Radiohead and Kanye West are artists who couldn’t be more different off-stage. Even though they both sit in the pantheon of great modern artists, it’s safe to say that their approach to fame is at opposite ends of the spectrum.
West is somebody who wants all eyes on him, and attention is the only currency that truly gets him fired up. Radiohead, meanwhile, deliberately attempt to shy away from the spotlight, controversy or anything else that’s going to plant their names in the headlines for anything which isn’t music-related. On the contrary, when was the last time that Kanye West was spoken about for his music?
In 2009, however, West was still firmly on the top of his game. His life was yet to spiral into the melodrama that we’ve all got too accustomed to over recent years, and few were fit to tie his laces. Surprisingly, one of his favourite artists back then was Radiohead, who inspired him on a creative level, but Thom Yorke didn’t want anything to do with the rapper when their paths crossed.
During the recording of his VH1 Storytellers, West embarked upon a verbal tirade hitting out on Radiohead after they ‘snubbed’ him backstage. Reuters reported that the rapper said: “So when he performed at the Grammys, I sat the fuck down.”
Remarkably, the broadcaster decided to leave out his comments about the Oxfordshire band, and his rant has tragically been lost in the ether. If it’s any commiseration for the rapper, it wasn’t just Kanye who was ignored by the group backstage at the Grammy’s in 2009; Miley Cyrus did too.
“They’re the reason I love music,” she said in a radio interview after the event. “Stinkin’ Radiohead! I’m gonna ruin them, I’m going to tell everyone. [I told my manager], ‘Pull as many strings.’ My manager asked and said, ‘Miley’s really obsessed.’ And they were like, ‘We don’t really do that.'”
In fairness to Radiohead, they just wanted to keep their heads down at the ceremony and weren’t there to make showbiz friends, which is admirable and extremely on-brand for the group. Throughout their career, they’ve shied away from the glitz and the glamour. Instead, they let their music do the talking for them.
A decade later, Yorke seemingly didn’t forget West’s comments when he had a playful dig at the rapper during an interview with the Spanish newspaper, El Mundo. The singer was asked, “Can music provoke a reaction in people?” and responded, “Yes, when they listen to Kanye West”. The writer claimed that his comment was followed by 10 seconds of “suffocating laughter and malicious murmuring”.
Not every member of Radiohead is on bad terms with West, and Ed O’Brien bizarrely hit it off with Ye at Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and the unlikely couple bonded through their mutual belief in God. In 2016, O’Brien recalled, “I said, ‘If you asked pretty much any British musician whether they believed in God, I’d tell you that 99% of them would say, ‘Don’t be stupid, of course not.’ It blew his mind. He was like, ‘You cannot be serious.'”
While it’s unlikely that we will get a collaborative effort from Kanye and Radiohead anytime soon, who knows what the future will hold for West and O’Brien? It’s almost two years since the rapper released Jesus Is King, and O’Brien could be a perfect addition to the sequel. We’ve seen stranger things happen before…