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“Famous,” the most polarizing track on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo, now has its own polarizing video.
West debuted the “visual,” as it was promoted, for “Famous” late Friday night at The Forum in Inglewood, California, doubling down on the song’s provocative Taylor Swift lyric (“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex”) by including Swift’s naked likeness among the 12 famous people shown in the video. Also “appearing,” through either visual effects, make-up work, or via sculpture: Bill Cosby, Caitlyn Jenner, Amber Rose, Ray J, Kim Kardashian West, Chris Brown, Rihanna, Donald Trump, Anna Wintour, and George W. Bush. Each personality was given “special thanks” in the credits “for being famous.” West is not commenting on how the collection of megastars was created for the clip.
Because of the names involved, the internet reaction was one of of almost immediate shock. But what was it like inside The Forum? Ahead, the four most noteworthy moments from the “Famous” premiere.
Let’s talk merch
Around the release of The Life of Pablo, West has proffered various shirts and other merchandise that were available at limited times. There were pop-up stores in major cities and stands at live events — both with long lines. The exclusive merch at the “Famous” debut seemed to be limited to minimalistic white T-shirts with “FAMOUS” imprinted in black on the left breast. The back gives the who, what, where, when of the event. (West himself rocked one.) The exclusive shirts went for $30 and will surely fetch much more for those with FOMO.
The pre-show was essential
Seating for The Forum was halved, with a large swath of floor seats being placed directly in front of a 100-foot screen. It showed a sun setting — sharing the same color palette West used during his Saturday Night Live performance — along with a countdown timer that got reset after West delayed the first screening to allow those stuck in traffic and the aforementioned merch lines to fill seats.
The pre-show music was mostly an instrumental remix of TLoP song “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” through a mildly upbeat industrial lens; Kid CuDi’s hook, Kanye West’s first few lines, and the sampled track were sporadically played. The bass from the reworked versions rattled ears and shook bones. It was deafening. During the second countdown stint, West apparently directed the bars to stop service, in order to influence people to sit in and experience the preamble.
West rolled deep
It might be quicker to name who wasn’t sitting in the prestigious area with West and friends (G.O.O.D Music president Pusha T, for one). Kim Kardashian West and Khloé Kardashian rolled up around 6:15 p.m. in a black SUV, trailed by rapper French Montana.
Sitting in or near the Ye area was a particularly deep crew: the Kardashian sisters, Montana, Kris Jenner, Kylie Jenner, Tyga, 2 Chainz, Ty Dolla $ign, Travis Scott, Quavo of Migos, Desiigner, Yo Gotti, Game, and Yeezus producer Rick Rubin. Kim and her mother were particularly fond of the crowd, often waving and snapping photos and/or videos.
It was a party
Some people were singing along to “Pt. 1” before the show. Most everyone was during the main event, joining in on Rihanna’s crooning hook. There was an audible reaction with as the camera lingered on the bare celebs; as credits rolled through the names involved, Kim received much applause, while presumptive Republican nominee Trump garnered the most boos. Kanye was laughing at times, and during the concluding tableau, both he and Kim had their phones ready to snap a pic of the portrait.
The studio version of “Pt. 1” played after “Famous” concluded airing — which prompted West and his crew and the crowd to dance and sing along. A lot. West then ran back the “Famous” visual again, leading into “Pt. 1” again — but then he jumped to “Pt. 2.” That really engaged Desiigner: The 19-year-old went full Late Show as he rapped along to the parts of his hit “Panda” present in “Pt. 2.” Oh, and he later decided to throw money and what looked like an unspecified substance into the crowd below him. 2 Chainz and Ty Dolla $ign later energetically rapped and sang along to songs they’re featured on as well.
Kanye even flashed some rare smiles. It’s hard not to have a good time at the gig you’re throwing.
Tidal members can see the “Famous” video below.