The rockers — frontman Anthony Kiedis, 59, drummer Chad Smith, 60, bassist Flea, 59, and guitarist John Frusciante, 52 —took home the prize Sunday night, making them just the second-ever Global Icon recipients in the U.S.
The group took the stage to perform their recent hit "Black Summer," as well as their classic "Can't Stop," off the 2002 album By the Way.
Afterward, Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin presented the rockers with their prize, and Kiedis thanked the stars, calling them "some bad mother...flip-flops."
"I did want to thank the sassy mistress known as MTV for supporting us for 1,000 years and more," the singer said. "But really, really, really I want to thank Flea and John and Chad Smith... for giving me a purpose in my life for the last 40 years. I would've been a free-floating disaster in space if not for these boys, so thank you boys for giving me something to do with my life and love."
Smith then took the mic from Kiedis, and gave a heartfelt speech in which he dedicated the award to late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, who died in March at age 50.
"There's another musical global icon and his name is Taylor Hawkins," Smith said. "I want to dedicate this to Taylor and his family. I love them and I miss him every day, and fly on, Hawk. Fly on, brother."
Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/Shutterstock Chad Smith
Smith, a longtime close friend of Hawkins', previously paid tribute to the star after the Chili Peppers stepped in to play the Foo Fighters' closing set at Jazz Fest in New Orleans in May. The musician played with a drum kit that featured Taylor's name inside a hawk silhouette, and also reportedly led the crowd in a cheer of, "We love you, Taylor!"
Meanwhile, at the VMAs, Flea, thanked his bandmates and family, and proudly declared his love for "cockroaches and dirt and trees and every human being," while Kiedis said that Frusciante would say all he needed to say "with his smile."
Check out PEOPLE's full VMAs coverage to get the latest news on one of music's biggest nights.
"That's what he's got to say, it's his smile," Kiedis said. "And his guitar playing and his just sweet nature. We love him."
The group is currently gearing up for the release of their 13th studio album Return of the Dream Canteen, which is set for release on Oct. 14. The record, buoyed by new single "Tippa My Tongue," is their second this year. Red Hot Chili Peppers released Unlimited Love in April, which marked the return of Frusciante, who had not appeared on an album with the group since 2006.
"We went in search of ourselves as the band that we have somehow always been. Just for the fun of it we jammed and learned some old songs. Before long we started the mysterious process of building new songs," Red Hot Chili Peppers wrote in a statement. "A beautiful bit of chemistry meddling that had befriended us hundreds of times along the way."
Clara Balzary Red Hot Chili Peppers
The band continued, "Once we found that slip stream of sound and vision, we just kept mining. With time turned into an elastic waist band of oversized underwear, we had no reason to stop writing and rocking. It felt like a dream."
"When all was said and done, our moody love for each other and the magic of music had gifted us with more songs than we knew what to do with. Well we figured it out. 2 double albums released back to back," added the "Californication" musicians. "The second of which is easily as meaningful as the first or should that be reversed. Return of the Dream Canteen is everything we are and ever dreamed of being."
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, Red Hot Chili Peppers have carved out a niche in the genre-bending world of alternative rock, blending rock, punk, metal and more into their unique sound.
Their self-titled debut album was released in 1984, and they broke through to the mainstream in 1991 with Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which included hits like "Under the Bridge" and "Give It Away." They've had two No. 1 albums: Unlimited Love and Stadium Arcadium in 2006.
MTV introduced the U.S. Global Icon Award last year, and gave the inaugural prize to Foo Fighters.
The award, which celebrates "an artist/band whose unparalleled career and continued impact & influence has maintained a unique level of global success in music and beyond," is inspired by MTV's Europe Music Awards' Global Icon Award, which in the past has gone to artists like Queen, Eminem, Green Day, Janet Jackson and Ozzy Osbourne.
The 2022 VMAs are airing live Sunday night from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.