The Evel That Men Do



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. 

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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