Grandmaster Flash, LL Cool J, Lil Wayne, and More Honor Hip-Hop 50 at VMAs

As the latest of several recent performances and shows honoring hip-hop’s 50-year anniversary in 2023, MTV’s Video Music Awards welcomed many of the genre’s finest figures to the stage on Tuesday (September 12) for a remarkable set. First, though, the performers were introduced by current rap stars Metro Boomin, Swae Lee, NAV, and A Boogie wit da Hoodie, who had just wrapped up a performance of their own for their June 2023 song “Calling.”

Videos by American Songwriter

“Over the years, MTV and hip-hop have had major history together,” the foursome said in unison. “From the days of Yo MTV Raps! to countless iconic performances. We’ve been celebrating hip-hop music all night long, but now in honor of the 50th anniversary, we’ve got something extra special. A performance from true pioneers and the biggest icons of the genre, let’s get it!”

To open the set, the camera panned to Grandmaster Flash doing a signature record scratch at a DJ table, leading into the rest of the Furious Five rapping along to their classic hit “The Message.” This soon transitioned into Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick hopping on stage to perform their 1985 hit single “The Show,” as the latter donned his trademark eyepatch with a chic green and purple outfit.

Following this, Nicki Minaj emerged from backstage, fresh off not only emceeing the VMAs but also performing earlier and winning the award for Best Hip-Hop. This time, though, she would rap her beloved 2009 breakout hit “Itty Bitty Piggy,” along with her single from March titled “Red Ruby Da Sleeze,” expected to land on her forthcoming album Pink Friday 2.

[RELATED: American Songwriter’s Top 50 Rappers, One for Each Year of Hip-Hop]

Toward the end of her portion of the performance, Minaj would help welcome her mentor Lil Wayne, who had also graced the stage earlier in the award show to rap songs like “Uproar” and his latest single “Kat Food.” To celebrate Hip-Hop 50, though, Wayne would give the attendees a rendition of his all-time fan-favorite hit “A Milli,” highlighted by fierce lyrics like I’m a Young Money millionaire.

Next, the performance would rewind back to the 20th century once more, welcoming LL Cool J and Run-DMC’s Darryl “DMC” McDaniels. To kick off the final part of the performance, Cool J would rap two of his most popular hits “I’m Bad” (1987) and “Mama Said Knock You Out” (1990). Then, he would bring DMC into the fold, making sure to give him his flowers first,

“50 years of hip-hop, it’s time for one-third of the great group that knocked down the walls for all of us,” Cool J said to the crowd. “DMC from Run-DMC!”

DMC would finish off the epic set with a performance of his group’s “Rock Box,” as well as Run-DMC’s legendary Aerosmith collaboration “Walk This Way” (1986), as he and Cool J were joined by the rest of the performance’s participants on stage.

Watch clips from the Hip-Hop 50 tribute at the VMAs below.

Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for MTV

Leave a Reply

Taylor Swift Takes Home Video of the Year for “Anti-Hero” at the VMAs