Kanye West accepted the Video Vanguard Award, MTV’s version of a lifetime achievement honor, at the awards show Sunday night.
Taylor Swift presented West with the honor six years after he famously interrupted her acceptance speech — and she joked about it too — but the moment hinged on West’s impassioned, thoughtful speech about his guilt surrounding the 2009 incident, his advocacy for artists over the years, and his opinions about the merits (or lack thereof) of awards shows. Watch a video of his speech and see a full transcript below.
Bro. Bro! 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. And I often think back to the first day 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 at the you know, and at the end they say “Oh you’re not that bad after all!” And like, I think about it sometimes, like, it crosses my mind a little bit, like when I go to a baseball game and 60,000 people boo me. 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 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’s… You know, this arena, tomorrow, it’s going to be a completely different set up, Some concert or something like that. The stage will be gone. After that night, the stage is gone but the effect it had on people remain.
The problem was the contradiction, 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 sat at the Grammys and saw Justin Timberlake and Cee-Lo lose. Gnarls Barkley and the FutureLove SexyBack album, it broke, 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 this small box that we are as the entertainers of the evening, how could you explain that? Sometimes I feel like, all this, they run about beef and all that, sometimes I feel like I died for the artist’s opinion, for artists to be able to have an opinion after they’re successful. I’m not no politician bro!
And look at that. You know how many times MTV ran that footage again because it got more ratings? You know how many times they announced Taylor was giving me the award because it gave them more ratings? Listen to the kids, bro! I still don’t understand awards shows! I don’t understand how they get five people who work their entire life, one sold record sold concert tickets, to come stand on the 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 don’t understand when the biggest album or the biggest video, I’ve been conflicted bro, I just want people to like me! But f— it bro! I will die for the art. For what I believe in. And the art ain’t always going to be polite.
Y’all might be thinking right now, “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, 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, you know what I’m saying. I believe in myself, we the Millenials bro. This is a new mentality. We not gonna control our kids with brands. We’re not going to teach low self esteem and hate to our kids. We’re going to teach our kids that they can be someone. We’re going to teach our kids that they can stand up for themselves. We’re going to teach our kids to believe in themselves. If my grandfather were here right now he would not let me back down. I don’t know what I’m gonna lose after this, I don’t care though, because 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.
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