Their absence was seen as a snub of an awards show that has often shut hip-hop artists out of its top prizes, despite rap's dominance as the biggest music genre in the United States.
"There's a sense of community that I want to bring to the stage", Alicia Keys told Billboard ahead of her hosting duties.
The public and press were unaware that the First Lady would attend the Grammys, especially since she's been busy with her book tour.
Michelle Obama kicked off the 2019 Grammy Awards with a bang.
"We've got a show to do", the former First Lady said in reaction, before sharing how music has touched her life. "It allows us to hear one another".
Next, when it was Obama's turn to talk, the audience gave a rowdy round of applause as she began. "Music took my ears, took my hands, my voice, and my soul, and it led me to all of you and my Little Monsters, who I love so much".
"I want to be the one that really just continues to reach out to the people that I love and admire and my friends, and just be able to create an awesome energy", she added. It reminds me where I come from but also reminds of all of the places I can go. "Music helps us share ourselves, our dignity and sorrows, our hopes, our joys". And I know that's true for everybody here.
"But here's what I know, every voice we hear deserves to be honored and respected", she said.
Alicia Keys finished off the powerful moment by adding: "What is better than this?" Considering that women, per Billboard, will have a larger presence at this year's Grammys ceremony after being "nearly muted" the prior year, Alicia is right.