After years of being snubbed in the main categories, hip-hop finally got its due Sunday night at the Grammy Awards — and Childish Gambino and Cardi B made history.
Childish Gambino’s politically charged #1 hit “This Is America” was named Record and Song of the Year — the first time a hip-hop track had ever won in those two categories. “This Is America” also won for Best Rap/Sung performance, and its galvanizing visual was named Best Music Video. Unfortunately, Gambino wasn’t on hand to accept his trophies.
Meanwhile, Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy was named Best Rap Album, making her the only solo female to win in that category. The rapper was overcome by emotion at the podium, but still managed to joke, “The nerves are so bad, maybe I need to start smoking weed!”
Cardi then gave a memorable speech, specifically thanking her 7-month-old daughter, Kulture. She explained that wen she found out she was pregnant, it gave her the impetus she needed to finish her album and shoot the videos before she started showing.
Cardi also thanked her estranged husband, Offset, who was onstage with her, for encouraging her by telling her, “‘You gonna do this album, girl! We gonna have this baby and we gonna make this album!”
While Childish wasn’t there to accept his trophies, Drake — who normally avoids award shows like the plague — was there. While accepting his Grammy for Best Rap Song, for “God’s Plan,” and gave one of the most pointed speeches of the night.
Noting that awards are often decided by those who “might not understand” where hip-hop stars like him are coming from, the rapper continued, “You’ve already won if you have people who are singing your songs word for word. If you’re a hero from your hometown. If there’s people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain and the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows”
Gesturing to his Grammy, Drake added, “You don’t need this right here. I promise you, you already won.”
Fans were furious that Drake’s speech was seemingly cut short by a commercial, but backstage, it was explained that he was given the opportunity to continue afterward, but declined, saying he’d made his point.
The ceremony also featured plenty of performances by top R&B and hip-hop acts, including Cardi herself, who delivered a Jazz Age-inspired performance of “Money” that featured her writhing atop a diamond-studded piano. There were also a roof-raising number from Janelle Monae, and a well-received performance of “Hard Place” by H.E.R., winner of the Best R&B Album Grammy.
“It’s not even an album. It’s an E.P.,” the singer noted at the podium, adding, “I really don’t feel right being up here by myself.” She then invited her team to join her onstage to share in her award.
Motown legend Diana Ross performed in a a 75th birthday tribute to herself, while Yolanda Adams, Fantasia and Andra Day sang “You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)” to honor the late Aretha Franklin.
Travis Scott and Post Malone also performed, though both were joined by older artists — Post by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Scott by members of Earth, Wind & Fire.
The Motown tribute — which caused controversy ahead of the telecast after it was announced that it would primarily feature Jennifer Lopez — also ended up incorporating Smokey Robinson, Ne-Yo and Grammy host Alicia Keys. But J-Lo did do the bulk of the tribute, dancing up a storm by singing Motown classics like “Dancing in the Streets,” “Papa Was a Rolling Stone, “Please Mr. Postman” and, refreshingly, Teena Marie‘s “Square Biz.”
And speaking of Keys, she kept things moving, had only had three outfit changes, and performed a special medley of songs by artists ranging from Nat King Cole and Juice WRLD to Kings of Leon and Lauryn Hill. But Alicia got the biggest cheer by bringing out none other than Michelle Obama at the beginning of the show to talk about the importance of music.
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