Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella
5 Takeaways From Kendrick Lamar's 'Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers'
Kendrick Lamar's new album, 'Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers,' is a mixture of advantageous lyrics and surprise contributions. Here are five key details to know.
Five years ago, Kendrick Lamar unleashed DAMN., which would win him a Pulizt and cement the MC as a generational talent. With plenty of turmoil going on in America at the time, Lamar grappled with weighty topics like racism, gun violence, and religious ideation in daring and complex ways.
Now, we have Lamar's fifth and final record for Top Dawg Entertainment, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. Clocking in at more than an hour, the album marks a rare opportunity to see the Omega from Compton deliver another soul-stirring and conversation-starting opus to dissect and delve into for years to come.
As is the case with most things dealing with the man formerly known as K. Dot, details of any kind were kept hidden like Keyser Sozé in The Usual Suspect — with updates only arriving tantalizingly close to its release on May 13.
This moment is bittersweet for multiple reasons: Mr. Morale arrived only four months after Lamar performed at Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood alongside Mt. Westmore legends such as Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. But it also marks the end of an era with the Carson, California-founded label that he helped turn from an indie hip hop superpower to a dominant and culture-shifting force.
As the rollout began, it involved another installment of Lamar's popular “The Heart” series, and the album's cover reveal showed him as the father of a newborn son. It all signifies one of the most influential rappers of his generation coming into his own as an artist, entrepreneur and keen observer of this thing we call life.
With so much to unpack still regarding Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers, here are five takeaways that stood out after a few listens.
Beach Noise Now Has The Music World's Attention
Longtime listeners and day-ones can take a look at the liner notes on Mr. Morale and The Big Steppers and note a few familiar names: Boi-1da, Sounwave, DJ Dahi, and Tae Beast have laid their aural fingerprints on some of Kendrick's most cherished songs.
But the three-man team of Beach Noise — Matt Schaeffer, Johnny, and Jake Kosich — showcases the new audio adventure that Lamar and pgLang are embarking on.
As breakout producers on Baby Keem's The Melodic Blue, the trio also produced “The Heart Part 5.” The track — which does not appear on Mr. Morale — builds on a sleek, modernized reconstruction of Marvin Gaye's “I Want You” master recording and became red meat for rap fans who were reminded that only the good kid from the m.A.A.d city could create fervor like this.
Beach Noise's work serves as the centerpiece on tracks such as “United in Grief,” “Silent Hill,” and “Auntie Diaries,” which have become some of the most talked-about entries on Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers.
This Old-School Gemini Doesn't Play Around
Songs like “Control,” “King Kunta” and “Deep Water” have always hinted at how Kendrick Lamar could turn up the temperature, not just subliminally emit lyrical smoke.
Here, “Father Time” might make your ears perk up. Holding the middle spot on the first half of the album, Kendrick delved into his “old school Gemini” bag to address one of hip-hop's most engaging brouhahas between Kanye West and Drake.
“When Kanye got back with Drake, I was slightly confused/ Guess I'm not as mature as I think, got some healin' to do/ Egotistic,” he raps on the song that revolves around “grown men with daddy issues.”
The two rap titans have been at odds for years, only reconciling last December in the name of Gangster Disciple Larry Hoover. And while there's been no definitive update on whether Ye and Aubrey remain cool, Kenny sounds more surprised than incensed that the two high-level competitors were able to bury the beef, making hardcore rap fans happy to be engaged in all of the theatrics.
Mr. Morale Contains Family Ties — In More Ways Than One
The story behind Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is still being unpacked, but what is apparent from the album's cover art — it is a family affair in various unexpected ways.
From the surprising reveal of Lamar becoming a father of two; to his reported wife-to-be, Whitney Alford, credited as a narrator on “We Cry Together”; to his cousin, Baby Keem, appearing on “Savior”; it's clear that Lamar wanted Mr. Morale to be a close-knit affair.
Elsewhere on the album, Eckhart Tolle — the German spiritual teacher and author behind The Power of Now and A New Earth — serves as a narrator on multiple songs: “Count Me Out,” “Savior (Interlude)” and “Mr. Morale.”
Therein, Tolle's messages about transcendental meditation and enhancing one's essential identity help make Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers a spiritually rewarding work.
Big Steppers Arrive From Many Directions
Earlier reports about Kendrick Lamar's fifth album found many believing he would take a hard-rock edge, given how To Pimp a Butterfly merged the most powerful components of jazz and hip-hop.
But with the rapper's penchant for the unexpected, no one would have predicted a billing quite like the artist on Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. Portishead's Beth Gibbons (“Mother I Sober”) and the controversial rapper Kodak Black (“Silent Hill”) on the same LP — who would have seen that coming?
For good measure, add in rising singer/rapper/songwriter Blxst, a surprisingly effortless verse from Zola actress Taylour Paige, R&B's resident mixxy mystic Summer Walker, and a touch of veteran appeal from Ghostface Killa.
Together, they set the stage for Lamar and his pgLang stable of artists (the aforesaid Baby Keem and Tanna Leone) to fulfill grand aspirations.
Mr. Morale Rewards Repeated Listens
As with any Kendrick Lamar offering, Mr. Morale is a heady experience full of layers, lyrics, and processes that take listeners on a roller-coaster ride.
Throughout, major questions abound: Who is Mr. Morale? Why is it important to be a Worldwide Stepper? How will Kendrick's lyrics on “Auntie Diaries” impact the conversation about trans issues in America? Is he coming for Kyrie Irving on “Savior”?
On top of that, does “I am. All of us.” from “The Heart Part 5” play itself out throughout the album?
The rapper takes us on a wild ride that will require multiple playthroughs to break down — which, like the MC himself, is complicated, nuanced and always worth communing with.
Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images
10 College Courses Dedicated To Pop Stars And Music: Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny & Hip-Hop
In honor of Music in Our Schools Month, check out nine college-level music courses that dissect punk and EDM, global hip-hop culture and the discographies and careers of superstar acts like the Beatles and Harry Styles.
There’s never been a better time to be a music-loving college student.
Beginning in the mid to late aughts, an increasing number of academic institutions have begun offering courses dedicated to major music acts. In the late aughts, rap maverick Jay-Z made headlines after becoming the subject of a Georgetown University course taught by Michael Eric Dyson, a sociologist and best-selling author of Jay-Z: Made in America. In the Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z, students analyzed Hova's life, socio-cultural significance and body of work.
It's easy to see why students would be attracted to these courses — which fill up quickly and are often one-time-only offerings. The intertwining of celebrity and sociology present such fertile grounds to explore, and often make for buzzy social media posts that can be a boon to enrollment numbers. For instance, Beyhivers attending the University of Texas at San Antonio were offered the opportunity to study the Black feminism foundations of Beyoncé's Lemonade in 2016. Meanwhile, Rutgers offered a course dedicated to dissecting the spiritual themes and imagery in Bruce Springsteen's catalog.
Luckily for students clamoring to get a seat in these highly sought-after courses, institutions across the country are constantly launching new seminars and classes about famous pop stars and beloved musical genres. From Bad Bunny to Harry Styles, the following list of popular music courses features a little something for every college-going music fan.
Bad Bunny's Impact On Media
From his chart-topping hits to his advocacy work, Bad Bunny has made waves on and off stage since rising to fame in 2016. Now graduate students at San Diego State University can explore the global superstar's cultural impact in an upcoming 2023 course.
"He speaks out about Puerto Rico; he speaks out about the Uvalde shooting victims and uses his platform to raise money and help them," said Dr. Nate Rodriguez, SDSU Associate Professor of Digital Media Studies. "How does he speak out against transphobia? Support the LGBTQ community? How does all of that happen? So yes, it’s very much relevant to journalism and media studies and cultural studies. It’s all of that mixed into one."
A Deep Dive Into Taylor Swift's Lyrics
Analyzing Taylor Swift's lyrics is a favorite pastime among Swifties, so it's fitting that her work and its feminist themes have been the focus of a string of university courses over the years.
In spring 2022, the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University launched an offering focused on the "Anti-Hero" singer's evolution as an entrepreneur, race and female adolescence. The waitlisted course — the first-ever for the institution — drew loads of media attention and Swift received an honorary degree from NYU in 2022.
In spring 2023, honors students at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas can analyze the 12-time GRAMMY winner's music and career in a seminar titled Culture and Society- Taylor Swift.
Kendrick Lamar's Storytelling & The Power Of Hip-Hop
Since dropping good kid, m.A.A.d. City in 2012, Kendrick Lamar has inspired a slew of academics to develop classes and seminars around his lyrical content and storytelling, including an English class that juxtaposed his work with that of James Baldwin and James Joyce.
More recently, Concordia University announced that the 16-time GRAMMY winner will be the focus of The Power of Hip Hop, It’s Bigger Than Us, a course examining the lyrical themes of Lamar’s works, such as loyalty, fatherhood, class and racial injustice.
"No artist speaks to this ethos louder and more intricately than King Kunta, the prince of Compton, Kendrick Lamar, 10 years after good kid, m.A.A.d. City dropped," said Yassin "Narcy" Alsalman, the Montreal hip-hop artist and Concordia Professor who developed the class which launches in winter 2023. “He showed us it was okay to work on yourself in front of the world and find yourself internally, that family always comes first, that community and collective missions are central to growth and that sometimes, you have to break free."
EDM Production, Techniques, and Applications
If you dream of hearing your own EDM tracks played at a massive music festival à la Marshmello, Steve Aoki and Skrillex, this all-in-one course at Boston's Berklee College of Music has you covered. Learn about the cultural origins of the various EDM styles — like techno, trance, drum and bass and more — and the techniques that artists use to achieve these sounds.
In between thought-provoking cultural seminars, students will receive lessons on how to operate the technologies necessary to create their own EDM masterpieces, including synths, digital audio workstations (DAW) and samplers.
Harry Styles And The Cult Of Celebrity
While many celebrity-focused courses center around sociology, the Harry’s House singer/songwriter has inspired his own digital history course at Texas State University in San Marcos: Harry Styles and the Cult of Celebrity: Identity, the Internet and European Pop Culture.
Developed by Dr. Louie Dean Valencia during lockdown, the class will cover Styles’ music along with topics like gender, sexual identity and class — but the singer-songwriter’s personal life is off limits. Stylers who are lucky enough to grab a spot in this first-ever university course dedicated to their fave can expect to revisit One Direction’s catalog for homework.
"I’ve always wanted to teach a history class that is both fun, but also covers a period that students have lived through and relate to," Dr. Valencia wrote in a Twitter post. "By studying the art, activism, consumerism and fandom around Harry Styles, I think we’ll be able to get to some very relevant contemporary issues. I think it’s so important for young people to see what is important to them reflected in their curriculum."
Global Hip Hop Culture(s): Hip Hop, Race, and Social Justice from South Central to South Africa
Since its inception, hip-hop has left a lasting mark on the world, influencing language, fashion, storytelling and beyond. At the University of California Los Angeles, students can learn about how the art form has shaped young minds as they analyze the various hip-hop scenes worldwide.
As part of a mission to establish the university as a leading center for hip-hop studies, UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies launched a hip-hop initiative featuring an artist-in-residence program, digital archives, and a series of postdoctoral fellowships. Chuck D, the founder of the barrier-breaking hip-hop group Public Enemy, was selected as the first artist-in-residence.
"As we celebrate 50 years of hip-hop music and cultural history, the rigorous study of the culture offers us a wealth of intellectual insight into the massive social and political impact of Black music, Black history and Black people on global culture — from language, dance, visual art and fashion to electoral politics, political activism and more," said associate director H. Samy Alim, who is leading the initiative.
The Music Of The Beatles
With their catchy two-minute pop hits, artsy record covers, headline-making fashions and groundbreaking use of studio tech, the Fab Five are among the most influential acts in music history. It’s no surprise, then, that they are the subjects of courses in a number of colleges and universities.
Boston’s Berklee College of Music offers The Music of Beatles, which digs into the group’s body of work as well as the music they penned for other acts. Alternatively, if you’re more interested in their post-breakup works, The Solo Careers of the Beatles dives into those efforts. Meanwhile, the University of Southern California takes a look at their music, careers and impact in The Beatles: Their Music and Their Times.
Symbolic Sisters: Amy Winehouse and Erykah Badu
Whether you want to learn about craft, management, building a career, or marketing your work, the Clive Davis Institute at NYU offers an impressive curriculum for musicians and artists. With seminars focusing on the works of Prince, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, and J. Dilla, a unique duo stands out: Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse.
Framing the pair as "symbolic sisters," this two-credit seminar explores and compares how each songstress fused different genres and styles to forge a magnetic sound of their own. Winehouse rose to prominence for her retro spin on the sounds of Motown and Phil Spector and rebellious styling. A decade before "Back to Black" singer hit the mainstream, Badu — who is recognized as one of Winehouse's influences — rose to stardom thanks to her seamless blend of jazz, R&B, and hip-hop and captivating urban-bohemian style, creating a template for singers like SZA and Ari Lennox.
Selena: Music, Media and the Mexican American Experience
From ascending to the top of the male-dominated Tejano genre to helping introduce Latin music to the mainstream, Selena Quintanilla's impact continues to be felt decades after her untimely death. Artists including Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Victoria "La Mala" Ortiz, Becky G and Beyoncé cite the GRAMMY-winning "Queen of Tejano" as an influence.
Throughout the years, her legacy and cultural impact have been the focus of dozens of college courses. In 2023, Duke University continues this tradition with Selena: Music, Media and the Mexican American Experience. The course will explore the life, career and cultural impact of the beloved Tejano singer.
The Art of Punk: Sound, Aesthetics and Performance
Since emerging in the 1970s, punk rock has been viewed as a divisive, politically charged music genre. Its unique visual style — which can include leather jackets, tattoos, chunky boots and colorful hair — was absorbed into the mainstream in the '90s, where it continues to thrive (to the chagrin of hardcore punks everywhere). Over the decades, dozens of subgenres have cropped up and taken the spotlight — including riot grrrl and pop-punk — but very few have left the impact of the classic punk sound from the '70s and its anti-establishment themes.
If you're interested in learning more about the genre that inspired bands like Nirvana, check out Stanford University's The Art of Punk seminar, which explores the genre's visual and sonic origins, as well as its evolution and connections to race, class, and gender.
Meet Me @ The Altar Reveal The 4 "Badass" Female Artists Who Inspired Their Debut Album, 'Past // Present // Future'
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
The 2023 GRAMMYs Effect: Bad Bunny, Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo & More See Major Sales And Streams Boost After Record-Breaking Show
Take a look at the impressive gains that 2023 GRAMMYs winners and performers made in Spotify streams and album/song sales, from Beyoncé to Harry Styles.
The 2023 GRAMMYs weren't just historic, they were iconic — and the numbers show it.
The telecast itself saw a 30% increase in viewership, with more than 12.4 million viewers tuning into the Feb. 5 ceremony, the best ratings since 2020 per Nielsen data. In turn, several of the night's winners and performers saw major spikes in sales and streams.
Album Of The Year winner Harry Styles returned to the top 10 of the all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart, as Harry's House — which also took home the GRAMMY for Best Pop Vocal Album — earned 38,000 equivalent album units in the U.S., a 51% gain. His previous two albums, 2019's Fine Line and his 2017 self-titled debut also made gains, the former up 15% and the latter up 11%.
Kendrick Lamar and Adele also enjoyed increases in sales and streams on several albums. Lamar — who won three GRAMMYs this year, including Best Rap Album for Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers — had a 20% gain for his fifth LP, as well as a 26% gain for 2015's To Pimp a Butterfly, 11% for 2017's DAMN., and 6% for 2012's good kid, m.A.A.d city.
Adele's 30 had a 25% increase in equivalent album units, while her 2015 album 25 went up 14% and 2011 release 21 went up 10%. (30's lead single, "Easy On Me," earned Adele her fifth GRAMMY for Best Pop Solo Performance — a record in the category.)
After Beyoncé made GRAMMY history at the 2023 ceremony with her 32nd win, her Best Dance/Electronic Music Album-winning RENAISSANCE made a huge jump. The album earned 37,000 equivalent album units, up 109%, helping Bey move from No. 24 to No. 11 on the Billboard 200.
Rising jazz star Samara Joy also had a monumental night, scoring the coveted GRAMMY for Best New Artist. As a result, her 2022 album, Linger Awhile, made its debut on the Billboard 200, with an equivalent album units gain of 319% and a 5,800% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S. The project also hit No. 1 on the Jazz Albums, Traditional Jazz Albums and Heatseekers Albums charts for the first time, as well as the top 10 of the Top Album Sales and Top Current Album Sales charts.
Blues great Bonnie Raitt's win for Song Of The Year (for her 2022 track "Just Like That") served as one of the night's biggest surprises, but also served as a catalyst for some serious streams and sales success. The song spiked from about 10,000 daily on-demand streams in the U.S. on Feb. 3 to 697,000 the day after the GRAMMYs (Feb. 6) — a gain of around 6,700% — according to Luminate. The song's sales were even better, gaining more than 10,000% on Feb. 6; the rest of Raitt's discography also climbed 161%, from 333,000 on-demand U.S. streams on Feb. 3 to 869,000 on Feb. 6.
Most of the 2023 GRAMMYs performers also celebrated sales and streams increases post-telecast. Show opener Bad Bunny saw gains on his GRAMMY-winning albumUn Verano Sin Ti (up 16%), as well as his 2020 albums YHLQMDLG (up 11%) and El Ultimo Tour del Mundo (up 8%). One of the songs Bad Bunny performed, Un Verano Sin Ti single "Despues de la Playa," also saw a 100% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S. in the hour following the telecast.
Lizzo delivered a soaring medley of her Record Of The Year-winning smash "About Damn Time" and the title track from her AOTY-nominated LP Special, the latter of which saw a 260% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S. after the show. Special also moved 11,000 equivalent album units, up 52%.
Steve Lacy won his first GRAMMY in the Premiere Ceremony, Best Progressive R&B Album for his album Gemini Rights. He also took the GRAMMYs stage for a sultry rendition of his hit "Bad Habit," all helping Lacy see a 16% increase in equivalent album units for Gemini Rights.
Sam Smith and Kim Petras also celebrated a historic win at the 2023 GRAMMYs, taking home Best Pop Duo/Group performance for their viral hit "Unholy" — marking the first win in the category by a trans woman. That moment, combined with the pair's risqué performance, helped the song see an almost 80% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S.
The heartfelt In Memoriam segment catalyzed stream increases, the biggest coming from Quavo's "Without U," which he sang in tribute to his late Migos bandmate and nephew Takeoff; the song jumped 890% in U.S. streams following the show. Fleetwood Mac's "Songbird," which Mick Fleetwood, Bonnie Raitt, and Sheryl Crow sang in honor of late Fleetwood Mac member Christine McVie, experienced an almost 100% increase in U.S. streams.
In other U.S. Spotify stream gains for performers, Harry Styles' "As It Was," saw a more than 75% increase; Brandi Carlile's "Broken Horses" saw a more than 2,700% increase; DJ Khaled's star-studded "God Did" (featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and John Legend) saw a more than 650% increase; Mary J. Blige's "Good Morning Gorgeous" saw a more than 390% increase.
Streaming numbers are from DKC News, a PR representative of Spotify.
12 Classic Moments From The 2023 GRAMMYs, From The Heartwarming To The Surreal
Photo: JC Olivera/WireImage
How Kendrick Lamar's 2023 GRAMMYs Wins Bolstered His GRAMMYs Legacy
The wildly talented rapper won golden gramophones in three rap categories for Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers and "The Heart Part 5." But as far as the GRAMMYs are concerned, that's just the tip of the iceberg.
When Kendrick Lamar stepped on stage at the 2023 GRAMMYs to receive his golden gramophone for Best Rap Album, he didn't strike a note of bravado or bluster — but of humility.
"First and foremost, I want to thank my family for giving me the courage and vulnerability to share these stories and share my truth with this album," Lamar told the audience at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, referring to Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers' plethora of raw-nerve confessionals.
"As artists, we're all entertainers — stupid, you know — and we say things to provoke thoughts and feelings and emotions," he continued. "This was one of my toughest records to make, and it allowed me to do that — and to share other people's experiences."
That Lamar could hit both artistic goalposts — bare his deepest vulnerabilities, fears and insecurities and channel them into daring and forward-thinking music — speaks to his utter magnitude as an artist. But there's a third component; for his trouble, Lamar was honored by the world's leading society of music professionals — for a staggering 17th time.
Since Lamar won his first golden gramophones for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song for To Pimp a Butterfly's "I" at the 2015 GRAMMYs, he's steadily built a GRAMMYs legacy in parallel with his unstoppable creative evolution.
Naturally, Lamar is a steady presence in the rap categories — with his win for Best Rap Performance at the 2023 GRAMMYs for non-album single "The Heart Part 5," he extended his lead as the most awarded artist in that category with six.
But as nominations go, he's consistently burst past the rap categories and into the General Field. This put him in a league of rappers as bona fide superstars, alongside the likes of Jay-Z, who's been nominated for General Field categories for decades, and Drake, who received an Album Of The Year nomination in 2014 for his feature on Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d city.
Another component of Lamar's GRAMMY legacy is his malleability; he hasn't only been nominated for GRAMMYs for his universally acclaimed releases, but those in collaboration with other artists, and on soundtracks. At the 2019 GRAMMYs, Lamar was nominated for Album Of The Year for the Black Panther soundtrack — which he curated and executive produced — as well as Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year for the SZA-featuring lead single, "All the Stars."
Finally — and most eye-grabbingly — Lamar has delivered at least a couple of the most unforgettable GRAMMY performances of all time, At the 2016 GRAMMYs, his literally fiery one-two salvo of "The Blacker the Berry" and "Alright" got the whole world talking. Two years later, Lamar performed a politically charged medley of "XXX," "DNA," and Jay Rock's "King's Dead," studded with military imagery and blazes of gunfire.
Lamar's latest golden gramophones have only added fuel to the rapper's boundless ascent. And with material as uncompromising and vulnerable as "The Heart Part 5" and Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, these GRAMMY wins show that courage can truly pay off.
How Hip-Hop Took Over The 2023 GRAMMYs, From The Golden Anniversary To God Did
Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for the Recording Academy
How Hip-Hop Took Over The 2023 GRAMMYs, From The Golden Anniversary To 'God Did'
It's the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, but the 2023 GRAMMYs celebrations didn't stop at the epic, MC-saturated blowout. Here are five ways the genre took over Music's Biggest Night.
The 2023 GRAMMYs' ambitious, world-beating tribute to hip-hop's 50th anniversary is getting a lot of ink — for a very good reason.
Featuring an ensemble ranging from progenitors like Grandmaster Flash and Run-DMC, to legends such as Too Short and Missy Elliott, and modern-day practitioners like Lil Baby, GloRilla and Lil Uzi Vert, the tribute segment was stunning not only on a logistical level, but on conceptual, emotional and historical planes.
But the Recording Academy's tribute to this landmark in time wasn't siphoned off to that 15-minute segment — not even close. In fact, the entirety of Music's Biggest Night radiated with the courageous, intrepid, forward-thinking spirit of hip-hop.
The tribute performance was just one of many nods to rap during GRAMMY week. Days before, Lil Wayne, Missy Elliott and Dr. Dre were honored by the Recording Academy’s Black Music Collective in a ceremony that contained performances by Snoop Dogg, 2 Chainz and Ciara. And the pre-GRAMMY gala featured a performance from Weezy, Latto and Lil Baby.
At Music’s Biggest Night, the hip-hop love roared fully to life. Here are five ways hip-hop took over the 2023 GRAMMYs, a foreshadowing of an entire year in celebration of the epochal artform — with the extended hip-hop tribute as a springboard.
GloRilla performing at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Photo: Getty Images for the Recording Academy
A Global Hip-Hop Rager For The Ages
Until Music's Biggest Night, to fit hip-hop's evolution and essence into 15 minutes would seem logistically untenable. But the Academy did the impossible.
The Questlove-curated set moved lightning-quick from '70s and '80s pioneers, to 2000s radio dominators like Nelly, all the way to the current era.
Like with the last Super Bowl's ensemble cast of rap greats, the result was emotionally walloping, historically edifying and visually spectacular.
Most importantly, the music was exceptional — a tip of the hat to a precious form of American expression. To anyone who still subscribes to some form of stigma — you don't know what you're missing.
The Rap Categories Contained Serious Jewels
Let's take a step back, though, and examine the 2023 GRAMMYs' hip-hop nominees and winners themselves.
Kendrick Lamar was well-represented in both the General and Rap fields, and commensurately for Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers and Lamar's non-album single "The Heart Pt. 5."
For the former, Lamar won Best Rap Album; for the latter, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. With the success of "The Heart Pt. 5," he is now the most-awarded artist in the latter category.
Together, these offerings comprise something of a creative and emotional watershed for Lamar. As for Pusha T, It's Almost Dry — nominated for Best Rap Album — contained some of his most crystal-sharp coke raps to date.
Plus, the sheer range of guests on DJ Khaled's GOD DID — nominated for Best Rap Album — could be the ultimate testament to his indomitable spirit, curatorial acumen and infectious sense of largesse.
This also applies to fellow nominees from Future, who won Best Melodic Rap Performance for "WAIT FOR U," to Jack Harlow, who was nominated liberally throughout the Rap field.
Given the level of craft throughout, hip-hop isn't just ripe to be celebrated for its past, but for its boundless future.
Dr. Dre Was Presented With A Global Impact Award
At the 2023 GRAMMYs, seven-time GRAMMY winner Dr. Dre was the recipient of the inaugural Dr. Dre Global Impact Award for his multitude of achievements through his innovative, multi-decade career.
Dr. Dre was presented the award after a plethora of televised bona fides, and offered his thanks to the Recording Academy and Black Music Collective for the prestigious honor in light of the Recording Academy's celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.
A tribute to Takeoff during the 2023 GRAMMYs. Photo: Getty Images for the Recording Academy
Quavo Performed A Moving Tribute To The Late Takeoff
There's a bittersweetness to celebrating hip-hop on a global scale in 2023, as so many of its best and brightest have died far too young in recent years.
Among these tragedies was the senseless death of Takeoff, one-third of the family-bound rap trio Migos, along with Offset and Quavo.
Read More: Remembering Takeoff: Why The Unassuming Rapper Was Foundational To Migos
As part of the In Memoriam segment, backed by worship ensemble Maverick City Music, Quavo honored his late nephew with a soul-searing version of "Without You."
"Tears rollin' down my eyes / Can't tell you how many times I cried," he rapped before an empty microphone stand, poignantly hung with Takeoff's chain. "Days ain't the same without you / I don't know if I'm the same without you."
John Legend, Fridayy, and DJ Khaled performing at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
DJ Khaled & Company Closed The Curtain With "GOD DID"
At the end of the ceremony, DJ Khaled brought out collaborators Jay-Z, John Legend, Lil Wayne, Fridayy, and Rick Ross for a rendition of GOD DID's title track, which was nominated for Song Of The Year, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance.
Seated horizontally in an opulent, Last Supper-esque tableau, the stars sang their hooks while bathed in purple light, closing out the 2023 GRAMMYs with laconic flair.
It was a fitting conclusion to Music's Biggest Night, one that placed hip-hop where it belongs: on the top shelf.
2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Winners & Nominees List