Here’s every song and performer who slayed 2023 Grammys’ hip-hop anniversary tribute

A man in a red leather jacker and black bucket hat performing with mic to his mouth during awards show.
LL Cool J performs during Sunday’s tribute to hip-hop’s 50th birthday at the 65th Grammy Awards.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Once shunned by the Recording Academy, hip-hop was honored Sunday at the 2023 Grammy Awards with an homage celebrating 50 years of the genre, with performances by influential artists from its past, present and future.

LL Cool J, who in 1989 boycotted the awards show along with other high-profile rappers when the academy didn’t televise its first rap award, led Sunday night’s all-star salute.

Hip-hop pioneers Grandmaster Flash, Grandmaster Melle Mel and Rahiem of Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five burst onto the stage with a punchy snippet of their 1982 single “The Message.”

Joining them for other performances were big names from 1980s hip-hop, such as Run-DMC, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Public Enemy and Ice-T, the latter of whom is often considered “the godfather of gangsta rap.”


Read our live coverage of the 2023 Grammy Awards, as they happened.

Major acts that gained fame in the 1990s also were on hand, with a strong New York City and East Coast contingent, including Busta Rhymes with Spliff Star, De La Soul, Method Man of the Wu Tang Clan, Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa, the Lox, and Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott. Also among the 1990s artists were Houston’s Scarface and the Bay Area’s Too Short.

As Method Man spit bars during the performance, Jay-Z was seen in the crowd bobbing his head, smiling and rapping the lyrics. DJ Khaled also nodded approvingly, at one point lifting and waving a lighter during Busta Rhymes’ performance, before the Brooklyn legend launched into one of his signature rapid-fire deliveries from the 2011 hit “Look at Me Now.”

Representing the 2000s were artists Nelly, Big Boi of Outkast and DJ Drama. Representing the 2010s and the present were Swizz Beatz, Lil Baby, Lil Uzi Vert and GloRilla.

The 2023 Grammy winners were revealed in 91 categories. Beyoncé became the most-decorated Grammy musician ever.

“At the end of the night, I might have Obama-gray hair,” Questlove — whose real name is Ahmir Khalib Thompson — jokingly told E! correspondent Laverne Cox on the Grammys red carpet. “This is 14-year-old Ahmir bringing his jukebox of what he was listening to as a kid. But it’s also all-encompassing because it’s from my generation, from future generations, from Gen Z. Everybody’s all included, so this ... is a special moment.”

Will Smith, who as a part of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince won the first rap Grammy in 1989, was supposed to perform on Sunday evening but was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict with the production of “Bad Boys 4,” Questlove told Variety on the red carpet. Smith boycotted the 1989 Grammys to protest the Recording Academy’s cold-shouldering of rap during the broadcast.

In the lead-up to the performance, Questlove, who alongside his band the Roots produced and curated the performance, called hip-hop “a driving force in the music and the culture” that has had “immeasurable impact on our culture and our world.”

“The first day of rehearsals, it was nothing but a love fest,” he said in a news release. “It was DMC gushing over Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. ... It’s a family reunion.”

She’s among the most honored artists in Grammy history, but has never won album of the year. Racism? Sexism? Rockism? On Sunday, the Grammys are out of excuses.

The Recording Academy didn’t always value hip-hop. In 1989, the Grammys didn’t televise the rap award presentation. “If they don’t want us, we don’t want them,” Salt-N-Pepa said that year, boycotting the show. Despite the omission, the following year, a rap album spent the most weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, The Times’ LZ Granderson wrote recently in a column celebrating the genre’s 50th birthday.

“That’s because the sound came from a people whose voices could never be silenced,” Granderson wrote, tracing hip-hop’s birth to DJ Kool Herc’s house parties at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx in 1973. “This is why Black music is described as having an ‘uncapturable spirit’ in the ‘1619 Project’ docuseries. Hip-hop may be 50, but its lineage stretches back much further.”

Government efforts to silence hip-hop in the ‘80s and ‘90s were just another chapter of white supremacism’s war on truth.

The importance of the night was not lost on the genre’s pioneers.

“The Grammys didn’t even respect hip-hop for so long, and now to be here, to be honored like this, we’ll take it, absolutely,” Ice-T said on the red carpet to People correspondents Jeremy Parsons and Janine Rubenstein.

“You think about it, it’s kinda come full circle, from now being recognized at the Grammys, to now kind of getting our own moment, to celebrate 50 years of what I like to call ‘the best music on the planet,’” Nelly, who performed Sunday evening, also told People on the red carpet.

On Sunday, Beyoncé surpassed orchestra conductor Georg Solti as the artist with the most Grammy wins of all time. Read her acceptance speech.

“It’s only right,” Queen Latifah told Cox and E! on the red carpet before joining the performance. “We had to fight to get on the Grammys quite a time ago, and so it’s great to be here to celebrate this in front of the entire world with people who were my mentors.”

Public Enemy’s Flava Flav, who showed up with one of his iconic chains and also performed Sunday, exclaimed on the red carpet, “This is to all those who said hip-hop wouldn’t last!”

Here’s the full set list and roster of talent for the star-studded salute:

Chapter 1:

  • Black Thought (narration)
  • Grandmaster Flash with Barshon, Melle Mel, Rahiem & Scorpio: “Flash to the Beat”
  • Grandmaster Flash with Barshon, Melle Mel, Rahiem & Scorpio: “The Message”
  • Run-DMC: “King of Rock”
  • LL Cool J: “I Can’t Live Without My Radio”
  • DJ Jazzy Jeff: “Rock the Bells”
  • Salt-N-Pepa: “My Mic Sounds Nice”
  • Rakim: “Eric B Is President”
  • Chuck D & Flavor Flav: “Rebel Without a Pause”

Chapter 2:

  • Black Thought with LL Cool J: “El Shabazz Skit”
  • De La Soul: “Buddy”
  • Scarface: “My Mind’s Playing Tricks on Me”
  • Ice-T: “New Jack Hustler (Nino’s Theme)”
  • Queen Latifah: “U.N.I.T.Y.”
  • Method Man: “Method Man”
  • Big Boi: “ATLiens”
  • Busta Rhymes & Spliff Star: “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See” / “Look at Me Now”
  • Missy Elliott: “Lose Control”

Chapter 3:

  • Queen Latifah (narration)
  • Nelly & City Spud: “Hot in Herre”
  • Too Short: “Blow the Whistle”
  • Swizz Beatz & the Lox: “We Gonna Make It”
  • Lil Baby: “Freestyle”
  • GloRilla: “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)”
  • Lil Uzi Vert: “Just Wanna Rock”