The GRAMMY Awards is always a night full of the unexpected. Aired on Sunday evening (Feb. 5), the 65th annual ceremony was no exception, and the event’s venue—Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena—was full of Black excellence. Amongst Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Lizzo, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, Viola Davis, Stevie Wonder, and many more, the night was a non-stop carousel of entertainment and transcendence.
As Hip-Hop’s many eras were highlighted in celebration of its 50th anniversary, rap pioneers of the past and present all shared the stage. The evening was capped with an unforgettable performance by DJ Khaled, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, and Rick Ross.
Amongst many of the best moments, the 2023 GRAMMY Awards delivered an experience celebrating Black culture’s triumphs. The Recording Academy’s newly appointed CEO, Harvey Mason Jr, vowed to take the show in a direction that better reflected global reach while appealing to a culture that shifted the American zeitgeist.
“The awards process completely depends on our membership,” he expressed ahead of last year’s big event. “So, I wanted to make sure our membership had the most up-to-date, relevant voters possible. We needed to be more diverse. We needed to be more inclusive. We wanted to see inclusivity across genres and genders. Those are some of those things I was hopeful we could continue to improve on. I think we’ve made some great strides.”
“Thirty-four percent of music is Black-created or in Black genres — R&B, hip-hop, jazz, reggae,” Mason said in reference to creating an inclusive version of the Academy’s membership. “We wanted to make sure we got closer to a representative number there, and we’re on our way. We have goals there that we’re trying to accomplish.”
And, for better or for worse, the latest result was the 2023 GRAMMY Awards. In case you missed Sunday night’s event, take a look at the top 10 moments that screamed Black excellence.
Lizzo Telling Beyoncé How She's Inspired Her
The 65th Annual GRAMMY Awards proved to be a night of big win for Lizzo as she took home Record of The Year for “About Damn Time” and Best Remixed Recording for “About Damn Time (Purple Disco Machine Remix).”
During her acceptance speech, the Houston-bred star not only dedicated her award to the late Prince but also took a moment to face her Houston hero — Beyoncé — and tell her how much of an inspiration she is.
Holding back tears, the “Special” singer told a hilarious story about a time she played hooky from school to see her favorite artist perform. “Beyoncé, woo, in the fifth grade I skipped school to see you perform,” she animatedly started. “My sister, she got me out of school, it was literature, I’m good. Where you at, Beyonce?! My eyes are wet. You changed my life.”
Lizzo told Bey, who was standing on her feet graciously receiving the 34-year-old’s sentiments, “You sang that ‘Gospel Medley’ and the way you made me feel, I was like I want to make people feel this way with my music. So thank you so much! You clearly are the artist of our lives. I love you. God bless y’all!”
Viola Davis Becoming The Third Black Woman EGOT Winner With GRAMMY Win
Black excellence and history continued to manifest at the 65th GRAMMY Awards with The Woman King star Viola Davis.
On Sunday evening (Feb. 5), Davis scored her first GRAMMY award for Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording for her memoir, Finding Me. Davis’ big win has now coveted her as the third Black woman to achieve EGOT status. The rare historic feat was preceded by Jennifer Hudson and Whoopi Goldberg.
“It has just been such a journey,” Davis said while accepting the award. “I just EGOT!”
Davis has already earned an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2015, an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in 2017, and two Tonys (Best Featured Actress in a Play and Best Leading Actress in a Play) in 2001 and 2010, respectively.
Kendrick Lamar Winning Best Rap Album For 'Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers'
Hip-Hop truly dominated the 65th GRAMMY Awards as its 50th anniversary was celebrated with pioneers of the genre receiving their flowers.
Kendrick Lamar took home Best Rap Album for Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, as well as Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for “The Heart Part 5.” With just a few wins away from beating out Jay-Z and Kanye West’s GRAMMY record, Kendrick has now won 17 GRAMMYs in total.
Amongst thanking his fans, Lamar deeply expressed how grateful he was for his family – which served as the inspiration behind his award-winning album. “I wanna thank my family for giving me the courage and the vulnerability to share these stories and to share my truth with this album,” he said at the beginning of his acceptance speech.
“You know as artists, we all entertainers, stupid. And we say things to provoke thoughts and feelings and emotions,” he added elsewhere in his speech. “So making this record was one of my toughest records to make, and it allowed me to do that and it allowed me to share other people’s experiences.”
Hip-Hop 50's Takeover After Dr. Dre's Global Impact Award
Hip-Hop has come a long way since boycotting the Grammy Awards back in 1989, and for its 50th anniversary, the culture took over the prestigious event. The segment was introduced by LL Cool J awarding Dr. Dre the 2023 Global Impact Award — which has been ultimately named after the superproducer — before breezing through the genre’s origin story, detailing DJ Kool Herc’s party.
Viewers were then treated with a who’s who of Hip-Hop’s Avengers. The Roots’ Questlove and Black Thought kicked things off before traveling through the genre’s vastness and expansive canon.
The Questlove-curated celebration featured performances and appearances from the likes of Too $hort, De La Soul, Missy Elliott, Run-D.M.C., Queen Latifah, Method Man, Public Enemy, Busta Rhymes, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Big Boi, Grandmaster Flash, Nelly, Lil Uzi Vert, and more. It was a moment for the ages, a moment that Hip-Hop undoubtedly deserved.
BET better had taken notes.
Beyoncé Making Double GRAMMY History
Last night belonged to Beyoncé as she made double GRAMMY history. The Houston legend not only became the first Black woman to be awarded for Best Dance/Electronic Album, but she is now the most GRAMMY-awarded artist ever.
With nine nods, Bey graciously took home four awards including Best R&B Song for “Cuff It,” Best Traditional R&B Performance for “Plastic Off The Sofa,” and Best Dance/Electronic Recording for “Break My Soul.”
“I’m trying not to be too emotional. I’m trying to just receive this night,” she emotionally expressed before a standing audience. “I want to thank God for protecting me. Thank you, God. I’d like to thank my Uncle Johnny who’s not here, but he’s here in spirit. I’d like to thank my parents — my father, my mother, for loving me, and pushing me. I’d like to thank my beautiful husband, my beautiful three children who are at home watching.”
She then gave a special shoutout to the queer community for “your love, and for inventing this genre,” which is displayed throughout her chart-topping, seventh studio album Renaissance.
Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, WanMor, And Chris Stapleton's Nostalgic Motown Medley
Iconic Detroit music label, Motown, received a tribute performance by Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Chris Stapleton, and R&B group WanMor — the sons of Boyz II Men’s Wanya Morris.
The legendary pianist kicked off the medley with The Temptation’s “The Way You Do The Things You Do” with added background support from WanMor. Robinson then joined the stage as he sang his 1967 single “Tears of A Clown,” before Chris Stapleton assisted Wonder for the 1973 hit “Higher Ground.”
Berry Gordy Jr., legendary Motown founder and music executive, enthusiastically sang along as he was taken on a ride through some of his label’s biggest hits.
Quavo's Emotional Tribute To Takeoff
Quavo performed an emotionally charged tribute to his late nephew, Takeoff, during the 2023 Grammy Awards. The Migos leader’s pain was palpable as he performed “Without You” for the first time, dressed in all black.
A single spotlight cloaked the Atlanta rapper’s silhouette as he wore a partial facemask with teary eyes peeking out from behind. The 31-year-old’s verse memorialized Takeoff as he pleaded with his spirit that he would see him again when he gets to heaven.
“Out in the galaxy, up in the stars/ Over the universe, it’s bigger than Mars,” he rapped while sharing the stage with gospel group Maverick City Music. “See you in heaven, see you heaven/ When I see you in heaven, I’m a be with my dog.”
Lizzo Taking The GRAMMYs To Church With A "Special" Performance
Lizzo took this year’s GRAMMY Awards to church on Sunday night (Feb. 5) with a holy rendition of her hit song, “Special.” The multitalented singer began the performance by belting out the opening lines to “About Damn Time” before shifting gears and unleashing “Special” with a gospel choir. Dressed in a black dress and rocking a cross-diamond necklace, the superstar’s signature jovial message radiated throughout the Crypto.com Arena, sending the crowd to their feet.
Bad Bunny's Opening Performance Featuring Afro-Puerto Rican Musicians, Dancers
Bad Bunny opened up the 2023 GRAMMYS with a bang and an explosion of Caribbean and Latin culture. Beginning with “El Apagón,” Benito sang and danced with his Afro-Latinx backup dancers as they celebrated the essence of Puerto Rico while simultaneously critiquing the island’s systemic flaws.
African drums could be heard throughout the performance but became pronounced as he made his way to the stage for “Después de la Playa,” where a merengue band got the audience on their feet and swaying their hips. The arena’s lights shined with a red-orange hue, imitating that of the island’s sun, while horns blared into the distance, creating an intoxicating yet tropic atmosphere.
As the camera panned around the stage, viewers were treated to an accurate representation of how far-reaching the African diaspora truly is, showing Afro-Puerto Rican men and women of all shades and complexions getting busy on stage. While not every musician in Bunny’s performance was Black, highlighting the beauty and diversification of our culture across ethnicities was essential. And the 28-year-old made sure to emphasize that.
DJ Khaled's All-Star "God Did" Performance
DJ Khaled closed the show out with his standout track “God Did,” featuring a star-studded cast of artists, including a nearly five-minute verse from Jay-Z. Then, dressed in all-black, Khaled guided the viewers outside of Crypto.com Arena’s premises, where a scene referencing The Last Supper awaited.
After Rick Ross and Lil Wayne performed their verses in the smoky streets of Los Angeles, the artists took their seats at the dinner table and were joined by John Legend and Fridayy at a nearby piano. Hov took his seat in the middle of the table — a throne perfect for the god emcee.
“These ain’t songs, these is hymns ’cause I’m him/ It’s the Psalm 151, this New Testament,” he cleverly asserted, draped in purple lights. “The book of Hov/ Jesus turned water to wine/ For Hove, it just took a stove.”
For a night dominated by Black excellence, this track was the perfect outro for the celebration.