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Reflect on history of hip-hop with this playlist of songs performed at 2023 Grammy Awards

This year's Grammy Awards gave the perfect tribute to 50 years of hip-hop. – Photo by @etnow / Twitter

Last year, I grew a strong affinity for classic hip-hop. So when I heard about the hip-hop medley and tribute performance at this year's Grammy Awards, I was stoked, to say the least.

I watched the performance with my parents, and it brought back many memories for them, considering they'd seen many of these rappers during the height of their popularity.

While the award show aired two months ago, the performance has been stuck in my mind for a while. So to allow myself to relive this incredible beat in pop-culture history, I've compiled a complete playlist of the songs featured in the tribute.

"Flash to the Beat / The Message" performed by Grandmaster Flash

The opening to the tribute was pure old-school fun with this hit from the early 80s. The rhythm sounds similar to my favorite hip-hop song "La-Di-Da-Di" by Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew and Slick Rick and "Check the Rhime" by A Tribe Called Quest. It was also a perfect start to the tribute considering Grandmaster Flash was foundational to the hip-hop genre.

"King of Rock" performed by Run-D.M.C.

One of my favorite hip-hop songs is "It's Like That" by Run-D.M.C., another delightful number from their discography. As you watch this duo, it's wonderful to experience how they reflect and bounce off each other in their performances. Also known for "Walk This Way (feat. Aerosmith)" and "It's Tricky," Run-D.M.C.'s name goes down in the music history books. 

"I Can't Live Without My Radio / Rock the Bells" performed by LL Cool J and DJ Jazzy Jeff

I would never have expected these two together. LL Cool J boycotted the award show in the 90s for its views on rap, but he returned to do a medley from his debut album, "Radio." When I saw him, I thought he'd perform "Around the Way Girl" or "Mama Said Knock You Out."

DJ Jazzy Jeff is known for his partnership with Will Smith and for playing his best friend on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." "Summertime," one of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's biggest hits, is smooth and cool. Smith was meant to perform but couldn't due to a filming commitment for "Bad Boys 4." Otherwise, DJ Jazzy Jeff directly complemented LL Cool J's raps to release the funk.

"My Mic Sounds Nice" performed by Salt-N-Pepa

Making their mark since the 80s, this duo's chemistry remains the same. If you've never listened to their music, check out "Push It" and "Whatta Man" featuring En Vogue.

"Rebel Without A Pause" performed by Public Enemy

"Fight the Power!" as Public Enemy would say, is also the title of the group's biggest hit. Public Enemy addressed social issues with bright sounds backing their tracks and was one of the numerous voices advocating against racism and for change in the Black community.

"Buddy" performed by Trugoy the Dove

Sadly, only a week after the Grammys aired, Trugoy the Dove passed away at 54. It shook me to see something happen so quickly, not knowing he's had a heart condition for years.

Trugoy the Dove was 1 of 3 members of the late 80s hip-hop group De La Soul, with the others being Maseo and Posdnuos. I realized the first time I ever heard the group's music was years ago on a Macy's commercial when they played "Me Myself and I."

In March 2023, their first six albums finally entered streaming services. Their debut, "3 Feet High and Rising," continues to garner positive acclaim.

The album cover is beautiful, with a bright design encapsulating springtime. Watching them perform, I understood they were just three guys living out their passion for music and expressing joy for their dreams. 

"New Jack Hustler (Nino's Theme)" performed by ICE-T

Seeing him as a main character in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" still surprises me. I'm not sure how ICE-T went from "Cop Killer" to portraying a police officer for 20 years.

Technically, he did play New York Police Department detective Scotty Appleton in "New Jack City," a film whose soundtrack featured "New Jack Hustler (Nino's Theme)." Getting a chance to hear him rap about the main character from the film he starred in generated even more nostalgia in this already emotional tribute.

U.N.I.T.Y” performed by Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah's entrance in this tribute reminds those of "All Hail the Queen," her debut album. She performs a song from her album "Black Reign," reliving her start in the music industry before starring in the TV show "Living Single." This tribute wouldn't have been the same without Latifah's presence.

"Method Man" performed by the Wu-Tang Clan and Method Man

I had heard of the Wu-Tang Clan before, but not any of their songs, including those by the group member Method Man. The only song by Method Man I've heard was "I'll Be There for You / You're All I Need to Get By" on the radio. This moment at the Grammys was catchy with a full bounce — it felt like a full-on 90s house party. 

"Lose Control" performed by Missy Elliot

With cool style and rhythm, this number is a prime example of 90s nostalgia and a nod to the talented and influential women in hip-hop culture. For anyone wanting to see something cooler from her, check out "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)."

"Blow the Whistle" performed by Too $hort

"Blow the Whistle" was another 90s throwback and it was full of fun with the whole award show audience singing along. I almost felt like I was there too, singing the words from my couch.

"Freestyle" performed by Lil Baby

Lil Baby isn't like any other rapper I've seen. I've heard him as a featured artist but never on his own, and I thought he was a great addition to the Grammys. He also performed on "Saturday Night Live" before the Grammys.

"Just Wanna Rock" performed by Lil Uzi Vert

This was my first time listening to Lil Uzi Vert, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. During my senior year of high school, I remember people referencing "Eternal Atake" in common conversations with my classmates. It was a short and sweet sample to close out the show.

Some of the other performances included The Lox and Swizz Beatz's performance of JadaKiss' "We Gonna Make It," Scarface's performance of Geto Boys' "Mind Playing Tricks on Me," Busta Rhymes' performance of "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See / Look at Me Now," Rakim's performance of "Eric B Is President," GloRilla's performance of Hitkidd's "F.N.F. (Let's Go)" and more.

In addition to those, "Hot in Herre" by Nelly was part of the medley and is a 2000s classic everyone will recognize. It's catchy, fun and the perfect addition to any summer playlist. Outkast, who everyone knows from their hit "Hey Ya!" also performed "ATLiens," which was a big hit with the audience.

If you're like me and still aren't over the Grammys' tribute to 50 years of hip-hop, here's a playlist to recreate some moments for yourself. And if you're not familiar with hip-hop, it's a great way to start.

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