Ranking The 2013 BET Hip-Hop Awards Cypher Verses
Last night, BET aired its annual BET Hip-Hop Awards, which means one thing: cyphers. While the awards themselves are more often than not treated as an afterthought at the ceremony, the cyphers still have the potential to make waves. With an early clip of Kendrick Lamar's appearance leaking weeks before the show, anticipation was higher than ever. Luckily, the event didn't disappoint.
The appeal of the cyphers is simple: Watch rappers rap. The real fun comes the next day when you're trying to pick apart who delivered the best verse, who surprised you and who dropped the ball. This year the lineup was more eclectic and wide-ranging than ever, with whole cyphers devoted to hip-hop's hottest crews TDE and the A$AP Mob, an appearance from the legendary Lil Kim and opportunities for young rising artists like Jon Connor to make a name for themselves. There was even an online cypher, along with one from the Real Husbands Of Hollywood. The pressure was on.
So let's get to it. Who was the best? We've already asked you, but now it's time to break down each verse—with the exception of the online cypher and the jokey Real Husbands one, though Nelly did have some bars. Here it is: The 2013 BET Hip-Hop Awards Cyphers from worst to best. --Dan Jackson And Eric Diep
24. Travi$ Scott
Choice Line: "I only like white girls that got black butts"
Verdict: It's tempting to let the rapper/producer speak for himself here. It's surprising to see someone drop the ball like that on non-live T.V., but it sounds like Scott just wasn't feeling it.
23. Emis Killa
Choice Line: "Brr, I'm more than cold, I'm Sub-Zero"
Verdict: Italian rappers need some love, too. BET grabs one of the most respected up-and-comers from the country to trade rhymes with America’s best. His diversity in his rhymes shows through the translation, giving viewers an indication that Emis Killa can bring it just like the rest of them.
22. A$AP Ant
Choice Line: "City on my back like I run a campaign/Baltimore U.S.A. that's my domain"
Verdict: A$AP Ant mentioned Baltimore twice in his verse, most likely in an effort to remind people that he is, in fact, the A$AP member from Baltimore. Did you know this guy is from Baltimore? Well, now you do.
21. Starlife Breezy
Choice Line: "Take the hate in my heart and sell it to the nations as art"
Verdict: The contest-winning rapper made the most of his appearance, dropping some lines there were not as breezy as you'd think you'd hear from a guy with breezy in his name. Nothing too wildly impressive, but he had heart.
20. A$AP Twelvy
Choice Line: "See the good die young, gun shots then it's blurry/So I'm off in a hurry"
Verdict: It must have been tough to follow the easy-going magnetism of A$AP Ferg, but Twelvy did his best, dropping a serviceable but not too memorable verse.
19. A$AP Nast
Choice Line: "We the new Black Panthers/Get your hands up, we in it for the ransom/Money, power, respect, Lox gave us the anthem"
Verdict: The gravely voiced A$AP Mob member gave a shout out to his hip-hop forefathers, LOX, showing that he knows his history. His technically competent verse isn't going to blow any minds, but it was a nice break in the A$AP assault.
18. Lil Kim
Choice Line: "I pull up to the party in a bright red Ferrari/And I shot the block down like I just caught a body"
Verdict: It's not totally clear why Lil Kim was in the cypher, but that randomness is always part of the event's appeal. She was a little shaky at points, tumbling around the beat, but she still managed to drop some clever lines.
Choice Line: "I made a plan to kick the game in its smelly rectum/And I don't deviate like a healthy septum"
Verdict: Despite Wax’s previous showcases of his lyrical abilities on his recent album Continue, the 33-year-old MC doesn’t quite deliver here. With rhymes about the Kardashians and a shameless plug at the end, it’s just not his best.
16. Tifanny Foxx
Choice Line: "You don't get respect from me unless you the Queen B/And when they talk about the king, not TIP, they mean me"
Verdict: The St. Louis rapper came in with a hair-do that sorta clashed with the gritty surroundings of the goofy warehouse set where the cyphers are filmed, but her verse proved she belonged.
15. Isiah Rashad
Choice Line: "You ain’t underrated, you ain’t under looked/You ain’t overbooked, you just under cooked"
Verdict: TDE's newest signee probably had the most high pressure cypher of the night. If he delivered, all the hype would be justified. If he sputtered, he'd look unworthy of hanging with the rest of the TDE crew. Rashad didn't let the pressure get to him, delivering a strong verse full of threats, boats and clever asides.
14. Ab Soul
Choice Line: "It’s Ab-Soul, gimme the loot, I’m the skinny Biggie/In New York City with Puffy, puffing the sticky"
Verdict: TDE's most laid-back and esoteric rapper isn't exactly the type of artist you expect to explode in a cypher. He's probably a little too cerebral to ever really destroy one of these things, but he showed off his skills while staying true to himself.
13. Joe Budden
Choice Line: "It's getting me upset/Riddle me for a sec/Literally unimpressed with who y'all picked to be the best"
Verdict: Budden’s laid-back flow is calculated. “When you talk about the best rappers, it’s rhetorical.” Enough said.
12. ScHoolBoy Q
Choice Line: "Uh, most of these niggas shouldn’t be next to us/We keep our distance from those, those acting like hoes"
Verdict: Q got things off to a combative start, setting the tone for the incendiary TDE cypher. Also, he had the best hat.
11. Royce da 5’9
Choice Line: "Now all I'm trying to do is give Halle Berry a baby today/Then I'm outie, maybe Drake can adopt it"
Verdict: While there’s no epic line like “Hi Rihanna" from their standout Shady Boys 2.0 Cypher in 2011, the Detroit native still spits tightened bars with little effort, touching on being missed on the hottest MCs list, riding shotgun with Eminem before he was “compared to ‘Pac” and more. His OG stripes shines here with rhymes that don’t’ miss a step.” "Slaughterhouse, state of emergency/Bars for days."
10. A$AP Ferg
Choice Line: "Got’em wining like Lil Kim in bikini minks/No Limit soldier with a bunch of little tanks"
Verdict: The most animated member of the A$AP Mob dropped a verse packed with references to the old school icons that inspired him, but also showed off why he remains the group's wildcard. Trap Lord in stores now.
Choice Line: "Off the chain, I should probably party with Charlie Sheen/From the South but I wasn't brought up like Paula Dean"
Verdict: Strange Music’s hidden gem sticks to his double-time flow and doesn’t break away from it. And to reiterate Rittz's last punchline, you should get his album. It's fire.
08. Joell Ortiz
Choice Line: "I hear all the noise like mad bikers, hip hop making a big sting like if Shaq had diapers/Bunch of half ass liars, with mad hyper reactions to the backpack writers"
Verdict: Joell Ortiz is always a technically proficient rapper, oozing with confidence and swagger. Mr. Yaowa wasted little time on his opening verse and holds our attention. Tough talk.
07. Action Bronson
Choice Line: "Crash the motherfucking Jeep into the venue/Better pray to God it's straight to heaven where they send you"
Verdict: Rocking the baby-curls, Bronson delivered a somewhat mumbly, but still inspired verse that saw him cracking jokes and making threats without breaking a sweat. But seriously, if this was a hair contest, he'd be the winner.
Choice Line: "Fly like Elliot's bike/Extraterrestrial flow I'm so out of they sight"
Verdict: Rapsody shuts it down and comes through with straight bars. She doesn’t slip once and even playfully touches on being the new Queen of New York. Who’s gonna stop her now?
05. A$AP Rocky
Choice Line: "This is Huey Newton with the Uzzi shootin'/The trill Martin Luther finna spark the ruger"
Verdict: Rocky showed why he's the leader of the A$AP Mob with this one, doing what he does best: weaving together a bunch of disparate influences into something cohesive. With references to Huey Newton, MLK, Malcolm X, Jimmi Hendrix and King Kendrick, Rocky uncorked a verse that was as playful as it was dense.
04. Jay Rock
Choice Line: "Sparked the flames, still remain as a top shotta/I ain’t no backpack rapper, I ain’t no lyricist/And if he ain’t talking to you mind ya business then"
Verdict: TDE's flame-sparking leader gave a performance that rivaled his much loved verse on "Money Tree." His gruff demeanor and snarling delivery did a great job of upping the intensity of the TDE cypher following Schoolboy's more laid-back opening.
03. Jon Connor
Choice Line: "This is Andre The Giant versus Daniel Bryant/Yes, you want it hot well allow me to change the climate"
Verdict: Flint, Michigan’s best kept secret made his television debut the most memorable. After confessing his love for Rita Ora, JC announced he officially signed with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath. Just from his display of lyrical prowess, Dre didn’t make a bad choice.
02. Crooked I
Choice Line: "Kill em' all is what I came to do/Black entertainment smacking you white entertainers too"
Verdict: There’s no doubt that Crooked grew up in this hip-hop shit. “My conversation is on/But I wanna walk into every BET cypher and murder every rapper spitting/Call it hip-hop population control/#FOH” The rest doesn’t disappoint as he says his guns are “head hunting” like Karrine Steffans. Oof.
01. Kendrick Lamar
Choice Line: "I got my thumb on hip-hop and my foot in the back of yo ass/Aftermath get the last laugh"
Verdict: While King Kendrick's heavily hyped and highly anticipated appearance didn't quite match the zeitgeist-shaking intensity of his "Control" verse—how could it?—he still left everyone's draw on the floor. Instead of naming names like he did on "Control," Lamar took a more scorched-Earth approach here, putting the entire industry on blast. This was a moment.