Last night at Lincoln Center in New York City, VH1 held Hip Hop Honors: All Hail the Queens, taking a long overdue moment to celebrate women in hip-hop and paying homage to special guests Queen Latifah, Missy Elliot, Salt-N-Pepa and DJ Spinderella, and Lil' Kim.
Each of these artists was honored with a medley of her own hits, performed by both their peers and newer names in the game (Dej Loaf covering Lil' Kim is a sight to behold). Faith Evans even showed up to honor Lil' Kim—after they squashed their decades-old feud—Betty White gave a dramatic reading of Queen Latifah's lyrics, Pharrell described Missy Elliott's impact as indescribable, and Michelle friggen' Obama sent a video message thanking all the honorees for their hard work for girls everywhere. The atmosphere of empowerment, positivity, and mutual respect was probably best summed up by Eve, the evening's emcee, who said, “Women been hip-hop, women are hip-hop, and women will always be hip-hop.”
But perhaps the most inspiring (and star-studded) performance came at the very end of the show, when Queen Latifah brought all the performers back on stage along with her fellow honorees to perform her Grammy-winning feminist anthem “U.N.I.T.Y.”
While the night served to honor the trailblazers who put women at the forefront of hip-hop, another vital movement took center stage: the fight for black justice. Common took a moment to commemorate the women who have been fighting for justice and equality for black people, including those of Black Lives Matter, particularly shouting out Diamond Reynolds, who filmed the shooting of her boyfriend Philander Castle just last week. Lil' Kim spoke about ending the brutality black people face. Queen Latifah herself directly addressed the topic of racism, saying:
Listen, we all know the world, that our world, is really tense right now… I'm hoping that we can somehow manage to channel all of these emotions that we have in a positive way.
I don't care how much or [how many] things I have, or Puff has. If I go outside and try to hail a cab and he passes me for the white woman standing right there, that racism is still alive and kicking. And we have to change that. And I'm not blaming the white lady, she needed a cab too.