This year will end as it began, with an all-star Grammy salute to hip-hop. On Sunday, Dec. 10, CBS will air the live, two-hour concert special A Grammy Salute to 50 Years of Hip Hop. An extended “50 Years of 50-Hop” segment was one of the highlights of the 65th annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 5. That kicked off a year of hip-hop celebrations that has underscored the importance and dominance of the genre.
The lineup includes Black Thought, LL Cool J and Queen Latifah, all of whom were also part of the Grammy telecast salute, as well as Bun B, Common, De La Soul, Jermaine Dupri, J.J. Fad, Talib Kweli, The Lady of Rage, MC Sha-Rock, Monie Love, The Pharcyde, Questlove, Rakim, Remy Ma, Uncle Luke and Yo-Yo. More performers will be announced in the coming weeks.
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of Two One Five Entertainment and LL Cool J will also serve as executive producers of the special, which tapes Nov. 8 at the YouTube Theater in Los Angeles. The show was originally set to tape on Aug. 11, which was the 50th anniversary (to the day!) of a back-to-school party in The Bronx that many point to as the beginning of hip-hop culture.
A Grammy Salute to 50 Years of Hip Hop is produced by Jesse Collins Entertainment. Collins, Shawn Gee, Dionne Harmon, Claudine Joseph, Fatima Robinson and Jeannae Rouzan-Clay also serve as executive producers. Marcello Gamma serves as director.
Questlove curated the 15-minute spot on the Grammy telecast, which featured three dozen rap acts. Collins, Robinson and Gee (Questlove’s manager and president of LNU) were also among the producers of that segment.
The segment drew universal praise. Billboard’s Joe Lynch pegged it as the best performance on the 2023 Grammys telecast. “While it’s an impossible task to sum up 50 years of any genre (much less one that fought for decades to get a modicum of mainstream respect and eventually became the dominant genre in American music), this electrifying medley brought to vivid life the charged personalities, thumping grooves, deft deliveries and unpredictable flourishes that make hip-hop a global force.”
While many will assume that the success of the spot on the Grammy telecast led CBS to hurry a special into production, the special was in the works before anyone knew there would be a segment on the telecast, according to a source.
Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, hinted at the upcoming special in a statement announcing the telecast segment. “For five decades, Hip Hop has not only been a defining force in music, but a major influence on our culture,” he said. “Its contributions to art, fashion, sport, politics, and society cannot be overstated. I’m so proud that we are honoring it in such a spectacular way on the Grammy stage. It is just the beginning of our year-long celebration of this essential genre of music.”
The Grammys have not always been hip-hop supporters. The awards show didn’t have a dedicated category for rap or hip-hop until the 1988 awards, which were presented Feb. 22, 1989. D.J. Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince’s genial pop hit “Parents Just Don’t Understand” was the first hip-hop recording to win a Grammy (best rap performance). But they weren’t invited to perform on the show that year.
A year later, on Feb. 21, 1990, the duo became the first hip-hop act to perform on the Grammys. “We’d like to dedicate this performance to all the rappers last year that stood with us and helped us to earn the right to be on this stage tonight,” Will Smith said before he and D.J. Jazzy Jeff launched into “I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson.”
CBS, which has broadcast the Grammy telecast since 1973, aired another Grammy-branded special – A Grammy Salute to The Beach Boys – on April 9. That special was taped on Feb. 8 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
A Grammy Salute to 50 Years of Hip Hop airs Dec. 10 from 8:30-10:30 p.m. ET/8-10 p.m. PT on CBS. It streams on Paramount+ (live and on demand for Paramount+ with Showtime subscribers, or on demand for Paramount+ Essential subscribers the day after the special airs).