Date: February 10, 2008
Music performed: “Stronger,” “Hey Mama”

For the 50th annual Grammy Awards, Kanye did two of his strongest and most iconic performances yet—one for "Stronger" with Daft Punk and another alone for "Hey Mama," which was dedicated to his late mother, Donda West, who had died only four months before. Both were emotional performances in their own ways, and the stage designs were huge factors in their individual successes.

For "Stronger," Kanye ushered in the "Glow in the Dark" era, one where neons, saturated colors, bursts of fire, shutter shades, and glowing instruments and clothing were his preferred aesthetic. Daft Punk performed in a pyramid behind him with violinists in the background. The connection between Kanye's brand of futuristic music and landscapes and Daft Punk's own futurism was absolutely perfect. If you didn't like "Stronger" initially, this performance would have changed your mind.

For "Hey Mama," Kanye appeared alone on a dark stage, void of the color from his first performance, with a fading image of an angelic woman behind him on a large screen. The pared down stage revealed his vulnerability and sadness, which was all the more meaningful in contrast to his previously grand, decorated setups. 

This Grammy performance emphasized Kanye's duality, one that has set him apart from all rappers and musicians for a long time. His stage design continued to be integral to his reception, and his attention to visuals and a range of musical representation has launched him further into the realm of an icon than anyone could have imagined.


"Hey Mama":