The consensus was unanimous following Thursday's Grammy Week event, "Word Revolution: A Celebration of the Evolution of Hip-Hop": it was the highlight thus far of a very busy week. Presented by the Grammy Foundation in association with 24-hour music and entertainment channel Centric, the program paid homage to a genre that has evolved from what many once viewed as a fad into an anchor of popular culture. Brave New Voices, a quartet of female and male rappers, warmed up the audience with a colorful torrent of words, invoking the names of such wordsmiths as Shakespeare, Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. Then Kid Capri and DJ Skee heated up the proceedings during skillful turntable turns. "Some of you all look like you've never been to a hip-hop concert before," exhorted Capri. "You can be quiet at a Simon & Garfunkel show, but at a hip-hop concert, you've got to move." It was on from there, thanks to a lineup of legends and contemporaries who kept revving up the pace: Arrested Development, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Everlast, MC Lyte, DJ Beverly Bond, Chrisette Michele, Musiq Soulchild, Naughty By Nature, Phife of a Tribe Called Quest and Paul Wall. Between performances during the nearly three-hour show, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow, Centric Exec. VP/GM Paxton Baker and Grammy Foundation and MusiCares senior VP Kristen Madsen offered reflections on rap's evolution. In turn, they introduced video clips that illustrated how the genre's roots lay in the spirituals, blues, jazz and R&B of the past.

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The audience sang along from start to finish during Arrested Development's nostalgic yet energetic set, prompting one audience member to sigh wistfully, "Why doesn't hip-hop go back to this?"(Photo by Rick Diamond/WireImage)

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Treach of Naughty By Nature (Photo by Rick Diamond/WireImage)
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Lil Mama (Photo by Rick Diamond/WireImage)
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A newly slim and bearded Paul Wall, pictured here with Billboard's Gail Mitchell, rocked the theater with a version of "Walk This Way." At the post-concert reception he proudly told Billboard, "I've gone from "4x to no x."(Photo courtesy Gail Mitchell)
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Billboard's R&B/hip-hop charts manager Rauly Ramirez hooked up with Michael Bearden after the show. Bearden, Michael Jackson's former music director, is currently MD for the "George Lopez Show."(Photo by Gail Mitchell)

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