserved to win Album of the Year. And this small box that we are as the entertainers of the evening, how could you explain that? All this shit they run about beef and all that, sometimes I feel like that I died for artists to be able to have an opinion after they were successful.
I’m not no politician, bruh. And look at that [points to screen]. 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 fuck that, bro! 2015. I will die for the art — for what I believe in — and the art ain’t always gonna be polite.
Y’all might be thinking, “I wonder. Did he smoke something before he came out here?” The answer is, “Yes, I rolled up a little something. I knocked the edge off.” I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight; I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. But all I can say to my fellow artists: just worry about how you feel at the time, man.
I’m confident. I believe in myself. We the millenials, bruh. This is a new mentality. We not going to control our kids with brands. We not going to teach low self-esteem and hate to our kids. We going to teach our kids that they can be something. We can teach our kids that they can stand up for themselves. We going to teach our kids to believe in themselves. If my grandfather was here right now, he would not let me back down.
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.