One of the most anticipated moments at the MTV Video Music Awards was Kanye West’s predictably unpredictable speech: four minutes of on-air freedom. The rapper moved easily from topic to topic, addressing the high murder rate in Chicago, calling P. Diddy his idol and defending his right to aspire to the artistry of Steve Jobs and Walt Disney. “My role models are artist merchants,” the rapper-producer said before introducing his new video “Fade.” Read West’s full speech below:
I am Kanye West. And that feels really great to say, especially this year.
I came here to present my new video but before I do that. I’ma talk. Now, later tonight “Famous” might lose to Beyoncé, but I can’t be mad. I’m always wishing for Beyoncé to win, so…
But for people to understand just how blessed we are, it was an expression of our now; our fame right now. Us on the inside of the TV. The audacity to put Anna Wintour right next to Donald Trump., I put ray j in it bro, like. This is fame, bro. Like…
I see you, Amber.
My wife is a G; Not a lot of peoples’ wives would let them say that.
We came over in the same boat; now we all in the same bed. Well, maybe, different boats, but you know. But if you think about it, last week there was 22 people murdered in Chicago. People came to me like, “That’s right. Taylor [Swift]. I love all of you. That’s why I called her.”
So I was speaking at the Art Institute last year and one kid came up to me and he said, “Three of my friends died and I don’t know if ima be the next. You know when you’re a senior, and it’s like the last month and you just don’t feel like doing any more work. If you feel like you seeing people dying right next to you, you might feel like, “What’s the point?” Like life will feel start to feel worthless in a way.
I know times for me, I sit down and talk to older, rich people (aka white). they tell me, don’t compare yourself to Steve Jobs, don’t compare yourself to Walt Disney. And my friend … told me, “Don’t compare yourself to these people.” My friend told me there’s three keys to keeping people impoverished: that’s taking away their esteem, taking away their resources and taking away their role models. My role models are artist merchants. There’s less than 10 that I can name in history: Truman, Ford, Hughes, Disney, Jobs, West.
Bro. Bro!! Tonight, we’re here to have fun. I’m standing in front of my idol Puff Daddy. I’m standing in front of my wife, Kim Kardashian West. I’m standing in front of the future Chance the Rapper. 2 Chainz. Jaden Smith. Bro. We are undeniably the influence; the thought leaders. I’m gunna play ya’ll a piece of my art. And I just hope you all have a good time. Play that.