Since its inception five years ago, VH1's Hip-Hop Honors has paid tribute to the preeminent figures in hip-hop history. For the sixth annual show, taped at Brooklyn's Academy of Music in New York last night (Sept. 23) and set to air on the network on Oct. 13, event coordinators decided instead to celebrate an entire label: Def Jam Records.
Eminem, backed by The Roots, opened the show with "Rock The Bells," in honor of one of the Def Jam's first signees, LL Cool J. He was followed by another of the label's signature groups, Public Enemy. Backed by the Roots and members of Street Sweeper Social Club as well as PE's military dressed SW1s and sporting a white tuxedo, top hat and clock, Flava Flav took the stage with longtime partner Chuck D and Boots Riley for a live performance of "Rebel Without A Pause."
Next to the stage were KRS-One, Gym Class Heroes' Travis McCoy and Wale for a rendition of "No Sleep Till Brooklyn," in commemoration of another Def Jam power group: the Beastie Boys. McCoy wore a black T-shirt with the names "DJ AM" and "Roc Raida," in the shape of the famous Run-DMC logo, while KRS ended his verse by saying, "Adam, get well soon," referring to Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch, who is currently battling cancer.
Nineties rap group Onyx came on the stage shortly after and had possibly one of the most energetic performances of the night with "Slam." For his verse, Sticky Fingaz jumped atop a large speaker on the side of the stage, and then jumped off to an adjacent balcony before exiting.
One of the most anticipated performances of the night was that of rapper DMX, who made a rare non-courtroom appearance. DMX collaborated with Gym Class Heroes on his 1999 hit single "Party Up" for a super-hyped crowd.
At this point, host/comedian Tracy Morgan was joined by Oran "Juice" Jones for a quick verse of "The Rain," before introducing Rick Ross, who performed a musty version of "Hustlin'," followed by a bouncy execution of "Da Rockwilder" by Method Man and Redman backed by the legendary DJ Scratch.
The Queen of Hip-Hop soul, Mary J. Blige, went on right after, as she joined Method Man for a rather short interpretation of their Grammy award-winning single, "I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need To Get By."
The performances continued with Warren G and Trey Songz running through G's "Regulate," and then the reunion between Ja Rule and Ashanti, who did their own hits "Down For You" and "Always On Time."
Next, two of the label's southern reps, Ludacris and Scarface, had another of the evening's finest performances with "Guess Who's Back" and "Southern Hospitality," respectively, followed by Jazzy Jeff and Kid Rock and then Foxy Brown, wearing a bust enhancing bustier during her hit single "I'll Be," sans Jay-Z.
All three of these performances were part of the show's memorable end, a medley of some of Def Jam's most iconic hits performed by The Roots, Rock, Brown, Fabolous, Ghostface, Chrisette Michele and others.
Off stage and off camera, Ja Rule and DMX had their own reunion, when they two shook hands and hugged each other up during a filming break for one of the event's highlights.