Mr. West is in the building.
Actually, Kanye and Kim were both in the building.
West received the Visionary Award at the 2015 BET Honors Saturday night. The broadcast airs February 23 on BET. While he was one of five honorees — joined by Phylicia Rashad, Usher, Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, the director of the National Museum of African Art, and John W. Thompson, chairman of Microsoft Corporation — it was clear that West, and keeping West in the building, were highlights of the night.
As host Wayne Brady, presenters Ben Vereen, Bobby Brown and Anthony Anderson, performers Ne-Yo, Trey Songz and K. Michelle, and even Musical Arts Award recipient Usher did their red carpet due diligence, West breezed by with his entourage sans Kim Kardashian West. (Also, no North.) The crowd of reporters and camera operators sounded more like a crowd of fans screaming “Kanye” as they tried to get the rapper/designer/artist/poet to turn or perhaps answer a question, but he kept straight ahead.
Once in the theater, those on the balcony peered over the railing to catch a glimpse of West and Kardashian West, who were seated in the front row. And during Brady’s opening number, the host joked that he “cut the Kanye joke… so he would stay.”
But the Wests seemed to be genuinely enjoying the night for honoring excellence. Kanye joined Charlie Wilson for an impromptu freestyle during “Yearning for Your Love” that brought the audience to its feet, and dropped a beat for one of Brady’s bits while Usher sang the hook.
And even during Dame Dash’s awkward, inside-joke-heavy introduction, which eventually made its way around to congratulating West on his courage (seriously, the BET editing room has its work cut out for it), Kanye didn’t leave the building. Instead, he got on stage and greeted the audience with this: “I understand what it is to be humbled for the first time.”
He followed up that “aww” moment with a joke about Kim’s pre-marriage dating. “In the barbershop, [they] talk about black men getting rich and marrying a white woman…. My wife has dated broke black dudes.” (Ah yes, this is the Yeezy we know.)
Never one to shy away from heavy topics, Ye got serious and discussed reactions to his marriage and racism: “We focus on the micro — on the races. Not on the macro of the human race.”
After his speech, Brady attempted to convince the audience not to share West’s speech on social media. Nice try, BET Networks, but it’s 2015 and the tweets and Vines were already filling feeds.
The BET Honors continued with this mix of jokes and serious moments well past the posted 9 p.m. end time. Usher was brought to tears accepting his award from his idol Bobby Brown. Phylicia Rashad received shout outs from most everyone who took the stage, including Patti LaBelle, for being “everyone’s favorite television mom.” And, Mary J. Blige gave the final performance of the night.
Just before the evening hit the one-hour-over mark, the five honorees took the stage to take their bows. Rashad and West were very chatty as they waited through multiple takes of applause. (This was a taping, after all.) Here’s hoping there’s a Clair Huxtable-Kanye West collaboration in our future.