What Happened During Kanye’s BBMA Performance Last Night?

Defiant political protest or another instance of silencing a black voice?

May 18, 2015

A lot happened during Kanye's performance at last night Billboard Music Awards. First, as Kendall and Kylie Jenner introduced their brother-in-law, they were booed. Then the rapper took the stage with Allan Kingdom and Theophilus London for a rendition of "All Day," easily one of the most explosive songs of the year. When he first unveiled the song at the Brit Awards in February, he was accompanied by a slew of English rapper and two flame throwers, a visual to match the song's furious energy. Last night he upped the ante so that it looked like he was dancing around in a bonfire.

So far, so good! But as soon as Kanye got to his first verse, the audio started cutting out, and it mostly stayed out for the rest of the track. Kingdom and London eventually left the stage to let Kanye perform the Yeezus track "Black Skinhead" by himself. The audio stayed out of commission for parts of this song as well.

Initially, there were a few competing theories about what went on. The first and most obvious, recently confirmed by Billboard, is that the rapper was censored heavily. A second possibility is that his microphone didn't work.

This never made much sense, because there was some sound during the performance, and more sound during "Black Skinhead," which, relative to "All Day," features fewer words that might attract the ire of a censor. Also, there were no sound troubles earlier in the night.

NME took the theorizing one step further, suggesting that Kanye purposefully chose not to perform a clean version of "All Day" as a "a protest against the cosy culture nature of white-wash mainstream music awards and their persistent failure to recognise black artists." Radio personality Charlamagne Tha God saw the reverse: censorship as another example of mainstream music awards literally silencing black artists.

According to TMZ, a source who worked at the event said that Kanye did not do a dress rehearsal. "He's Kanye," the source added. "What are we supposed to do?"

Thumbnail Image: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

What Happened During Kanye’s BBMA Performance Last Night?