The big story of the 2018 Grammys? The ceremony is finally getting serious about hip-hop. The awards have always had a strange history with rap, going back to the Eighties, when the voters were convinced (along with most of the music industry) that all this rap stuff the kids were into was a fad. For years, hip-hop artists were allowed to play but not to take home trophies. But this year, all major categories are dominated by rap. Album and Record of the Year are both Kendrick Lamar vs. Jay-Z battles, along with surprise nominee Childish Gambino. From MC Hammer to Lauryn Hill to ODB, here’s a timeline of how far hip-hop has come at the ceremony.
Run-D.M.C. do an electrifying “Tougher
Than Leather” even though they’re not up for any Grammys.
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince win the first hip-hop Grammy, but they refuse to attend because it’s not included on TV. Other rappers boycott the show too, and the industry is shocked at how the rap community sticks together on this issue.
Tone Lōc is the first MC up for Best New Artist – but Milli Vanilli wins.
MC Hammer is the first rapper up for Album of the Year and Record of the Year. He loses both, to Quincy Jones and Phil Collins, respectively.
Woke Southern crew Arrested Development become the first hip-hop act to win Best New Artist – the first time any rap act wins in a major category.
Enter the Wu! Ol’ Dirty Bastard rambles onstage while Shawn Colvin is making a speech. But ODB has no beef; he just wants to say he bought an expensive new outfit and announce, “Wu-Tang is for the children!”
Lauryn Hill is the big winner, taking home five awards, including Album of the Year, for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. During a fiery live performance, she changes the hook of “Lost Ones” to “It’s funny how hip-hop change a sitchu-aaa-tiooon!” For her acceptance speech, L-Boogie brings a Bible up to the podium and reads from the Psalms.
Eminem does “Stan” with Elton John, ending with one of the most awkward semi-hugs ever; Em loses Album of the Year to Steely Dan (who are even slimmer and shadier).
OutKast win Album of the Year, becoming only the second hip-hop act ever to take this prize (after Lauryn Hill).
Queen Latifah becomes the first rapper to host, 16 years after the 1989 boycott.
LL Cool J takes over as host for a five-year run, becoming the greatest host of all time by a mile. Whitney Houston dies suddenly the weekend of the ceremony, hours before a Grammy gala she had planned to attend. LL handles the tragic situation like a champ, beginning with a brief prayer: “Heavenly Father, we thank you for sharing our sister Whitney with us.” An all-time Grammy moment of grace under pressure.
The show ends with a tribute to the Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch. LL gets joined by Chuck D; during a climactic “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” LL shouts, “MCA forever!”
Macklemore beats Kendrick Lamar for Best Rap Album. To his credit, Macklemore sends him a text that night: “You got robbed.”
Chance the Rapper wins Best New Artist, four years after dropping his classic Acid Rap. The most glorious music moment of the night: A Tribe Called Quest, who join Busta Rhymes in a politically charged performance that blows up as Q-Tip chants, “Resist, resist, resist.” It’s a reminder of everything that hip-hop – and music – can mean in times like these.