Kendrick Lamar‘s new single “i” evangelizes a gospel of revolutionary self-love, and West Coast rap’s self-crowned King of New York more than justified his royal pride this weekend in his second stint as Saturday Night Live‘s musical guest. But he also spread the love, both to his onstage guests and a fallen hip-hop legend.
Lamar’s characteristically intense, generous performance of “i” relied on a full band and backup singers to deliver the track’s bluesy, Isley Brothers-interpolating funk-rock, and he reprised his Thom Yorke-rivaling dance from the “i” video. Throughout it all, though, Lamar wore unsettling black contact lenses and had his hair half-braided. The look, as MTV notes, came as K.dot performed on what would’ve been Wu-Tang Clan icon Ol’ Dirty Bastard‘s 46th birthday, and it combined with spasmodic motions reminiscent of O.D.B.’s “Brooklyn Zoo” or “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” videos to pay a worthy tribute.
Lamar’s new album, the follow-up to 2012′s good kid, m.A.A.d. city, is expected soon — he recently said his 10-year-old brother already has a copy — but he didn’t use the SNL stage to debut new material. Instead, Canadian singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk belted from behind a piano to introduce “Pay for It,” a new single from Lamar’s Black Hippy associate Jay Rock that features the “i” MC.
The first new SNL episode since Prince two weeks ago was a music-filled one. Lamar appeared in a “Tarts and Old Farts” sketch sending up the recent trend of duets albums; he dueted with Taran Killam’s Barry Manilow, and other pairings included Aretha Franklin with Robyn, Elton John with Blue Ivy Carter and Lionel Richie with Ariana Grande.
Host Woody Harrelson, in addition to performing a “Campfire Song,” brought out his Hunger Games co-stars to take on Taylor Swift‘s 1989, replacing the lyrics with his own fuzzy memories of the year he first appeared on SNL. “Thought I met Margaret Thatcher,” the True Detective co-star sang, to the tune of “Blank Space,” “but it was Saddam Hussein.”
Watch it all below.