The Evel That Men Do

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In more than 30 years as America's daredevil extraordinaire, Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel Jr. survived countless attempted jumps over everything from canyons to parked cars. He overcame a monthlong coma, 40 broken bones and the unfortunate television parody Super Dave Osborne. But the beloved motorcycle stuntman couldn't clear the latest, greatest obstacle to cross his path: hip-hop megamogul Kanye West. 

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Knievel and Kanye, when everything was cool.


If at first it seems absurd to group Evel Knievel in a tragic brotherhood with J Dilla, Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls as victims of rap-beef violence, consider the facts: Knievel, 69, died November 30 in Clearwater, Fla., purportedly from complications related to "diabetes" and "idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis." But his passing comes just two days after news that a settlement had been reached in the lawsuit Knievel brought against West in December 2006 for trademark infringement. (In West's video for the song "Touch the Sky," the rapper appears in a star-spangled red, white and blue jumpsuit wielding the moniker "Evel Kanyevel.")

In the suit, Knievel asserted that the video’s “vulgar and offensive” images were harmful to his reputation — presumably, that of a wholesome, thrill-seeking sexagenarian. On his 2004 debut, The College Dropout, West made it clear he doesn’t take well to personal attacks: “If my manager insults me again, I will be assaulting him,” he warns on “Spaceship.” And on “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” a song off West’s 2007 Platinum smash, Graduation, he appears to brag of his plans for Knievel: "Let the Champagne splash/Let that man get cash/Let that man get past.” Or, interpreted another way, “Let that man get passed.”

West seems to have finally graduated, all right — to murder. No one knows for sure what dollar figure persuaded Knievel to drop his 12-month grievance against West. And now we’ll never know, will we?

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