Once again, the annual Grammy Awards telecast was a chance to showcase Black music to a worldwide audience. The show didn’t disappoint, and featured some of the biggest names and most talented acts from hip-hop, R&B, gospel and reggae performing onstage or presenting major awards.
The 55th annual Grammys was hosted by rapper-turned-actor LL Cool J for the second consecutive year. He opened the show by hinting at last year’s tragic pre-Grammy loss of legendary singer Whitney Houston. He’d prepared, he told the audience last night, to tell them last year why he was so honored to be on the stage hosting the preeminent music awards show. Instead, he had to change his tune—and thusly the tune of the entire show—to pay homage to a woman who gave so much of herself to music.
The tone last year was serious; the tone this year was amped-up fun.
Viewers were treated to a much-buzzed-about tribute performance to Bob Marley. Singers Bruno Mars, Rihanna and Sting took center stage singing some of the reggae music maker’s hits before sons Ziggy and Damien Marley joined them to spice their performance with authenticity.
Perhaps one of the meatier—and funnier—moments of the night came from Jay-Z, who shared a Grammy win for rap/sung collaboration for “No Church in the Wild” (the Watch the Throne track also featuring Kanye West, Frank Ocean and The-Dream). “I want to thank the swap meet for his hat,” Jay-Z said, delivering one of the best zingers of the night.
Jigga had also jumped onstage from his front-row seat earlier in the night to perform with Justin Timberlake, who was back onstage after a five-year hiatus with the first single from his upcoming 20/20 Experience, “Suit & Tie.”
The closing performance was fitting: hip-hop went mainstream with LL Cool J, Chuck D, Tom Morello, Z-Trip and Travis Barker.
Other big winners included:
• Urban contemporary album: Channel Orange, Frank Ocean
• Rap performance: “Ni**as in Paris,” Jay-Z, Kanye West
• Rap song: “Ni**as in Paris,” Jay-Z, Mike Dean, Chauncey Hollis, Kanye West
• Rap album: Take Care, Drake
• R&B performance: “Climax,” Usher
• Traditional R&B performance: “Love on Top,” Beyoncé
• R&B song: “Adorn,” Miguel
• R&B album: Black Radio, Robert Glasper Experiment
• Short-form music video: “We Found Love,” Rihanna
• Reggae album: Rebirth, Jimmy Cliff
• Gospel song: “Go Get It,” Mary Mary
• Gospel album: Gravity, Leerae
• Jazz vocal album: Radio Music Society, Esperanza Spalding