Maxwell Stratchan, THE HUFFINGTON POST
(The Huffington Post) — In the moments before he took the stage at NBCUniversal’s “A Concert for Hurricane Relief” on Sept. 2, 2005, Kanye West looked calm.
Up to that point, the charity telethon for Hurricane Katrina’s victims had gone as well as could have been expected, considering that it had been slapped together in a matter of days. That it happened at all was a credit to executive producer Rick Kaplan’s team. Kaplan and his crew had worked hard to make sure things would go smoothly on the set, and celebrities, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Harry Connick Jr. and Lindsay Lohan, had agreed to say whatever needed to be said and play whatever needed to be played.
“All the stars we contacted — Aaron Neville, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill — I mean, everyone came in and was willing to do whatever they could do,” Kaplan remembers now. “Everyone was totally cooperative.”
West was cooperating, too. The hip-hop sensation’s second studio album, “Late Registration,” had come out that week. West, who was scheduled to appear on stage alongside comedian Mike Myers, went over his lines with the show’s senior producer and music director, Frank Radice. Like the other celebrities on the telecast, West was slated to provide the audience with facts — the amount of damage brought by Katrina, the amount of relief aid needed, and so on.
But by that point, the man whom Time magazine had just named “the smartest man in pop music” knew the words Radice expected him to say would never make the airwaves.