SNL first show of 2014 featured not only Drake, the Degrassi star-turned-most charismatic rapper in the game, as host AND musical guest, but two new black female writers and the first black female performer since Maya Rudolph left the show in 2007. Her name is Sasheer Zamata.
Zamata’s presence was refreshing and she appeared in several sketches, but let’s be honest, it was Drake’s night and Drake delivered in just about every way imaginable. He impersonated Alex Rodriguez, Lil Wayne, a lame dad, Jay Z, a Disney World “Indiana Jones Experience” hype man, a delinquent poet with a predilection for older women and more. He’s also a pretty good rapper. Here’s some of the best of what went down on Saturday night.
5. Drake’s Bar Mitzvah
Drake’s monologue featured a flashback to the half black/half Jewish rapper’s Bar Mitzvah, which was basically an excuse to trot out as many black and Jewish stereotypes as five minutes could handle. For example, a Woody Allen caricature of a Jewish uncle gives Drake an $18 savings bond, while Keenan Thompson’s black uncle gives him a check for $1,000 (but he can’t cash it for 90 days). It wrapped up with Drake rapping about some of the hallmarks of his mixed heritage, like celebrating Hanukkah while dating Rihannika.
4. Drake Rapping a Request for Lorne Michaels to Take it to Commercial Break So He Could Get Down With Jhene Aiko
There’s probably about a 40% chance that Drake and “Hold On We’re Going Home”/”From Time” guest performer Jhene Aiko got it on backstage during the commercial break after the second musical interlude of the night. Bathed in blue light, the pair serenaded each other with greater and greater intensity until, inches from her face, Drake sweetly rapped “Tell Lorne to take it to commercial break, love / So we can make love,” followed by Aiko doubling over in smitten laughter. Actually, 40% might be too low. Moments like this are why we love Drake.
3. Sasheer Zamata
It was the first show for SNL’s newest cast member, and Sasheer was all over the screen from start to finish. She played a high school friend of 2 Chainz, someone who couldn’t keep their New Year’s resolutions, a middle schooler annoyed at her dad during a slumber party, a dancing Rihanna and more. They were mostly bit parts, but her talent was clear her presence made you wonder how SNL went without a black female cast member for so long.
2. Drake’s Musical Performances, in General
For how dynamic Drake was during sketches, his performances with the mic in his hand were just as captivating. I guess that probably makes sense considering that’s what he does for a living. Before he made Jhene Aiko swoon under blue light, he gave a more fiery, red-tinted solo performance of “Started From The Bottom,” carefully navigating his way around bleep-able words like a network TV veteran.
1. Before They Were Stars
Hosted by Sway (who black people know from “The Wake Up Show” and white people know from the hat), this sketch looked back at hip hop stars’ pre-rapping careers as actors. We saw Taran Killam playing Eminem on Felicity, Sasheer Zamata staring the camera down as Rihanna on a Barbados version of Blossom called B’Lossom, Rick Ross as a Teletubby, Drake’s Jay Z doing science experiments, Flavor Flav as the Wonder Years voiceover guy, 2 Chainz in Disney’s That’s So 2 Chainz and, most memorable of all, Drake imitating Lil Wayne’s days playing Steve Urkel on Family Matters.