Debuting in 1984, the MTV VMAs gave America’s youth a night to celebrate its heroes. With the first ceremony showcasing the likes of Madonna, and giving awards to David Bowie and The Beatles, times have changed a bit.
While hip-hop was still finding itself as an art form in the ’80s, it didn’t take long for MTV to catch on and let rap acts flourish during the MTV VMA awards. Over the years, plenty of hip-hop royalty has touched the stage, which led to plenty of classic and controversial moments.
Check out five of our favorite hip-hop moments in MTV VMA history:
Run D.M.C. Performing “Walk This Way”
Pay Homage. Run D.M.C. was the first hip-hop act to ever grace the VMA stage performing alongside Aerosmith in 1987. The two powerhouses performed the band’s smash-hit “Walk This Way,” which perfectly blended the raw fearlessness of rock and the flows of rap. Twelve years later, they touched the stage again at the 1999 VMAs, but with a little help from Kid Rock. Performing the aptly titled “Rock Box,” they tore the stage down again.
Eminem Performing “The Real Slim Shady”
Could Eminem really create another “My Name Is” for The Marshall Mathers LP? Never one to craft a formulaic single, Em came up with “The Real Slim Shady.” While the song had already been climbing atop the charts, Em’s performance at the 2000 VMAs made sure the song had a tangible moment. In the song he raps, “And there’s a million of us just like me /Who cuss like me; who just don’t give a f*ck like me /Who dress like me; walk, talk and act like me,” and he brings those lines to life as an army of Slim Shadys followed him during his VMAs performance.
Puffy’s Touching Tribute To Biggie
Just months after the death of Biggie, his right-hand man, Puffy, paid tribute on the VMA stage. With an entire choir humming in the background, it was a stark reminder that Notorious B.I.G. was really gone. Diddy came out doing his signature dance in an all-white suit, and was soon joined by Sting, 112, and Biggie’s widow, Faith Evans.
Kanye West Performing “Runaway”
The return of Yeezus. A year after questionably snatching the mic from Taylor Swift while wearing an even more questionable leather button-up, Kanye West was back. In one the most hip-hop moves we’ve seen on the VMAs, ‘Ye is surrounded by bright lights and ballet dancers as he gets to work on his MPC. The first words he utters into the mic are, “I always find something wrong / You been putting up with my shit just way too long.” Months later, we’d get My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which found Kanye in his most honest and provocative state yet. A toast to the douche bags, it was.
Jay & Beyoncé’s First Ever Performance Together
The year was 2003 and Beyoncé and Jay Z weren’t even married yet. When the two were still dating, they performed “Crazy In Love” for the first time together. Let’s not forget that before Hov joined her on stage, Beyoncé appeared from the ceiling to perform a sultry medley of “Baby Boy.” Hip-hop’s first family was born that night. And years later at the 2014 VMAs, it would all come full circle when their daughter, Blue Ivy, presented Beyoncé with the Vanguard Award.
VIDEO SOURCE: YouTube, MTV, Vimeo