Following a storied and troubled history with MTV and its Video Music Awards, Kanye West came to the stage to accept the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award with a big announcement: that he’s running for president in 2020.
The rapper took the stage after an extended introduction from Taylor Swift. “I first met Kanye West six years ago at this show, actually,” said the pop star, referring to an incident at the 2009 VMAs where he interrupted her mid-speech while she was accepting an award. “Since then, we’ve had a lot of time to talk about a lot of different things. It seemed like everyone in the world knew about our infamous encounter at the VMAs.”
She continued by stating that his debut, The College Dropout, was the “first album that me and my brother bought on iTunes at 12 years old.” Swift then referred to the incident by paraphrasing what he infamously said: “I’m really happy for you, and I’ma let you finish, but Kanye West has had one of the greatest careers of all time. Right now, I’m honored to present the 2015 Vanguard Award to my friend, Kanye West.”
West’s most notable VMA moment was his controversial stage-crash at the 2009 ceremony. While Taylor Swift was accepting the trophy for “You Belong With Me,” which nabbed Best Female Video, the rapper crashed the stage to declare that Beyonce should have won for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” that he termed “one of the best videos of all time.” The fallout was immense—even President Barack Obama called him a “jackass” when asked about the gaffe. West later apologized on Jay Leno, saying, “It was rude, period.”
Six years later, West had a few thoughts — including some insight into his five-year plan — as his wife, Kim Kardashian-West, stood side by side with Swift. Read the full text of the speech below:
“Listen to the kids. Jeremy, I gotta put it down for a second. Jeremy Scott designed it.
First of all, thank you Taylor for being so gracious and giving me this award this evening, thank you. And I often think back to the first day that I met you also. You know, I think about when I’m in the grocery store with my daughter and I have a really great conversation about fresh juice, you know? And at the end they say, ‘Oh, you’re not that bad after all.’ And like, I think about it sometimes. It crosses my mind a little bit like when I go to a baseball game and 60,000 people boo me.
It crosses my mind a little bit. And I think 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 given it to the rest of the audience? If I had a daughter at that time, would I have went onstage and grabbed the mic from someone else’s? You know, this arena, tomorrow, it’s going to be a completely different setup, some concert or something like that. This stage will be gone. After that night, the stage is gone but the effect that it had on people remained. The problem was, the contradiction is, I do fight for artists. But in that fight, I somehow was disrespectful to artists. I didn’t know how to say the right thing, the perfect thing.
I just, I sat at the Grammys and saw Justin Timberlake and Cee Lo lose. Gnarls Barkley and the ‘Sexyback’ album… Justin, I ain’t trying to put you on blast but I saw that man in tears bro. And I was thinking like, he deserved to win Album of the Year. And the small box that we are as entertainers of the evening, how could you explain that? Sometimes I feel like, you know, all this shit they run about beef and all that, sometimes I feel like I died for the artist’s opinion, for an artist to have an opinion after they were successful. I’m not a politician bro!
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 presenting the award because it got more ratings? Listen to the kids bro! I still don’t understand award shows. I don’t understand how they get five people who work their entire life, one sold records, sold concert tickets, to come, stand on a carpet and for the first tie in their life, be judged on a chopping block and had the opportunity to be considered a loser. I don’t understand it bro! I don’t understand what the biggest album or the biggest video… I’m conflicted bro. I just wanted people to like me more.
But f—k that bro! 2015. I will die for the art, for what I believe in, and the art ain’t always polite. Y’all might be thinking right now, did he smoke something before he came out here? The answer is yes, I rolled up a little something. I’m not dead y’all. I don’t know what’s going to happen tonight, I don’t know what’s going ot happen tomorrow bro, but all I can say to my artists, my fellow artists, just worry about how you feel at the time. Just worry about how you feel, and don’t never…
I’m confident. I believe in myself. We the millennials, bro. This is a new mentality. We not gonna control our kids with brands. We not going to teach hate to our kids. We’re going to teach our kids that they can be something, that they can 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, because it’ snot about me. It’s about ides, bro, new ideas, people with ideas, people who believe in truth.
And yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020, to run for president.”