Someone had to effectively take down Donald Trump at the Grammys, and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be Katy Perry. While J.Lo quoted Toni Morrison and Paris Jackson shouted out #NoDAPL, the awards show didn’t get truly political until A Tribe Called Quest took the stage—that is, if you don’t see Beyoncé claiming her throne as supreme fertility goddess of the universe as a political statement. It’s a known fact that anything a Knowles touches will be blessed. It’s how James Corden (with the help of Blue Ivy) was able to pull off that painful Carpool Karaoke bit. So we should’ve known that we were in for something good when Solange Knowles appeared to introduce the next performers, “a legendary hip-hop group.”
Joined by Anderson .Paak, Busta Rhymes, and Consequence, the three surviving members of A Tribe Called Quest proceeded to simultaneously pay tribute to the late Phife Dawg and come for our current president. It was an impressive feat on par with, say, balancing on a horizontal chair while pregnant with twins, or sitting through Ed Sheeran’s entire performance. The legendary rap group dedicated their efforts to Phife Dawg and to “all of those people who are pushing people in power to represent them,” before launching into a medley that included “Award Tour,” “Movin’ Backwards,” and “We the People.”
As the camera flashed to what was clearly a pre-written list of black celebrities in the audience (shout out Rihanna’s flask, the apolitical star of the evening), Busta Rhymes and Consequence emerged to express their dismay at “President Agent Orange” and our current political climate.
“I wanna thank President Agent Orange for perpetuating all the evil that you’ve been perpetuating throughout the United States. I wanna thank President Agent Orange for your unsuccessful attempt at the Muslim ban. Now we come together! We the people!” As images of Phife Dawg illuminated the Staples Center, ATCQ and their co-performers raised their fists in tribute and protest. And if that wasn’t pointed enough, they also busted through a literal wall.
But they saved the most visually arresting moment for last.
During “We the People,” a processional of diverse folks emerged from the audience and filled the stage—white, brown, black, and Muslim—accompanied by prescient lyrics from the 2016 track: “All you black folks, you must go / All you Mexicans, you must go / And all you poor folks, you must go / Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways / So all you bad folks, you must go.”
Q-Tip closed the performance with a rallying cry to “resist” (which, BTW, is a lot more effective than an armband). Needless to say, Beyoncé and Jay Z were here for it. While A Tribe Called Quest has shamefully never won a Grammy, 2016’s We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service will be eligible for next year’s nominations.