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31 Best Hip-Hop Performances at the MTV Video Music Awards Over the Years

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Hip-hop has had a long history of facing opposition in terms of being embraced by mainstream media, but one outlet that has continuously shown love and support to the genre is MTV.

Although MTV has had its own instances in which it was accused of shunning Black artists (most notably by the late rock star David Bowie), as well as hip-hop as a whole, missteps like refusing to televise the Best Rap Video category at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards would be forgiven in due time, resulting in what has been a longstanding relationship between hip-hop and the network. In addition to trailblazing shows like Yo! MTV Raps, which saw rap fully integrated into MTV’s programming, their inclusion of artists in the lineups for their MTV Video Music Awards performances helped solidified the bond between the mainstream and the culture.

Run-D.M.C.’s performance at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards, the first time a rap act appeared on the network’s grand stage, would be followed by early rap stars like the Fat Boys and Tone Loc, who were among hip-hop’s first crossover stars. By the time the 1990s hit, rap was slowly becoming the most popular genre of the youth and young adults. This was reflected at the MTV Video Music Awards yearly, as many of hip-hop’s most legendary figures would move the crowd and prove that hip-hop was as worthy as rock or country, culturally.

With the 32nd edition of the MTV Video Music Awards on its way Sunday (Aug. 28) and Nicki Minaj, Future, Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign set to perform, we’ve handpicked the 30 most iconic rap performances in the awards show’s history. Did your favorite make the cut?


1

“Let’s Get It Started” and “U Can’t Touch This”

MC Hammer with Special Generation Live at 1990 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
2

“Mama Said Knock You Out”

LL Cool J at 1991 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
3

“Hip Hop Hooray”

Naughty By Nature at 1993 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
4

“Push It,” “None of Your Business,” “Whatta Man” and “Shoop”

Salt-N-Pepa at 1994 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
5

“Murder Was the Case

Snoop Dogg at 1994 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
6

“Sabotage”

Beastie Boys at 1994 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
7

“Tha Crossroads”

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony at 1996 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
8

“Doin’ It”

LL Cool J at 1996 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
9

“I’ll Be Missing You”

Diddy, Faith Evans and Sting at 1997 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
10

“Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)”

Lil’ Kim, Left Eye, Missy Elliott, Da Brat and Angie Martinez at 1997 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
11

“Make ‘Em Say Uhh”

Master P & No Limit Family at 1998 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
12

“Gone Till November” and “Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are)”

Pras, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Mya, Wyclef Jean and Canibus at 1998 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
13

“Hi, My Name Is,” “Guilty Conscience” and “Nuthin But a G Thang”

Eminem, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg at 1999 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
14

“Jigga My Nigga,” “Can I Get A…” and “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)”

Jay-Z, DJ Clue and Amil at 1999 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
15

“Bawitdaba,” “Rock Box” and “Walk This Way”

Run-D.M.C., Aerosmith and Kid Rock at 1999 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
16

“Everything Is Everything”

Lauryn Hill at 1999 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
17

“The Real Slim Shady”

Eminem at 2000 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
18

“Country Grammar”

Nelly at 2000 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
19

“One Minute Man” and “Get Ur Freak On (Remix)”

Missy Elliott, Nelly Furtado, Ludacris and Trina at 2001 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
20

“Bad Boy for Life,” “I Need a Girl (Part One), “I Need a Girl (Part Two)” and “Pass the Courvoisier, Part II”

P. Diddy, Busta Rhymes, Ginuwine, Pharrell and Usher at 2002 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
21

“Baby Boy” and “Crazy in Love”

Jay Z and Beyonce at 2003 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
22

“P.I.M.P.”

50 Cent and G Unit at 2003 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
23

“Jesus Walks,” “All Falls Down” and “Through the Wire”

Kanye West, Chaka Khan and Syleena Johnson at 2004 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
24

“Lean Back”

 
 
 
25

“Love Lockdown”

Kanye West at 2008 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 

 
26

“A Milli” and “Got Money”

Lil Wayne and T-Pain at 2008 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
27

“Empire State of Mind”

Jay Z and Alicia Keys at 2009 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
28

“Runaway”

Kanye West and Pusha T at 2010 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 

 
29

“Hold On, We’re Going Home” and “Started From the Bottom”

Drake at 2013 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
30

“Anaconda”

Nicki Minaj at 2014 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 
 
31

“Fuck Up Some Commas”

Future at 2016 MTV Video Music Awards
 
 

 

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