It’s been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans. It’s also been 10 years since Kanye West spoke so much truth on live television, he left the world speechless.
During the broadcast of A Concert for Hurricane Relief, West and comedian Mike Myers spoke about the effects the hurricane had had on New Orleans. As Myers urged people to donate, West used the opportunity to dig a little deeper and gave a poignant and nervous speech about who was actually left in Katrina’s aftermath.
We’ll never know what the teleprompter was prompting West to say, but what we do know is that West, 10 years ago, basically said that black lives mattered.
“I hate the way they portray us in the media,” West stated. “If you see a black family, it says they’re looting. If you see a white family, it says they’re looking for food, and you know it’s been five days, and because most of the people are black. And even for me to complain about it, I’d be a hypocrite,” he continued. “Just to imagine I was down there. Those are my people down there. … They’ve given [the U.S. military] permission to go down and shoot us.”
Myers stood in shock and disbelief. But West wasn’t finished. He clearly had more to say. He needed to get something off his chest.
“George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” West stated.
And those words resonated across America. Those words went viral, without social media.
West defended himself against the backlash and against Bush supporters. In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, West said it was the least he could do.
“People have lost their lives, lost their families. It’s the least I could do, to go up there and say something from my heart, to say something that’s real,” West said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2005.
During that same interview, West told DeGeneres that he did give Myers and host Chris Tucker some warning.
Ten years later, in a recent interview with Slate, people working behind the scenes of the show still remember what happened as must-see TV.
“I remember hearing the words that were coming out of his mouth and looking down at the script and [thinking], ‘This is not—this is not going well’ … I remember saying [to someone], ‘It was good TV,’” Frank Radice, who served as musical director and senior producer, said.
“What made it good TV? The fact that it was controversial,” Radice continued. “And it stopped everything cold.” The small studio audience that included celebrities like Lindsey Lohan and Leonardo DiCaprio was “eerily quiet,” he said.
At the end of the show, Executive Producer Rick Kaplan said, Myers walked up to him and in his best Dr. Evil voice asked, “Well, that went well, didn’t it?”
Yes, it went really well. This is the Kanye West I’ll always remember.