A slew of hip-hop stars took the stage at the Grammys on Sunday night for a high-energy performance celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.
Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah, RUN-DMC, Lil Wayne, Big Boi, Grandmaster Flash, Method Man, Public Enemy, Salt-N-Pepa and Spinderella and Busta Rhymes were among those taking part in the all-star tribute, which was produced by Questlove, who also served as musical director. Music was provided by The Roots, with Black Thought narrating.
LL Cool J introduced the performance, which came during the third hour of the live broadcast on CBS. “Questlove has curated something spectacular, a flash-forward through a half-century of one of the greatest ongoing musical stories every told,” LL Cool J said.
Starting with the birth of hip-hop in 1973, the 13-minute performance saw numerous hip-hop artists perform some of their most iconic songs. Black Thought kicked off the tribute, followed by Grandmaster Flash with Barshon, Mele Mel, Rahiem & Scorpio performing “Flash to the Beat” and “The Message.”
Run-DMC then hit the stage with “King of Rock,” followed by LL Cool J with “I Can’t Live Without My Radio,” who was then joined by DJ Jazzy Jeff (sans former rapping partner Will Smith, aka the Fresh Prince) with a snippet of “Rock the Bells.” As they performed, several names of influential hip-hop artists were projected behind them.
Salt-N-Pepa (“My Mic Sounds Nice”), Queen Latifah (“U.N.I.T.Y.”), Missy Elliot (“Lose Control”) and GloRilla “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” represented the female artists of the genre.
Other highlights included Chuck D & Flavor Flav (wearing his signature oversized clock necklace) performing “Rebel Without a Pause”; Method Man performing “Method Man” while Jay-Z rapped along in the audience (Jay-Z, in fact, visibly enjoyed the performance, with the camera cutting to him several times as he was seen smiling and dancing along with the music); and Busta Rhymes (performing with Spliff Star) receiving loud applause for performing his ultra-fast rap from “Look at Me Now.”
Other artists who took part were De La Soul (“Buddy”), Scarface (“My Mind’s Playing Tricks on Me”) , Ice-T (“New Jack Hustler (Nino’s Theme)”), Big Boi (“ATLiens” ), Nelly & City Spud (“Hot In Herre”), Too $hort (“Blow the Whistle”), Swizz Beatz & The Lox (“We Gonna Make It”), Lil Wayne (“A Milli”), Lil Baby (“Freestyle”) and Future (“F*ck Up Some Commas”).
The performance is part of Paramount Global’s initiative to honor the 50th anniversary of hip-hop; the effort also includes new and returning content offerings and other initiatives. CBS will broadcast a special hip hop music event in partnership with the Recording Academy later this year.
Immediately before the tribute, LL Cool J presented the inaugural Dr. Dre Global Impact Award to the person for which the award was named — Dr. Dre.
Accepting the award, Dr. Dre talked about how “hip-hop became a lifeline for me growing up in Compton,” which led to a “40-year career doing what I love.” He also thanked his collaborators over the years as well as those who’ve supported him throughout his life during the difficult times.
“What I love about this award is that it uses my name to inspire the next generation of producers, artists and entrepreneurs to reach for their greatness and demand that of everybody around you and never compromise your vision at all,” he said.
The Grammys took place Sunday night at the Crypto.com arena in Los Angeles. See a full list of winners here.