Maybe Kendrick Lamar deserved the Grammy for “Album of the Year” over Taylor Swift, who won for an album released in 2014. But even if Ms. Swift got people talking with a not-so-subtle dig at Kanye West and music biz sexism, Kendrick easily owned last night’s (February 15) ceremony with his five wins and exceptional mid-show performance.
After an introduction from Don Cheadle, Kendrick set things off with a prison set that featured the emcee and his backing dancers dressed in inmate attire and chains. He then launched into a blistering rendition of “The Blacker the Berry” as the lights dimmed to reveal glow-in-the-dark paint on their costumes. Kendrick and his dancers segued into an equally tremendous performance of protest anthem “Alright,” staged in front of a fire. He finished with a new song, his spitfire rhymes intersecting with purposely erratic camera work to close out a performance that will be on our minds for a long time to come.
The performance was a more-than-worthy peak to a night that also saw K-Dot win five Grammys. He received the first televised award of the night for ”To Pimp a Butterfly” in the “Best Rap Album” category (which he controversially lost to Macklemore in 2014). Ice Cube and his “Straight Outta Compton” star son presented the award, seemingly annointing Kendrick as the torchbearer to N.W.A.’s West Coast hip-hop legacy. Praise for Kendrick’s accomplishments and performance came from personalities as varied as British singer and songwriter Lianne La Havas and Justin Timberlake and even The White House.
King Kendrick’s set wasn’t the only show-stopper from a performer of color last night. The cast of Broadway smash “Hamilton” performed the show’s opening number via satellite from New York. Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda later rapped his acceptance speech for the show’s “Best Musical Theater Album” win, with a castmate holding a Puerto Rican flag with ”Hamilton” written on it. Singer Andra Day stole the stage from duet partner Ellie Goulding during their performance, as did blues guitarist and singer Gary Clark, Jr. and Stevie Wonder during their respective tributes to B.B. King and Earth, Wind & Fire. Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard knocked the group’s “Don’t Wanna Fight” out of the park, showing us why a Black woman-led group deserved rock music Grammys traditionally awareded to White male-led bands.
What was your favorite Grammy moment? Let us know in the comments.