With plenty of stars in tow, last night’s MTV Video Music Awards entered a terrain it had yet to explore. Hosted at the less-than-year-old Barclays Center in Brooklyn, this year’s VMA’s were supremely significant to hip-hop’s growth, with the red carpet lining the streets where the likes of Biggie, Jay Z and Big Daddy Kane all got their start. As expected, this year’s VMA’s marked a great night for rap music, packed with surprise performances and notable appearances.
Early on, Kendrick Lamar and 2 Chainz hit the stage to perform their featured verses on Robin Thicke’s party-starting new single, “Give It 2 U.” 2 Chainz sauntered on stage with a team of marching-band dancers, while Kendrick kept things swagged out and simple for his verse. But the performance was slightly overshadowed by hip-hop’s twerking muse, Miley Cyrus, who was onstage doing what she does best. After performing her recent Mike WiLL-produced single “We Can’t Stop” and hopping into a duet version of “Blurred Lines” with Thicke, she provocatively gyrated her booty up and down Barclays while wearing nude-colored undies.
Another surprising collab came later, when Brooklyn’s own Lil’ Kim and Grand Hustle’s first lady Iggy Azalea combined forces to present the award for Best Hip-Hop Video (won by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis for “Can’t Hold Us”). “Show some love to the Queen of Brooklyn. Someone who inspired me and so many other artists,” Iggy said as she introduced Kim. “Growing up in Brooklyn I would have never imagined the VMA’s being right here in my hometown,” Kim said. “And to watch hip-hop go all over the world and watch my girl Iggy, all the way from Australia, standing next to me truly means that hip-hop is worldwide.” Amen, Kim.
But not only did last night’s award ceremony prove hip-hop’s international reach, it also showed that the genre is becoming more inclusive, with Macklemore performing his inspirational song “Same Love,” which also went on to win him the MTV Social Message Award. “[Macklemore] is a good friend of mine and stands up for everything he believes in as far as being equal… the white boy can spit,” A$AP Rocky said during Macklemore’s introduction, alongside openly gay NBA player Jason Collins.
Music aside, Kevin Hart, who was the unofficial host of the night, cracked a few jokes, including one about Miley and Robin Thicke’s performance. “Miley better go get a pregnancy test after doing all that grinding,” he said, while taking a stab at Thicke’s outfit, which he called a “penguin suit.” Hart also brought up Kendrick’s groundbreaking verse on Big Sean’s “Control,” in which he calls out some of his rap cohorts and declares himself the King of New York. “He talked about everybody in that verse,” he says. “I’ll tell you who he didn’t talk about: Chocolate Droppa,” joking about his own rapping alter ego. “You would have got these bars, Kendrick.”
The real bars of the night, however, came from two of the evening’s best performers, Kanye and Drake, both of whom exercised a healthy amount of artistic freedom in their live sets. Kanye hopped on stage and performed his haunting “Blood On The Leaves” in silhouette, in front of a lynching tree backdrop. Meanwhile, Drake recreated his album cover for Nothing Was The Same and performed “Hold On, We’re Going Home” in front of a blue sky backdrop, before going on to perform his hood anthem “Started From The Bottom,” with Rihanna dancing in the crowd.
Despite all of the amazing performances, though, one person who was notably missing from this year’s VMA’s was Jay Z. Considering that the BK-bred rapper was instrumental in bringing the Barclays Center to Brooklyn, it’s surprising that he wouldn’t make an appearance onstage, not even for his verse on Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie.” After all, what are the VMA’s in BK without Hov?—Gerren Keith Gaynor (@MRGERRENALIST)