“I think the Grammys are better in New York,” Alicia Keys said as she was set to present the Record of the Year award Sunday night (Jan. 28) at the 2018 Grammy Awards. Usually held in Los Angeles, music’s biggest event returned to the concrete jungle where dreams are made of—New York City—for the first time in 15 years. Madison Square Garden filled up with celebrities and music royalty to celebrate musical excellence. And while the Academy never gets it right on the ballots, the show was particularly buzz-worthy due to the usually large volume of hip-hop talent set to be recognized. In that regard, the show provided plenty of moments for fans to love... or hate.
Nominated in the Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Song of the Year categories, Kendrick Lamar and JAY-Z were the two biggest favorites from the hip-hop community heading into the ceremony, but they were far from the only rap representatives. Cardi B, Logic, Lil Uzi Vert, DJ Khaled, Big Sean, GoldLink, Migos and others were also on hand, hoping to add to their trophy cases. Hip-hop showed up and showed out, captivating on the red carpet and killing it on the stage. The night was a reminder of hip-hop's dominance and influence within the music industry and pop culture as a whole. Even Blue Ivy stole the show with a simple hand gesture.
With the Grammy's all wrapped up, XXL pinpoints some of the most unforgettable hip-hop moments from the show.
Best: Kendrick Lamar's Opening Medley
Kendrick Lamar—one of the night's biggest winners—opened up the ceremony with a dazzling run down of his recent hits. He started things off with a performance of "XXX.," a DAMN. deep cut that's both political and based on street justice. U2's Bono, the song's featured guest, joined K Dot on stage. Dave Chappelle did the same, interluding the set with his own mini monologues.
“Is this OK? For CBS?” the comedian said. “This brother’s taking an enormous chances. Rumble, young man, rumble!”
Kendrick also performed "DNA.," and his verses from Rich The Kid's "New Freezer" and Jay Rock's "King's Dead," making us all feel like winners.
Best: Childish Gambino Performs "Terrified"
Backed by live musicians and vocalists (including youngster JD McCrary), Childish Gambino performed "Terrified," a standout number from his Grammy-nominated album, Awaken, My Love! The impassioned, sung performance reminded attendees and viewers alike of his artistic brilliance and gave serious Marvin Gaye vibes.
Best: Dave Chappelle Shouts Out A Tribe Called Quest
Dave Chappelle made his presence felt at the Grammys this year. Aside from taking home the award for Best Rap Album and his part in the aforementioned Kendrick Lamar opener, Chappelle presented the award for Best Rap Album. He had his own agenda, though, making sure to shoutout A Tribe Called Quest (many believed last year's show snubbed the legendary rap group, whose 2016 release We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service was also up for Best Rap Album).
Worst: Hip-Hop Loses Out in the Album of the Year Category
Heading into this year's Grammy Awards, there was plenty of buzz surrounding the Album of the Year category due to it including three artists from the hip-hop community up for awards. With Kendrick Lamar (Damn.), JAY Z (4:44) and Childish Gambino (Awaken, My Love!) all up for hardware, music fans saw this year as the one that would finally mark the Grammys' full embrace of rap as a genre and hip-hop as a culture. However, when all was said and done, Bruno Mars' 24K Magic was named winner for Album of the Year, leading a segment of fans to chalk the loss up to another instance of rap artists being robbed of their deserved accolades by the Grammy committee.
Best: Cardi B Performs "Finesse (Remix)" With Bruno Mars
Cardi B and Bruno Mars provided the most fun and nostalgic performance of the night with their hit collaboration "Finesse (Remix)." Bardi didn't take home a trophy for "Bodak Yellow," but she rose to the occasion in a career milestone, channeling her inner Fly Girl and bringing her Bronx flair to the Grammy stage.
Best: Kendrick Lamar Shouts Out JAY-Z and Mozzy
While Kendrick swept the rap categories at the Grammys, he made sure to pay homage to his peers and the pioneers before him. When accepting his award for Best Rap Album, Kendrick quoted a fellow California rapper ("As my guy Mozzy say, you know, God up top, all the time, real talk, you know?") and proclaimed "Jay for President" before exiting the stage.
Best: DJ Khaled Makes His Grammy Performance Debut
DJ Khaled made his Grammy debut alongside Rihanna and Bryson Tiller for a performance of their 2017 hit "Wild Thoughts." While the singers sung, Khaled did what he does best: hype the crowd up. And of course he managed to squeeze in his signature catchphrase, "Another one."
Best: DJ Khaled and Cardi B Read 'Fire and Fury'
Like last year, President Trump was the orange elephant in the room during the 2018 Grammy Awards. But the ceremony made sure to poke fun at him in a skit that found the likes of DJ Khaled, John Legend and Cardi B reading ridiculous excerpts from Trump's book, Fire and Fury.
“Why am I even reading this shit?” Cardi says. “This how he lives his life?”
When you're the offspring of music royalty, the camera has a way of finding you. That's exactly what happened to JAY-Z and Beyonce's daughter Blue Ivy during the Grammy Awards. The 6-year-old was captured gesturing for Hov and Bey to remain calm during the ceremony—an adorable clip that became instant gif material.
Best: Logic Performs "1-800-273-8255"
Coming off the release of his first chart-topping album, Everybody, Logic earned a nomination for Song of the Year for "1-800-273-8255," his collaboration with Best New Artist winner Alessia Cara and fellow Grammy nominee Khalid. He closed the night with a performance of the song, followed by a riveting speech.
Worst: Lil Uzi Vert Loses In Best New Artist Category
Only a short list of rap acts have taken home a Grammy for Best New Artist. And that trend continued this year. In spite of scoring one of 2017's biggest songs with "XO Tour Llif3" and unleashing his debut album, Luv Is Rage 2, Lil Uzi Vert lost to songstress Alessia Cara, a singer who, albeit talented, actually released her debut album in November 2015. It was one of the biggest disappointments of the night for rap fans.
Best: Prodigy and Combat Jack Were Both Honored
Every year at Grammys, there is a memorial presentation to eulogize key figures in music and entertainment who've died in the past year. While last year's ceremony omitted Shawty Lo and Bankroll Fresh to the ire of rap fans, this year's ceremony scored big points by honoring rap legend Prodigy, young star Lil Peep and Reggie "Combat Jack" Osse in succession. The latter was a lawyer and pioneer in the podcast community who was beloved by rap fans and artists alike.