Hip-hop and the Grammys stay at odds. And despite efforts to mend the relationship between the iconic award ceremony and rap culture, things have been a bit sensitive over the past few years. This year, stars like Jay-Z, Childish Gambino and Kendrick Lamar all made it known that they would be skipping the event.
Still, there was a heavy hip-hop presence at this year's Grammy ceremony, with major performances and nominations highlighting the work of rap's stars. Even the big categories like Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Record of the Year represented hip-hop, while the competition was tough for honors like Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. With the exception of one nominee, hip-hop dominated Best Music Video honor, with The Carters, Tierra Whack, Joyner Lucas and Childish (who eventually won) being celebrated.
The result was an entertaining night MC'ed by Alicia Keys, live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The festivities included stirring performances by Cardi B and Travis Scott, a win sweep by Gambino and a moving win speech by Drake. But there were drawbacks, too, like the aforementioned speech by Drizzy being cut off and 21 Savage's ICE detention going mostly unacknowledged.
Still, the 61st Grammy Awards ceremony was a major entertainment event with many moments to remember. In case you missed the broadcast, XXL breaks down the best and worst hip-hop moments from this year's Grammy Awards.
Best: Cardi B and Offset Attend the Show Together
When Cradi B and Offset first got together, got engaged and went half on baby Kulture, they became #relationshipgoals for many of their fans. However, that all changed when Cardi announced their split back in December, reportedly due to Offset's inappropriate texts to other women. He's been tirelessly trying to win her back ever since. And based on this year's Grammy ceremony, it seems they're mending things.
Offset was right by Cardi B's side on the red carpet (where they literally touched their tongues together) and during her acceptance of the Best Rap Album award. She even thanked him during her speech: "You, husband, thank you. Nah, seriously, 'cause he was like, you're going to do this album, girl. We're gonna have this baby, and we're gonna make this album."
Best: Alicia Keys Covers Songs By Juice Wrld and Drake
Between bodying a hosting role at last night's Grammys, Alicia Keys put on a performance of her own. Seated between two pianos, Alicia played a medley of songs that she says she wishes she'd created; among them were Juice Wrld’s “Lucid Dreams," Drake’s “In My Feelings” and Lauryn Hill's "Doo-Wop (That Thing)."
It was an especially momentous moment for Juice Wrld, who has had a massively successful 2018. Major cosigns like this one will likely help him to keep the momentum going.
Worst: Grammys Cutting Off Drake's Anti-Grammys Speech
When the 6ix God went on stage to accept his award for "God's Plan," which was awarded Best Rap Song, he decided to deliver a heartfelt speech that spoke to his peers and aspiring musicians.
The speech somewhat diminished the importance of the Grammys, as Drake claimed that having love and support from fans is what really matters.
"If there is people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need this right here," he said. "I promise you, you already won."
Before he could finish, Drake was cut off mid-sentence and went to a commercial break.
Best: Rappers Star In Commercials
Hip-hop doesn't always get enough love during Grammys telecasts, but this year, rappers clocked screen time during the commercial breaks.
There was Childish Gambino promoting Google Pixel. Chance The Rapper hawked Doritos alongside Lionel Richie. Wiz Khalifa (with the help of his son Sebastian) dropped a new song on an actual Oreo cookie. And even Will Smith popped up as the Genie in an Aladdin reboot, quickly getting meme'd.
Best: Pharrell Wins Producer of the Year, Non-Classical
The Producer of the Year, Non Classical Award is often sparse on hip-hop creators. Yet as hip-hop has taken over pop culture, nominees from the rap genre have become more and more common.
This year the category was filled with rap acts—names like Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Boi-1da—alongside non-rap producers Linda Perry and Larry Klein. But thanks to his work on The Carters' "Apeshit," Justin Timberlake's "Man of the Woods," Migos' "Stir Fry," Ariana Grande's "Sweetener" and N.E.R.D's eclectic album, No One Ever Really Dies, Pharrell took home the well-deserved gramophone.
Worst: No Major Acknowledgement of 21 Savage's ICE Situation
Despite all of the outreach and notable support there has been for 21 Savage in his battle against ICE, support for the music star was minimal during the Grammys.
There was much chatter that Post Malone would acknowledge his "Rockstar" collaborator during his performance of the song, but that didn't happen. (Backstage, Post was seen wearing a T-shirt with 21 Savage's name printed across, but he didn't show support during his stage time.)
Other friends and collaborators of the detained star were in attendance, yet the only artist to shout out 21 was Swedish producer Ludwig Göransson, who accepted Record of the Year honors for the role he played in Childish Gambino's "This Is America," which features adlibs by 21 Savage.
"No matter where you're born or what country you are from, you connect with 'This Is America.' It speaks to people, it connects right to your soul; calls out injustice, celebrates life and reunites us at the same time. We want to thank all the rappers on the song. 21 Savage – he should be here tonight."
Worst: XXXTentacion and Craig Mack Not Honored in the In Memoriam Segment
Every year, the Grammys honors those in the music community who have passed away since the previous year's show. This year, however, the show did not acknowledge XXXTentaction, Craig Mack, Jimmy Wopo or Young Greatness.
XXX and Craig Mack were major players in their respective musical classes. X has been a massive success before and after his death. Meanwhile, Craig Mack was a pioneer on the Bad Boy Records roster during the 90s.
Omitting rappers from this tribute is perhaps what hip-hop fans most despise about the Grammys.
Best: Travis Scott's Performance
Travis Scott has been on a live performance tear this year with a sold-out stadium tour under his belt, a Super Bowl halftime performance and now a performance at the Grammy. Along with James Blake, he performed "Stop Trying To be God" and "No Bystanders," both from his double-platinum Astroworld album.
Despite not taking home any hardware, Travis' raw rap energy translated well on the Grammy stage, with the perfect mix of soulful crooning and a heart-pumping rap—something Travis Scott concertgoers know a lot about.
Worst: All Rap Albums Snubbed for Album of the Year
The general Album of the Year category is one of the Grammys big-four awards, among the most coveted and contested honors. Yet this year, the category was filled with hip-hop nominees, including Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy, Drake's Scorpion, Post Malone's beerbongs & bentleys and Black Panther: The Album, which was piloted by Kendrick Lamar.
Despite the heavy hip-hop representation in the category, it was Kacey Musgraves and her Golden Hour album that took home the award. No disrespect to Kasey, but given the many rap nominees, it was a disappointing to see none claim victory.
Best: Cardi B's Performance of "Money"
Cardi B had a massive night at the 61st Grammy Awards. Her Invasion of Privacy album bag Best Rap Album honors and she also tore down the stage with a performance of "Money."
Draped up and dripped out in a leopard print suit, Cardi hopped on top of a bedazzled piano—played by classically trained pianist Chloe Flower—and proceeded to twerk it out while running through her latest single with ease.