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

Jonah Valdez, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES — Once shunned by the Recording Academy, the 2023 Grammy Awards paid homage to 50 years of hip-hop history on Sunday with performances by influential artists from the genre’s past, present and future.

LL Cool J, who in 1989 boycotted the awards show along with other high-profile rappers when the Recording Academy didn’t televise its first rap award, led Sunday’s 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 punchy snippet of their 1982 single “The Message.”

Joining them for other performances were big names from 1980s hip-hop, such as Run-DMC, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Public Enemy, and Ice T, the latter of whom is often considered “the godfather of gangsta rap.”

Major acts who gained fame in the 1990s were also on hand, with a strong New York City and East Coast contingent, including Busta Rhymes with Spliff Star, De La Soul, Method Man of the Wu Tang Clan, Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa, the Lox, and Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott. Also among the 1990s artists was Houston’s Scarface and the Bay Area’s Too Short.

As Method Man spit bars during the performance, Jay-Z was seen in the crowd bobbing his head, smiling and rapping the lyrics. DJ Khaled also nodded approvingly, at one point lifting and waving a lighter during Busta Rhymes’ performance, before the Brooklyn legend launched into one of his signature rapid-fire deliveries.


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

“At the end of the night I might have Obama-gray hair,” Questlove — whose real name is Ahmir Khalib Thompson — jokingly told E! correspondent Laverne Cox on the Grammys red carpet. “This is 14-year-old Ahmir bringing his jukebox of what he was listening to as a kid. But it’s also all-encompassing because it’s from my generation, from future generations, from Gen Z. Everybody’s all included, so this ... is a special moment.”

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

“The first day of rehearsals, it was a nothing but a love fest,” he said in a press release. “It was DMC gushing over Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five ... It’s a family reunion.”


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