Hip-Hop Was Shut Out of the 2021 MTV VMAs, But Here Are The Best Music Moments

Robyn Mowatt Robyn Mowatt is a staff writer at Okayplayer where she…
Busta Rhymes VMAs
Photo Credit: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for MTV

Despite hip-hop being almost nonexistent from the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards, performers including Busta Rhymes, Doja Cat, and Normani shared sets that injected life into the show.

The 2021 MTV VMAs were quite a ride. Hosted at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the show centered around the 40th anniversary of the television network. The celebration was marked by a few music moments that were pivotal, but overall the energy was strange. Performances from Busta Rhymes, Chloe Bailey, and Normani were a few of the most interesting sets. Other parts of the show seemed forced and lacked direction.

Doja Cat, the host of the awards show did her best to provide a bit of comical relief as the homage to the ‘00s became uncomfortably obvious. Each of her looks was wacky and equal parts zany, but she wore each outfit well as she poked at celebrity stan culture throughout the ceremony. She wore Vivienne Westwood twice and also opted for an outlandish Thom Browne look that she shared made her feel like a worm, this is what she wore as she won “Collaboration Of The Year” for “Kiss Me More” featuring SZA.

Stars from the ‘00s presented countless awards and performances: Ashanti, JaRule, Ciara, Jennifer Lopez, Lance Bass, AJ McLean, and Nick Lachey. It was fitting that Ciara announced Normani’s performance since both of these women are cut from the same cloth. They’re both entertainers who are talented dancers outside of the pop-centered music they create. 

If you’re wondering why strange was a word used to describe the show, it’s mainly because hip-hop was almost nonexistent. You’d think that with the rap artists providing a bulk of the music throughout the pandemic that its artists would be acknowledged with performance slots, but that’s wishful thinking. Instead acts like Latto performed for fans on a stage outside of the Barclays, her set which happened for much of the awards show weren’t seen in full on television.

Even with the emptiness that emitted from the 2021 MTV VMAs due to the fact that the network’s television execs and producers decided to lean into a pop agenda this go-round, we’re still sharing our favorite music moments below. 

Lil Nas X Was The Moment

When Lil Nas X appeared on the VMAs red carpet ahead of the show he shared that his performance was going to be “really sexy.” That’s exactly what it was, he was given roughly 3 and a half minutes to share two of his biggest hits, “Industry Baby” and “Montero.” He began his performance with a marching band theme and then quickly threw off his drum major look. His set was lively and his presentation was impeccable. Overall he thrived off of the audience’s energy as he lived through yet another career highlight. His entire performance was a middle finger to all the chauvinistic and homophobic naysayers who can’t seem to keep his name out of their mouths. 

“Montero” went on to win “Video Of The Year,” it also won “Best Direction” and “Best Visual Effects.”

Doja Cat Performs “Been Like This” & “You Right” 

Doja Cat took a moment away from being a host to grace the stage. She appeared to be floating as she sang “Been Like This,” a track off of her latest album Planet Her. Since she never disappoints, she followed this up with “You Right.” For this track also off of her well-received project we previously mentioned, she shared a fitting dance routine. It was interesting that these two songs were selected, but we’ll take it since her stage presence is always on point.   

Chlöe Bailey Shares A Sexy Solo Debut

“Have Mercy,” Chlöe Bailey’s first single as a solo artist had the Internet talking on Friday after it dropped at midnight. On the VMAs stage, the talented singer/songwriter and producer gave off BDE. Following a similar theme as the music video, a frat boy was the center of the performance, but also, Bailey’s performance was filled with an energy that other entertainers who hit the main stage lacked. She didn’t miss any steps and overall succeeded in proving why she is currently one to watch.

Normani Performs “Wild Ride” 

If you’re living for Normani’s ongoing reign as one of the pop girls of the moment, her “Wild Ride” performance might have given you life. For her set which was inspired by pop icons of the ‘00s, she was joined by a crew of dancers who seemed to take up a bit too much of the stage. But other than that, Normani shined. A moment between her and Teyana Taylor at the end was a nod to Janet Jackson.

Busta Rhymes Brings Hip-Hop to the 2021 MTV VMAs

The MTV Video Vanguard is no longer presented. We’re curious if Busta Rhymes’s performance was supposed to make up for that? Regardless, he put on a show and performed a medley of a few of his biggest hits including “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See,” “Scenario,” “Touch It,” “Pass The Courvoisier,” and “Look At Me Now.” His willingness to bring his immense energy to the VMAs stage is commendable, the audience wasn’t deserving of it. As he transitioned between each song, it became clear that this was a defining hip-hop moment that’d go down in history. 

Want More?

Sign Up To Our Newsletter

Follow Us