Kanye West loves the Grammys. The rapper has never hidden his lust for awards or his pleasure in the shine of a ceremonial spotlight. At the 50th annual Grammys on Sunday night, West, as usual, made his presence felt.
Accepting one of his four awards, West went so far as to say: “It feels good to be home here at the Grammys.”
West had a leading eight nominations going into the ceremony and took home four: best rap album for “Graduation,” best solo performance for “Stronger,” best rap song for “Good Life” and best rap performance by duo or group for his collaboration with Common on “Southside.”
Before Sunday, West had received six Grammys but failed to win awards outside of the rap and R&B categories. He again came up short for best album, which he lost to Herbie Hancock’s “River: The Joni Letters.”
While the nominees were read, West could be seen praying in his seat. Usher, who was presenting the award with Quincey Jones, assured him: “There are no losers in this category, Kanye.”
It was the only string that West couldn’t pull at the Grammys.
But he still showed just how in control he was when accepting the award for best rap album. After meandering on the future of hip-hop, background music began to usher him off the stage as he started to speak about his mother. Donda West died unexpectedly last year at age 58.
“It would be in good taste to stop the music,” said West. Quickly enough, it did – and the crowd applauded.
He continued, speaking to his mother: “I know you want me to be the number one artist in the world. And, Mama, all I’m going to do is keep making you proud.” Holding his Grammy aloft, he added: “We run this.”
The entire evening was, for West, a tribute to his mother. With the word “MAMA” cut into his hair, he performed a special version of his 2005 song “Hey Mama.” It followed a show-stopping, glow-in-the-dark rendition of “Stronger” with the French electronic duo Daft Punk, whose 2001 single “Harder Better Faster Stronger” provides the sample to West’s hit.
West then stepped forward to somberly sing “Hey Mama” while paintings of angels flashed above. It was emotional, but had the feeling of a duty West needed to fulfill for himself and his mother.
He sang it with lyrics updated for the occasion:
“Last night I saw you in my dreams/ Now I can’t wait to go to sleep. … This life, this here, this Grammys, all of this is all a dream/ My real life, it starts when I go to sleep.”
Even other artists accepting awards had to tip their caps to West, who seems fast becoming the Jack Nicholson of the Grammys.
After being handed his award by Ringo Starr, Vince Gill said: “I just got an award given to me by a Beatle. Have you had that happen yet, Kanye?”
Sitting in the audience behind dark, white-frame sunglasses, West leaned back and laughed.