What a blessing, that the 2012 BET Awards were pre-tapped. Lived in Atlanta on September 29, first word from people who were there was that back-stage tangles between Rick Ross and Young Jeezy and Gunplay and 50 Cent‘s G-Unit had stolen the show, giving the media something juicy to chew on until the show aired last night. And so by the time we sat down to watch the show last night, the music shined totally untarnished by the beef, which seems well behind us. There were a whole bunch of winners (spoiler: Kanye West took home a whopping six trophies), and then at least three onstage moments that were way more fun than all that parking lot drama.
Each year, BET curates groups of rappers and has them freestyle while DJ Premier minds the decks. These cyphers are a chance for rappers to showoff their lyrical skill, as well as the opportunity to work across blur label and scene affiliations, and they often proved the best reason to tune in for the show. This year was no different, last night’s show included six such cyphers — 30 emcees total — and two that were of particular note.
West Coast Cypher: Kendrick Lamar, DJ Quik, Snoop Dogg, E-40, Xzibit, YG, Kurupt
LA’s rookie rapper Kendrick Lamar had a big night, besting legends Nas, Jay-Z and Kanye West in the scramble for Lyricist of the Year, taking the solo to perform his own “Swimming Pools (Drank)” and “The Recipe” before returning for go in the much buzzed about West Coast Cypher. The left coast’s OG’s held court over a game of dominoes (E-40 was a real highlight), while young guys Lamar and YG hung back until it was their turn to flex. And flex they did, YG promising to “bring the coast back, bring the coast back” before Lamar earned his keep with with one of the night’s more unforgettable zingers: “What are your plans, to win a Grammy?/ Sweet taste of success, like Oprah’s punany.” Well then!
RZA‘s Iron Mic Cypher: Angel Haze, A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, Childish Gambino, Driicky Graham
The Wu-Tang legend pulled a crop of up-and-comers for his cypher, and they all turned out. Forget the drama — it’s these fresh new voices that make hip hop exciting.
Chris Lighty Tribute: LL Cool J, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, Fat Joe and 50 Cent
The hip-hop community made clear that Chris Lighty will not soon be forgotten with this powerful and celebratory tribute. The performance was comprised of hits that Lighty had a hand in, and rang throughout with a frequent refrain of “If it wasn’t for Chris, there would be no this.” It was also notable for bringing old foes 50 Cent and Fat Joe together for “I Get Money.” Beef squashed, and lots of love.