Last week, Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich told Yahoo Music that he would welcome any political statements during this year’s ceremony. And legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest, joined by Busta Rhymes and 2017 Best New Artist nominee Anderson .Paak, certainly made a strong statement on Sunday’s show, dedicating their performance to protesters “pushing against people in power to represent them,” then calling out “President Agent Orange” in a particularly incendiary moment.
“We’d like to say to all of those people around the world, all those people who are pushing people who are in power to represent them: Tonight we represent you,” declared the pioneering group’s MC, Q-Tip. “And we also dedicate this to our brother who is not here, Phife Dawg.” (Phife Dawg died last March at age 45, eight months before the release of Tribe’s critically acclaimed comeback effort and final album, We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service.)
Rhymes took the political commentary to a higher level when he shouted: “I’m not doing the political clamor right now. I just want to thank President Agent Orange for perpetuating all of the evil that you’ve been perpetuating throughout the United States. I want to thank President Agent Orange for your unsuccessful attempt at the Muslim ban.” (Rhymes, Q-Tip, and Tribe’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad are all Muslim.)
Then, as Tribe’s medley (which also featured the classics “Award Tour,” “Can I Kick It?,” and “Movin’ Backwards”) segued into the We Got It From Here track “We the People,” the rappers busted through a wall of symbolic bricks and were joined by extras wearing hijabs. The fiery, fearless performance climaxed with Q-Tip raised his fist in the air and chanting, “Resist! Resist!”
A Tribe Called Quest weren’t the only ones to get political at this year’s Grammys. Passionate Hillary Clinton supporter Katy Perry sent a subtler but still effective message during her debut performance of her new single, “Chained to the Rhythm,” singing about “living in bubble” in front of a white picket fence while wearing an HRC-inspired white pantsuit and “RESIST” armband.
Also, during her acceptance speech for Best Urban Contemporary Album, Beyoncé stated: “My intention for the [Lemonade] film and album was to create a body of work that will give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness, and our history, to confront issues that make us uncomfortable. It’s important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror, first through their own families, as well as the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House, and the Grammys, and see themselves. And have no doubt that they’re beautiful, intelligent, and capable. This is something I want for every child of every race, and I feel it’s vital that we learn from the past and recognize our tendencies to repeat our mistakes.”