Kanye West treated his free pass at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards — about 10 nationally televised minutes during which he could do whatever he wanted — as a victory lap.
In addition to a monologue that grazed the surface of some of his current preoccupations, both superficial and gravely serious — from Taylor Swift to the murder rate in Chicago — Mr. West used the allotted time to debut a highly stylized, “Flashdance”-inspired music video for “Fade,” from his latest album, “The Life of Pablo.” (The video is now streaming on Tidal.)
Mr. West took the stage to chants of “Yeezy! Yeezy!” After letting the applause wash over him, he began: “I am Kanye West — and that feels really great to say, especially this year.
“I came here to present my new video,” Mr. West went on with a sly smile, “but before I do that, I’mma talk.”
In a relatively restrained speech at an event that has hosted some of his most polarizing moments — interrupting Ms. Swift in 2009, floating a presidential run last year — the musician acknowledged that he may well lose the night’s Video of the Year award to Beyoncé. But he vouched for his controversial “Famous” video, in which nude likenesses of various celebrities are seen in bed together.
“The audacity to put Anna Wintour next to Donald Trump!” Mr. West said. “This is fame, bro.” (He also gave a shout-out to an ex-girlfriend, Amber Rose, in the crowd, and commended his wife for being cool with it.)
Mr. West went on to acknowledge the frivolity of his continuing dispute with Ms. Swift over lyrics about her in his song “Famous” while young people are dying because of gun violence. But he also couldn’t help but needle Ms. Swift again, insisting that he had sought her permission for the lyrical reference. “Bro, I love all y’all,” Mr. West said. “That’s why I called her!”
He was at turns playful and serious, sometimes within the same sentence. At one point, he named the “three keys to keeping people impoverished: taking away their esteem, taking away their resources and taking away their role models.”
Mr. West then cited some of those role models in the crowd. “I’m standing in front of my idol, Puff Daddy,” he said. “I’m standing in front of my idol, Kim Kardashian West.” Also named: Chance the Rapper, a young Chicago performer in his image; 2 Chainz, the Atlanta veteran; and Jayden Smith, the actor and musician.
“We are undeniably the influence,” Mr. West said. “The thought leaders.”
Then — debuting “Fade,” which starred the singer and dancer Teyana Taylor, with no appearance from Mr. West — he let the work speak for itself. – New York Times