Beyoncé, Katy Perry and A Tribe Called Quest Bring Politics to the Grammys

For most of the 59th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday night, political statements were merely implied or hinted at. Then came A Tribe Called Quest.

While Hollywood award shows this Oscar season have been notable for speeches that unquestionably addressed President Donald J. Trump, even when they did not use his name, the Grammys, which are not known for courting controversy, remained mostly about the music for a time.

But just when it seemed like the show would end with only subtle nods to politics, Busta Rhymes and A Tribe Called Quest took the stage for a performance of “We the People,” a blunt protest song.

“We’d like to say to all those people around the world, all those people who are pushing people in power to represent them: Tonight, we represent you,” Q-Tip, the group’s lead rapper, said. “And we also dedicate this to our brother who’s not here, Phife Dawg.”

During the performance, Busta Rhymes called out the president explicitly: “I just want to thank President Agent Orange for perpetuating all of the evil that you’ve been perpetuating throughout the United States,” he said. “I want to thank President Agent Orange for your unsuccessful attempt of the Muslim ban. When we come together, we the people, we the people, we the people, we the people...”

Q-Tip ended the performance with one word, repeated several times: “Resist. Resist. Resist. Resist.”

The earlier nods to the divisive political climate had been much gentler. Presenting the first award of the night, Jennifer Lopez quoted Toni Morrison. Alicia Keys sent a single-word tweet (“EQUALITY.”), in reference to a new Nike ad.

Katy Perry, in performance, and Beyoncé, in an acceptance speech, nudged the night toward more political themes.

Beyoncé, who won best urban contemporary album for “Lemonade,” was the first person to touch on politics after winning a trophy. Though she did not refer to President Trump directly, she read from a golden note card, and spoke of beauty and racial identity as well as how important it was that her children see representations of themselves in popular culture, including “the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House and the Grammys.”

Chris Alexakiswomen, art, government