A vulnerable Lil Wayne and a teary-eyed Missy Elliott accepted the Recording Academy and Black Music Collective’s Dr. Dre Global Impact Award — which was renamed Thursday night as they also honored Dr. Dre.
Lil Wayne, who signed his record deal at 12 and turned 40 in September, won over the audience with a touching and authentic speech that ended the night.
“I want you all to know that I don’t get honored,” he said at the Hollywood Palladium as singers, rappers, producers, songwriters, label executives and other industry players cheered him on. “Where I’m from, New Orleans, you’re not supposed to do this.”
“I walked into my mama’s room when I was 14. She asked me for a kid because my dad was killed. And her son had just blown up and went on his first tour. When I came home she said, ‘Son, I can’t live in this house by myself. We’re going to have to figure something out,’” Lil Wayne recalled.
“I’d like to thank Antonia Johnson,” he continued, referring to his first child’s mother, “for reasoning with me and my mom, and my life. I’d like to thank every single one of my kids and every single one of their mothers.”
Lil Wayne has won five Grammys, achieved more than 150 RIAA-certified plaques and is one of the most sought out collaborators in music, completing more than 700 guest appearances. He also launched the careers of Drake and Nicki Minaj.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know who you all are tonight. Again, we don’t get honored,” he said. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I ain’t shit without you.”
DJ Khaled introduced Lil Wayne, saying “I grew up listening to you and I’m older than you.” In video messages, Drake and Deion Sanders honored the rap vet, while 2 Chainz, Swizz Beatz and Tyga performed Lil Wayne hits to close the event.
“Good evening, Grammys. Well, I haven’t gotten to say that since 2016,” said Drake, who in recent years has declined to submit his music to the awards show.
“Lil Wayne … I love you so much,” he continued. “I know I probably get annoying with saying how much you mean to me and my family, but I think I speak on behalf of everybody when I say that our careers, our cadences, our melodies, maybe our face tats or our outfits or our decisions in general would not have been the same without your natural gift to just be yourself.”
Elliott also captured the audience with a moving speech. She paused several times, fighting back tears as the crowd rooted for her.
“I’ve won a lot of awards and I feel the same way — anybody that knows me knows that I’m always crying,” said Elliott, who was inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame and received the MTV Video Vanguard Award at the MTV VMAs in 2019, and recently became the first female rapper to earn a nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — receiving the nod in her first year of eligibility.
Epic Records CEO Sylvia Rhone, who has been a top music executive since beginning her career in the ’70s and a champion for hip-hop, also received the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, originally called the Recording Academy Global Impact Award. Elliott thanked Rhone for helping her launch her career.
“I was in a girl group and Sylvia Rhone dropped me, then signed me as a solo artist,” she said. “She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. … She never told us no. She never told me, ‘You need to lose weight.’ She never told me, ‘You need to change your records.’”
R&B singer Chlöe channeled Aaliyah and performed “One In a Million” which Elliott wrote and produced alongside Timbaland — and also sang Elliott’s “One Minute Man” in honor of the genre-bending performer. Elliott’s protege, Tweet, performed their 2002 hit “Oops (Oh My)” while Ciara sang and danced to her collaborative songs with Elliott, the Grammy-winning “Lose Control” and “1, 2 Step.” Busta Rhymes also owned the night as he honored Rhone with performances onstage.
But the night’s liveliest performance was by Snoop Dogg, Kurupt and Ty Dolla $ign, who all honored Dr. Dre. The trio performed “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None),” which Dre produced.
“My musical journey started with me wanting to find something that I could be good at simply so I could earn enough money to buy a decent pair of shoes just to be able to wear to school,” Dr. Dre said. “I was in junior high school the first time I had ever heard hip-hop for the first time. I heard mixing and scratching, and I couldn’t get enough of that sound. And once I got my hands on the turntables, I knew I had found my wings and I was determined to learn how to fly.”
“I fell in love with the idea of manipulating sound and taking those different sounds and putting them together like a puzzle to make a song,” continued Dre, who has crafted his own hits as well as successes for Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Gwen Stefani and more. “I studied engineering for years and years and years, and from there I realized that I could take or hear a snippet of a sound and use that to create something entirely new. And then boom — I became a producer.”