LOS ANGELES — Judging by the way Kanye West has presented "Runaway" — first at screenings in Paris and London earlier this month, then in Los Angeles on Monday night, to be followed by other screenings in Chicago and New York before Saturday's premiere on MTV — the 35-minute film seems to be a true labor of love for the rapper.
On Monday, West continued the warm fuzzy vibe he started across the pond. Before the movie began, he thanked the audience — composed mainly of West's friends, fellow artists (celebs spotted: Pete Wentz and Ashlee Simpson, Ryan Phillippe) and industry insiders — and then introduced the film. West explained that "Runaway" is an initiative through which he can fully showcase all the songs on his upcoming album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and his new creative process.
"I feel like I've found my creative sweet spot, to think like a 5-year-old at all times," West said, and cited childhood idols Jim Henson and George Lucas as sources for inspiration. "Make a decision like if I was 5, what would I like? What would I like before I was taught what to like? So without further ado, this is 'Runaway.' "
The film revolves around West crashing into a phoenix (a mythological bird played by Selita Ebanks), whom he carries away from the flames to nurse back to health and then teach the ways of our world. Songs featured in the film include "Monster," "Power," "Keep Calling," "All of the Lights," "Devil in a New Dress," "Lost in the World" and, of course, "Runaway." The L.A. audience was particularly excited about the "All of the Lights" and "Lost in the World" segments. But "Runaway" — which features ballet dancers in choreography similar to his "SNL" performance — received the biggest applause.
After the screening, West returned to the mic to thank the attendees for coming to see "his vision" and further explain his motivations for making the film.
"I was talking to Rihanna last night as we were working on the album, saying that we're blue blood and our ideas turn red when they hit the air," West said. "To be in a position to have your ideas turn red is so amazing. To get these different ideas out."
West brought up an art vs. music comparison. "They say people who are the best artists get paid the most, and those who are the worst get paid the least. In music, people who are the best artists get paid the least, and the people who are the worst get paid the most, so ... I just want to use my position," he said.
'Ye's talk touched on his hiatus from music, his move to Rome and his design internship at Fendi. Then he revealed a few juicy details about his star-studded track "All the Lights."
" 'All the Lights' has John Legend, The-Dream, Ryan Leslie, Tony Williams, Charlie Wilson, Elly Jackson, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Rihanna and Elton John on the same song," he revealed. "Some are things where I took Alicia Keys and I panned her a hard left, and then took Elly Jackson and panned a hard right because I like the way their voices sound together. Or it's Elton on the piano, Kid Cudi doing the chorus and it sounds completely seamless and completely ghetto at the same time," he laughed. "That's what I got from the year I took off," he said, reverting back to his earlier comment about connecting with his inner 5-year-old.
At the end of his speech, West touched briefly on his mother's death and how he isn't scared of anything because he feels as though everything has been taken away from him. "I have no mother, no grandmothers, no girlfriend, no daughter, and I lived with a woman my whole life," he said. "I feel like a soldier for culture. I have to fight for those who don't have that."
Kanye West's "Runaway" will premiere on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on MTV, MTV2 and BET, and will also stream live on MTV.com, BET.com and VH1.com, followed by a live Q&A session on MTV.