Kanye West, Thought Leader
If you didn’t know Teyana Taylor before last night, now you know. I’m starting with Teyana because the VMAs belonged to black women. Kanye’s free-reign speech was Peak Kanye but the video he debuted for Fade was ALL Teyana. Goddamn. A refresher on Teyana’s credentials before we get to her scene-stealing body: Teyana is signed to Kanye’s G.O.O.D music label and was a prominent feature on the label’s compilation album Cruel Summer. She also sang on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. She’s been around but starting today, she’s probably going to be around a lot more.
This video. That body. GODDAMN. The video is a nod to Flashdance and features Teyana channelling Jennifer Beals while wearing a lot less. It takes a turn when her HOT fiancé and NBA star Iman Shumpert shows up and Teyana’s face is revealed as a lion face? A cat face? What does it all mean? I don’t know. NO ONE KNOWS. (You can stream the video in its entirety on TIDAL.)
Speaking of not knowing what things mean, let’s get back to Kanye’s speech. Oh, Kanye. In the VMA pre-show, 2 Chainz said in his interview that Kanye would not have a script. Yeah, we could tell. Most of the time, when Kanye does stuff like this, I wonder what speech we would have heard if he had just written some stuff down and edited it, if he had just made some sense of his stream of consciousness, figured out what he wanted to say and then delivered it. I understand that if he did that, he wouldn’t be Kanye but sometimes, I just wish he would use his platform a little more wisely. Don’t get me wrong; I loved every moment of this. I could watch Kanye speak for hours but part of what comes with being a fan of ‘Ye is the exhaustion of defending him and of trying to decode what he meant to say. Just say it Kanye! Watch the speech below if you missed it last night.
Let’s break down some of the highlights of his 6 minutes and 48 seconds:
“I am Kanye West. And that feels really good to say, especially this year. I came here to present my new video. But before I do that, Imma talk.”
I actually loved this opening. In the past, it hasn’t been great to be Kanye West. He has been Public Enemy #1 but right now, thanks in part to his wife and Receipts Week, Kanye’s stock seems to be holding steady. If you stay away from comments sections, that is. At times, the speech was close to great. What Kanye said about fame was valid. What he said about young men dealing with violence in Chicago was bordering on brilliant. But, he stumbled a bit when he mentioned Taylor (I called her!), he shouted out Amber (I see you, Amber!) a bit randomly and he, once again, put his name among rich white men some would say do not deserve to be praised or admired, especially right after the mention of the murder rate in Chicago.
“Truman, Ford, Hughes, Disney, Jobs. West.”
It’s unclear whether he meant Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president of the United States, or Truman Capote and in the latter case, he should have just said Capote, right? Oh, Kanye. To me, Kanye is just searching for role models in the richest people he can think of. Kanye has always aspired to greatness. In his eyes, those five men epitomize success and greatness in America. He can aspire to be as rich as them all he wants. Let him live. What I want Kanye to do is understand his influence and harness some of his creative energy into a speech that doesn’t leave us wanting more.
“I’m standing in front of the future, Chance the Rapper. 2 Chainz, Jaden Smith. Bro, we are undeniably the influence, the thought leaders."
He’s right. Whether people want to believe it or not, these rappers and Jaden Smith are influencers and they are “thought leaders” of the next generation. With all that influence, would it kill Kanye to take some notes next time?
Theo Wargo/MTV1617/ Jeff Kravitz/ Larry Busacca/MTV1617/ Kevin Mazur/ Getty Images