They represent. We recognize. That is the slogan for this event. The legend of the Wu alone is worth the trip to the ceremony. But when you mix it with Afrika Bambaataa, Russell Simmons, Ice Cube, MC Lyte, Rakim, Beastie Boys and Eazy E, the event just becomes a Hip Hop legend incarnated instantly. Previous honorees included Run DMC, Sugarhill Gang, KRS-One, DJ Kool Herc, DJ Hollywood, Public Enemy, Rock Steady Crew, Tupac Shakur, The Graffiti Movement, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, Ice T, Notorious B.I.G., Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Salt -N- Peppa, and the film Boyz N The Hood.
From the heights of his legacy, Afrika brought Zulu Nation to people without a hidden agenda. A Bronx gangster of the 60s (and not 50 cent style either), whose life was forever changed by a trip to his motherland, Bam came back with a mission. It was to spread love, peace and… all that is Hip Hop. MCing? Yes! Graffiti? Yes! DJing? Yes! Yes! and so much more!
Russell Simmons had transformed Hip Hop in New York and in the entire country as no other man before him. A true New York entrepreneur, he was crucial in bringing everyone the legendary music label Def Jam, clothing label Phat Farm and Hip Hop spoken word of Def Poetry. While doing all that he did it with style, passion and… true modesty. Deserving the credit for the first true Hip Hop hit, Rapper’s Delight, he attributed his role to simply being at the right place at the right time.
Ice Cube’s background is the very backbone of making what has become known as gansta rap. Straight out of Compton and mixed in the Hollywood bunch, the man had become a true paradox. Afterall, how can the same man who did Are We There Yet? put out Laugh Now, Cry Later just a year after? In case there was ever any confusion, there’s been almost no change to his rap game despite the long break.
MC Lyte is arguably one of the greatest female MCs of all time. Not only that, she was the first female MC to be recognized as an equal to the rest of ‘em. Beauty, honesty, brawl and words became her weapons and made her an equal of Oprah Winfrey in Hip Hop. Only she didn’t have to adjust to her audience. Lyte made her audience adjust to her and they loved every moment of it.
Rakim’s legacy is potentially unmatched by any rapper ever. Taking words and bending them to work in his favor, this man had truly redefined the movement. It wasn’t about just rhyming for him. It was about being the boss with skillfully positioned words as the servants. Rapping through the years he is still current in today’s music. Ra’s last album dropped in 2005.
The Beastie Boys broke so many rules and boundaries in Hip Hop that they deserved their own style. Except their love of the art itself was bigger than their greed. Integrating new sounds, masterful DJing and the never ending energy and image of a bunch of kids served them and the industry right. Hey, let’s not forget. They actually did break the mold as the first truly acclaimed white Hip Hop act. You thought Em had a hard time?
Eazy E was a one man powerhouse, spitting game and starting a movement decades ago, which remains one of a kind by any standards. Everyone’s favorite producer and the Chronic distinguisher as well as the Compton/Hollywood prodigy owe him their roots. The most accomplished and commended West Coast entrepreneur, he put out his own albums that got the entire country fanatically passionate.
Then the Wu-Tang Clan’s heritage is nothing short of the absolute Hip Hop revolution. Their ability to have impacted the movement for over a decade and still tour all over the world on constant basis is unmatched by any other act. Genuine friends, colleagues and music lovers, they offered more to New York than most mayors (Mike Bloomberg and Rudolph Guliani excluded).
Hosted by Ice T, a previous honoree himself, this was a star studded event like no other. From old school artists like the SugarHill Gang to the newer ones like Remy Ma, this was a Red Carpet worth seeing! Beastie Boys, Outkast, Big Daddy Kane, Craig G, Da Brat, DJ Scratch from EPMD, Fabolous, Fat Joe, Fearless 4, Forrest Whittaker, George Clinton, Grandmaster Caz, Ice Cube, Ice T with his gorgeous wife Coco, Jean Grae, Kid Capri, Lil Jon, Lil Kim (one of her first appearances after being out), MC Lyte, Questlove, Regina King, Remy Ma, Regina King, Russel Simmons, Styles P, SugarHill Gang, Salt -N- Peppa, Talib Kweli, Tracy Morgan, The Roots, Xzibit, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and others showed up for this event.
The first words out of Ice T’s mouth were: “We are here to celebrate Hip Hop as a cultural phenomenon.” And so the show unveiled.
Tracy Morgan introduced the Beastie Boys. The BK bunch still has the same spirit familiar to everyone. Remembering their early days experience they commented on the movement: “Back in the day people used to ask how long will Hip Hop last? Noone is asking that question anymore.” Their memory was not the only thing they shared. Putting on a live performance, they freestyled to Fab’s Breath and then did their own classic Super Disco Breakin’.
Regina King introduced MC Lyte
Speaking of Lyte’s lyrics and overall significance in the game, Regina truly highlighted this female rapper’s significance in the game.
Then Lyte herself shared: “Sometimes I talk to myself: ‘I am a lyricist.’ Then I ask myself: ‘Am I the greatest female MC? Yes, I am!’”
Common introduced Rakim as nothing less than G-d MC and reminisced how he made Common want to rap.
Ra himself spoke on the hardships of coming up, getting any attention as an MC. He spoke of spaces in lyrics, rhyming words anywhere in a sentence. He remembered how Eric B persuaded him to rap instead of playing football.
Then for the musical part, Talib, Raekwon and Black Thought on the mikes, ?uestlove on the drums and Kid Capri on the turn tables did Paid in Full. Not like a tribute was enough, Ra did one of his new joints himself.
Ice Cube talked of his past, coming up in the game, remembering what rap was like on the West Coast and sharing his experiences of starring in some of the most significant African-American movies. He added to the stories of the past with a latest from his current life and did a song from his new album.
Ice T spoke of California: “Hollywood is known for being fake but South Central is about the truth. Easy-E gave the truth. The truth ain’t pretty sometimes, but Easy remained true and when the FBI failed to shut him down, he got invited to the White House still being true to himself.”
Ice Cube added to the Easy tribute: “To me, Easy-E was more personal. I had my own relationship with him… He helped me come up and helped gansta rap. Let’s honor the Godfather of Rap.” Remembering the early days of the West Coast rap Cube spoke of how Easy convinced everyone to do NWA.
A World Class Wreckin Cru member, DJ Yella, added on that: “Easy-E and NWA were one and the same.” Remembering Easy’s spirit and personality, he called him an entrepreneur and a true mastermind. “He didn’t want to rap, he was more of a business mind.” On the sad note, he spoke of one other way Easy impacted Hip Hop: “After [Easy-E] got ill and died it changed the way the Hip Hop community was looking at AIDS. Everyone started getting tested.” Ice T kept at it: “[Easy-E] introduced the first rap superstar of the Mid-West: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.” Then Young Jeezy and Little Easy–E performed Boyz In Da Hood.
Introducing Afrika Bambaataa, KRS did his usual conscious bit: “Rap is what we do, Hip Hop is what we live… I say ‘I am Hip Hop’, but [Afrika] is the Hip Hop culture.”
Bam himself spoke at length of Zulu Nation, the roots of it all. “I am universal, I am Afrika Bambaataa”, he proclaimed. Outkast’s Dre and Big Boi spoke of Bam’s overall impact on music as a whole. “Afrika made techno, he made house music… He reminds us where it all came from with his very name – Afrika.”
Erykah Badu came on repping the Zulu Nation. At first she was joined by African-style dancers and then George Clinton came on with them and dropped his funk. B-boying dancers were not far behind. Black Thought and Fat Joe came to the mike to close the Afrika celebration that night.
Forrest Whittaker introduced Wu-Tang. “They goy stories of hunger and survival”, he said. Speaking of how this largest Hip Hop group invented their own style and opened Staten Island to people he only scratched the surface.
The Wu members themselves remembered how it all started in RZA’s house. Method Man, Raekwon, U-God, Capadonna, Deck, ODB, Master Killah, Ghostface, RZA and GZA all chipped in their memories. Method Man remembered: “Once we had 5 albums on the chart at the same time.”
Then Black Thought, Styles P, Talib and Lil’ Jon did a Wu song in tribute of this phenomenal band and Wu did $100 bill themselves.
3rd annual VH1 Hip Hop Honors brought much more to people than a fun night packed with music celebrities. It was more than seeing a bunch of familiar and well-respected faces. It was even more than the never-forgotten but faded memories from the past being brought back. It was a true authentic night of Hip Hop. It was done in an exciting and esteemed way and it was done for everyone who remembered the days when Hip Hop was a way of life. It was done to recognize the chosen few who decided to spread that spirit. It was done for you, for me, for them. It was done for all…