There’s a crash of lightning, and smoke, and noise, and the air pops, and a naked Kanye West crouches on the tarmac. He looks around, coughs a little, and mutters to himself: “Cool.”
It’s September 13th, 2009. Naked Kanye stands up in the Manhattan carpark he’s landed in. Nobody is around. He knows his plan, he strides confidently towards the gates.
Minutes later, he’s walking down the avenue. It’s early evening and there’s a couple of people about. They eye Kanye up with some suspicion but hey, they’re New Yorkers - you get used to seeing naked guys after a while.
Kanye stops at a GAP store. A smile flickers across his face, his thoughts going back to his early days as a shop assistant in a Chicago store. “Feels like a lifetime ago now,” he thinks. Even his inner voice has become gravelled with age.
He walks in. The sales assistant is on him immediately, “Sir, I’m sorry but you really must leave right away.” Kanye ignores him and heads to the menswear. “Sir! Don’t make me call the police.”
Kanye turns and stares the assistant down. He’s come too far and got too much on the line to be dealing with interfering salespeople right now. He grabs the man by the neck, his grip taut from months of training. “Do you know who I am?” he asks, in a whisper that’s almost a roar. “Do. You. Know. Who. I. Am.”
The assistant’s pale face soon turns to recognition. “You’re… Kanye West? Oh my god. What happened to your clothes?”
“I lost ‘em, don’t ask how. I just need some new ones - will you help me out?”. Letting the man do his thing is a safer plan than attacking him, Kanye reasons.
“Sure sure, let’s go to it!”
Minutes later and Kanye is suited. Faded blue jeans and a slick black shirt. “Are you sure that’s all you want? It’s cold out there this time of year, you’ll need a jacket or coat.”
But Kanye doesn’t feel the cold anymore. He only needs enough to fit in and get where he’s going undetected. “No. I’m fine. Aight, I gotta be going.”
The salesman opens his mouth, about to ask how exactly a naked man pays for the clothes he’s bought. But he thinks better of it, nobody wants to be the guy that told Kanye West what he couldn’t do. Best to just give him what he wants.
It doesn’t matter anyway, Kanye’s out the door. The ringing of the security gates on the door don’t phase him, as he rips the tags out from the clothes. He stares forward, walking into the evening.
His destination is the Radio City Music Hall. It’s right in the middle of Manhattan, next to the Rockefeller, and Kanye’s there with time to spare. He skips the red carpet and heads to a side entrance. A security guy guards the door, but he’s not providing any trouble. One selfie later, and Kanye’s in.
First order of business: find Kanye West. Kanye thinks back, trying to remember his movements from the night. The events that feel so real and tangible now are still half a lifetime away for him.
The thirty years after 2009 weren’t easy for anybody. Her unstoppable rise brought so much misery into people’s lives. Even successful rappers had to bow to Her will. His creative freedom stifled, Kanye soon became disillusioned and jaded. He was ready to give it all up. That was, until The Plan.
Right now The Plan meant replacing his 2009 self. The 2039 planning squad had reviewed all the archived materials (the ones not destroyed in one of Her great purges). It seems at some point Young Kanye had gone to the bar and picked up a bottle of Hennessy, which he then carried around for the rest of the night. This meant they had a rough timeline, and a strategy: intercept him at the bar.
Kanye moves through the building, every corridor and stairwell committed to memory in the preparation. On the way, other music celebrities try to stop him to chat. But he brushes them off. They get it, he’s known for his frosty personality - this isn’t weird for them.
At the bar, and there he is. Kanye spots Kanye. Now the tricky part. Old Kanye waits behind a pillar, keeping an eye on Young Kanye. You can’t just go up and grab him. Too many questions. Too much attention. You’ve got to wait for the right opportunity.
And soon enough it comes up, Young Kanye pops into the bathroom. Old Kanye follows. Apart from them the bathroom is empty. Perfect. He locks the door behind him, and the sound makes Young Kanye look round.
“Hey man, whatcha locking that door fo-?” he stops mid-sentence, recognising himself. “What the-”
“No time for questions now. I need you to do everything I’m about to tell you.”
“What’s this all about, huh? Security! Security!”
Old Kanye is quickly on his younger counterpart, a hand clasped over his mouth. “Look man, this is too important for you to ruin. I’m here to do something very important in our lives. Hell not just our lives, but everyone. I’m here to save America dammit. God knows I don’t wanna have to hurt you to do that, so don’t give me a reason to, ok?”
Young Kanye nods, and the grip is released. “So… you’re me? Like, from the future or something.”
“You got it. Tonight is a very important night. I need you to stay here while I carry out my mission. We can’t both be seen walking around here.”
“What’s so special about the VMAs? They ain’t all that.”
“I’m afraid that’s classified intel. Even from you. Just stay here and keep quiet. I’ll come get you later.”
Young Kanye shakes his head but gives in anyway. He rests against a sink. Old Kanye snaps the shades off his younger face and turns to leave. “Thanks man, I owe you one.” Just before he leaves, he adds: “And I’m sorry in advance for everything.”
Wearing the shades, Old Kanye makes his way back through the bar to the main auditorium. He takes his seat and sits down to wait. The moment is coming.
The nominees for Best Female Video are announced: Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Pink, and… Her.
Her name. Kanye can barely hear it without feeling his blood boil. The events following the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards are well known to everyone who grew up in the early 21st century. She won the award and gave a speech that rallied the entirety of the American people behind her. Her incredible popularity shot her to all-time fame in the music industry, and then even beyond that.
Her influence became the dominant cultural force in the country. Music, television, film, and theatre - it all came under her control. It was inescapable. It was only a matter of time then before she started exerting total political control. Nobody could have predicted that America’s first female President would also be its biggest ever Pop Star. And by the time Congress voted to dissolve itself in favor of her rule, it was all too late for anyone to stop it.
Catchy, repetitive music. Catchy, repetitive domestic policies. It was all part of the same New Way. Conformity became king. Originality was destroyed. Kanye was cast aside, like so many others.
But under Her rule at least there’d been some progress. Science had progressed further than ever before, as She invested in ever new ways to bring her music to new fans. Ultimately, She wouldn’t be satisfied until not only was the only planet under Her rule, but all time too. Thus the first Time Travel Units were created, bringing Her music to ever new audiences, with no regard to the damage this would cause to the space-time continuum.
Kanye became involved with a group of rebels who knew She had to be stopped. Together, they were able to hijack a TTU and put together a plan: stop Her speech. It was the only way. All they needed was a sacrifice, someone who would volunteer to go back and ruin their own career and popular image for the greater good. In short, they needed a hero.
“And the winner is… Taylor Swift!”
She’s up there, ‘You Belong With Me’ playing in the background. Kanye makes his move. Up he gets, grabbing the microphone and uttering the line, rehearsed time and time again:
“Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you and I'mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!”
The booing starts immediately. The camera pans to a shocked Beyonce. But all he can do is shrug. He’s done what he came to do. He’s made the sacrifice. He walks off, and heads back to the bathroom.
Unlocking the door, a frantic young Kanye rushes up to him.
“Hey man, what the hell happened out there? I couldn’t really hear what’s going on, but it sounds like people were booing or something!”
Old Kanye takes one last look at his younger self. “Like I said, I’m sorry man. The next few years are gonna be rough for you. You don’t know it, but we’ve just prevented a huge tragedy. But you can never tell anyone what happened here - they wouldn’t believe you anyway. You’ve gotta take this bullet for me. You’ve gotta be the hero that we all need. You’ve gotta become the one that everyone hates. History won’t know it, but you’ll be the greatest ever American hero.”
“I don’t understand” says the young Kanye.
“You don’t need to.” says the older man as he walks out the door. “Goodbye.”
Old Kanye makes his exit and walks back out into the dark night. There was never a plan for getting back to his future, a future that doesn’t even exist anymore. But though he’s stuck in this world at least he knows it’s a better one.
“Boy done good,” he thinks to himself. “Boy done real good.”