The Many 'Bro's of Kanye West

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

So, wait: Is Kanye actually going to run for president in 2020?

It kind of makes you wonder what “actually” means anymore, actually. During last night’s Video Music Awards, accepting the show’s Video Vanguard Award for his contributions to the form (an award presented—put away your “imma let you finish” jokes, they have already been made—by Taylor Swift), West gave a long, seemingly off-the-cuff speech about artists and commercialism and politics and pot and the many things we owe to the next generation. At the end of it, he declared, “As you have probably guessed, I have decided to run for president in 2020.”

To which the world went: ???

On what level of reality was this declaration—greeted, the New York Daily News reports, with “much applause and laughter, making it unclear whether or not [West] was serious about a political run, especially after he admitted to rolling ‘a little something’ before the show”—operating? Was it an elaborate performance, or was it a joke, or was it the start of an actual presidential campaign? Will our collective national future involve Kim Kardashian-selected china patterns and also an E! reality show called Kanye West Wing and also the most poetic inaugural address of all time?

Only Kanye knows for sure at this point; our fates are, in this sense, in his hands. In the meantime, though, GQ magazine created something that seems to sum up the whole thing—the confusion, the giddiness, the Westian rhetoric either empty or profound—in six seconds: a supercut of all the “bro”s Kanye uttered during last night’s speech.

Bro. Bro. BRO. Broooooh. Bro! BRO!

Which says nothing at all, and yet so much. And the nothingness and the muchness—on repeat, and thus looping, even after you close this tab, into eternity—seemed to sum up the rest of the show, too. Miley Cyrus, with her blithe interpretation of camp culture. The awkward co-performance of Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift. The focus, as Spencer noted, on tone-policing. The sense that this awards show, in all its shiny, sequined, suggestive literature, wasn’t just accidentally political, but fundamentally so. And the sense that the stuff on display on MTV’s stage last night was much more than entertainment, but the stuff that, shimmy by shimmy, changes the world.

Or maybe not? Who knows, bro?