After a six year hiatus, VH1’s Hip Hop Honors ceremony returned after on Monday night (July 10), paying tribute to legends of the genre Queen Latifah, Missy Elliott, Lil Kim and Salt-N-Pepa.

The show opened with words from Black Lives Matter organizers Alicia Garza and Darnell Moore.

“This movement is grounded in black people’s dignity, justice and freedom. It’s about love, not violence,” said Garza.

“In challenging times, our music heals us, unites us and uplifts us, shared Moore (via "Black activists are fighting to create a world where all forms of violence—in Baton Rouge, in Minneapolis, in Dallas—are no more. A world where Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Philander Castile might still be alive.”

And Latifah, who was honored for her rap accomplishments in a video tribute from First Lady Michelle Obama,  acknowledged the ongoing racial tensions in the United States; which were amplified last week by the separate shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers, as well as the killing of five police officers in Dallas.

“We all know that the world and our world is really tense right now," Latifah said. "It’s a lot of tension. It’s a lot of angst. It’s a lot of hurt. A lot of pain. I’m hoping that we can somehow manage to channel all of these emotions that we have in a positive way and really do something to change our world.

“I don’t care how much money or things I have, or Puff [Daddy] has, or Missy [Elliot] has, the ladies have, if I go outside and try to hail a cab and he passes me for the white woman standing right there—that racism is still alive and kicking,” she continued. “And we have to change that. And I’m not blaming the white lady, she needed a cab too. I’m just saying we gotta change this attitude.”

Hosted by Eve, this year's VH1's Hip-Hop Honors celebrated the women who'd broken all kinds of ground in the genre, with visual tributes to rappers from across various backgrounds and eras, while artists like Lil Mama, Teyana Taylor and more performing tributes to the four honorees.

“All of these queens in this building, we built hip hop," Latifah stated defiantely. “We built hip-hop. And there’s no way that I can allow us to be erased from the history or the future of hip-hop.”


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