The 2023 Grammy Awards finally gave hip-hop its proper due in celebration of the genre’s 50th anniversary.
“We’re gonna rock the bells for the 50th anniversary of hip-hop,” said LL Cool J in the introduction.
Pioneers of the game and established newcomers alike took the coveted stage Sunday to perform in honor of hip-hop’s birth, which officially dates to Aug. 11, 1973 — when the renowned DJ Kool Herc held a party at New York City’s 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx.
Founding Def Jam Records rapper LL Cool J rightfully introduced the tribute, which was produced and directed by Questlove — and saw solo emcees and rap crews alike including Lil Wayne, De La Soul, Missy Elliott, Rakim, Nelly and Salt-N-Pepa — tear the roof off.
“Y’all think I came to play with y’all?” Busta Rhymes asked the crowd during his set, before launching into one the most rapid spitfire verses of his career, from Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now (Part III).”
Other acts onstage included: Run D.M.C., Scarface, Public Enemy, Too $hort, Ice-T, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Big Boi, Future, Grandmaster Melle Mel & Scorpio/Ethiopian King, Method Man, the Lox, Lil Baby and Queen Latifah.
Latifah stated firmly, “Hip-hop will live forever,” before Nelly launched into his most famous song, 2002’s “Hot in Herre.”
Other notable performances saw Queen Latifah perform part of “U.N.I.T.Y.” and the Lox rap a portion of “We Gonna Make It.”
“It started in the Bronx and ever since, it’s gone everywhere,” said LL Cool J to end the performance. “To the five boroughs ... for the culture.”
In a news release before the 65th Grammy Awards even kicked off, Recording Academy President Harvey Mason Jr. revealed Sunday’s hip-hop tribute at the Crypto.com arena in Los Angeles was only the beginning of things to come, however.
“For five decades, hip-hop has not only been a defining force in music, but a major influence on our culture,” he said. “Its contributions to art, fashion, sport, politics and society cannot be overstated. I’m so proud that we are honoring it in such a spectacular way on the Grammy stage.”
“It is just the beginning of our year-long celebration of this essential genre of music,” Mason Jr. continued.
For the music award show that infamously gave Macklemore a Best Rap Album trophy over Kendrick Lamar in 2014 — and presented its first hip-hop award off-air in 1989 — tonight’s tribute was a long time coming.