OK, let’s be trustworthy — did we actually anticipate the MTV VMAs, of all award reveals, to ship the perfect hip-hop 50 tribute of the yr? The “all-star finale performance” MTV touted forward of the Sept. 12 occasion included Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, LL Cool J, DMC (of Run-D.M.C.), Doug E. Contemporary, and Grandmaster Flash and the Livid 5 as performers. The ten-minute tribute meant to honor the tradition’s whole 50-year historical past, however with a lineup that shallow (and New York-skewed), is that even doable?
The VMAs aren’t alone: it appears each award present’s hip-hop 50 tribute has missed the mark this yr. The Grammys kicked off the milestone celebration in February with an outdated school-meets-new-school efficiency, which featured everybody from Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, and De La Soul to Lil Child, GloRilla, and Lil Uzi Vert. The BET Awards adopted go well with in June with a “non-stop party” of medley performances from of us like Warren G, Trina, Chief Keef, T.I., and Grasp P, trying to the touch practically each period and area of hip-hop. However the VMAs’ generation-gapped efficiency echoed a sentiment hip-hop followers have expressed all yr lengthy — these tributes merely aren’t sufficient.
Some social media customers (together with myself) took to Twitter after the VMAs to specific their frustrations. One person wrote, “The Hip-Hop 50 tributes are all over the place at these award shows. They never get the balance right between decades.” One other wrote, “I never expect an overload of Blackness from the #VMAs but you can tell that they are out of touch with Hip-Hop culture. This 50 Years of Hip-Hop segment seems like it was pieced together at the last minute.” In the meantime, a number of others identified the obtrusive absence of music from the South, which has been a continuing throughout most hip-hop 50 tributes, televised or in any other case. Sadly, within the case of the VMAs, the identical might be stated for the Midwest, West Coast, and different East Coast cities.
It is actually bold of those award reveals to attempt to embody 50 years of hip-hop in a matter of minutes. Lord is aware of it is simpler stated than accomplished. However to some hip-hop followers, these disconnected performances really feel extra like an insult once they come up quick than if there’d been no efficiency in any respect.
So, what does the best hip-hop 50 tribute seem like? How a lot time is required? Who’re the must-have performers? Ought to New York artists take up extra actual property over different regional acts to honor the tradition’s birthplace? What concerning the girls? These queries and extra have plagued the aftermath of nearly each hip-hop 50 efficiency to date.
Questlove, who produced the Grammys’ stay providing, tried to quell issues earlier this yr when he revealed how the present’s lineup was picked. In a Twitter thread, the Roots member and musician defined, briefly, that there are a lot of components that go into making a hip-hop tribute: honoring residing acts vs. useless, who’s keen and out there to carry out, last-minute cancellations, who’s not beefing. The checklist goes on. For artists that followers have deemed “missing or excluded” from tributes, Questlove additionally defined, “Hip Hoppers (current at least) LOATHE sentimental history or talk of Legacy or anything so half the ‘NO’ was from the ‘we aint old school.'”
Not all hip-hop tributes have left followers fully dissatisfied, nonetheless. Some have no less than made an effort to acknowledge the start and present years of the style. Nevertheless it all makes you surprise. If these establishments did proper by hip-hop yearly to start with, possibly it would not really feel like they’re making an attempt to play catch-up, 50 years on. Or like they’re making an attempt proper a fallacious that, ultimately, feels too little, too late (keep in mind when Nas bought his first rap Grammy over 20 years into his profession?).
Fact is, no hip-hop anniversary tribute will ever appear enough in highlighting 50 years of its international affect — it is unattainable to incorporate each artist, factor, and notable entity. The New York Instances music critic Jon Caramanica famous that hip-hop is “far too vast to be contained under one tent, or limited to one narrative.” The identical might be stated for any assorted efficiency that tries to present hip-hop a correct salute. You possibly can’t please everyone.
That will not cease followers from hoping, although. Certainly all eyes shall be on the BET Hip-Hop Awards on Oct. 10 to see how their tribute measures up. And, belief, viewers shall be ready to fireside off their critiques.