Grandmaster Flash, Run-D.M.C., Queen Latifah, and More Icons Celebrate 50 Years of Hip-Hop at the Grammys

Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, Ice-T, and Queen Latifah, were among the dozens of icons throughout the history of hip-hop performing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the genre during the 65th annual Grammy Awards.

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Curated by The Roots’ Questlove, who is working on a documentary on legendary hip-hop producer J Dilla, the segment started with LL Cool J introducing the genre and the story that would unfold through each performance. 

“It’s a story that all began on August 11, 1973, when DJ Cool Curt was DJing a party for his sister Cindy in a rec room on Central Avenue in the Bronx [New York] and played the break beats that kickstarted a global musical revolution,” said Cool J. “Now, 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 massive, all-star medley featured dozens of hip-hop luminaries sampling their hits and was split into three parts, opening with Black Thought narrating the story of hip-hop starting at the beginning with Grandmaster Flash (and the Furious Five’s) 1984 song, “Flash to the Beat” and the rapper’s “The Message” along with Barshon, Melle Mel, Rahiem, and Scorpio, leading into Run-D.M.C.’s Rev. Run and Darryl McDaniels performing their 1985 classic “King of Rock.”

Other performers included Big Boi, Busta Rhymes with Spliff Star, De La Soul, DJ Drama, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Future, GloRilla, Grandmaster Mele Mel & Scorpio/Ethiopian King, Rahiem, Rakim, Scarface, Swizz Beatz and Too $hort Lil Baby, Lil Wayne, The Lox, Method Man, Nelly and more.

Dressed in matching red leather pants and jacket and a boom box, LL Cool went into this 1985 song, “I Can’t Live Without My Radio.”

DJ Jazzy Jeff spun “Rock the Bells,” and Salt-N-Pepa with DJ Spinderella performed their 1986 song “My Mic Sounds Nice.” Moving along, Rakim rapped to his “Eric B Is President” from 1986, before Chuck D and Flavor Flav performed their It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back track, “Rebel Without A Pause.”

Queen Latifah sang her 1993 hit “U.N.I.T.Y.,” while Busta Rhymes flipped into “Look at Me Now” and his propeller-fast rapping. Missy Elliot also performed her 2005 hit “Lose Control.”

The performance also gave nods to some artists who were not in attendance, including a Beastie Boys T-Shirt donned during Run-D.M.C.’s performance. 

Prior to the performance, Dr. Dre picked up the new Global Impact Award in partnership with the Black Music Collective and the Recording Academy.

“I’m extremely moved by this award,” said Dre during his acceptance speech. “Everybody probably knows this already but this is the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. Where would I be without it? To be honest, hip-hop became a lifeline for me as a teenager growing up in Compton, and it started with a song called ‘The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel’ [1981].”

He added, “The scratching and mixing on the turntables had me hooked and became the entry point to a 40-year career of doing something that I really love. Inspiration is one of my favorite words, and as a creative, it’s what I’m always in search of, and I hope to leave behind long after I’m gone.”

Future recipients of the Grammy honor will receive the award as the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award.

“What I love about this award is that it uses my name to inspire the next generation of producers, artists, and entrepreneurs, to reach for their greatness, and demand that for everybody around you,’ said Dre. “Never compromise your vision at all—crystal quality, over quantity. And remember that everything is important. That is one of my models. Everything’s important.”

Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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