Last night at 1 a.m., Kanye West took the Bowery Ballroom stage in front of Diddy, Q-Tip, his pal Aziz Ansari, and a gaggle of music bloggers and writers for a valedictory lap for his Pitchfork-ed ten-of-ten, Rolling Stone-ed five-star, endlessly raved new album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The staging was simple: Bright flashing lights bursting behind West, so bright that they gave a new spin to the album’s obsession with turning the lights on his dark side.
For most of the show, West was a dramatic silhouette, rapping aggressively and churning hard against his reputation. He still seemed hungry, determined to crank that perfect-ten rating up to eleven, introducing a gobsmacking new verse to “Power,” and reinventing almost every other song on the album, even when stripping the tracks down to near-a cappella (save “Runaway,” in which a microphone problem voided Pusha-T’s guest verse). Album guests Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Prynce Cy Hi, Swizz Beatz, John Legend, Pusha-T, Mike Dean, and others showed up, yet — incongruously but brilliantly — Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon spent more time in center stage than anyone else, working that Auto-Tune. Apparently, it was a warm-up for a Thanksgiving Day Macy’s parade performance, in which West and Vernon will perform “Lost in the World” on a float.
It was a show performed by a real asshole (in the best sense), a guy who was convinced that no matter how much you loved him, you could still love him more. But the real capper wasn’t musical at all. In place of a traditional encore, West delivered a classic rant. He knows what makes headlines, and it ain’t music.
West spoke out once again with empathy for George W. Bush and then slammed Taylor Swift, arguing that Swift “rode” the VMA controversy to fame (audio is here) — just as West himself, he said, had used the publicity over his critique of Bush’s handling of Katrina. Here’s a partial transcript of the rant:
And now we are mere surfaces of the energy they are projecting on us. Everybody needs a villain, don’t we? We need to blame someone at all times. For me to be considered a racist for stating a blatant truth, an obvious truth, but the nuances of my words, because I am very particular with my words, and the emotion I felt at that time wasn’t worded exactly right — but everybody came and said ‘Oh my God!” — I’m talking about five years ago, not a year ago, I’m talking about five years ago, I’m talking about Katrina — and everybody said, “Oh my God, Kanye, I love you so much, I hated you until you said that. But now I see you’re speaking for me. I always thought you were an asshole but now you said something that represents me, but the whole time, whole time I’m thinking in my mind I was thinking that’s not exactly what I wanted to say, I was emotional, that was not exactly the way I wanted to say, I was emotional, that was not exactly the way I wanted to word it, but I wrote it, I rode it, just as Taylor never came to my defense in any interview, and rode the waves and rode it and rode it, that’s the way I rode the waves of the Bush comment. I rode it. It’s not about popular opinion. It’s about when you look in your heart, and know what’s right and what’s wrong. When you look in your heart, look at what the media did, look at how they exploited him, they said that he said it was his lowest moment and as a mass, as America, we took that as a fact, and if you look at the interview he said that was one of his lowest moments and he said it about ten different things! But because the popularity of me, they exploited that, to make you watch the interview and make you feel that he was stupider than ever, to think that a rapper’s comment could be his lowest moment. That’s not what he fucking said! That’s not what he fucking said! That’s not what he said! He said it was one of his lowest moments. But it shows you — the way they try to villainize, the way they tried to do that. Everything would have been okay, if they hadn’t played the audio that day … “
And here’s video of the whole rant:
Also, here’s “Monster”: