How DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince Created The Ultimate Prototype For The Producer/Rapper Duo
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.
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.
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(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 sinceDJ Kool Herc and Cindy Campbellthrew 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” by2 Chainz. As the Atlanta rapper reminded attendees that the best place to celebrate your birthday is in the city’s strip clubs,Gunnagraced the stage with his verse of “Hot” fromYoung Thug’s albumSo 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 byCoi Leray. Although,Rick Ross,Nelly, andChance The Rapperreminded 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.