Kanye West is usually good for the kind of splashy, controversial moments that make award shows uniquely great — or at least the kind that get people talking.
Most infamous is the moment at the 2009 VMAs when he interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video ("You Belong With Me") to insist that Beyoncé should have won the award for "Single Ladies." That incident sparked years of debate, breathless headlines, and heated rivalries, extending even as recently as July of this year, when Kim Kardashian posted a particularly pointed Snapchat story to expose Swift as a fraud. (And, yes, it’s all exactly as exhausting as it sounds.)
Keeping all this in mind — and also the fact that Kanye’s explicit video for "Famous" pissed off everyone from Swift to Anna Wintour to his ex Amber Rose in June — it’s no wonder MTV gave Kanye some time during the 2016 VMAs to do basically whatever he wanted.
An hour into the August 28 VMA broadcast, Kanye strolled out onto the Madison Square Garden stage and grinned up at the crowd. "I came here to present my new video," he told the constantly cheering audience, "but before I do that, I’m gonna talk."
According to early reports, Kanye got four minutes to do with as he wanted before presenting his video for his new single, "Fade." Anticipation understandably ran high at the idea of Kanye getting carte blanche, but when the time actually came, it was ... well, fine.
Kanye talked about the 2009 VMAs incident, saying, "‘Famous’ might lose to Beyoncé, but I can’t be mad. I’m always wishing for Beyoncé to win."
Kanye shouted out Kim several times ("My wife is a G, not a lot of people can say that") and acknowledged Amber Rose in the audience, though she didn’t seem impressed.
He talked about fame, and how "Famous" was an "expression of our ‘now.’"
He talked about violent deaths in his hometown of Chicago, and the fear of wondering if you’re next.
He talked about sitting and talking to "rich people (a.k.a. white)," and the idea of legacy, name-checking himself alongside Harry Truman, Henry Ford, and Steve Jobs.
Basically, he talked about everything and nothing, all at once. It was notable, if only because it was truly weird, but it wasn’t exactly the jaw-dropping moment MTV was undoubtedly hoping for.
As it turns out, you can’t exactly script a spontaneous moment.