“He advances culture by destroying what came before.”
That was part of the intro video that led into Kanye West being awarded MTV’s highest honor, the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. West was given the award by Taylor Swift, who acknowledged their legendary moment at the VMAs. “I first met Kanye West six years ago, at this show, actually,” she said, before revealing that, “College Dropout was the very first album my brother and I bought on iTunes.”
But Swift ended on a high note, informing all the other winners of the evening that, “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.”
“Bro. Bro!” West, 38, began after collecting his trophy to a standing ovation. “Listen to the kids,” he said before thanking Swift. West’s speech touched on the fallout from the VMA incident, referencing boos that he received at sporting events, before musing, “If I had had a daughter at that time, would I have run onstage and grabbed the mic from someone else’s?”
“Would I have worn a leather shirt? Would I have drunk half a bottle of Hennessy?” he wondered.
“I’m not a politician, brah,” West said at one point. “I still don’t understand award shows,” he added.
But the speech took a serious turn at one point: “I will die for the art, for the art I believe in, and the art ain’t always gonna be polite,” West stated. Then it got a little less serious: “I know y’all might be thinking, ‘Did he smoke something before he came out here? And the answer is yes, I did roll a little something,” he continued.
“I have decided in 2020 to run for president,” he concluded.
The Video Vanguard Award has been awarded to artists from The Beatles to Janet Jackson, but no rapper won it until LL Cool J in 1997. West is the third rapper to win, after J and the Beastie Boys, unless you’re counting director Hype Williams, who picked up the award in 2006. Beyoncé won in 2014: Husband Jay Z presented the award with the couple’s daughter, Blue Ivy, in tow, calling his wife “the greatest living entertainer.”
For West’s full acceptance speech, in all its glory, click here.