The Emmys’ Chaotic Opening Number Featured Rita Wilson Rapping
LL Cool J and Lil Dicky also joined Cedric The Entertainer to start the show.
The 2021 Primetime Emmy Awards opened in style as host Cedric The Entertainer rapped to the tune of Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend” with help from a few rappers and, most surprisingly, Rita Wilson. Presenting live at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theatre, Cedric’s Emmys opening was a welcome return to form. While last year’s celebration featured Zoom speeches and hazmat suits, this year’s opener was an in-person musical celebration.
The show began with Cedric welcoming viewers into his living room. He talked about how the night isn’t just about celebrating the TV created last year, but also the actors whose roles have comforted us during these challenging times. But the scene soon segued into him stepping out into the live audience as the opening notes of Biz Markie’s hit song from 1989 began to play. “TV, you got what I need,” Cedric belted out as he stepped into the crowd.
He began rapping live alongside Lil Dicky and LL Cool J. Nominated stars like Billy Porter, MJ Rodriguez, and the cast of Black-ish and Ted Lasso danced and joined in for the musical number. But it was Wilson rapping that had audiences laughing, both in person and at home. Dancing around in a sleek black suit, Wilson threw out rhymes like, “This rap couldn’t be complete, I’ve gotta give a shout out to Sesame Street.”
“The mother of Chet Hanks is a better rapper than him,” one Twitter user joked. “Rita Wilson is my favorite hip hop artist,” another user proclaimed.
Fittingly, Wilson hinted at her opening performance while on the red carpet. When asked who she was wearing, she told Karamo Brown that it’s a Tom Ford suit. “Because I don’t drop molly, I rock Tom Ford,” she slowly quoted from Jay-Z’s “Tom Ford.”
“Hold on, we’ve got you rapping now?” Karamo asked with a laugh. “I’m loving this right now.”
Later, in the non-rapping portion of his opening monologue, Cedric brought up the importance of getting vaccinated, which was required to attend the event. “I got Pfizer because I'm bougie, alright,” he joked. “Pfizer — that’s the Neiman Marcus of vaccines. Moderna — that’s Macy’s. And then Johnson & Johnson — that’s T.J. Maxx, of course, you know.”
Cedric also talked about the pride he feels in hosting the event as a Black performer and cited how positive it is to see more Black actors nominated this year. Still, he joked that it could’ve been even more diverse. “I watched [WandaVision], and I gotta say I was a little taken aback when I didn’t see Wanda Sykes on there. I mean, the name, doesn’t it sound like Wanda Sykes as a feisty optometrist?” he said.
All in all, as Cedric proved during his opening performance, while he’s new to hosting the Emmys, he certainly knows how to live up to his moniker. It’s no surprise, though. He’s been in the Emmy spotlight himself, as a special he hosted was nominated for Outstanding Art Direction in 2003. And as he explained to Brown on the red carpet, it feels like this gig has been a long time coming. When Brown asked him what a younger version of himself would think about him hosting the Emmys, Cedric said, “It would be surreal … I can feel my grandmother and mother looking down on this day, just really, really pleased by what’s going on.”