Questlove Shares How The All-Star Grammys Hip-Hop Tribute Came Together
The most unanimously acclaimed performance in recent Grammys history was last night’s all-star tribute to 50 years of hip-hop history. (We ranked it as the best performance of the night, but then, who didn’t?) Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of the Roots coordinated the 15-minute extravaganza, which involved dozens of performers from across generations including Busta Rhymes, Ice-T, Lil Uzi Vert, Missy Elliott, GloRilla, LL Cool J, Method Man, Queen Latifah, Run-DMC, Salt-N-Pepa, Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Flavor Flav, Lil Baby, Rakim, Nelly, and more. Today, via a news article and his own Twitter feed, he’s sharing details on how it came together.
Speaking to the New York Times in an interview conducted ahead of the show, Questlove explained the sometimes tortured process of narrowing down potential guest lists and convincing veteran rappers, many of whom hold a grudge against the Grammys after years of institutional neglect toward the genre, to participate. “It took a lot of cajoling for this particular generation to come to a function that has systematically treated them as stepchildren,” Questlove told the Times.
The Grammys recruited Questlove for the gig around Christmas, meaning he had just over a month to make it happen. “Will Smith was all of 99.4 percent in,” he said, but was due on set for Bad Boys 4. Grandmaster Flash incorporated his retro “beat box” drum machine into the show at Questo’s request. Public Enemy were prohibited from performing “Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic,” the song where they wondered aloud, “Who gives a fuck about a goddamn Grammy?”
On Twitter, Questlove added that he and his collaborators chose to limit themselves to material by living artists rather than have people cover songs by the dead: “for starters I learned with VH1 Honors not all rappers are good MCs and bad karaoke is a danger slope. And WAY too many legends passed so someone’s estate was gonna be heated.” At one point they considered featuring all women; there were also plans to more thoroughly represent graffiti and breakdancing. Per Questlove, if your favorite wasn’t part of the tribute, they were either already booked, turned down the Grammys’ offer, or “a third option I’m not gonna get into.” Some who did not appear last night will be involved in a two-hour special to be taped in August.
Check out the tweet thread below.