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Politically Charged Grammy Award Performance From A Tribe Called Quest Was 'The Essence Of Hip-Hop'

Ali Shaheed Muhammad, left, and Jarobi White, from A Tribe Called Quest, perform at the 59th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017, in Los Angeles.
Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

On a night when many artists preferred to make veiled references to politics or skirt the subject altogether, legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest's performance at the Grammy Awards did not mince words when it came to criticizing President Donald Trump.

“I just want to thank President Agent Orange for perpetuating all of the evil that you’ve been perpetuating throughout the United States. I want to thank President Agent Orange for your unsuccessful attempt at the Muslim ban,” said rapper Busta Rhymes, who joined the group for the set.

Reverends Irene Monroe and Emmett Price joined Boston Public Radio to discuss how the performance fit into a history of socially-conscious hip-hop music. Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist, and Price is a professor and Founding Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

"That's the essence of hip-hop," Price said. "Hip-hop has always been social and political commentary from the voices of the oppressed and the ostracized."

Price specifically praised a point in the performance where a diverse group of individuals, including some wearing headscarves, formed a line across the stage. Not only was the performance a powerful protest against Trump's immigration restrictions on predominantly Muslim countries, but highlighted the large and overlooked portion of the American Muslim population who are also African American, Price said.

"They had individuals of Muslim descent there, and many of the rappers who were rapping were of Nation of Islam or Five-Percent Nation or Nation of God and Earth are Muslims." Price said.

"When we talk about [the restrictions]...they forget African Americans, a large proportion of us, are Muslim," Monroe said.

To hear more from "All Revved Up," tune in to Boston Public Radio above.

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