Over the past 34 years, hip-hop and the MTV Video Music Awards have had a long, intertwined history of culture-shaping moments: Snoop Dogg presenting awards while being wanted for murder in 1993, Lil Kim showing up practically naked in 1999, Eminem walking the streets of New York City with an army of Slim Shady clones, Kanye West notoriously stage crashing Taylor Swift in support of Beyoncé in 2009. That's just a handful of the iconic VMA moments that are integral to hip-hop and pop culture.
More recently though, both Hype Williams and LL Cool J won the prestigious Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, which honors directors and artists who attain serious critical acclaim for achievements in music, video and film. In short, the VMAs have highlighted hip-hop's good, bad and down-right ratchet.
This year, however, was set up to be one of the most prosperous years for hip-hop at the VMAs. Thanks to the explosion of electrifying music videos that hip-hop has created over the past 12 months, the likes of Cardi B, The Carters, Drake and Childish Gambino each racked up more nominations than anyone else. Plus, some top-tier artists agreed to grace the stage to deliver head-turning performances that will undoubtedly go down as some of the show's all-time best.
If you didn't get a chance to catch it for yourself, XXL broke down the best and worst hip-hop moments from this year's MTV Video Music Awards, live from Radio City Music Hal in NYC.
Best: Cardi B Opens The Show
The 2018 VMAs went without a host last night, which meant no funny opening monologue. But Cardi B, who racked up 10 nominations, opened the show with a comedic prank that got the crowd and viewers rolling.
Cascading to the mic stand holding what appeared to be swaddled baby, Cardi said, "I got a little ticky, ticky surprise for y'all," hinting that she was ready to reveal her newborn baby, Kulture, to the world. But of course, it was just a silver VMA astronaut trophy.
Best: Logic's Pro-Immigration Performance
Logic has been a strong advocate of everything socially righteous for years. He continued his conscious crusade at the VMAs last night with a performance of his politically charged track, "One Day."
To help in his protest of Trump's wall building and family-ripping policies, he was joined on stage by the song's featured guest Ryan Tedder and various members of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, United We Dream and Make the Road New York—and of course their children.
It was a strong moment that proved hip-hop still cares about socio-economic issues facing the world.
Worst: Backstreet Boys Cover Drake
The Backstreet Boys briefly reunited last night to perform some of their hit songs, but also to present Song of the Year honors.
Before listing the nominees and awarding the winner, the grown-up boy band awkwardly did mini-renditions of all of the nominated songs. The most cringeworthy was a laughable attempt to recreate the cadence, tone and flow of Drake's "God's Plan."
There have been multiple hip-hop covers from non rap artists in the past, but even this short attempt at the song's chorus by Nick Carter was painful to hear and watch.
Best: Cardi B Wins 'Best New Artist' Award
There's no denying Cardi B's immaculate run over the past 18 months, and last night's VMAs were confirmation of her prominence in the culture.
Not only did she lead the entire award ceremony with the most nominations, she also took home the tiny silver astronaut for the coveted Best New Artist award, which has previously been won by some of today's most influential hip-hop artists.
She beat out Bazzi, Chloe x Halle, Hayley Kiyoko, Lil Pump and Lil Uzi Vert, all while dishing some serious spice during her acceptance speech: "And that's something that God gave me that you cant buy, bitch!"
Best: Travis Scott Performing Songs From 'Astroworld'
Travis Scott's Astroworld album has recently been championed by most as his magnum opus. The Houston rapper performed a blended mix of "Stargazing," "Stop Trying to be God" and fan-favorite "Sicko Mode" with unrivaled energy.
Not only was this his first solo performance at the VMAs but also a great preview as to what is to come on his upcoming Astroworld: Wish You Were Here tour.
Worst: Kevin Hart Disses Lil Xan and Lil Pump's Face Tats
Face tattoos have become a staple amongst young hip-hop up-and-comers. The likes of Lil Xan and Lil Pump are some of the more inked artists, and they caught some heat for it via Kevin Hart and his Night School co-star Tiffany Haddish.
Kevin quipped that both Pump and Xan are the reason "your 12-year-old cousin wants a face tattoo" while promptly urging youth to "stop writing on your face—it's stupid!" It's all jokes but the two rappers couldn't hide the awkwardness once the camera panned in their direction. Let the kids live, Kev!
Best: Childish Gambino Wins 'Video With a Message' Award
Childish Gambino shook up the Internet in May when he dropped the deeply layered video for "This Is America."
Dripped-up and draped-out in layers of symbolism and social commentary, Gambino pulled off a brilliantly thought provoking video, which has been viewed on YouTube more than 370 million times. So it was only right that he took home the Video with a Message award, also winning Best Direction and Best Choreography.
Worst: G-Eazy Makes Joke About Kissing Britney Spears
Back at the 2016 MTV VMAs, G-Eazy attempted to kiss Britney Spears during their duo performance of "Make Me." Britney later denied that he attempted to lock lips but the video of the performance clearly shows Gerald trying to make it happen. It looked to be a classic case of getting caught in the moment that unfortunately back-fired for G.
The Bay Area rapper didn't hit the stage to perform this year, but he did touch the mic to present. This gave him the perfect moment to address the 2016 incident by saying, "I thought I was about to kiss Britney." Which, as expected, was met with crickets from the audience.
Best: Gucci Mane Presenting 'Best Collaboration' Award
Gucci Mane's glow-up over the past two years has been downright remarkable. From getting out of jail, getting in bodybuilder shape and marrying Keyshia Ka'Oir last year, Gucci has come a long way since his trapping days.
To add to his revitalized lifestyle, Gucci, draped in a perfectly tailored pink suit, presented the award for Best Collaboration, which Jennifer Lopez won for her song “Dinero” featuring DJ Khaled and Cardi B.
Five years ago it looked as if Gucci would never get out of the prison system, now Big GuWop is elegantly presenting awards in front of millions of cable TV viewers. Brrrr!
Best: "Rockstar" Wins 'Song of the Year' Award
Every award matters, of course. But none are bigger than Song of the Year, which Post Malone won for "Rockstar."
The song, which features 21 Savage, is an absolute smash. Since its release in September 2017, it remains one of the most-streamed song of the past 12 months.
Despite Post Malone's recent culture-vulture criticisms, this is a huge win for hip-hop. The song beat out Bruno Mars and Cardi B's “Finesse (Remix)," Camila Cabello and Young Thug's “Havana,” Drake's “God’s Plan,” Dua Lipa's “New Rules” and Ed Sheeran's “Perfect."