Music News & Reviews

What exactly did Kanye’s Sacramento rant mean? Here are some clues

Now that Kanye West has been hospitalized, reportedly suffering from temporary psychosis as a result of sleep deprivation and dehydration, his bizarre rant in Sacramento on Saturday, and the subsequent cancellation of his Saint Pablo Tour, are being seen in a different light.

West launched into his 17-minute tirade at the Golden 1 Center – during which he called out Beyoncé, Jay Z, Hillary Clinton and corporate radio – before cutting his concert short. His speech included dozens of references that might be oblique to some. Here is a transcript with annotations to provide context. We need to warn you, though. The following contains extreme profanity and offensive language, something fans will be used to but others may not.

Only originals, only originals would have said that.
"Famous" starts playing and stops.
If you don't got an iPhone,don't put it up. Only originals.
"Famous" starts playing again with Kanye rapping.

West was asking the crowd to raise their glowing phones in the air the way concert crowds traditionally do with lighters. He may not have voted in the presidential election, but he definitely seems to be an Apple partisan. Earlier this year, West publicly was asking Apple to buy Tidal, the rival streaming music service of which he is a partner.

Stop it, stop it. Hey radio, fuck you! Radio, fuck you!Y’all don’t want to lose again. A lot of people here tonight felt like they lost. You know why? Because y’all been lied to.

It’s been a while since West has had a massive radio hit. In the 2000s, he had several chart toppers, including “Gold Digger” and “Stronger.” But his conflicted relationship with radio stretches back to the beginning of his career. In his 2004 classic “Jesus Walks” he rapped: “So here go my single, dog, radio needs this/They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus/That means guns, sex, lies, videotape/But if I talk about God my record won’t get played, huh?” The song reached No. 11 on the airplay chart.

Google lied to you. Facebook lied to you. Radio lied to you. Radio, fuck you! I know it’s a lot of real niggas working at radio, real people, real programming directors with wives and kids that love music, that can’t play what they want to play because they’ve been paid to play that bullshit over and over and over.
And when I say that bullshit, what I’m saying is we love Drake. Drake is great. He’s a great artist. But Frank Ocean is great, too. But you know who the greatest of all of us? Who do y’all think? (Crowd yells names including Kanye) Nope. Kid motherfucking Cudi. Radio, fuck you! Oh yeah, I’m on my Trump shit tonight. Radio, fuck you. Yeah, I’m taking his lead. I’m going to just say how I say, I’m going to just say, I’m going to just be “Ye, and win.”I’m going to take his lead. Radio, fuck you! Radio, fuck you! Wait a second, you said, hey, hey is it, “Radio, fuck you? That’s what you’re saying?” Exactly.

Drake: The crossover success of hits such as “Hotline Bling” and “One Dance” have made Drake arguably the biggest rapper in the world right now. But with his Canadian upbringing and sensitivity, his authenticity is constantly under challenge from rivals. West and Drake were reportedly at work on a joint album – but now Drake may be firing back at West.

Frank Ocean: The R&B crooner is less commercially successful than Drake, but more critically acclaimed. A breakout star in 2012, Ocean was a frontrunner for Best New Artist and Album of the Year at the Grammys that year, but lost both categories. Ocean declined to submit two follow-up albums he released this summer for Grammy consideration because he felt the organization did not properly respect black art – a very West-ian move.

Trump: Two days before he visited Sacramento, West got booed at a concert in San Jose for saying that he didn’t vote, but if he had, he would have voted for Donald Trump. It was not a popular sentiment in the heavily Democratic Bay Area – some fans even threw shoes.

Ye: West often refers to himself as “Ye.”

Not fuck the people that work at radio because these is real people that got to feed they kids and they’re not being allowed to play that real shit because they think that in order to feed they kids they got to play the same shit over and over and over. I was raised by KRS-One, I was raised by A Tribe Called Quest, I was raised by DMX. The last real nigga alive? Naw, nigga! It’s still real niggas alive, we alive tonight, bro! We alive tonight, bro!

“Last Real Nigga Alive” is a 2002 song by New York rapper Nas from his “God’s Son” album.

Virgil Abloh is alive tonight, bro. A$AP Nast is alive tonight, bro. (A$AP) Bari is alive tonight, bro. Ian Connor is alive tonight, bro. (A$AP) Rocky alive tonight, bro. Eh, y’all love my show. When I say these names, y’all better scream for me. I don’t give a fuck if you know the names or not. Go ahead, Google them. They will give you a little bit of factual information. They will give you that. Why did I name A$AP? Because that’s the future. That’s the niggas they got me and Cudi ... it’s life.

West name-checked a string of upcoming artists that he felt had not received their due. The biggest of them is A$AP Rocky, who reached the top ten on the charts with his 2012 single “Fuckin’ Problems.”

We’ve got a hundred years out here, a hundred years on this planet, bro, and we can have a utopia. We can love each other. But the rules got to be fair. (DJ) Khaled and Drake and radio and Doc and 92.3 and everybody. Is it just me or did you hear that song so many times: “You say you want to play for free.” Eh, eh. You know what it is, though? Because eh, I love Drake. I love Khaled. But they set that song up, bro. And let me tell you something: MTV, fuck you! Once again, as always. I’m on my Trump shit tonight. Let me tell you what it is, bro. Eh, you know me. I went down seven years of my life of motherfuckers hating me for saying Beyoncé had the best video. Hey, baby, it’s rock and roll tonight. Y’all might be experiencing a lot of pop shit, but the vibes is back. The prodigal son, Kid Cudi, has returned. The vibes is back. I know it’s going to be a lot of conversations after tonight.

92.3: Real 92.3 is a L.A. radio station that plays hip hop and R&B.

“For free”: DJ Khaled and Drake collaborated on a song this summer called “For Free.” It reached No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100, higher than any West single since 2013. “Is it just me” is a line from the chorus of “For Free” and the structure of West’s sentence mirrors the song’s lyrics.

Beyoncé: Perhaps the most infamous awards show moment of West’s career, which is full of infamous awards show moments. At the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, then-newcomer Taylor Swift’s “You Belong to Me” beat Beyoncé’s beloved “Singles Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”for Best Female Video. West stormed the stage, grabbed the microphone from Swift and proclaimed: “Yo, Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'm going to let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!" West was roundly shunned for his behavior; even President Barack Obama called him a jackass. But the incident spurred his most acclaimed album, 2010’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” and its centerpiece “Runaway” – which he debuted at the VMAs the following year.

Kid Cudi: One-time collaborators, West and rapper Kid Cudi feuded this summer after Cudi called West out for using ghostwriters, a big no-no in the authenticity-driven rap game. They briefly and emotionally reunited on the stage in Sacramento before West cut his concert short.

Khaled, I love you, I know you got killers from Miami. Please do not send them at my head. I just want to have a conversation about how we playing radio’s game. Khaled, you a real nigga. Khaled, you a real nigga. You got the keys. But as we learn all the politics that niggas was doing for years. Obama couldn’t make America great because he couldn’t be him to be who he was. Black men have been slaves. Obama wasn’t allowed to do this (Kanye screams) and still win. He had to be perfect. But being perfect don’t always change shit, bro. Being perfect don’t always change shit, bro.

“Keys” refers to a DJ Khaled internet meme called the “Keys to Success.”

So, when I talk about MTV, let me explain something. I was hurt. Beyoncé, I was hurt because I wanted to present a video called “Fade” and I don’t expect ... MTV told me: “Mr. West, out of respect to you, I will let you know that Beyoncé is winning the video tonight for ‘Formation’ over ‘Hotline Bling’ and ‘Famous.’ They told me beforehand so I wouldn’t run on stage. Hey, bro, y’all ain’t got to fuck with me, but you know I got the vision and you know I’m going to keep it real with you.

West’s latest music video, “Fade,” debuted at the 2016 Video Music Awards in August.

Beyoncé, I was hurt. I went down seven years on behalf of your – eh, nigga! Don’t phone no shit while I’m talking. I am putting my career, my life, my public well-standing at risk when I talk to y’all like this. This is a moment in the matrix, bro. The vibes is back. The vibes is back. Motherfuckers might feel a way about this tonight. Beyoncé, I was hurt because I heard that you said you wouldn’t perform unless you won Video of the Year over me and over ‘Hotline Bling.’ In my opinion – now, don’t go trying to diss Beyoncé. She is great. Taylor Swift is great. We are all great people. We are all equal.

“perform ... ” : Before Beyoncé won Video of the Year in August for her black power anthem “Formation,” she gave a stunning 15-minute performance of excerpts from her 2016 album “Lemonade.” The rumor at the time was that MTV was desperate to have Beyoncé, one of the world's most popular artists, perform and offered her as much time as she wanted. Now West is alleging that the quid pro quo went much further – in the words of Trump, that the system was rigged against West and his own Video of the Year nominee “Famous.”

Taylor Swift: A feud that never seems to end. It was reignited earlier this year when West rapped in “Famous” that he and Swift “might still have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous.” Swift took public offense to the comments, but West claimed that he got permission from Swift before releasing the song. His wife, Kim Kardashian, came through with the receipts.

But sometimes, we be playing the politics too much and forget who we are just to win. Fuck winning. Fuck looking cool. Fuck looking cool. Fuck being cool. Fuck all that, bro! I’ve been sitting here to give y’all my truth even at the risk of my own life. Even at the risk of my own success, my own career. I’ve been sent here to give y’all the truth.
Jay Z, call me, bro. You still ain’t calling me. Jay Z, call me. Eh, bro, I know you got killers. Please don’t send them at my head. Just call me. Talk to me like a man. I’m not trying to be the man. I just am a man, the same as everybody here. I ain’t above, below none of y’all. We all equal. We all equal. These is the vibes, bro. This is the future. This is the way of thinking to make America great again. Hahaha! You didn’t like that! Guess what? Y’all need the vibes. I was hurt. Feelings matter, bro. The way motherfuckers put money up so high, popularity, radio spins. Feelings matter, bro. Feelings matter, bro.

Jay Z is a longtime friend and collaborator of West’s. He gave West his start as a producer, then worked with him on the joint 2011 album “Watch the Throne.” He is also married to Beyoncé and owns the streaming service Tidal.

It’s a new world, Hillary Clinton. It’s a new world. Feelings matter. Because guess what? Everybody in middle America felt a way and they showed you how they felt. Feelings matter, bro. It’s a new world. It’s a new world, Barack. It’s a new world, Jay Z. Hey, don’t send killers at my head, bro. This ain’t the Malcolm X movie. We growing from that moment. Let ‘Ye be Ye.’ Oh wait a second. Do y’all agree with that? Let ‘Ye be Ye.’ Wait a second. I ain’t hear enough screams on that. Let ‘Ye be Ye.’

West’s wife, Kim Kardashian, endorsed the Democratic presidential nominee, and they both met Clinton at a fundraiser last year, selfie and all.

People, I’m not saying this out of my own well being because it wouldn’t be smart out of my own well being to say things like this. Radio, I done talked to you a bunch of motherfucking times. Y’all motherfuckers is behind the times. Because guess what, the Saint Pablo tour is the most relevant shit happening. The Saint Pablo tour is more relevant than radio, and if y’all still keep following old models, your ass is going to get Hillary Clinton-ed. You might not like it, but they got to hear it. I ain’t here to massage you with a fake truth, telling you that Hillary going to win over and over and over and then you wake up, you still can’t believe it! You know why? Because you was lied to by Google. You was lied to by Mark Zuckerberg.

West has experimented with new models of releasing his music, including forgoing the traditional promotional model of radio-supported singles for his 2013 release “Yeezus” and initially making his 2016 album “The Life of Pablo” an exclusive on Tidal.

Mark Zuckerberg, you want to call me now? Do I got the vision, Mark Zuckerberg? Was you wrong? When I said I was $53 million in debt and you didn’t call me, was you wrong? You ate dinner, you asked my friend Anthony Schiller to have dinner with me. I told you about Donda. You said you would help and you didn’t. Then you went to look for aliens. Me and Kid Cudi are aliens right here, bro. The vibes is back. Hey (inaudible). Take it all the way back to, take me all the way back to the (inaudible). Shia LaBeouf, Kid Cudi feels a way. Give him a call.

Mark Zuckerberg: In February, West claimed on Twitter that he was “53 million dollars in personal debt,” a figure that some reasoned might refer to his entree into the fashion industry. A few days later, he publicly asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to invest “1 billion dollars into Kanye West ideas.” That deal did not come through.

Anthony Schiller: Schiller is co-founder and managing director of Kramlich Investment Co., and a close personal friend of Kanye’s.

Donda: West’s mother and former manager, Donda, died in 2007, a day after getting plastic surgery. The tragic event shook West and led to a protective law in California. West has since written many emotional songs about his mother. Donda is also a “creative content company” founded by the rapper.

Shia LaBeouf: The former child actor and current Hollywood wild card is surely the most random shout out of the night. However, Kid Cudi and LaBeouf collaborated on a short slasher film in 2011.

Q-Tip, I love you, bro. Don’t tell me how to be me, though. I love you. The Tribe album is dope. I love you. Don’t tell me how to be me, though. I’ve been me. I am me. (long pause) There’s a Richard Pryor interview that you can watch about people coming into power and not changing anything and just becoming a part of the power. That’s happened with musicians because they’re scared. I’m not scared. I’m here to change things. I am here to change things. And things won't change until people admit their own falsehoods. I got the vision, bro. That is what I’ve been blessed with. My vision. I’m not always going to say things the perfect way, the right way, but I’m going to say how I feel. Right now, I will prepare ... right now press, get ready to write your passive-aggressive, LeBron James, racist comments. Season 4, racist comments. Get ready to have a field day, press. Get ready, get ready. Because the show’s over.

Q-Tip: The legendary rapper has worked several times with West, but he has also never been afraid to call out West’s more provocative behavior.

Tribe: A Tribe Called Quest, of which Q-Tip is a founding member, just released a new album after a ten year hiatus. West helped work on the record, called “We Got it from Here ... Thank You.”

Season 4: Kanye received backlash for reportedly requesting “multiracial girls only” in his model casting for Yeezy Season 4, the fourth season of his fashion line. West’s clothing line has not been as critically lauded as his music.

Jacob Kirn and Isabella Argueta, special to The Bee, contributed to this report.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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