On the eve of Kanye West dropping his highly anticipated follow-up to 2016’s The Life of Pablo, we thought we’d take a look through the producer’s career and revisit those moments none of us really knew what he was doing. Kanye West: Genius of our generation, or pop culture’s biggest troll? Here, for your pleasure and to ready yourself for what will surely be an unforgettable Yeezy season, are 10 Crazy Kanye West Moments You Probably Forgot About.
That time when he totally botched the release of his (otherwise best album) The Life of Pablo. As we’re nearing the release of Love Everyone (supposedly), lest we forget the promotional build-up and botch of The Life of Pablo ‘s release. First, we thought the album would be titled “Swish” or “So Help Me God”, which was gathered from—like most of his album details—his Twitter. Then, after debuting the new album at a listening party in MSG, he spent the next three days tinkering with it until he had essentially a different album, which was released on Feb. 14. Then, he said Bill Cosby was innocent. Then, after making “Pablo” available for purchase on his website for a few brief hours, he yanked it and vowed (in a since-deleted tweet) that it would never be released for sale, ever, and would be a Tidal-only exclusive. This thankfully didn’t last long, and TLOP turned out to be pretty great, so maybe there was a method to Kanye’s madness? But probably not.
That time when he announced his plan to run for president in 2020. In 2015, when MTV enlisted the previously scorned—but all forgiving—Taylor Swift to present Kanye West the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award, West at first seemed to be speaking from a humble place. But by the end of his acceptance speech, the winner proclaimed to a shocked audience: “I have decided, in 2020, to run for president.” Now, since Kanye has returned from hospitalization, with a new album, and his own, personally signed MAGA hat, could we really be looking at a 2020 bid for president? With Kanye, we believe just about anything is possible.
That time when he released Runaway, a “feature length film”. I would bet that most of you have forgotten about Kanye’s attempt at writer/star/director in “Runaway”, the short film which serves as an extended music video for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The tale is of a love between a man—Kanye—and a half-woman half-phoenix, who was born from volcanic eruptions shown in the first half of the video. The bold, trippy, and at times humorous “Runaway” is lauded by some as nonsensical, and others as a prestigious art-film. We’ll let you be the judge.
That time when he crashed Taylor Swift’s MTV VMA acceptance speech for Best Female Video. In 2009, when presented the award for Best Female Video, Taylor Swift was mid-speech when Kanye appeared on stage, out of nowhere, and cut her off. “Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time…one of the best videos of all time!” Then, the camera switched over to a shocked Beyonce, who not so subtly exclaimed “What! Kanye!” like a mother scolding her child. Kanye was escorted out of Radio City just a few moments later for inappropriate behavior, likely enforced by the bottle of Hennessy he was chugging from the start of the ceremonies.
That time when he jumped into Swan Lake. In April of 2015, Kanye delivered a surprise free concert at Swan Lake in Yerevan, Armenia, during a visit to the region with wife Kim Kardashian. But security brought the show to an abrupt end after the rapper jumped in the water, with a horde of fans following his lead. The splash took place during an epic performance of “Good Life”, after an enthusiastic intro, asking the audience if they can see him in the back. “We gonna do something different right now,” he says before hopping in the lake. We’re guessing Kanye didn’t anticipate the splash being the concert’s finale, but what a finale it was.
That time when he went off-script during a Hurricane Katrina TV marathon. On September 2, 2005, Kanye West appeared calm while standing beside actor Mike Myers for A Concert for Hurricane Katrina, a telethon raising funds for those affected by the natural disaster. But within seconds of speaking, it becomes clear that Kanye is off-script, and Mike Myers helpless to the live rant, which famously ended with “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.” The camera cuts to a shocked Chris Tucker, who is barely keeping his composure when redirecting the efforts of the telethon. The result of this deeply uncomfortable Kanye moment: timeless, cringe-worthy entertainment.
That time when he assumed the identity of Jesus Christ on the cover of Rolling Stone. We’re not sure who was responsible for this, if any one person can be blamed. Modeled after The Passion of the Christ promotional photo, David LaChapelle’s capturing of “The Passion of Kanye West” certainly lived up to its bravado. But if you can believe it, Kanye in a Jesus Christ pose was not the most outrageous photograph from this marathon thirteen-hour Rolling Stone cover shoot with David LaChapelle (that honor goes to a shot of West in a gray silk suit standing alongside a topless Pamela Anderson riding a horse bareback while a passed-out circus clown wearing a George W. Bush mask lies on the floor clutching a bottle of Jack Daniel’s).
That time when he professed weight insecurities on TMZ. Well, we knew some sort of madness would ensue when Kanye West enlisted for a full-frontal, TMZ interview. It seems like, in his own way, Kanye was trying to open up about his recovery. But of course, Kanye can’t help himself, and begins ranting through the interview, going into how his opioid addiction was due to a liposuction procedure, inspired by watching his brother-in-law Rob Kardashian be ostracized by the public over his weight. It couldn’t have been an easy decision—considering the tragic circumstances of his mother’s death—but Kanye says he didn’t want to look “fat.”
That time when Sway didn’t have the answers. November 26, 2013, Kanye West and “RapFix Live” host Sway Calloway uploaded a fiery interview which has now resulted in millions of streams and memes. During the radio interview, Kanye expressed his frustration with the corporate structure of the fashion world, venting about the lack of support and creative freedom from the big fashion houses he’s reached out to or collaborated with. When Sway asked Kanye why he doesn’t just fund himself, things took a hard turn. “How Sway?” Kanye barked. “You ain’t got the answers, man! You ain’t got the answers. I’ve been doing this more than you; you ain’t got the answers!” Sway, really not having an answer then, still claims Kanye to be his brother.
That time he really wanted Barack Obama to say he loves him. Even though Kanye West has opened up on his support of Donald Trump and their shared “dragon energy”, we ought not to forget his longstanding love for Barack Obama, and how hurt he was when Obama called him a “jackass” after the Taylor Swift drama. “I’m your favorite,” West said, referring to Obama in his interview with Charlamagne Tha God. “But I’m not safe. But that’s why you love me. So just tell me you love me! And tell the world you love me. Don’t tell the world I’m a jackass.” We think Kanye will have to explain comments such as “slavery is a choice” and “Obama was in office for eight years and nothing in Chicago changed”, but hopefully the old friends can rekindle their likeness this Yeezy season.