[artist id="1230523"]Kanye West[/artist] was clearly feeling the historical magnitude of President Obama's inauguration when he took the stage at the "Be the Change" Youth Ball on Tuesday (January 20), and he decided to tell the crowd about it. After all, it's in his blood.
"It feels so good to be standing here ... My mom would be so proud right now, to see her baby boy performing the #1 song in the country for our new African-American president," he said during an instrumental break in "Heartless," the latest single from his 808s & Heartbreak album. "Being that she got arrested for being involved in the sit-ins at age 6, and my grandfather drove the first car in the marches out of Oklahoma, to see this day ..."
He trailed off from there, then began singing a slightly changed version of the "Heartless" chorus, one that paid tribute not just to the civil-rights struggle, but to our new commander in chief.
"In the night I hear them talk/ The greatest story ever told," he sang. "Somewhere far along this road, a new soul: Obama ..."
West's mother, Donda, was active in the civil-rights movement in the 1960s, and served as the chairwoman of Chicago State University's English department until 2004. She passed due to complications from surgery in 2007.
It was a rare moment of gravitas in what was a decidedly celebratory set. Decked out in wraparound shades, a tuxedo and pocket square, West performed a medley of hits that included "Touch the Sky" — which Obama singled out as a favorite in an interview with Blender magazine last year — "Stronger" (on which he ordered the crowd to "put your hands up for Obama!") and a verse of Estelle's hit "American Boy," calling Obama "the real American boy," a shout-out to his newly minted status as the face of 21st century America.
Watch "Be the Change: Live From the Inaugural" online now, and come back Thursday for the full performances from Kanye West, Kid Rock and Fall Out Boy. Stick with us for wall-to-wall coverage of the inauguration and of the scenes in Washington, D.C., New Orleans and Kenya.