Kanye West made his return to the Saturday Night Live stage on Feb. 13 to promote his new album, The Life of Pablo. The rapper performed tracks like “Ultralight Beam,” which featured guests Chance the Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin, The-Dream, and El Debarge, a backing choir, and a large illuminated scrim that hung above the stage.
While the television performance seemed to go smoothly, details from behind the scenes are painting a different picture. On Monday, the New York Post‘s Page Six reported the rapper had a “meltdown” and “threatened to walk off,” according to an unnamed source. And on Wednesday, the publication posted leaked audio that purports to capture West ranting and yelling at SNL staff.
In the audio, West can be heard yelling, “Look at that s—, they took my f—— stage off SNL without asking me. I am bummed.” He went on to insult Taylor Swift and compare himself to Pablo Escobar, Pablo Picasso, and the Apostle Paul.
But a source close to Kanye West tells EW, “He did not yell at SNL staff. The audio was secretly recorded while he was venting his frustration in a private moment with his team.” The source adds that West’s stage design was “taken apart…without anyone’s approval. He had spent an entire day rehearsing and [put] a lot of hard work into the performance. Dramatic set changes were made 30 minutes before going live. It should be understandable why he was upset after being completely blindsided.”
SNL did not immediately respond to EW’s requests for comment.
While West may have been disappointed with his SNL appearance, the source says he ended the night on better terms. “Kanye was seen hugging [SNL creator and producer] Lorne Michaels just before the goodnights,” says the source. “And he stayed afterwards to chat with the staff and cast, and thanked the producers on his way out the door.”
The news comes after a few high-profile days for West. After debuting tracks from his new album at MSG in New York City on Feb. 11, the rapper was criticized for taking credit for Taylor Swift’s success in a lyric in his song “Famous.” And days earlier, he posted a series of controversial Tweets, including one that appeared to defend Bill Cosby.
Watch Kanye West’s SNL performance below: