The 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards — airing tonight at 9 p.m. on BET — returned to Atlanta with plenty of fanfare. How convenient that the taping of the annual show rolled around the same weekend as T.I.’s release? It was also right around the Kang’s birthday, as well as Young Jeezy’s, so there was a lot of activity in the city. Regardless of the complaints from previous years, the award show remains a huge draw, with some folks literally paying hundreds of dollars to attend. Needless to say our seats were not front-row but we were in the house and here’s how it went down.
Unlike the Soul Train Awards (another BET awards show taped in Atlanta), there was no marathon recording session for the BET Hip Hop Awards. At 4:45 p.m., the doors were closed, with the show kicking off at about 5 on the dot. Dressed in all-white everything, except for the mandatory black Hollywood shades, Jeezy kicked off the show performing “F.A.M.E. “Although he had an elevated stage, plenty of screens with clouds and even a ring of fire, the highlight was the appearance of T.I.
Dressed in all gray, the backdrop changed to the Atlanta skyline at night to announce the return of the Kang, who, as you recall, got snared into his web of recent legal trouble at the 2007 BET Hip Hop Awards. While time was limited, T.I. tried to give the people what they came for and even went into the crowd. He thanked them for the support before breaking off a little of “I’m Flexing,” his new single with Big K.R.I.T., before exiting. From the bottom to the top, the crowd seemed genuinely pleased to see him.
Normally a host would have come out then, but BET launched into a pre-recorded cypher, which has become an incredibly popular part of the annual award show. DJ Premier dropped the beat, as French Montana led the new jacks. BET definitely gets an A for clearly spelling out each rapper’s names and the cities they rep. The best was that well-known emcee, Mike Epps. Seriously, that’s how the comedian and show host was introduced before Da Brat’s voice boomed in to welcome us to the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards.
Dressed in a tux, Epps hosted a “Hip Hop Telethon,” in an attempt to raise money to give the gift of hip-hop cool to the clueless. Twista and DJ Khaled were among those answering the phones.
Khaled then transitioned into introducing the nominees for the Sweet 16: Best Featured Verse. When Busta Rhymes won for Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now,” the crowd wasn’t feeling Busta, but then he shamed them into applause by pointing out that the great thing about winning was actually having the people cheer you on. Then he dropped an obligatory, “Welcome Home, T.I.” to the crowd’s thunderous approval.
From there, more pre-taped ciphers followed. Busta Rhymes and Eminem were among the highlights, and Eminem ripped it in the cypher with his Shady Music signees Slaughterhouse (Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz, Royce da 5’9 and Crooked I).
Lupe Fiasco gave a Grammy-caliber peformance for “Words I Never Said,” with an incognito Erykah Badu singing backup. In an ironic twist, Too Short introduced him by speaking about the need for conscious rap. Isn’t this the man known for his trademark, “Beeyotch”?
A skinny Wiz Khalifa performed “Taylor Gang” while shirtless alongside Chevy Woods. DMX was truly a WTF moment, but he had the crowd amped, especially when he performed “Lose My Mind” with Swizz Beatz serving as his hype man.
The real shocker, though, was the return of ’80s rapper Heavy D. Kids in the crowd looked thoroughly confused, but Heavy had some tight choreography to boot. Seriously, he needs to give lessons. The young crowd warmed up to him, especially the females, when Tyrese came out to sing the hook on his classic, “Now That We Found Love.”
Ricky Rozay also brought out his Maybach Music Group featuring Wale and Meek Mill. They kicked off with “That Way” as an out-of-place-looking El DeBarge sang the hook. “I’m A Boss” hit hard though, but Meek Mill seemed to blow Wale off the stage.
Big Sean also performed. He wasn’t bad; but he wasn’t great either. Roscoe Dash joined him for his single “Marvin & Chardonnay,” another crowd-pleaser.
Back to the ciphers: Ludacris, B.o.B, and even 2 Chainz (Tity Boi) repped Atlanta well. So did Christian rapper Lecrae. Hopefully, BET will spell his name right for the broadcast. The Lady of Rage was also a random treat. Estelle rhymed in one cipher, proving why she’s a singer, not a rapper. And France’s Soprano added an international flair by rhyming in French with subtitles.
Nelly saluted LL Cool J with the “I Am Hip-Hop” honor. LL accepted with a poetic rhyme encouraging folks to vote, among other things.
“No Hands” won for “Best Club Banger” but Waka Flocka wasn’t there to accept it. Instead, Drumma Boy accepted on his behalf with a bunch of folks including Roscoe. Wonder if Waka’s absence had anything to do with the Twitter beef he and BET exec Stephen Hill, who oversees the awards, got into after Waka ignored the script and jumped into the crowd? Of course, beef seems to follow Waka. The Thursday before the taping, he was reportedly involved in another altercation at Metro Lanes on Metropolitan Pkwy. in Atlanta. Maybe that fight is the real reason he wasn’t there.
By seven, the show was a wrap. Seriously, BET was not playing. As people walked out, Joe Budden was with his girl. Her butt was so big, it was a wonder she didn’t fall backward.
As for the show, however, it remains to be seen. It would have been nice to some up-and-coming Atlantans like Future perform “Tony Montana,” 2 Chainz (Tity Boi) do “Spend It” (the remix version features T.I.), or Travis Porter doing “Make It Rain” and “You Don’t Know Bout It.” They were all present. So when the show airs on Thurs., Oct. 11, we will have to see how it actually turns out or if any of rap’s superstars, i.e. Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Kanye West or Jay Z, pop up in pre-recorded sections. Should be interesting. It always is.
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