2021 Emmys Open With Musical Biz Markie Tribute, Rapping Rita Wilson

What better way to kick off the in-person Emmy Awards after a year of virtual (and mostly terrible) award shows than a big old-fashioned musical number? 

The 73rd annual ceremony opened Sunday night with some razzle-dazzle helmed by host Cedric the Entertainer, who welcomed the stars to the show with a reimagining of “Just a Friend” by the late hip-hop legend Biz Markie, who died at age 57 in July.

The veteran stand-up comedian and star of the CBS sitcom “The Neighborhood” began the number on the couch, as he reminisced about some of his favorite TV memories, before busting out onstage with a microphone in hand. 

Soon enough, LL Cool J took over with a verse of his own, tinkering with the lyrics of the classic track to sing about how in this very strange, pandemic-impacted year television has become our collective best friend. 

“TV, you got what I need!!” Cedric belted, as the rest of attendees sang along in unison.

Naturally, Cedric tapped some of the in-house talent to help him round out the number including Mandy Moore, Daveed Diggs, Tracee Ellis Ross, Anthony Anderson, Billy Porter and Rita Wilson, who rapped her own entire verse.

The ceremony, which has been held for years inside the 7,100-seat Microsoft Theater, was moved to an outdoor tent directly behind the venue this year, where a limited audience was seated at tables. All attendees were asked to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 with the ceremony proceeding largely mask-less. 

Ahead of the show, Cedric said he wanted to make the Emmys, which have seen increasingly lower viewership in recent years, a more accessible event, telling The New York Times that he doesn’t “want that Oscars feel.” 

“I want to bring a familiarity that comes with my brand of stand-up,” he told the outlet in a profile published earlier this month. “I’m somebody you know. I’m your cousin or your uncle, and we’re here to celebrate each other.”

“[The Emmys] started to have this feeling like people aren’t really invited in the room. We all do a job here,” he added. “Some people have more serious dramatic shows that are fun and interesting to watch. And some people have veg-out, “sit down and relax” television. Let’s take the judgment out. That’s what I want to do.”

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