10 Reasons why the festivities were actually worth watching this year.
10. The 4th Duffle Bag Boy
In one of the night’s best performances, a shirtless Weezy managed to play it low key and let Playaz Circle shine—especially Tity Boy, who seemed so at home you’d think he was in the Gucci store. As a special surprise, DTP bossman Ludacris popped out at the end to perform an unheard remix verse to the Southern smash. Luva Luva doin’ pretty damn good!
9. Soulja Boy Hugging BET President During “Crank Dat”
If you ever needed proof that BET love the kids, you got it last night. While performing “Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)” to a crowd who seemed enthusiastic but too grown to actually do his dance, SB brought his mic out to the crowd. But rather than giving dap to a line of rappers, SB made a more valuable connect, stopping to embrace only one person: Debra Lee, the President and Chief Operating Officer of BET. Yuuuugh!
8. The Teacher didn’t sound like a preacher
Inviting notoriously opinionated and verbose KRS up on stage in front of a bunch of fickle Southern rappers was a risky move, but Kris handled it like the vet he is. Rather than berating ignorance in rap, he addressed all the hip-hop criticism that stemmed from the Imus controversey by saying, “Hip-hop is being asked to grow up and answer problems that aren’t really even ours.” He then urged hip-hop to rise to the call, stand tall and unify. That’s a class act.
7. Michael Vick was there…in spirit
The motto for this year’s awards should have been: “when in doubt, make a Michael Vick reference.” While the Atlanta Falcons quarterback was no doubt watching from home under his court mandated house arrest, he was definitely there in spirit. There were no less than four Vick references throughout the evening. The best: after giving a memorable speech in defense of hip-hop, David Banner held a Vick jersey up in the sky and screamed “We still love you my dude!!”
6. The “Ciphers” came correct
In three pre-taped interludes, BET assembled a diverse cross-section of MCs (with DJ Premier on the wheels of steel) on a rooftop to remind the kids of hip-hop’s essence—raw rhyming. The first segment featured Wyclef, Twista, Lil Mama and British rapper Dizzee Rascal. The second segment featured Phonte from Little Brother, Stat Quo and Kardinal Offishal. The third featured French rapper Flo, Cassidy, Joell Ortiz and Ras Kass—with a Michael Vick punchline, of course.
5. Even Cornell West plugged his album!
Okay, so he wasn’t wearing a Macy Gray-esque “BUY MY ALBUM” shirt, but the “Hip-Hop Professor” (as BET dubbed him) still slyly plugged his new album while presenting KRS-One with the “I Am Hip-Hop Award.” After giving a whole long-winded speech about the significance of KRS and hip-hop in general, West managed to send one more message “and thank you for being on my album”. That’s hip-hop.
4. Common winning His First Award on TV
Common seemed genuinely touched to be receiving his first award—scratch that, first two awards—on television. After co-winning CD Of The Year with T.I. and giving a speech about how he doesn’t separate himself from any rapper, the Chi-Town MC said, “This my first award I’ve ever got on TV Yall…14 years!” And he didn’t even have to get it from coffee shop chicks and white dudes.
3. Kanye acting humble
Many black men were given a chance last night, and Kanyeezy was no exception. Far from throwing another Awards show hissy fit that people have come to expect from him, Kanye was all love. When he first won the performer’s “Move the Crowd” award, he kept it simple and low-key, joking, “You know I like winning.” But when he won Video of the Year for “Stronger,” Kanye drove the humble point home by literally giving the award away to UGK, OutKast and director Bryan Barber for the “International Players Anthem,” which Kanye felt deserved to win. Big Boi, Bun and Bryan all came up on stage, but Big Boi (the night’s most unexpectedly charismatic presence) then gave it right back to Kanye. Sharing is caring!
2. No Beef!
Maybe it was everyone’s shock that hometown hero T.I. was arrested just before the ceremony. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that—aside from Busta, Wyclef and older heads like LL and KRS—there were hardly any New York rappers in the building (even the usual suspects like Fat Joe and Jim Jones were absent from the proceedings). Whatever it was, the entire community seemed unified and happy to be together, banding together against all the attacks hip-hop has undergone this year. No one fought, and no one used their platform to air out petty, personal beefs.
1. Lil Wayne performing “Gossip”
The evening’s highlight was undoubtably Lil Wayne’s riveting performance of a new song called “Gossip” from The Carter III. Despite the fact that no one had heard the song before, the crowd seemed to be fully focused on Weezy’s every word. Wayne clearly wanted to make a statement, seeming like he wanted to prove once and for all that he actually is the best rapper alive. He stood alone on a flaming stage, wearing a silver shiny coat and spitting nothing but raw lyrics in the no-frills performance: “My flow sick, so sick it’s like my shit is dyin’/It rains a lot in my city, ’cause my city’s cryin’/’Cause my city’s dyin’/But I emerged from all of that I am a living pion/Neer, Scion/Fear God, not them.” As if to drive the point home, he ended the performace by saying “I Am Hip-Hop! And I ain’t dead, I’m alive.”