Adding more fuel the the reignited Kanye West debate, the Chicago MC took the stage at last night’s 40th Anniversary Saturday Night Live Special and turned out a three song medley on a minimalist fluorescent set. West began the mini-set alone on stage and flat on his back, arms spread out in an obvious crucifixion pose while he rapped the opening minutes of The College Dropout‘s “Jesus Walks.” Slowly pulling himself up off the mat, West stayed crouched beneath the low lit canopy to perform roughly the first minute of his recent Paul McCartney collaboration “Only One,” before being joined by two bizarre figures.
No, those figures weren’t extras from a scrapped Blade Runner sketch, but rather Vic Mensa and Sia, who joined Ye for what appears to be the first-ever live performance of “Wolves,” the slow-burning number that was debuted last week at an Adidas show and is reported to be the first song on West’s upcoming album. As the track’s bare, menacing synth line cut the air, West and his collaborators provided a captivating image; lyrically “Wolves” is about finding a escapist high in the midst of brutal surroundings–a victorious detachment from the moment in which you’re cut to shreds–and stark contrast of West and Mensa’s dark visages against the bleak light and (yes) Sia’s wig fit the aural mood bespoke.
The performance has already become contentious, with many taking to social media to voice their take on West’s five and a half minute spot. What Kanye offered was unquestionably a jarring break from the SNL 40‘s themes of reminiscence and togetherness–a visually bizarre (but also delightfully unexpected) spectacle that dovetailed with the music. Was the reunion celebration the right place to try something different? Would Yeezy have been better off performing under conventional colored lights with a backing band? Does “Wolves” bode well for his upcoming 7th LP? Watch the NBC clip below and form your own take.