Ten years ago, almost to the day, Kanye West stood alongside an incredibly uncomfortable Mike Meyers during a live television broadcast for a Hurricane Katrina fundraiser and said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Slow clap for 2005 Ye. The bold statement by the rapper marked a turning point for how many perceived President Bush’s response to the disaster. Bush would later call Kanye’s remarks the low point of his presidency.
Fast forward to the 2015 VMAs, where Kanye was bestowed the Michael Jackson VideoVanguard Award for his high quality artistry during his career. For the past few years, Kanye has been known for his “interesting” interviews and onstage tirades. Sometimes he would go way, way left using his newfound nasally “voice,”. His extraordinarily self-indulgent rants like the now infamous How, Sway? radio interview are almost as popular as his music. But every now and again, there are salvageable social statements on racism and the music industry from his mouth-foaming monologues.
Watch Kanye’s 2015 VMA Speech here
However, Sunday’s VMA speech was 1,000% about nothing. Instead of using this incredible platform to talk about anything even remotely important, Kanye chose to focus his attention on the 2009 VMA incident where he snatched the mic from Taylor Swift and let the world know that Beyoncé deserved the Video of the Year Award. “I’mma let you finish…”
“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 half a bottle of Hennessy and given the rest to the audience? Y’all know you drank that bottle too. If I had a daughter at that time, would I have went on stage and grabbed the mic from someone else’s…”
That’s great that Kanye has regrets about what President Obama referred to as a “jackass” moment, but with all that’s going on today, who cares? How about some social justice aptitude for 2015? Where is the spirit of 2005 Kanye West? That Kanye West would have used that opportunity on the mic to talk about relevant topics like the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
We have black men and women dying at the hands of law enforcement, a generation of young black people incarcerated, our voting rights are being stripped away, and Ye didn’t use his moment to shed light on any of that. We have a presidential election coming up next year, and much like a decade ago, Ye could’ve helped influence the political discussion and news cycle with a worthwhile topic.
It’s very sad that Kanye would use a good portion of his 10-minute speech to talk about a six-year-old event that nobody cares about at this moment. He yammered on about being in the grocery store with his daughter and supporting and not supporting artists at the same time and not being a politician, only to end with a declaration that he is running for president in 2020.
Nobody expects Kanye to deliver a transformative speech like MLK or JFK, but Dave Chappelle made a good point earlier this year when he said that “the biggest enemy of an artist is apathy.” Kanye squandered a prime media moment at an important time in history. Speaking from the heart instead of prepared remarks (as he seemingly did) is rather noble on such a grand platform, but perhaps at least a few bullet points on solid issues would have been a better option for Ye. There is no better time than right now for artistry and activism to intersect.
It would have been nice for the spirit of 2005 Kanye to have showed up last night.