Reuters

Los Angeles

Hip-hop ruled the Grammys stage on Monday in performances that put racial tension back in the national spotlight and where some of music’s biggest stars failed to deliver. Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” lost out on the coveted album of the year. But it was his passionate, politically charged performance of “The Blacker the Berry” and “Alright,” featuring chained black men in a prison, and African tribal dancers, that quickly stole the show. “I’m African-American, I’m African, I’m black as the moon, heritage of a small village, pardon my residence, came from the bottom of mankind,” rapped Lamar, 28, who hails from Compton, California.

Lamar’s performance ended with a backdrop of a large map of Africa with the name Compton written across it. National Public Radio’s Eric Deggans called it “A performance that woke up a sleepy #Grammys” and entertainment website E! Online tweeted that “Kendrick Lamar just SHUT. IT. DOWN. at the Grammys.”

Lamar wasn’t the only rapper making waves. Broadway’s sold-out musical “Hamilton” which mixes rap, jazz, ballads and casts black and Latino actors as the US founding fathers, performed live from New York. The show won the best musical theater album award and its creator, Lin Manuel-Miranda, delivered his acceptance speech in rap. “Kendrick then Lin Manuel serving nonstop back to back black and brown genius”, tweeted Daniel Jose Older. Going into the Grammys, all eyes had been on Adele, who was returning to music’s biggest night after a four-year absence and following the blockbuster success of her new album “25.” But the British singer’s delivery of ballad “All I Ask,” was marred by sound issues and uncharacteristic flat notes that dismayed many fans.

“The piano mics fell on to the piano strings, that’s what the guitar sound was. It made it sound out of tune. Shit happens. X” Adele tweeted in response. Moreover, here is a look at the show-stopping acts - and some of the more cringeworthy turns:

Lamar may not have won any of the top prizes, but he certainly won the night in terms of sheer star power. The rapper, who has emerged as a voice of the Black Lives Matter movement, offered up an intense, politically charged performance that took him from a prison - in shackles, no less - to a joyous bonfire in Africa with dancers in traditional dress. The 28-year-old started out in chains and a prison uniform, with strobes flashing on the jailhouse set, as he treated the audience to a jazz-rock version of “The Blacker The Berry.”

He then shifted into “Alright,” the unofficial anthem of the movement against police abuse targeting African Americans. His rapid-fire delivery of lyrics ignited the audience, which gave him a standing ovation.

Another of the night’s top moments came when the inimitable Lady Gaga appeared for her David Bowie tribute in a nuclear-orange wig - and with a giant projected spider crawling across her face. The number was not short on song titles - she sang bits of 10 hits, from “Space Oddity” and “Ziggy Stardust” to “Let’s Dance” and “Heroes.” It was a messy, chaotic performance that prioritized sight over sound and ended up being a tribute more to Bowie’s showmanship than to his musical accomplishments.