Rihanna kicks off MTV VMAs, Kanye rambles, Beyonce performs

NEW YORK — Rihanna kicked off the MTV Video Music Awards, performing a medley of her hit songs in a bright pink ensemble that matched her background dancers and the stage.

She sang songs like “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been” — sometimes letting the backing track do most of the work — on Sunday at Madison Square Garden in New York, where she’ll receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award. Rihanna is expected to perform more times Sunday night.

In typical and true Kanye West fashion, the rapper ranted at the MTV Video Music Awards , touching on subjects from music to his beef with Taylor Swift to violence in his hometown Chicago.

Before he debuted his music video for “Fade” on Sunday, West rambled onstage as the audience at Madison Square Garden in New York City cheered him on.

“Now later tonight ‘Famous’ might lose to Beyonce but I can’t be mad, I’m always wishing for Beyonce to win,” said West, who will compete with Beyonce for video of the year, and also referring to the 2009 VMAs when he jumped onstage, stole Swift’s microphone and said Beyonce should have won over the then-country singer.

He talked about his “Famous” video, which features what appears to be naked images of West, Swift, Kim Kardashian, Donald Trump and more. He even pointed to former girlfriend Amber Rose, who was in the audience and is also in the video.

“It was an expression of our now, our fame right now, us on the inside of the TV, you know, the audacity to put Anna Wintour right next to Donald Trump,” he said.

“I put Ray J in it bro,” he said, referring to Kardashian’s ex with whom she did a sex tape.

“But if you think about last week it was 22 people murdered in Chicago,” he continued. “You know, people come up to me like, ‘Man, that’s right! Take, tell Taylor this. Bro, like I love all y’all.”

“That’s why I called her,” he said with a laugh.

West could have another memorable moment Sunday if he wins video of the year later in the show. Aside from Beyonce’s “Formation,” his competition includes Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” Drake’s “Hotline Bling” and Adele’s “Hello.”

Angel-winged and green-feathered with daughter Blue Ivy in tow, Beyonce arrived on the white carpet along with Sybrina Fulton, Lezley McSpadden and Gwen Carr, the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, among others. They appeared in videos for Beyonce’s “Lemonade” visual album and also make up the Mothers of the Movement, women of color who lost children to violence.

Drake won the first award for the night — best hip hop video for “Hotline Bling.” Puff Daddy, who presented the award, said Drake was stuck in traffic.

Other performers include Britney Spears, Ariana Grande with Nicki Minaj, Future, Nick Jonas and The Chainsmokers.

Presenters include Jimmy Fallon, Alicia Keys, Puff Daddy and the recent Olympian gold medalists Michael Phelps and the four of the Final Five gymnasts — Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Aly Raisman.

Nominees for best female video include Beyonce, Adele, Rihanna, Sia and Grande. The best male video nominees are West, Drake, the Weeknd, Bryson Tiller and Calvin Harris, whose nomination is for “This is What You Came For,” which he co-wrote with former girlfriend Swift.

Coldplay, Desiigner, Fergie and Alessia Cara earned multiple nominations, while David Bowie — who died from cancer earlier this year — is nominated for best direction, cinematography, art direction and editing for “Lazarus.” The music video, which shows him looking frail in bed with bandaged eyes, was released just days before the icon’s Jan. 10 death.