A day after debuting new song “New Slaves” on the sides of 66 buildings in major cities around the world, Kanye West took the Saturday Night Live stage to showcase the song, as well as another new one, “Black Skinhead.” The tracks serve as the first taste of ‘Ye’s new album, Yeezus, which is expected for release June 18.

Following Kanye’s since-deleted “June 18” tweet (and a slew of non-confirmation confirmations), Kim Kardashian appeared to confirm the release date and title with an Instagram photo showing the album’s packaging yesterday.

Leading up to his SNL performances, West appeared apathetic. In episode promos, he seemed dead-eyed and uninterested alongside host Ben Affleck, having already made his thoughts about SNL fairly clear at a surprise show earlier this week, announcing that he wouldn’t be doing any skits on the show (“Hell nah, I ain’t doin no motherf***ing SNL skits. This is my godd*** life. This ain’t no motherf***ing joke).

“Ladies and gentlemen, here he is, the man you came to see: Kanye West,” Ben Affleck, host of the episode, announced before Kanye launched into “Black Skinhead” (performance below). The primal screams Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter mentioned being a thing on West’s new album? He’s right, and they can be found on this atmospheric new song, which sounds to sample Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People.” “Pardon me getting my scream on,” he shouted over intense strings, driving drums and images of barking dogs. “Black Skinhead” started and ended with a stamp carrying the words “NOT FOR SALE” projected onto the back wall of the SNL stage. Following the performance, West posted a photo of the full lyrics to “Black Skinhead” on his Twitter.


Both performances had sparse lighting, the silhouettes of West’s backing musicians only vaguely present against the backdrop of a continuously-changing video screen. The trend continued on “New Slaves,” which found West sounding even angrier than he does in the recorded version premiered Friday. The song, which simultaneously references racism and consumerism, moved on with growing intensity, Kanye practically shouting the lines by the end. Watch below.


West also snuck a little something by the NBC censors, with the n-word slipping through in both songs during the east coast airing of SNL. (Both performances aired after midnight, so it’s less likely there will be fines.)

The rapper last performed on the show in October 2010, showing off “Power” and “Runaway” from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. With “Power”‘s chant of “F*** SNL and the whole cast,” one would think West wouldn’t be invited back to the comedy show all too often, and yet here he was again. “Power” and “Runaway” were two of the most talked-about musical numbers on the show in recent memory, and “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves” may just have eclipsed them.

If there was any doubt about West’s newest album, which is widely rumored to drop June 18, being downright controversial and certainly full of intrigue, his performances on SNL nixed those notions. This ain’t your happy-go-lucky Kanye West. If anything, he’s got more to say than ever before.

– Jillian Mapes & Kevin Rutherford, Radio.com


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