The legendary hip-hop outfit opened with 1993’s “Award Tour,” while Q-Tip also snuck in the refrain from “Can I Kick It.” Paak then joined Tribe, playing both drums and singing “Movin’ Backwards,” his collaboration with the group on their 2016 album We Got It From Here … Thank You 4 Your Service.
Busta Rhymes opened the final segment of the medley by addressing “President Agent Orange” and slamming Donald Trump’s Muslim ban before Tribe launched into their politically driven “We the People.” “I just want to thank President Agent Orange for perpetuating all of the evil that you’ve been perpetuating throughout the United States,” he announced. “I want to thank President Agent Orange for your unsuccessful attempt of the Muslim ban. When we come together, we the people, we the people, we the people, we the people.”
As more people filled the stage in unity, the most powerful moment came when everyone suddenly bowed their heads and held up a fist while Phife Dawg’s verse blared over the speakers. The group invited immigrants onstage to, as the their rep says, “represent all the people that are the other.”
Q-Tip then closed the performance with a simple, but potent message: “Resist! Resist! Resist!”
Phife Dawg died last March from complications resulting from diabetes. A Tribe Called Quest released We Got It From Here in November, earning their first career Number One album (the LP was released after the consideration deadline for this year’s Grammys).
As for .Paak, the musician picked up two Grammy nominations, including Best New Artist and Best Urban Contemporary Album for his album, Malibu. Despite the Best New Artist nod, .Paak has been working in music for years, crafting a uniquely contemporary boom-bap sound that began garnering attention after he appeared all over Dr. Dre’s Compton.
In an interview with Rolling Stone about that record’s influence on Malibu, .Paak said, “I had a better idea of what type of production I sounded really good on, and what was kind of missing in the game. After [Compton] came out, I was like, ‘Where did [Dre] not take it that I could take it?'”