Kanye West fans excited to see the rapper close the 2015 Billboard Music Awards could be forgiven for thinking their TVs were on the fritz.
West opened his two-song set with a pyrotechnic-filled performance of “All Day” from his upcoming album, Swish. Flanked by two hypemen, the appearance was an stripped-down yet still extravagant version of the song’s debut live performance at the BRIT Awards in February, which saw the rapper appear with dozens of crew members and U.K. rappers. West then segued into Yeezus standout “Black Skinhead” before ending his five-minute appearance.
On Sunday night, though, what the rapper lost in hypemen he gained in unheard lyrics, as ABC censored more than a minute of the performance, leaving some viewers to wonder if the sound had cut out. West was onstage for 5 minutes and 18 seconds, though sound was only available to home viewers for 4 minutes and 16 seconds of his set.
The performance was reminiscent of the 2010 Grammys, when Eminem, Drake, Lil Wayne and Travis Barker found their performance of Wayne’s “Drop the World” and Drake’s “Forever” nearly muted by a trigger-happy network censor.
The performance closed a three-hour show that also saw Taylor Swift debut her all-star video for “Bad Blood.” Selena Gomez, Kendrick Lamar, Jessica Alba, Lena Dunham, Ellie Goulding, Hayley Williams and others in Swift’s circle appeared in the dark, action-packed video, which featured girl gangs, Tron-style motorcycles, kickboxing and a city on fire.
On Tuesday, a rep for West issued a statement on behalf of the rapper, claiming West was “grossly over-censored” and his performance “seriously misrepresented.”
“Kanye West was grossly over-censored at the Billboard Music Awards,” the rep wrote. “Non-profane lyrics such as ‘with my leather black jeans on’ were muted for over 30-second intervals. As a result, his voice and performance were seriously misrepresented. It is ridiculous that in 2015, unwarranted censorship is something that artists still have to fight against.
“Although West was clearly set up to face elements beyond his control during the live broadcast, he would like to apologize to the television audience who were unable to enjoy the performance the way he envisioned.”