Hip-hop greats unite to salute the genre’s 50th anniversary at the 2023 Grammys

Once rejected by the Recording Academy, Hip-hop was honored Sunday at the 2023 Grammy Awards with a tribute celebrating 50 years of the genre, with performances by influential artists from its past, present and future.

LL Cool J, who in 1989 boycotted the awards show along with other high-profile rappers when the academy didn’t televise his first rap award, led the Sunday night all-star salute.

Hip-hop pioneers Grandmaster Flash, Grandmaster Melle Mel and Rahiem of Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five burst onto the stage with a powerful snippet from their 1982 single “The Message.”

They were joined for other performances by big names in 1980s hip-hop including Run-DMC, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Public Enemy and Ice T, the latter of whom is often considered “the godfather of gangsta rap.” .

The major acts that rose to fame in the 1990s were also in attendance, with a strong contingent from New York City and the East Coast, including Busta Rhymes with Spliff Star, De La Soul, Method Man of the Wu Tang Clan, Rakim , Salt-N-Pepa , Lox and Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott. Artists of the 1990s also included Scarface from Houston and Too Short from the Bay Area.

As Method Man spat out bars during the performance, Jay-Z was seen in the crowd shaking his head, smiling, and rapping the lyrics. DJ Khaled also nodded in approval, at one point picking up and waving a lighter during Busta Rhymes’ performance, before the Brooklyn legend launched into one of his signature fast pitches.

Representing the 2000s were artists Nelly, Outkast’s Big Boi, and DJ Drama. Representing the 2010s and present were Swizz Beatz, Lil Wayne, Lil Baby, Lil Uzi Vert and GloRilla.

“By the end of the night, I could have Obama’s gray hair,” Questlove, whose real name is Ahmir Khalib Thompson, jokingly told E! correspondent Laverne Cox on the red carpet at the Grammys. “This is 14-year-old Ahmir bringing his jukebox with what he listened to as a child. But he’s also all-encompassing because he’s from my generation, from future generations, from Generation Z. Everyone is included, so this…is a special moment.”

Leading up to the performance, Questlove, who along with his band The Roots, produced and curated the performance, called hip-hop “a driving force in music and culture” that has had an “immeasurable impact on our culture and our world.

“The first day of rehearsals, it was nothing more than a love fest,” he said in a press release. “It was DMC excited about Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five… It’s a family reunion.”

The Recording Academy didn’t always value hip-hop. In 1989, the Grammys did not televise the rap award show. “If they don’t want us, we don’t want them,” Salt-N-Pepa said that year, while boycotting the show. Despite the omission, the following year a rap album spent the most weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, The Times’ LZ Granderson wrote recently in a column celebrating the genre’s 50th anniversary.

“That’s because the sound came from a people whose voices could never be silenced,” Granderson wrote, tracing the birth of hip-hop to DJ Kool Herc’s house parties at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx in 1973. “It’s which is why black music is described as having an ‘uncapturable spirit’ in the ‘1619 Project’ docuseries. Hip-hop may be 50 years old, but its lineage goes back much further.”

The importance of the night did not go unnoticed by the pioneers of the genre.

“The Grammys didn’t even respect hip-hop for that long, and now to be here, to be honored like this, we’re going to accept it, absolutely,” Ice T told People correspondents Jeremy Parsons and Janine Parsons on the red carpet. rubinstein.

“Think about it, it has come full circle, from now being recognized at the Grammys to now having our own moment, to celebrate 50 years of what I like to call ‘The best music on the planet’”, Nelly. , who performed on Sunday night, also told People on the red carpet.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Queen Latifah told Cox and E! on the red carpet before also joining the performance. “We had to fight our way to the Grammys for quite some time, so it’s great to be here to celebrate this in front of the whole world with people who were my mentors.”

Public Enemy’s Flava Flav, who appeared with one of his iconic chains and also performed on Sunday, exclaimed on the red carpet: “This is for all those who said hip-hop wouldn’t last!”

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