Before the "I Am A God" imagery, the cliques, the music video paintings, the 808 drums, and the shuttershades, there was a hungry young producer-turned-rapper performing spoken word at the Def Poetry Jam.
With each new Kanye album, wherein he pushes the boundaries of music and art that much more, it's helpful to revisit this video of Kanye West's appearance on HBO's Def Poetry in 2004, to remind ourselves of just how far he's come.
Mos Def introduces a then-largely unknown Kanye to the audience, "From Chicago, Illinois, please give it up for the future of hip hop, Kanye West!" Ok, so, first thing: can you even imagine introducing Kanye as a hometown rapper now? In 2004, he needed that context; now, he's beyond a household name. Second, given what I know now, I get serious goosebumps watching Mos Def call him the "future of hip hop" to a crowd who barely recognizes him.
"This morning I spent a lot of time, like, trying to like pick out my outfit because I'm really into clothes," he fake-stutters into the mic. "I'mma be the best dressed rapper out in the game, so, I got my...uh, " he says, showing off the tags on his Adidas superstars.