If the all-star salute to the 50th anniversary of hip-hop on the 65th annual Grammy Awards left you wanting more, the Grammys have more on the way. A two-hour, Grammy-branded special will tape on Aug. 11, which is the 50th anniversary (to the day!) of a back-to-school party in The Bronx that many point to as the beginning of hip-hop culture. CBS will broadcast the special later this year.
Questlove, who curated the 15-minute spot on Sunday’s Grammy telecast, will have a role in the special, though his exact title is to be determined. Jesse Collins, an executive producer of the Grammy telecast, will produce the special.
While many will assume that the success of the spot on the Grammy telecast led CBS to hurry a special into production, the special was in the works before anyone knew there would be a segment on the telecast, according to a source.
Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, hinted at the upcoming special in a statement announcing the telecast segment. “For five decades, Hip Hop has not only been a defining force in music, but a major influence on our culture,” he said. “Its contributions to art, fashion, sport, politics, and society cannot be overstated. I’m so proud that we are honoring it in such a spectacular way on the Grammy stage. It is just the beginning of our year-long celebration of this essential genre of music.”
Questlove has mentioned the upcoming special in his post-Grammy tweets. Talking about why certain artists were booked for the hip-hop tribute and others weren’t, he tweeted:
The hip-hop segment on the Grammy telecast, which featured three dozen rap acts, drew universal praise. Billboard’s Joe Lynch pegged it as the best performance on the telecast. “While it’s an impossible task to sum up 50 years of any genre (much less one that fought for decades to get a modicum of mainstream respect and eventually became the dominant genre in American music), this electrifying medley brought to vivid life the charged personalities, thumping grooves, deft deliveries and unpredictable flourishes that make hip-hop a global force.”
The segment was produced by Questlove, Collins, Patrick Menton of Fulwell 73, creative producer Fatima Robinson and Shawn Gee, Questlove’s manager and president of LNU. The segment is part of Paramount Global’s companywide initiative to honor the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.
The Grammys have not always been hip-hop supporters. The Grammys didn’t have a dedicated category for rap or hip-hop until the 1988 awards, which were presented on Feb. 22, 1989. D.J. Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince’s genial pop hit “Parents Just Don’t Understand” was the first hip-hop recording to win a Grammy (best rap performance). But they weren’t invited to perform on the show that year.
A year later, on Feb. 21, 1990, the duo became the first hip-hop act to perform on the Grammys. “We’d like to dedicate this performance to all the rappers last year that stood with us and helped us to earn the right to be on this stage tonight,” Will Smith said before he and D.J. Jazzy Jeff launched into “I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson.”
Both Questlove and Collins are coming off major honors for their work. Questlove won both an Oscar (his first) and a Grammy (his sixth) in 2022 for directing the documentary Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). Collins won his first Primetime Emmy in 2022 as an executive producer of The Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show Starring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent, which was voted outstanding variety special (live).
CBS, which has broadcast the Grammy telecast since 1973, will air a second Grammy-branded special this year – A Grammy Salute to The Beach Boys. The special, the latest in a series of “Grammy Salute” specials, will be taped on Wednesday, Feb. 8 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
The Beach Boys and hip-hop are in very different musical worlds, of course, but it’s worth noting that the Beach Boys had a sizable hit in 1987 (No. 12 hit on the Hot 100) with a collab with the Brooklyn rap trio Fat Boys. The two groups teamed for a remake of The Surfaris’ 1963 classic “Wipeout.”
The fact that a quintessential American vocal group teamed with a rap group 36 years ago is more evidence, as if any more were needed, of hip-hop’s reach and endurance.