Hip-hop tribute at the Grammys was superb, but many think it was missing some artists

Lil Uzi Vert, Busta Rhymes, Flavor Flav and LL Cool J perform at the Grammy’s hip-hop tribute on Feb. 5, 2023. (Courtesy: Instagram/recordingacademy)

Hip-hop turns 50 years old this year, and the Grammys honoured the cultural milestone with a monumental performance spearheaded by the Roots frontman Questlove on Sunday.

The Recording Academy has a longstanding complicated history with hip-hop, often overlooking its astounding contributions to music and inciting serial boycotts from rap artists, dating as far back as 1989. Several rappers have taken public stances for nomination and award snubs. The Grammys have also been under fire for failing to include rap performances in the live show. 

However, for their 65th show this year, the Grammys made strides to rectify years of backlash with the direction of the Black Music Collective, an advisory group made by the Recording Academy with music industry leaders entrusted to support emerging opportunities and drive Black representation. 

The rap tribute was long enough to warrant at least one commercial break, but the performance went uninterrupted. It began with LL Cool J introducing the segment and inviting Dr. Dre to accept the new inaugural Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, before a few rap pioneers graced our screens. 

Grandmaster Flash, Barshon, Melle Mel, Rahiem, and Scorpio performed seconds worth of “Flash to the Beat” and “The Message.” Run-D.M.C. was next, then DJ Jazzy Jeff with “Rock the Bells,” and Salt-N-Pepa performed “My Mic Sounds Nice.” Rakim brought the heat before Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Flavor Flav. 

Black Thought opened the next era with LL Cool J on “El Shabazz (Skit),” then Scarface performed “My Mind’s Playing Tricks on Me,” and Queen Latifah stole our attention with fan favourite “U.N.I.T.Y.”

Next blazed Method Man and Big Boi rapping “ATLiens,” and Busta Rhymes along with Spliff Star rapped “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” and “Look at Me Now.” Then another Global Impact Award recipient, Missy Elliot, made the crowd jump with “Lose Control.”

Just when it seemed the performance was coming to an end, Nelly came through with “Hot in Herre,” then Too $hort with “Blow the Whistle,” and Swizz Beatz and the Lox on “We Gonna Make It.” 

Finally, the tribute gave us a taste of today’s rap music with Lil Baby and Glorilla performing “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” and Lil Uzi Vert mysteriously appearing with a teaser of “Just Wanna Rock.”

Although LL Cool J mentioned in his introduction it would be impossible for every artist that has contributed to the culture to share the stage, many viewers felt significant gaps were left out of the picture. 

After Nelly, who reigned in the early 2000s, rappers from 2007 to 2012 did not make an appearance. The notable gap is questionable as artists who started their careers in those years are still relevant today. Some artists who dominated the 2010s included J. Cole, Wale, Kendrick Lamar and, arguably one of the biggest artists in the world, Drake. Not to mention Nicki Minaj, who set the standard light years before Glorilla came into the picture. 

However, Nicki Minaj called the Grammys out this year, after being snubbed 10 times before, including for “Super Freaky Girl” being on voting ballots in the pop category instead of in the rap category. 

It’s commendable, however, that women weren’t left out of the tribute, as their contributions are often forgotten. However, artists like Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown, were expected by many to appear somewhere after Latifah’s rendition because they dominated the late 90s and paved the way for the rapstresses of the 2010s, including Minaj. 

Overall, viewers of the star-studded tribute are pleased by the vast representation but also voiced points of contention. 

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