“We love the music, which can change styles from out in the album. We love the videos, which change their artistic vision from year to year, but most of all, we love the woman who hasn’t changed since day one,” Drake said in presenting the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award to his friend and frequent collaborator Rihanna at MTV’s Video Music Awards Sunday night. The award is the event’s biggest honor acknowledging the breadth of an artist’s visual accomplishments.
“My success started as my dream,” Rihanna told the crowd at Madison Square Garden. “But now my success is not my own. It’s my family’s. It’s my fans. It’s my country’s. It’s the Caribbean as a whole. It’s women. It’s black women.”
Drake and Rihanna’s musical partnership has been one of the most successful in pop, beginning with Rihanna’s 2010 hit “What’s My Name?” The song gave Drake his first Number One song on the Hot 100. The next year, Rihanna appeared on Drake’s “Take Care,” a top 10 hit that solidified the rapper’s commercial stature. Read both artists’ complete speeches below.
Drake’s Induction Speech
The first time I met Robyn Fenty was 2005. She was shooting a music video at a Restaurant called Avocado in Toronto. The song was “Pon de Replay” and the director of that video was Little X. I was introduced to her as a kid who played background music at the restaurant as people ate their dinner. It’s hard to believe that 11 years later all three of us would come together to create the visual for a song called “Work.”
Today, the world knows Little X as Director X, they know me as Drake and not the kid singing while you order pasta. But 11 years later, they still all know Rihanna as the one-and-only, Rihanna.
Captivating from day one, the iconic being that is Rihanna was already at a place where most artists only dream of going. For them, that’s often the peak, but for her, that was the starting point, and she has kept ascending to an untouchable level ever since. When it comes to music, she relentlessly takes over the charts with every release. When it comes to performance, they swarm in masses just to be in her presence … obviously. And, when it comes to fashion and style, she makes it seem so effortless until you try and do it yourself, which is when it gets a little awkward.
What’s most impressive isn’t the endless list of stats, awards and accomplishments. What’s most impressive is the person. Some artists need to play a character to achieve success. Some need to downplay their own natural instincts to blend in. She succeeds by doing something that no one in this music industry does, which is being herself.
This woman has surpassed all competition while still being the same girl from Barbados, surrounded by the same friends, speaking with the same accent, and never missing a Crop Over unless it’s to come perform at the OVO fest.
We love the music, which can change styles from out in the album. We love the videos, which change their artistic vision from year to year, but most of all, we love the woman who hasn’t changed since day one.
She’s someone I’ve been in love with since I was 22 years old. She’s one of my best friends in the world. All my adult life I’ve looked up to her even though she’s younger than me. She’s a living, breathing legend in our industry.
Ladies and gentleman, the recipient of the Michael Jackson Vanguard Award for 2016, Rihanna.
Rihanna’s Video Vanguard Award Speech
MTV, this is such an amazing night. It’s such an amazing moment in my career. When I think about the Vanguard Award and receiving this tonight, all I could think of was my country. They’re going to be so proud. This is the first Vanguard to land anywhere close to my country.
And so, you know my success, it started as my dream. But now my success is not my own, you know? It’s my family’s. It’s my fans. It’s my country’s. It’s the Caribbean as a whole. It’s women. It’s black women.
So many people feel like their little piece is such a major part of this puzzle. And I have to thank you guys for supporting me over and over. Thank you to every director who has taken a chance on me and a chance with my crazy ideas. There’s just so much growth that has happened over the last 11 years, and I can’t believe I am receiving the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at 28 years old.
It’s crazy, and I have so many people to thank. I mean, from the very beginning, Evan and Carl from SRP, you guys believed in me, you brought me straight to Jay Z’s office, where I met Jay, Tata, LA Reid, Jay Brown, my whole publicity team, my glam team, so many people, man, they right with me from day to day.
My best friends never left me. They actually followed my ass all the way to America, getting on my damn nerves, and they here right now just witnessing this. This is a big moment. Thank you Drake for that amazing speech. Thank you MTV, I had so much fun! Good night.
Rihanna, the recipient of the Video Vanguard award, performed a dance medley to open the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards. Watch here.