It's not easy to cap a night featuring powerhouse performances from Lil Wayne, T.I., Kid Rock and more. So when VMA producers wanted to turn their moment into something truly monumental, they knew who to call to close the show: Mr. Kanye West.
"He's one of the most pre-eminent hip-hop performers of his time," said Dave Sirulnick, executive producer of the VMAs. "He makes sure that not only the people in the front row are into his show, but the people in the last row are feeling it as well. Everybody is feeling it the same. He gives that kind of energy. He gives that kind of intensity."
If awards shows are intended to be the introduction to what's big and the culmination of everything fly and huge of the past year, it's tough to argue that West didn't deserve to be a major player in the 25th VMAs. He was tapped as the MTV News Brain Trust's Hottest MC in the Game, and his Grammy-nominated third LP, Graduation, was one of the biggest sellers of 2007. Kanye's Glow in the Dark Tour was not just a highlight of 2008, it was a milestone of his career, proving he can outperform just about anyone in any genre.
"We thought, 'Let's see if he wants to take this opportunity,' " Sirulnick said.
But while Kanye was clearly the man for the job, it wasn't always clear if he was willing to take it on. His blowup after last year's VMAs quickly became the stuff of YouTube legend. Obviously, tempers have since settled down, and his relationship with MTV is back on track. 'Ye even worked with MTV News to honor young veterans in the "Choose or Lose & Kanye West Present: Homecoming" special.
"We know last year — in hindsight — he wanted to close the show. So we thought, 'Let's give him a call and see if he's interested in doing it,' " Sirulnick explained. "He said, 'Yeah, I am.' We sat and talked. We spent some time together."
And so, a larger-than-life, showstopping VMA performance was born, the perfect way for Kanye to premiere a new track.
"The guy's got one of the most successful tours of the year," Sirulnick said. "He has one of the most artistic tours of the year. He always brings it. He brings the intensity. He brings a great performance."