NEW YORK — Q-Tip might refer to himself as "The Abstract," but there was nothing hard to understand about his and A Tribe Called Quest's performance as a part of the fourth annual VH1 Hip Hop Honors tribute held at the Hammerstein Ballroom on Thursday night (October 4) in Manhattan. The show is set to air Monday at 10 p.m. ET on VH1.
The legendary Queens, New York, trio (rounded out to a quartet once again with Jarobi back in the fold for the night) were the main honorees, and the love movement was in full effect as Pharrell, Common, Lupe Fiasco and Busta Rhymes came together to pay homage to Linden Boulevard's finest.
"[Tribe] brought a real sense of the tribal aspect and togetherness to hip-hop," KRS-One said of the group on the red carpet before the show.
Those feelings poured out onto the stage for sure.
Common kicked the set off, beginning with the group's first-ever single, "Bonita Applebaum," and walking past — and touching — a bevy of beauties.
Pharrell and Lupe then traded verses on "Electric Relaxation," before the Chicago MC tripped up a few words on the track.
Prior to the show, Lupe told MTV News that Q-Tip was adamant about having him spit for them as a sort of "hazing." The young rapper wouldn't clarify specifics, but it likely had to do with a post on the Internet that circulated about Lupe not being all the way familiar with one of ATCQ's landmark albums, Midnight Marauders. Tip, it seems, put him to the test.
But if Lupe didn't pass, Busta definitely did and with flying colors.
The longtime Tribe associate roared onstage for the conclusion of "Scenario," decked out in a vintage Leaders of the New School outfit, and brought the place down.
Queens had its day, but Uptown — Harlem, that is — was also in the house without a doubt.
Producer Teddy Riley and veteran exec Andre Harrell pioneered the new jack swing era and Uptown Records run, respectfully. Appropriately, Diddy introduced the duo's video montage; the Bad Boy CEO interned at Uptown before starting his own empire, and his marriage of hip-hop and R&B was an extension of the trend Riley previously kicked off.
Ne-Yo and Keyshia Cole performed the Riley-produced Michael Jackson hit "Remember the Time," and then T-Pain went from rapper-turned-singer to TR impersonator, as he put his own vocal acrobats to Keith Sweat's "I Want Her."
Riley reunited with Blackstreet member Chauncey Black as the two hit the stage to briefly perform the group's "No Diggity."
Whodini and "Wild Style" director Charlie Ahearn and Fab 5 Freddy were also honored.
Jermaine Dupri (who used to dance onstage at early Whodini shows), Nelly and Nick Cannon paid tribute to the "Freaks Come Out at Night" group. Nelly impressed with a mean doo-wop back and forth with one of the Whodini members during a boogie session.
Missy Elliott and Snoop Dogg continued the '90s invasion that was started last year by the Wu-Tang Clan. The lone female among the honorees, however, wasn't lost within the testosterone-fueled performances.
Missy collaborators Eve, Tweet, Ciara and Keyshia Cole paid tribute to the Virginia native; Tweet rocked alongside Timbaland for "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)," while Eve performed "Work It" and her verse from "Hot Boyz." There were no trash-bag sightings, à la the Hype Williams-directed "Rain" video.
Nelly Furtado, with gold tresses matching her gold bangles and bracelets, also performed, rhyming over Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On." Missy was the only honored artist who didn't also perform herself.
Snoop was the sole West Coast artist on the bill, but the L.A. rapper brought a gang of homies with him. Bow Wow, Pharrell, Ice-T, T.I., Daz and B.G. all joined him; first T.I. and B.G. rode on Snoop and Dr. Dre's "Deep Cover." T.I. was in the spirit, decked out in a full khaki suit, Chucks and a Dodgers cap.
It then turned into a full gangster party when the Doggfather went into "Drop It Like It's Hot."
Host Tracy Morgan kept the laughs going throughout the evening with a number of jokes in televised sketches.
"Have you ever been hit in the head with a cell phone by Foxy Brown?" the actor, dressed like a cab driver, asked a passenger. "Then you ain't hip-hop."
"Do you have beef with 50 Cent?" he continued.
But on this night, it was nothing but love.
Chuck D, LL Cool J, Chris Rock, Kool Moe Dee, actress Kerry Washington, Salt-N-Pepa, Michael Eric Dyson and Melle Mel were also on hand, among others.