Lil Wayne, Missy Elliott, Run-DMC Celebrate 50 Years of Hip-Hop with 2023 Grammys Performance
The 2023 Grammys celebrated hip-hop's 50th anniversary Sunday in the best way possible — with those who shaped the genre, and those who continue to shape the genre, all joining forces on one stage.
The segment, introduced by LL Cool J and backed by The Roots — with Questlove serving as musical director and Black Thought narrating — united some of the most innovative stars in the genre, from the newly nominated GloRilla to Grammy titan Lil Wayne to the first winner of a hip-hop Grammy, DJ Jazzy Jeff.
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Before the special performance took place, Dr. Dre was honored with the inaugural Dr. Dre Global Impact Award. He spoke candidly about his influence in the genre, as well as the influence that the genre has had on him in turn.
Kevin Winter/Getty LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 05: Dr. Dre accepts the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award onstage during the 65th GRAMMY Awards at Crypto.com Arena on February 05, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
"Hip-hop became a lifeline for me as a teenager growing up in Compton," said the 57-year-old rapper and music producer, calling it an "entry point to do something I really love" and stressing how proud he was that it would "inspire the next generation."
Following his speech, a performance from 33 of the most prominent faces in the genre began with an introduction by Black Thought, and ended with a performance from Lil Uzi Vert in which they belted out the 2022 anthem, "Just Wanna Rock."
Before getting to the magical ending of the almost 10-minute salute to hip-hop, the performance included a homage to Nelly's 2002 "Hot in Herre," 1988's "My Mike Sounds Nice" by Salt-N-Pepa and Spinderella, and Busta Rhymes pairing with Spliff Star to recite all the lyrics from his featured jump into Chris Brown's 2011 single, "Look at Me Now."
The star-studded performance also included a dance break by Missy Elliot to Ciara's 2011 "1,2, Step" and a homage to classics including "Rock the Bells," "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See," and "ATliens."
Rounding up the stage of performers were Big Boi, De La Soul, Grandmaster Flash, Grandmaster Mele Mel & Scorpio/Ethiopian King, DJ Drama, Future, Ice-T, Lil Baby, Rahiem, Rakim, The Lox, Method Man, Public Enemy, Queen Latifah, RUN-DMC, Too $hort, Scarface, and Swizz Beatz.
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"For five decades, hip-hop has not only been a defining force in music, but a major influence on our culture," Harvey Mason Jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, shared when the performance was initially announced.
"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 yearlong celebration of this essential genre of music."
The segment itself was produced by Questlove, Jesse Collins, Patrick Menton, creative producer and choreographer Fatima Robinson, and Shawn Gee.
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Hip-hop's 50th anniversary will be celebrated on Aug. 11, the same day DJ Kool Herc held a back-to-school party at the Bronx's Sedgwick Avenue in 1973.
LL Cool J touched about the upcoming event before the tribute began, telling the audience: "We wish we could have included every single hip-hop artist from 1973 to 2023, but that's to be continued at a later date and time."
The Recording Academy has specifically celebrated the genre since 1989, when it presented DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (Will Smith) with the first-ever award for best rap performance, and invited them to perform the following year following their boycott in 1989.
Before the 2023 Grammy Award for best rap album went to Kendrick Lamar's Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers on Sunday, Pusha-T, one of the nominees in the prestigious category for his album It's Almost Dry, told PEOPLE in December that he first learned about his nomination from his wife, Virginia Williams.
"Hearing it back, and just bringing it back to the Grammy nomination, when I listened back to it, I'm like, 'Man, I actually did make the best rap album of the year,' " Pusha said. "Like, pure-rap album, most eventful rap album of the year. When I say rap — and I'm talking about the actual art — I actually, lyrically, murdered it."
The 2023 Grammy Awards are airing live on CBS and Paramount+ Sunday night from the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.