The Ricochet Effect of Kanye West’s ‘I’mma Let You Finish’ VMA Moment
Say what you will about Kanye West, but he's responsible for a lot of memorable pop culture moments.
There's "George Bush doesn't care about black people." There's "How, Sway?" and also from the same interview, 'You ain't got the answers!"—all of which have become meme-able moments.
But perhaps most notably, there's the infamous "Imma let you finish" moment from the 2009 MTV VMAs, which birthed not only that fine moment in pop culture history but also the #KanyeShrug.
It all started when a bubbly country-pop singer named Taylor Swift won Best Female Video at the 2009 awards for her song, "You Belong With Me." A flabbergasted Kanye hopped on stage during Swift's acceptance speech, grabbed the mic, and declared that Beyoncé should've won for "Single Ladies."
"Yo, Taylor, I'm really happy for you. I'mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!" he proclaimed, as young Taylor clutched her Moon Man and blinked in embarrassment. Beyoncé, clearly shocked said, "Oh, Kanye. Oh, God," when the camera panned to her for a reaction. The audience booed. An unbothered Kanye simply shrugged and handed the mic back to Taylor.
Now, let's keep it a buck. In retrospect, Kanye was pretty much right. Seriously, do you even remember the video for "You Belong With Me"? Meanwhile, Bey's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" is one of the most iconic visuals of the past two decades, this side of Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation."
Nearly ten years after Kanye first uttered the now endlessly recycled phrase, "I'mma let you finish," it remains a meme favorite, a crucial 30 seconds in pop culture history that has had a ricochet effect in the years after.
That may sound like an exaggeration but let's take a look at some pretty significant things that have happened since.
Kanye says he was blackballed from radio.
In a 2018 interview with Charlamagne Tha God, Kanye suggests that after the 2009 VMAs, he was blackballed from the radio. "You know, ever since the Taylor Swift moment, it’s just never been the same… the connection with radio. It’s like… whatever powers that be, it was much harder after that," he said. While Kanye continued to achieve chart success, his hits on pop radio only came when he was attached to other stars, as Spin points out. There are other factors at play, but it's a statement that certainly holds some weight.
Fame Kills: Starring Kanye West and Lady Gaga tour cancelled.
In 2009, one of the most anticipated planned events was Kanye West and Lady Gaga's joint tour; Fame Kills: Starring Kanye West and Lady Gaga. The two megastars thought the joint run would merge their audiences in the name of music, and whatnot. Kanye was supporting his genre-bending 808s & Heartbreak while Gaga was fresh off her EP, The Fame Monster. However, the tour was promptly killed after Kanye's VMA interruption. While it was never actually confirmed that Kanye's Swift interruption and the huge backlash it garnered is what prompted the tour to be cancelled (there were supposedly "creative differences"), that's widely been the speculation.
The Kanye West/Taylor Swift feud.
Immediately afterward, Kanye said he apologized for interrupting Taylor's special moment. Taylor went on The View and said, nope, she hadn't heard from him. Kanye called her after that and she accepted his apology. Jokes were made. Songs were made. Obama called Kanye a "jackass." Kanye was sad about it. Years passed. Things were squashed between Kanye and Taylor, but not really. The "beef" came to another head in 2016, when Kanye used Taylor's likeness in his super creepy video,"Famous." Taylor said she didn't approve. Kanye's wife, Kim Kardashian, had receipts proving she lied and said it was cool, and well the drama continued. It's quieted down since then, but this thing has been going on for nearly a decade, all prompted by that VMA interruption.