Fans hoping to set fire to a particularly exhausting week last Saturday were instead subjected to an incredibly unpleasant SNL season premiere. It’s hard to make scripted content that’s half as disturbing as our current lived reality, but between Matt Damon’s triggering, un-self-aware performance as an obnoxious, entitled white guy and Pete Davidson’s backlash-worthy birth control joke, SNL came impressively close. As if they were worried that their audience wouldn’t feel sufficiently uncomfortable, the powers that be over at 30 Rock enlisted Kanye West as their performance pinch hitter.
“SNL boss Lorne Michaels has said West was a last-minute replacement for Ariana Grande after the singer withdrew from her slot as the musical guest, leaving bookers in a bind,” The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon wrote. “But you know who else would probably have made themselves available for the kind of showcase SNL gives musical acts? Literally almost anybody in show business. You can’t control what Kanye West does, but you know what you’re getting when you’re booking him. So maybe don’t.”
For an artist who prides himself on his originality—a genius in a sea of ideological sheep, aka people who don’t think that slavery was a choice—Kanye West is actually fairly predictable. Aside from the truly out-of-the-box decision to perform dressed as a Perrier bottle, West played it by the book—which, in 2018, means a MAGA hat and a borderline nonsensical rant about Donald Trump. Kanye West isn’t a performance artist carrying out some inspired plot to hold a mirror up to our politically-polarized society; he’s a conservative who amplifies conservative thinkers and capes our reality TV president. Of course West put his MAGA hat on to close out the SNL premiere. And of course he delivered a diatribe, reportedly saying, “The blacks want always Democrats…you know it’s like the plan they did, to take the fathers out the home and put them on welfare…does anybody know about that? That’s a Democratic plan.”
West continued, “There’s so many times I talk to, like, a white person about this and they say, ‘How could you like Trump? He’s racist.’ Well, uh, if I was concerned about racism I would’ve moved out of America a long time ago.”
According to The New York Times, “The rapper also mentioned his long-teased presidential aspirations for 2020 and referred to the ‘one-sided’ liberal nature of the entertainment world as the SNL cast stood stoically behind him.”
During a subsequent late-night appearance, Kenan Thompson offered a cast’s-eye view of the controversial proceedings. Thompson, who didn’t join West onstage, choosing instead to watch the rapper’s last performance from the backstage monitors, categorized the incident as a “circus”.
“As soon as he said, ‘Hey, join me up onstage everybody!’ I was like, ‘Oh, there goes the little cheese in the mousetrap! It’s going down!’” he told Seth Meyers. “I felt so bad for those guys, because it’s hard to stand there and not be able to debate somebody who’s going so far against your personal opinion as well, and just stand there and take it.”
“He voiced his opinion very loudly for a long time,” Thompson concluded. “We’re all entitled to our own opinion—I don’t know if that’s the moment, necessarily to hold people hostage like that—but hey, you know!”
In a subsequent TMZ Live appearance to address the SNL backlash and explain whether or not he actually wants to repeal the 13th Amendment (yes, this is real life, and yes, The Daily Beast watched it so you don't have to), West revealed that Lorne Michaels offered him an upcoming SNL hosting gig. So don’t worry if you missed the appearance that everyone’s so angry about—turns out we’re probably going to be angry forever!
Further extending the backlash news cycle, every A-lister and their mother seemed to have an opinion on Kanye’s SNL spot. Swizz Beatz released a video addressing West, telling him, “You’ve got to stop.” My Captain America and your Chris Evans responded to a selfie of Kanye in a MAGA hat, saying, “There’s nothing more maddening than debating someone who doesn’t know history, doesn’t read books, and frames their myopia as virtue. The level of unapologetic conjecture I’ve encountered lately isn’t just frustrating, it’s retrogressive, unprecedented and absolutely terrifying.”
Candace Owens, one of West’s favorite conservatives and a woman who has criticized Black Lives Matter activists for their “victim mentality,” responded to Evans with multiple tweets and statements. She told Breitbart News that, “Chris Evans basically called Kanye West a dumb n*****.” He most certainly didn’t, but that hasn't stopped Owens from doubling down, saying that Evans sounds like a “plantation owner” and insisting that his tweet “seems to suggest that black people who don’t agree with you are ‘stupid’” (Evans did not mention race, and did not use the word stupid in his original post). Owens also challenged the actor to a debate, which is something far-right pundits do to try and make famous people pay attention to them—and so that they can insist that said busy, successful person was “scared” when they inevitably don’t take the bait.
Lana Del Rey, who famously performed at Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s wedding, also had time this weekend. She wrote an extensive Instagram comment calling out West (it even has a thesis!). “Trump becoming our president was a loss for the country but your support of him is a loss for the culture,” the pop star began. “I can only assume you relate to his personality on some level. Delusions of grandeur, extreme issues with narcissism—none of which would be a talking point if we weren’t speaking about the man leading our country. If you think it’s alright to support someone who believes it’s O.K. to grab a woman by the pussy just because he’s famous then you need an intervention as much as he does—something so many narcissists will never get because there just isn’t enough help for the issue. Message sent with concern that will never be addressed.”
Snoop Dogg came for Kanye West as well, calling him an “Uncle Tom” on Instagram (Snoop appeared to forgive West in a subsequent post). Actress and activist Alyssa Milano shared a GIF of Kanye sporting a Trump-style toupee, captioned “Make Kanye Kanye Again.”
Milano’s GIF was the final straw for Donald Trump Jr., who sensed an opportunity to finally be the one calling racist. “Shocking! It’s almost like this white liberal thinks she’s entitled to bully this black free-thinker into not being himself or believing what he wants,” Trump Jr. wrote.
Looking for a sign that you’re on the wrong side of history? Donald Trump Jr., whose past social media adventures have included mocking sexual-assault survivors and possibly admitting that he’s done crimes, is the only “celebrity” in your corner.