meta-scriptWhy Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Same Love" Was One Of The 2010s' Most Important LGBTQ+ Anthems — And How It's Still Impactful 10 Years On | GRAMMY.com
Why Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Same Love" Was One Of The 2010s' Most Important LGBTQ+ Anthems — And How It's Still Impactful 10 Years On
L-R: Macklemore, Mary Lambert, Madonna, Ryan Lewis and Queen Latifah after performing "Same Love" at the 2014 GRAMMYs

Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

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Why Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Same Love" Was One Of The 2010s' Most Important LGBTQ+ Anthems — And How It's Still Impactful 10 Years On

As "Same Love" turns 10, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' collaborators revisit the song's powerful impact, from lyrics that support gay marriage to a mass wedding at the 2014 GRAMMYs.

GRAMMYs/Jul 21, 2022 - 10:09 pm

When Mary Lambert recorded the chorus of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Same Love" in early 2012, she was working three jobs. An aspiring singer/songwriter on the side, Lambert landed the feature through her peer in Seattle's art scene, Hollis Wong-Wear, who had worked with Macklemore and Lewis on their track "White Walls." It was a big opportunity for Lambert, as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were coming off of a No. 1 hit with 2011's "Can't Hold Us." But more importantly, she was able to provide her voice to one of the decade's biggest LGBTQ+ anthems.

"Same Love" — a call to action to support marriage equality — was released in July of 2012, nearly three years before same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide. It became a radio hit around summer 2013, when the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down. While songs like Madonna's "Express Yourself" or Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" have long been hailed as Pride anthems, "Same Love" was one of the first mainstream hits to outwardly vocalize support for LGBTQ+ rights and marriage equality, and to condemn stereotypes attributed to people of the community.

Macklemore was partially inspired by his gay uncle, who is mentioned in the song's first verse, when writing "Same Love." But he felt particularly inclined to write the song upon reading about a teenager who killed himself after being bullied for his sexuality, he revealed in a 2013 interview with New York Times.

"I just wanted to hold myself accountable," Macklemore said, "and hold hip-hop accountable and bring up an issue that was being pushed under the rug."

Lambert, then 22, had a different personal connection to "Same Love," as she came out as a lesbian when she was 17. (She alludes to her sexuality in the chorus, in which she sings, "And I can't change/ Even if I tried/ Even if I wanted to/ My love, my love, my love/ She keeps me warm.") While she wasn't sure how the song would be received, Lambert knew she was part of something special — so special, in fact, that she told her three bosses that she may need Sundays off during awards season.

Her instinct was right: "Same Love" was nominated for Song Of The Year at the 2014 GRAMMY Awards, where Lambert — alongside Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Madonna and Queen Latifah — delivered a powerful performance of the song that saw gay and heterosexual couples get married on live television. Queen Latifah officiated the mass wedding, and near the end of the performance, Madonna arrived on stage, singing a portion of her 1986 hit "Open Your Heart" before joining Lambert in singing the final chorus and outro of "Same Love."

The monumental moment was an idea that was born out of a conversation then-GRAMMYs producer Ken Ehrlich had with his daughter, who identifies as a lesbian. His daughter mentioned that some same-sex couples had set some of their engagement and marriage videos to "Same Love," and that the song had garnered much popularity in the LGBTQ+ community.

"A light bulb went on in my head," Ehrlich says. "We could conceivably do a performance on the show where we brought together a number of couples, and not just same-sex couples. I wanted to try and universalize it in one way, and show the importance of diversity and embracing all of our communities. I wanted to demonstrate that it's not unusual, but it's universal." 

Once he had the Recording Academy on board with the concept, Ehrlich reached out to Latifah to ask her to marry all of the couples. Not only did she say yes — she obtained an ordained minister license specifically for the performance.

Read More: Where, What Channel & How To Watch The Full 2023 GRAMMYs

As Lambert recalls, she was told about the mass-wedding performance in a series of phone calls as it came together. "I was like, 'Oh my God, I already I cry at one wedding, how am I gonna hold it together for 33 weddings?'" Lambert jokes. "I got [a] call that was like, 'Can you do a duet with Madonna?' And I was like, 'Oh my God. This isn't real.' A week later, I got a call saying Queen Latifah is gonna marry couples. And then I'm like, 'Is someone gonna get resurrected next?'

"Every week, it just felt more and more surreal," she continues. "I remember each of those phone calls and just being like, 'This is just f***ing unbelievable.'" 

The 2014 GRAMMYs marked a pinnacle moment for "Same Love," but its impact had already been solidified. Though the song had a slow burn on the charts upon its 2012 release, it eventually peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 2013. Within that year, the Defense of Marriage Act became a hot-button topic, as the United States Supreme Court had declared DOMA — which denied same-sex couples the benefits and legal recognition given to opposite-sex couples — unconstitutional the month before.

Macklemore and Lewis always meant for "Same Love" to make a social impact. The song was unofficially adopted as a campaign song for Washington State activist groups working to pass Referendum 74 to legalize same-sex marriage in the state. A portion of proceeds from "Same Love" were donated to Washington United for Marriage, as the state is home to Macklemore, Lewis and Lambert.

The song's accompanying music video, directed by Jon Jon Augustavo, depicts the life of two queer men, as they grow from their youth in love, into their marriage, and arrive together to their old age. While many attributed the song and its video to the approval of Referendum 74 in Washington State in November 2012, Augustavo said in an interview with IMVDB that neither he — nor Macklemore or Lewis — feel comfortable taking credit for this.

"I think all of us that were involved do feel we're a small part of it," Augustavo said. "You have to say at least the audience that the video hit, their audience for music, ages 16-26 or so, you have to believe it at least educate them about, or at least encouraged them to look up, what Referendum 74 was. With it being passed, hopefully we played a small part in that."

Macklemore isn't subtle about the fact that "Same Love" is a pro-gay anthem, even declaring his own stance in the song's second verse: "No freedom till we're equal/ damn right, I support it."

He also uses the verses to call out those who don't, including "right-wing conservatives" and religious groups, as well as those who use the term "gay" in a derogatory sense. But perhaps his most powerful lyric makes a statement that is equal parts thought-provoking and change-making: "It's the same hate that's caused wars from religion/ Gender to skin color the complexion of your pigment/ The same fight that lead people to walk-outs and sit-ins/ It's human rights for everybody/ There is no difference."

Read More: The Rise Of The Queer Pop Star In The 2010s

Commercially, "Same Love" became anthemic at a time when LGBTQ+ artists didn't have much of a presence on mainstream radio. According to New York Times, "Same Love" was "the first song to explicitly embrace and promote gay marriage that has made it into the Top 40," per gay rights activists and radio executives.

"The fact that a song solely dedicated to the message of marriage equality is climbing the charts and quickly becoming a popular song across the country is a big deal," said Charlie Joughin, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, in a 2013 interview. "It's indicative of a changing attitude."

One could argue that its popularity and presence on the radio opened the doors for LGBTQ+ artists to thrive in mainstream pop. A year later, Sam Smith would make their proper debut with their 2014 single, "Stay With Me." USA Today named "Stay With Me" Song of the Year in 2014, saying, "'Stay With Me's' gospel-tinged piano and Smith's sweet, heart-tugging falsetto struck a chord of universal yearning, like the living embodiment of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' 'Same Love.'"

But with the success also came controversy, as some members of the LGBTQ community felt Macklemore was waxing sanctimonious over something a cisgender straight man could never fully understand. In a 2014 op-ed for The New Republic, writer Brandon Ambrosino said that while he enjoys the song, he felt it sends the wrong message about being gay.

"The aversion to that word [choice] in our community stems from belief that if we can't prove that our gayness is biologically determined, then we won't have grounds to demand equality," said Ambrosino. "I think this fear needs to be addressed and given up. In America, we have the freedom to be as well as to choose to be. I see no reason to believe that the only sexualities worth protecting are the ones over which one has no control."

While some felt Macklemore's outwardly pro-gay stance seemed performative, others found that it came in earnest, and unlike anything previously on mainstream radio. "Macklemore's lyrics offered an idiosyncratic perspective on homophobia in hip-hop and American society at large, criticizing both with a mixture of gentleness and firmness that I had not heard before," Slate's J. Bryan Lowder wrote in 2013. "And most importantly, his support of the gay community felt sincere."

Macklemore and Lambert are all aware of criticisms toward "Same Love." Yet, Macklemore remains an outspoken ally to the LGBTQ+ community, and continues to donate proceeds from the song to organizations supporting LGBTQ+ equality. Lambert also remains proud of the song, and argues that people shouldn't discount it simply because of its lead artist being a cis straight white male.

"A straight white guy performing a good ally song has an element of cheesiness, but I think gay rights have progressed so astronomically fast, that people forget the impact the song had," Lambert says. "I feel like sometimes it's dismissed. I might have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder to be like, 'Don't dismiss it.' If it got released now, I'm sure it'd be a little cheesy. But in 2012, it was everything. It meant so much to a lot of people, and it certainly meant a lot to me. And it still does."

Josh Rawlings, who played the instantly recognizable piano hook of "Same Love," says he gets asked to play the song at weddings to this day. "It's still very relevant with the climate of sexual and gender identity, and all of these important movements that are still being discussed and talked about," he says. 

"It's a slow, painful process, but I have to believe that songs like these affix themselves to not just that point in human history, but they can be relevant for all of human history," Rawlings adds. "They can be songs that we claim as a real triumph. I see it's still weighing on hearts and minds."

Ten years after "Same Love"'s release, the song has once again sparked a conversation thanks to TikTok. While some queer and trans Gen Z-ers have subverted the idea that the song is "cringe," others argue that it held major meaning at the time of its release.

"It's literally crazy how progressive/brave this song was," said TikTok user @kylierobinsun. "Gay marriage wasn't even legal in the United States when this song came out in 2012. I remember hearing this and feeling at peace when I was little."

The song has been used in nearly 20,000 TikTok videos, many of which see young LGBTQ+ people sharing how the song impacted them. "I remember trying not to cry in the car when this played on the radio, trying not to out myself, because I had never heard anything like it," @peelingplums wrote. "This song made me realize that I have allies, that I'm not alone and there are people who will stand up for me and mine." 

The video blatantly contests that "Same Love" is "cringe," echoing Lambert's argument — no matter how the song has aged, it sends a message that will always be meaningful. "By today's standards, this song may be cringe," @peelingplums added, "but by 2012 standards? It was life changing."

Lizzo's Road To 'Special': How Beyoncé, Prince & Self-Love Helped Find Her Destiny As Pop's Confidence Queen

GRAMMY.com’s 50th Anniversary Of Hip-Hop Coverage: A Recap
A tribute to the 50th anniversary of hip-hop at the 2023 GRAMMYs

Photo: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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GRAMMY.com’s 50th Anniversary Of Hip-Hop Coverage: A Recap

The Recording Academy’s celebration of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary included televised events and captivating interviews. Check out the wide range of articles and features produced by GRAMMY.com commemorating this musical milestone.

GRAMMYs/Dec 28, 2023 - 02:51 pm

When we look back at the Recording Academy’s 2023, the 50th anniversary of hip-hop will loom exceptionally large.

The ongoing celebration permeated every facet of the world’s leading society of music professionals this year, from the 65th Annual Awards Ceremony in February to the special airing of "A GRAMMY Salute To Hip-Hop" in December — a dense, thrillingly kaleidoscopic televised tribute to the breadth of this genre.

One major accompaniment to this was coverage of the genre’s legacy via GRAMMY.com, the editorial site run by the Recording Academy. If you haven’t been keeping up, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a highlight reel of the work GRAMMY.com published in honor of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.

We Profiled Rising Stars

From Lola Brooke to Tkay Maidza, GRAMMY.com engaged in comprehensive in-depth interviews with artists who are at the forefront of shaping the future of hip-hop, and held a roundtable discussion about exactly what the next 50 years might look like. 

We Published Conversations With Legends

DJ Kool Herc and Questlove, who have played unquestionable roles in hip-hop’s continuing evolution, spoke to GRAMMY.com about their profound and abiding connections to the idiom.

The Contributions Of Women Were Highlighted

Without the inspired vision of countless women, hip-hop would not be what it is today. The "Ladies First" segment, which kicked off "A GRAMMY Salute To Hip-Hop" featuring Queen Latifah, Monie Love, and MC Lyte, among other lady greats with Spinderella as DJ, was an ode to this. 

In acknowledgment of female trailblazers in a world dominated by men, GRAMMY.com wrote about teen girl pioneers, women behind the scenes, a revealing Netflix doc, and women artists pushing the genre forward in 2023, from Ice Spice to Lil Simz.

We Revisted Hip-Hop’s Biggest Releases

From Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) to Jay-Z’s The Black Album to Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy, GRAMMY.com dove deep into the core hip-hop canon. We also broke down the genre’s development decade by decade through the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, 10s, and 20s, with a focus on classic albums from each era.

Listen To GRAMMY.com's 50th Anniversary Of Hip-Hop Playlist: 50 Songs That Show The Genre's Evolution

We Criss-Crossed The Country

GRAMMY.com’s series of regional guides — from the Bay Area and SoCal, to Texas and the Dirty South, to D.C. and NYC highlight hip-hop’s diversity of culture and sound.

We Went International

Although hip-hop is a quintessentially American phenomenon, its impact, appeal, and influence has spread worldwide. The international appetite for hip-hop was showcased in coverage of Latinx and Argentinian rappers to know, as well as five international hip-hop scenes to know: France, Nigeria, Brazil, South Africa, and England.

We Explored Hip-Hop’s Larger Impact

Hip-hop is more than a sound. It’s a culture that permeates almost every sector of life. Showcasing this effervescence, GRAMMY.com ran pieces about the evolution of hip-hop’s influence on educational curriculum worldwide, as well as its biggest fashion and style moments.

We Covered On Stage Celebrations

"A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop," the two-hour special that aired in December on CBS and is available on demand on Paramount+ represented a culmination of the Recording Academy’s 50th year anniversary celebration.

Revisit the 2023 GRAMMYs’ hip-hop revue, and check out a recap of "A GRAMMY Salute" with photos, a rundown of all the performers and songs and coverage of the Black Music Collective’s Recording Academy honors in February.

It Didn’t Stop There…

Notable coverage also included the evolution of the mixtape, 11 Hip-Hop Subgenres to Know and 10 Binge-worthy Hip-Hop Podcasts, as well as a breakdown of Jay-Z’s Songbook and Snoop Dogg’s discography.

For everything GRAMMY.com and all things hip-hop — including our rap-focused run in the GRAMMY Rewind series — visit here.

2023 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined Hip-Hop

How Native Tongues Expanded Hip-Hop With Eclectic Sounds & Vision
(From left) De La Soul, Monie Love & Queen Latifah, The Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest

Photos: David Corio/Redferns; Raymond Boyd/Getty Images; Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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How Native Tongues Expanded Hip-Hop With Eclectic Sounds & Vision

In the late '80s and early '90s, the New York-based collective Native Tongues encouraged hip-hop to expand and shift. Their attitude had a significant impact on hip-hop and, later, mainstream pop.

GRAMMYs/Dec 12, 2023 - 08:40 pm

When people fondly refer back to hip-hop’s golden age, they are talking about hip-hop’s adolescence — an experimental era when no idea was too risky, no innovation too bold, no boundary too established to be broken. This period between the mid 1980s and mid '90s saw hip-hop’s elders transported into new directions as the culture transitioned into the capitalist mainstream.

It is impossible to document this golden era without acknowledging the contributions of the Native Tongues. The New York-based collective — whose core members included now household names such as the Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, De La Soul and Monie Love — played a pivotal role in reshaping the cultural landscape of both hip-hop and jazz in the mainstream. As a whole, the Native Tongues opted for a more introspective and bohemian approach to their lyricism and melodies.

The Jungle Brothers’ Mike Gee, DJ Sammy B and Baby Bam led the wave with an Afrocentric philosophy. Their 1988 debut album Straight Out the Jungle, set the vanguard of fusing hip-hop with jazz elements. "Black is Black" is perfectly representative of the first tendrils of what would become the canonical Native Tongues sound: an almost whimsical approach to with race relations and social commentary in America, structured with a boom-bap drums and an impressive array of samples (Gil-Scott Heron, Prince, Kool & The Gang). At the opening beats, Q-Tip introduces himself, going "I’m from A Tribe Called Quest" — a harbinger of the yearslong future association as part of the most influential young collectives of the '90s.

Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of Tribe were classmates of the Jungle Brothers in the lower Manhattan high school Murray Bergtraum, and began collaborating as classmates. With additional members Jarobi White and the since departed Phife Dawg, the quartet — and occasional trio — had an impressive five album run: People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1989), The Low End Theory (1991), Midnight Marauders (1993), Beats, Rhymes and Life (1996), and The Love Movement (1998). Each release featured a panoply of inspired and progressive approaches to hip-hop, with lyrics and intricate rhyme schemes that ranged from pensive to cheekily adolescent; production drew influence from jazz, bossa nova, rock, and everything in between.

"Check the Rhime" of the classic Low End Theory is exemplary of their dexterity and appeal. Couplets that are deceptively laid back yet remarkably complex — seamlessly veering from discussing capitalism to general braggadocious flair — while the beat integrates everyone from Minnie Ripperton to a Scottish funk & R&B.

De La Soul rounded out the core groups at the heart of Native Tongues. The Long Island-based trio — Kelvin "Posdnuos" Mercer, Vincent "Maseo" Mason Jr, and the late Dave "Trugoy The Dove" Joliceur — played with a colorful and eclectic approach to their jazz tinged sound and visuals (their debut album declared it the age of the DA.I.S.Y. (Da Inner Sound, Y'all) ). De La Soul were unafraid to lean into a sense of whimsy with songs like "Transmitting Live  from Mars," which sampled the Turtles while integrating a looped French lesson. Unfortunately the result would be precarious: the Turtles sued and won for using their sample, setting a dangerous precedent for the industry.

It would not be the end of De La Soul's legal troubles in the industry. Due to negotiations and disputes with Tommy Boy Records, most of De La Soul’s discography was not available on streaming and younger generations. That is, until March 2023, when De La Soul regained the rights to their releases under the label.

Rounding out the Native Tongues are Newark's Queen Latifah and London’s Monie Love (the only non-New Yorkers in the core crew). Each artist is a pioneer  in not just hip-hop’s consciousness space, but leaders for women in the industry. Latifah and Love’s "Ladies First" is an example of their dual function in the collective as chroniclers of both women's and Black issues. The hit record confronted feminist themes and women’s liberation with punch, verve, and dizzying rhyme patterns; the music video addressed trans-continental Black struggles including the plight of South African racial apartheid. The song was an embodiment of the Native Tongues spirit.

There was never an official dissolution to the Native Tongues; rather, fractures, regroupings and  internal conflicts that stopped the collective's momentum in the mid-'90s. Combined with the rise of Bad Boy Records and a new style of hip-hop star.

Yet as the years progressed, there would be multiple extended members that would be affiliated with the Native Tongues movement — Black Sheep, Black Star, Brand Nubian, the Beatnuts, Leaders of the New School, the incomparable J Dilla — showcasing the impact the Native Tongues’ craft and approach had on '90s hip hop. That influence extends to present day, with popular artists such as Tyler, the Creator and Pharrell  crediting the Tongues’ renegade spirit in their own journeys as individuals, rappers, and producers.

The Native Tongues shifted the myopic perspectives of what people believed hip-hop could, would and should be; their influence encouraged hip-hop to expand, shift and impact the mainstream pop world. The collective's legacy remains as a reminder to ignore narrow-minded criticisms of hip-hop culture (and sound) as a single narrative.

6 Highlights From "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop": Performances From DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Queen Latifah, Common & More

Here’s All The Performers And Songs Featured At "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop"
(From left) Posdnuos, Common, and Maseo of De La Soul perform during "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop"

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Here’s All The Performers And Songs Featured At "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop"

From MC Sha-Rock and MC Lyte, to Luniz and the Lady of Rage, here’s a list of every performance at "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop." The two-hour special is available on demand on Paramount+.

GRAMMYs/Dec 11, 2023 - 09:22 pm

That’s a wrap for "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop," a once-in-a-lifetime blowout in honor of one of America’s greatest musical exports to the world. But if you missed the initial broadcast on CBS and Paramount+, never fear: it’s still available on demand on Paramount+.

And if you’d like a preview of the festivities, check out a rundown of every performance at "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" — before you revisit it, or experience it for the first time!

LADIES FIRST

With Spinderella as DJ:

Queen Latifah and Monie Love — "Ladies First"

MC Sha-Rock — "It’s The Joint"

Roxanne Shanté — "Roxanne’s Revenge"

J.J. Fad — "Supersonic"

MC Lyte — "Cha Cha Cha"

Remy Ma — "All The Way Up"

Latto — "Put It On Da Floor"

Ensemble Finale — "U.N.I.T.Y."

HIP-HOP SOUTH

Jeezy — "Put On"

T.I. — "What You Know"

Bun B — "Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)"

GloRilla — "Tomorrow 2"

Three 6 Mafia — "Stay Fly"

Jermaine Dupri — "Welcome to ATL"

Boosie Badazz — "Wipe Me Down"

Uncle Luke — "Scarred" / I Wanna Rock (Doo Doo Brown)"

PUBLIC ENEMY

"Don’t Believe the Hype"

"Fight the Power / Welcome To The Terrordome"

"Bring The Noise"

WEST COAST

With Battlecat as DJ, and Mustard as hypeman:

Warren G — "Regulate"

The Luniz — "5 On It"

The Lady of Rage — "Afro Puffs"

YG — "Who Do You Love"

Tyga — "Rack City"

Roddy Ricch — "Ballin’"

DJ Quik — "Tonite"

Yo-Yo — "You Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo"

Cypress Hill — "Hand On The Pump" / "How I Could Just Kill A Man"

Too $hort — "Blow The Whistle"

E-40 — "Tell Me When To Go"

INTERNATIONAL

Akon & Styles P — "Mama Africa" / "Locked Up (Remix)"

Blaqbonez — "Like Ice Spice"

Akon — "I Wanna Love You" / "Smack That"

Akon & Jeezy — "Soul Survivor"

LYRICISM

Big Daddy Kane — "Raw"

Black Thought — "Freestyle #087 (Freestyles On Flex)"

Rakim — "My Melody," "I Ain’t No Joke"

CLUB BANGERS

2 Chainz — "Birthday Song"

Gunna — "Hot"

Coi LeRay — "Players"

Nelly — "E.I."

Rick Ross — "Hustlin"/"B.M.F."

Chance The Rapper feat. 2 Chainz — "No Problem"

DJ JAZZY JEFF & THE FRESH PRINCE

"Brand New Funk"

"Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It"

"Welcome To Miami"

Mashup: "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" / "Switch"

"Summertime"

6 Highlights From "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop": Performances From DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Queen Latifah, Common & More

6 Highlights From "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop": Performances From DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Queen Latifah, Common & More
Performers onstage during "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop"

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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6 Highlights From "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop": Performances From DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Queen Latifah, Common & More

A multi-generational collective of artists commemorated the culture, sound and influence of hip-hop during a two-hour televised special. Read on for the biggest moments from "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop," which aired Dec. 10.

GRAMMYs/Dec 11, 2023 - 07:50 pm

While 2023 marked hip-hop's 50th anniversary, the year comes to a close with a show that proves the celebration can't, and won't stop. On Dec. 10, the Recording Academy's "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" paid homage to the culture's originators, innovators, and contemporary leaders.

Co-produced by Questlove, the two-hour televised special featured legendary acts and contemporary artists who have cultivated the genre into a pop cultural juggernaut. Icons including LL Cool J, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Jermaine Dupri, Too Short, E-40, De La Soul, DJ D-Nice, Doug E. Fresh and others transformed "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" into an oral and visual commemoration of hip-hop's enduring influence.

From regional tributes to poetic remembrances, the anniversary special was a showcase of adoration for hip-hop's OGs as well as a newer generation of entertainers who are leading hip-hop into a glorious next 50 years

Read on for six highlights from  "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop," which aired Sunday, Dec. 10 on CBS Television Network, and on demand on Paramount+.

Queen Latifah and Monie Love┃Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Ladies First: Honoring The Queens Of Hip-Hop

The audience erupted into thunderous applause the moment DJ Spinderella touched the ones and twos and Queen Latifah graced the stage. As the two went back and forth in a performance of "Ladies First" joined by British MC Monie Love, the tone was set: This was a celebration of and for the women in hip-hop. 

As the song closed, early pioneers MC Sha-Rock and Roxanne Shante joined the trio on stage to perform their signature hits. In a continued showcase of women’s evolution in hip-hop, J.J. Fad performed their early crossover hit "Supersonic," while MC Lyte, Remy Ma, and Latto also joined onstage. As a collective, the congregation closed out with a performance of "U.N.I.T.Y." 

DJ Paul and Juicy J of Three 6 Mafia┃Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

The South Still Got Something To Say

One could not imagine the impact of André 3000's words at the Source Awards in 1995 when he said "the South got something to say." Since then, rappers from Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Memphis, Miami, and Texas have taken these words as a rallying cry that the East and West coasts aren't the only regions worthy of hip-hop’s crowns. 

Aptly described as "The Third Coast," the South was well-represented onstage. Jeezy and Jermaine Dupri showcased the universal power of Atlanta, while Bun B represented the great state of Texas and the legacy of Pimp C in his performance of "International Players Anthem." Memphis took it back with a performance of "Stay Fly" by Three 6 Mafia, while viewers were reminded of the city’s future by an enthusiastic presentation of "Tomorrow" by GloRilla

Boosie Badazz stole the stage with his rendition of "Wipe Me Down," which highlighted the cities outside of the Atlanta, Houston, and Memphis corridor which contributed to the development and prominence of Southern hip-hop. His energy was enlightened by Miami Luke, the man behind 2 Live Crew, who brought booty shaking Miami bass to stage to round out the intergenerational collective of performers from down South. 

Explore More Of "A GRAMMY Salute to 50 Years of Hip-Hop"

(L-R) Yukmouth and Kuzzo Fly of The Luniz, Yo-Yo, The Lady of Rage, B-Real and Sen Dog of Cypress Hill┃Monica Schipper/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

…But The West Coast Remains The Best Coast

The West Coast was among the first to differentiate itself from the East Coast with the invention of G-funk — a musical tradition that blended resurrected funk samples with live instrumentation to create a melodic background for the region’s musicians to rap upon. One of the first hits to crossover was "Regulate" by Warren G, which opened the special’s tribute to the West Coast. 

The song was followed by chart topping "I Got 5 on It" by Luniz, a cult classic which received a secondary wave of prominence by Jordan Peele who remixed the song for his film Us. However, it was the performances by The Lady of Rage and Yo-Yo that served as an educational lesson for those who forget about the contributions of women to the growth of the West Coast sound in hip-hop. 

Another standout from the West Coast section was Cypress Hill, the Southern California hip-hop group that blended rock, metal, and Latin music in hip-hop. Yet, it was the presence of E-40 and Too Short that solidified the importance of the Bay Area in the lineage of West Coast hip-hop.

Flavor Flav of Public Enemy, T.I., and Chuck D of Public Enemy┃Monica Schipper/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

"Salute" Paid Tribute To Those Who Didn’t Make It To 50

Jay-Z turned 54 days before "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" aired, and it was  somber to consider his contemporaries who didn't make it to see the culture's golden anniversary.

Names such as the Notorious B.I.G., who grew up with Jay-Z, as well as Nipsey Hussle were shared on screen as DJ D-Nice and Doug E. Fresh paid respect to the legions of rappers who passed before hip-hop’s 50th. Among those honored were Tupac Shakur, his friend and frontman of Digital Underground Shock G, New York drill leader Pop Smoke, TakeOff of the Migos, and Gangsta Boo — all of whom were instrumental in making hip-hop the global force that it is today.

Rick Ross, Chance the Rapper and 2 Chainz┃Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Hip-Hop Got A Big "Happy Birthday"

Hip-hop and party culture have been interwoven since DJ Kool Herc and Cindy Campbell threw the first party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx. It's only fitting that the genre’s 50th anniversary would be ushered in with "Birthday Song" by 2 Chainz. As the Atlanta rapper reminded attendees that the best place to celebrate your birthday is in the city's strip clubs, Gunna graced the stage with his verse of "Hot" from Young Thug’s album So Much Fun.

It was the sample of Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five’s "The Message" that brought hip-hop’s back home to the East Coast with a riveting performance by Coi Leray. Although, Rick Ross, Nelly, and Chance The Rapper reminded the East of the party and chart potential of Miami St. Louis, and Chicago with their rendition of "Hustlin," "E.I.," and "No Problem."

DJ Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith a.k.a. the Fresh Prince┃Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince Got Thanks And Praise

It was the advocacy of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince that encouraged bridge-building between the Recording Academy and the hip-hop community. When the duo received hip-hop’s first GRAMMY Award for Best Rap Performance, the rapper/producer elected to boycott the show. Although they attended the following year, the duo displayed a courageous appreciation of their art that continues to be appreciated by their peers. 

Questlove introduced his fellow Philadelphians and the duo erupted into a medley of their classics. Soon, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, and others jumped up to pay homage to Jeff and Will, two children from Philadelphia who changed the world.

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