The “Stronger” rapper, 45, spoke before the New York native, 52, was presented with the show’s Lifetime Achievement Award on Sunday, June 26. West took fans by surprise when he walked onto the stage at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles wearing sunglasses and a dark mask that covered his face. He also donned a baseball cap and gloves.
“How do we crown our kings? How do we appreciate our kings?” the Yeezy designer began. “To think how far we could just make if off of inspiration, to hear the way somebody chopped a sample in. Me and [friends] rushin’ to see who could get the Bad Boy mixtape and play back the original version of ‘Benjamins,’ over and over, thinkin’ I was one of the Hit Men.”
West teased, “I was signed to Puff without him knowing,” before adding, “That statement is not legally binding!”
The “Gold Digger” performer called Diddy his “favorite artist” of his youth, reflecting on the impact his idol made on his own creativity. “You see, I’m saying favorite artist — everything, not specifically production, the trip,” West added. “Back then there was so many rules to hip-hop and he broke all of them. … [He] understood contracts in a way a lot of us still don’t. Understood money in a way a lot of us still don’t. I go to him for advice to this day.”
The Grammy winner went on to reference Kim Kardashian, to whom he was married for nearly seven years before the 41-year-old filed for divorce in February 2021. “He inspired so many of my choices. So many of my life choices. My wife choices,” West said. “And here we are. Thanks for that, Puff.”
As he recalled wanting to feel like “Chicago’s version of Puff” when he was a teen, West noted how surreal it felt to have Diddy as a close friend now. “You know, I took a little hiatus. I said. ‘I wanted to declare myself legally dead for a year. Nobody missing me,'” the “Jesus Walks” performer continued. “You know, I just want to be off the grid. … Any of us in this room, if Puff ever need us, we need to jump and be there. This man has been through and survived a lot of stuff. Broke down a lot of doors so we could be standing. I know for me, that I could be here today.”
West called Diddy his “brother,” concluding by reflecting on “how it is to want to change your name” in the public eye. “You might know him as Diddy, Puff Daddy, Sean Combs,” he said. “But when it’s hitting a certain point, I thought at the end of it, all is love — all of it. All we have is love. In Jesus’ name, bring out Love.”
The “Victory” artist was also honored by a star-studded medley of his biggest hits, which included footage of the late Kim Porter, his former partner who died in 2018.
West, for his part, had not attended an awards show since he was banned from performing at the Grammy Awards in April. Despite his five nominations, the ceremony prohibited him from taking the stage due to “concerning online behavior,” from throwing disses at Kardashian’s boyfriend, Pete Davidson, to calling Trevor Noah a racial slur via Instagram. At the time, West’s account was suspended for 24 hours.
The Selfish author’s split from West — and her subsequent romance with Davidson — were explored throughout season 1 of The Kardashians. “If people knew what my relationship really was like I think they would be like, ‘How did this last this long?'” the Skims CEO hinted during the season finale. “But I can live with myself knowing that I tried everything humanly possible to make a situation work and so I can walk away feeling absolutely guilt free.”