Why Kanye West totally deserves the prestigious Video Vanguard Award at the VMAs

There are no nuanced opinions about Kanye West: He is the ultimate “love him or hate him” figure, a lightning rod for opinions and judgments. Oftentimes lost in the discussions about his personality; his fashion and capital-A Art endeavors; and his high-profile family, however, is the fact that he has created an iconic body of work — no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. We’re not just talking about his discography, which runs the gamut from soulful throwbacks to trend-setting manifestos. No, we’re also talking about his music videos — which are pieces of art in their own right.

For his many, many musical and music video accomplishments and contributions, West will be receiving the Video Vanguard Award at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. He’ll be in good company: In the past, the award has been given to Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, and Britney Spears, along with many other well-deserving icons in between. This is the same award that brought us Beyoncé’s amazing career-spanning montage last year, as well as the image of Queen Bey posing in front of the word FEMINIST before an audience of millions. Like B, West is an elder statesman in the pop world (aka anybody who’s remained relevant for two or more albums), and his vision and stake in the music video format is clearly visible, even if you have issues with the man himself. The award will honor his monumental effect on pop culture over the span of his career, and some of the music videos that we’ll be talking about for years to come.

Of course, this is just a build up for us to showcase some of the man’s best work. Listen, watch, and appreciate below:

“Touch the Sky” (MTV Version) ft. Lupe Fiasco

West is reportedly an extremely polite and thoughtful man outside of the public spotlight, but he plays a lot of outlandish, swaggering personas in his music videos. Case in point: His swanky “Evel Kanyevel” character in this star-shooting genre mini-film.

“Good Morning”

West’s UniverseCity and his adorable animated bear avatar are sadly relics of his past now, but this trippy video by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami is both a time capsule and also a heart-warming tale.

“Only One” ft. Paul McCartney

Papa West hasn’t lost any of his vim and vigor (see: “All Day”), but it’s safe to say that being the father to a daughter has given West’s male-centric world a new perspective. Also: Nori is seriously too cute.

“No Church in the Wild” with Jay Z, ft. Frank Ocean and The-Dream

Years before “Hands up, don’t shoot,” #ICantBreathe#SayHerName, and the race-based protest and activist movements that rose in response to much publicized and scrutinized police shootings, there was the video for “No Church in the Wild,” the turbulent opening track off of West’s collaboration with Jay Z, Watch the Throne.


Do we really understand everything that’s going on in the full music video film, which features, among other things, scores of ballerinas and a feathery supermodel phoenix? Not really, but it’s a gorgeous stark/lux meditation by West, as well as the bleeding heart of his seminal My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

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(Image via video.)

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