When Kanye West takes the stage to accept his Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the MTV Video Music Awards this Sunday, it’ll be as an artist who has been notoriously shut out when it comes to actually winning. Three Video of the Year nominations, no wins. Nine Best Hip-Hop Video nods (10 if you count in supporting roles), zero victories. A singular win for Best Male Video in 2005 with “Jesus Walks,” but five losses in the category, too.
Those facts should surprise quite a few; after all, West is known for creating some of the quintessential clips of the past decade. He’s entertained. He’s shocked. He’s warned us about potential epileptic seizures triggered by watching his videos. He’s one of the few artists today where a new video is still a moment, an event, something that’s sure to get people talking no matter where it ranks in his overall career arsenal.
Now in his 12th year of releasing music videos (2003-2015, with 2014 the only holdout), we’ve ranked the 12 videos that best encapsulate why Kanye West is getting this award, joining artists like Beyonce, The Rolling Stones and even his frequent collaborator, Hype Williams. Many of them are also among his best, and all are certainly the types of clips many artists would kill to get their hands on. Bow in the presence of greatness.