JAY-Z Celebrates Colin Kaepernick & Bares His Soul In 2 SNL Performances (Video)

Last night, JAY-Z, along with host Ryan Gosling, helped kick off the 43rd season of Saturday Night Live. While Jay is no stranger to the SNL stage, this was the first time he performed music from his recent 4:44 album before a national TV audience, and he made the most of his 2 performances.

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For his first song, Jay was joined by Damian Marley, for a performance of his song “BAM.” In interviews, the Brooklyn MC has cited the song as one of the few on the album where he took on a straight-forward cadence in order to remind onlookers that he is still one of the best MCs in the game. Despite Jay rhyming “And I don’t wear jerseys I’m thirty plus / Give me a crisp pair of jeans ni**a, button ups,” in 2003 on his song “What More Can I Say,” Jay rocked a black jersey with intention, during the performance. Bearing the number 7, there was nothing particularly noticeable about the shirt, until Jay casually turned around midway through the song to reveal the words “Colin K” on the back. It was a subtle but clear nod to quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has managed to dominate discourse about the NFL this year, despite not being signed to a team.

As spirited as Jay’s first performance was, his second was correspondingly subdued. The man who walked onto the dimly-lit stage containing nothing but a microphone was not JAY-Z, but Shawn Carter. With his eyes closed during the entire song, Carter performed the title song to his most recent album. According to Jay, his album began and was centered around the song that came to him in the wee hours of the morning when he awakened at 4:44am to record it. More than a record, the song plays like an open diary in which Jay documents his transgressions in his marriage and apologizes to his wife, Beyonce.

The performances offered a glimpse into what fans can expect as JAY-Z embarks on his national tour for 4:44.