For the past decade, the BET Hip Hop Awards has remained one of the most prominent hip-hop showcases on television. From powerful performances to iconic honorees and highly anticipated cyphers, the ceremony always puts on a memorable show for the culture.
As expected, this year’s event at Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre was filled with many highlights, but here are the evening’s 11 best moments.
11. O.T. Genasis Piles on the Hits
While fans are still waiting for O.T. Genasis’ major label debut album to materialize, the rapper continued to supply hard-knocking 808s and tongue-in-cheek raps about the use and selling of a certain white and powdery substance (see: his 2015 hit “CoCo”) that always turn into the hottest street anthems and club bangers. For his performance, the Long Beach, Calif. Native took the stage solo, doing his best Milly Rock and delivering the popular singles “Push It” and “Cut It.”
10. Desiigner Performs “Tiimmy Turner”
It was only four months ago that Brooklyn rapper Desiigner turned heads with his energetic performance of “Panda” at the 2016 BET Awards but for the Hip Hop Awards, the G.O.O.D. Music signee brought that same dynamic energy to the stage in the form of his mesmerizing second single “Tiimmy Turner.”
9. Lil Uzi Vert, Isaiah Rashad and 21 Savage Rep For Hip-Hop’s Next Gen
Rap’s youthful front-runners continued to put in work at the BET Hip Hop Awards. Backed by Kendrick Lamar’s band, The Wesley Theory, Lil Uzi Vert, Isaiah Rashad and 21 Savage repped for Gen Y, taking turns center stage while performing their underground hits that are breaking through to the mainstream. While Uzi Vert’s “Money Longer” fused rap and rock, 21’s straightforward “Ex B—h” featuring Future resonated with the Atlanta-based crowd. Rashad’s spacey, introspective rhymes on the recently released “Tity and Dolla” were also pure ear candy.
8. Remy Ma and Fat Joe Win “Track of the Year”
After serving a six-year sentence for assault, Bronx rapper Remy Ma has reintroduced her no-holds-barred flow to the rap game and proving that she can’t be stopped. 2016 alone has been a dynamic year as she reunited with Terror Squad mate Fat Joe, releasing the summer smash “All The Way Up,” the second single from their forthcoming joint album Platas o Plomo which marked Remy’s first Top 40 track. (The hit peaked at No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified as platinum after selling over a million copies). The pair walked away with the “Track of the Year” award as Remy offered, “I was in a really dark place. I had people tell me it was over.” She added, “Look out for your people” with Joe by her side.
7. T.I., Big K.R.I.T., and Lecrae Tackle The Plight of Black America
Over the past year, tensions in America have steadily risen in regards to race, guns and police brutality. While the annual award show is known for celebrating the genre of rap and those that contribute to its history, a few artists decided to take their moment on stage to talk about the state of the union.
Dressed in all black with a beret as an ode to the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther party, T.I. performed “We Will Not.” Adding to its anti-injustice message, the rapper portrayed real-life circumstances on the stage as protesters held signs that read “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace,” falling one by one as two white men dressed as police officers tapped them on their shoulders. Big K.R.I.T. and Lecrae also spread social messages with moving, spoken word performances that garnered not only standing ovations but black fists thrusted in the air.
6. Young M.A., Bre-Z and Ms. Jade Slay the Competition
Brooklyn-bred Young M.A., Philadelphia MC Bre-Z from the Fox hit show Empire and Ms. Jade brought their fierce flows to the show’s traditional cyphers. While M.A. performed her popular street hit “Ooouuu,” the trio held up a united front for the women of rap.
5. Nick Grant Becomes a Cypher Standout
With the generational divide in hip-hop growing larger, South Carolina rapper Nick Grant is bridging the gap with his nostalgic flow, which tips its hat to rap’s golden era with a Southern twist. “B.I.G, Andre, Nas, my style vintage,” the newly-minted Epic Records signee rhymed in one of the show’s featured cyphers.
4. Lil Wayne and Chocolate Droppa Go Neck-and-Neck for the Crown
Aside from host DJ Khaled’s punchlines, the comedic relief came in a surprise rap battle between Kevin Hart’s rap alter ego Chocolate Droppa and Lil Wayne. While Droppa’s bars could use a bit of work, Wayne bulldozes through with animated lyrics that served as a reminder of why he’s hailed the “Best Rapper Alive.”
3. Travis Scott, Quavo and Young Thug Team Up for “Pick Up The Phone”
Travis Scott excels at orchestrating dynamic tunes, which he did on the earworm “Pick Up The Phone” from his chart-topping Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight LP. The trio brought the track to life on stage and only one word described the performance: lit.
2. Gucci Mane Makes a Major Comeback
From becoming a free man after a three-year stint in jail to delivering his ninth studio album, Everybody Looking (which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200), Gucci Mane has had the best year ever. The Atlanta native opened the show, alongside his longtime producer Zaytoven, who played a white baby grand piano as he performed “First Day Out” before transitioning into his 2016 cut “1st Day Out Tha Feds.” The trap god appeared under a lone spotlight decked out in a full-length fur coat.
1. Snoop Dogg Receives the “I Am Hip Hop” Award
After 20-plus years in the game, rap veteran Snoop Dogg was bestowed with the “I Am Hip Hop” award. Presented by reigning rap king Kendrick Lamar, who spoke at lengths about how Snoop’s career influenced his own, artists like Dr. Dre, Pharrell, Charlie Wilson and YG also shared how his unique storytelling style shifted the perception of the West Coast from “Murder Was The Case” to “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”
While accepting his award with much praise, the Doggfather explained that the moment was very sentimental as his goal was always to make people feel good. He also touched on the newer generation and the slack they’ve received from old heads and hip-hop purists alike, saying, “Y’all are misunderstood. Keep pushing, stay original. Hip-hop is taking you many places. You have to live with who you are. I’m loving how y’all are unifying people.”