All Kanye West Wanted Was to Get on MTV. Quddus Gave Him His Shot

In the early 2000s, Quddus Philippe was one of pop culture’s foremost tastemakers: a charismatic host of MTV’s Total Request Live (TRLBeyonce and Jay-Z were rubbed shoulders (as was Britney Spears) with many other stars. As he was walking into Irving Plaza in Manhattan to catch Talib Kweli’s performance, a young rapper approached him and requested to appear on MTV.

Kanye West. The moment, captured on camera by the filmmaker Coodie Simmons, shows Philippe responding politely and noncommittally: “I could talk to some people,” he says.
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Philippe, who was a big fan and friend of West, would invite West to dinner within a few months. TRL “any chance I got,” he tells TIME. Philippe was also a guest on West’s album debut, and West took the opportunity to thank him in the liner notes. The College Dropout.

Simmons used his footage from the Irving Plaza moment decades later in his documentary trilogy Jeen-YuhsPhilippe was revealed in the Netflix documentary “Out on Netflix February 16”, which reveals that he was one of the few gatekeepers to champion a young West who wasn’t overwhelmed by rejections. (Jeen-YuhsTIME Studios produces the series. Philippe sat down to TIME and shared his story after watching a preview of the series.

Learn more The Inside Story of the Kanye Docuseries: Two Decades In the Making

Philippe first met West in Irving Plaza that evening. He knew West almost exclusively for his work as a producer on Jay-Z and Scarface songs. In Jeen-Yuhs, Philippe is shown looking a bit incredulous when West tells him he’s going to perform with Kweli onstage that night.

Philippe was astonished to see West performing remix to Kweli’s “Get By”—which West had produced by expertly flipping a Nina Simone sample—Philippe was blown away. “I got chills the whole time,” he says. “He wasn’t waiting for permission: he came in at a 10 and stayed there the whole time. I was like, ‘Man, this dude’s ready. I’m going to put him on the platform as much as possible.’”

Philippe requested that West come to an MTV Memorial Day Picnic at Chelsea Piers. West rode along with his Chicago friends, Consequence and GLC. Jeen-Yuhs. Philippe claims that West needed to be interviewed on MTV. “I had to work her a little bit, because at that point, he wasn’t being taken seriously as an emcee,” he says.

They kept in touch and West invited Philippe to his studio to listen to his latest projects. “Ye was such an external processor. He was curious to have all the people that cared enough to tell him the truth to listen to stuff as it was incubated,” Philippe says.

Philippe was the host for West during 2004 TRL Promotion for the first time The College Dropout. During the interview, West turns away from Philippe to address the crowd: “I know in the press you might read stuff and they say, ‘Kanye is arrogant’ or whatever, but I’m determined and I am self confident,” he says. Philippe later tells him: “I have a feeling you’re gonna be around at TRL for a minute, man.”

Where? The College DropoutPhilippe was included in the liner notes of his book, although incorrectly. West, hand-writing all of his shoutouts, misspelled his name as “Kadus.” West apologized when he learned about his mistake, and Philippe laughed it off. “To be credited in any way as having any positive influence on Kanye and his trajectory is an honor,” he says.

Philippe saw a new side to West in an episode of “The Simpsons” a couple of years later. TRL, Philippe and his producer drew West’s ire for mentioning an incident in which Suge Knight was photographed at a West-themed party. “He basically snapped, stopped listening, and started yelling at this producer who had done the pre-interview with him,” Philippe says.

Philippe says West apologized off camera, but that the incident colored Philippe’s perception of his own role in show business, in which he felt obligated to corner people about things they didn’t want to talk about. “It put me in a bit of an existential crisis about what I was doing for a living,” he says. “I felt I was not honoring our relationship: to feel an intuition of saying one thing, and then feeling the need to scratch the itch of everyone wanting to know what had happened the night before.” The next year, Philippe would You can leave the showYou may also be interested in other possibilities.

Philippe is currently a Media and Career Coach, a pivot “born out of my experience with Ye: to support someone who was an emerging creator and catalyze a career of impact.” He says he loved seeing his and West’s story in Jeen-Yuhs. “Ultimately, I think it’s not about Kanye,” he says.It’s about telling the story of how any one of us has a level of genius if we fan the flames of it.”

jeen-yuhsNetflix premieres the documentary on February 16th. Twenty-four years in the making, this documentary about Kanye West was directed by Coodie & Chike, from TIME StudiosCreative Control


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