Well, the show's just begun, but so far Kanye West has managed not only to avoid making a fool of himself but also remind us what a fierce and commanding rapper he can be.
For the first time in its 10-year history, the annual BET Awards ceremony opened Sunday night with a musical number: Kanye performing his latest single "Power," leaked from the new batch of recordings he's been laboring over for several months in Hawaii.
The transition was instructive. Pre-show cameras were focused on Soulja Boy on a sun-bleached platform outside the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, surrounded by fans who couldn't get inside for the real show. He was strutting around singing "Pretty Boy Swag," as vapid and meaningless a slice of artistic expression as you're bound to find anywhere.
Then the BET Awards logo blocked out the screen, and the wailing tribal chorus loop from Kanye's "Power" started up. After lying low since earning the disdain of everyone, including President Obama, by grabbing the microphone at last year's MTV Video Music Awards and insisting that Beyonce should have won Taylor Swift's award -- suddenly there he was, back on top. In fact, he was standing on a set designed to look like a mountain top, and he looked like Moses with a microphone stand as a staff. In silhouette throughout the performance, Kanye -- in a red suit with a large Egyptian bust on a chain around his neck -- writhed and gyrated, spitting out the bitter words of his new single. Most of those were bleeped out; sometimes long sections of the performance were silent because of the censorship. Sometimes the whole thing looked like a production number from a cheap "Lord of the Rings" musical, with Kanye cast as a more manic Smigel and seeking his precious self-respect again.
It was no life-changing performance, but here's to Kanye putting his mouth where his talent is, for a change, and providing at least a fleeting illustration for empty-headed tools like Soulja Boy what real hip-hop from the heart sounds and even looks like. Here's hoping the trophies tonight reflect a similar realization -- and that Kanye stays offstage and leaves us with this fine moment.
How do you think Kanye did in this comeback moment?