NEW YORK — [artist id="1230523"]Kanye West[/artist] must really like G-Shock watches. The Def Jam star put on a spectacular performance for the second year in a row at Casio's Shock the World event at Cipriani's on Wall Street, where the company unveiled new timepieces and a series of collaborations with Redman, celebrity tattoo artist Mister Cartoon and skateboarder Stevie Williams, among others.
West capped off the festivities with an hourlong set. He entered wearing a mask to shield his face and was accompanied by a shifting digital display behind him that counted down his time onstage. The rap star was often restrained while performing some of his biggest hits, including Jay-Z's latest, "Run This Town," sans Rihanna and Jay. The toned-down effect signaled a quiet intensity reminiscent of an "MTV Unplugged" session.
"This is my favorite song of my career," 'Ye told the lively crowd in the middle of his set, tossing his mask as the opening chord of "Can't Tell Me Nothing" began.
Kanye performed "Robocop" and "Nightmares" from 808s & Heartbreak with an equally muted energy, drawing out the lyrics he rapped. This dialed-back set may just be a preview of things to come when West goes on the road with Lady Gaga.
West's girlfriend, Amber Rose, was just offstage, mouthing the words to most of his songs. Other in attendance included Fabolous, Day26's Que, Dawn Richard, DJ Clue and actor Alan Cumming. New York radio DJ Enuff manned the turntables.
The Cipriani performance was a stark contrast to last May's 25th anniversary celebration of G-Shock, in which Kanye headlined and gave attendees a sneak peak of his Glow in the Dark tour. The light production amazed most, but the rapper surprised all of the guests, including Spike Lee, when topless background dancers ushered their way onstage next to him.
But Kanye wouldn't be Kanye if he didn't take at least one opportunity to speak up. So while he was restrained, he definitely wasn't quiet. Before he closed out the night with "Stronger," he went into a 10-minute "Pinocchio Story"-esque freestyle in which he spoke on the discomforts of fame and took a moment to lash out at the media, even referring to his encounter with the paparazzi at LAX.
"I have to pay a f---ing $100,000 'cause he says I hurt his f---ing arm," 'Ye rapped, letting the words hang in the air. "But I was just trying to break his camera, not cause him no harm."