The BET Hip-Hop Awards allows the network to reward lyricists for dominating the country with their influential bars, but in reality, hip-hop heads are mostly here for the epic cyphers.
Since its inception in 2006, BET’s Hip-Hop Awards have impacted the rap game by grouping the best rhymers in the game together for rare freestyles fans can’t find anywhere else. The location may have changed for the first time in the award show’s history — after shifting gears to Miami this year — but our expectations for unimaginable bars remains the same.
Groundbreaking change seemed to be the main theme of the night. Each cypher allowed veteran and rising artists alike to solidify their name in rap lore. With DJ Premier on the ones and twos, some took advantage of their time in front of the mic to stir up drama in the rap world while others chose to speak out against the social injustices that plagues the U.S. like systematic racism and Donald Trump.
BET made sure all the cyphers were up to par, including the #BETInstabooth freestyles hosted by Big Tigger. Here are the cyphers from the 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards ranked from the least to the greatest impact.
6. J.I.D, Ali Tomineek, Cozz, Kodie Shane
This cypher consisted of rising stars in hip-hop, including Epic Records’ female phenom Kodie Shane, YouTube rapper Ali Tomineek, and Dreamville’s freshmen J.I.D. and Cozz. The Cozz & Effect rapper’s voracity proved to be his hallmark during his fiery freestyle. Kodie Shane counted her stacks and asserts her fearlessness even as the youngest spitter in the cypher. Tomineek remained unapologetic and confident as he laid his verse down over Preemo’s scratches, and even encouraged us to take a knee like Colin Kaepernick.
J.I.D. came through with venomous fangs by firing a subtle shot at hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa, and stressed the fact that his haters don’t want beef because they’re vegan. However, their bars weren’t enough to match-up against the rest of the vicious line-up. Watch here.
5. Rapsody, Leikeli47, Tokyo Jetz, and Kash Doll
The women of hip-hop have been breaking through the mold of a male dominated genre at the BET Hip Hop Awards since Remy Ma appeared in the inaugural cypher in 2006. This year, BET switched things up by recruiting a squad of the newest female spitters to emphasize the ladies’ strength and progression in the game. Although Kodie Shane and Little Simz held it down in the other cyphers, Rapsody took the lead in this all-female cypher featuring the Roc Nation/Jamla rapper, Hustle Gang’s Tokyo Jetz, Detroit’s Kash Doll and Leikeli47.
Their flows were unique in every sense of the word but ultimately, Rapsody pulled away with the best verse out of the bunch. “Screaming ‘Go JamRoc,’/ Fuck ‘best female,’ I’m coming for the top slot/ Of your top five, top two n***as grabbing they crotch/ Feeling inescure/ Hi, Issa Rae/ King crowned by queens, shout to 9th, Gu, and Jay.” Mic drop. Watch here.
4. Fat Joe, Belly & CyHi The Prynce
Fat Joe led the slick cypher alongside Roc Nation signee Belly and G.O.O.D Music’s CyHi The Prynce. The cypher was small, but they all packed rounds of punches. Belly listed a couple of enemies he wished he could take down, including the Tiki torch-wielding white supremacists from Charlottesville, and the law enforcement officials who had his father locked up for 8-10 years. Then, the proud Middle Eastern-born Canadian passed the mic over to CyHi, who served up his usual cryptic bars that most won’t get at first.
Yet, no one had trouble understanding his bars about President Trump: “I’m the only reason that I’m waiting on the rerun/ And our president needs to re-run/ ‘Cuz I’m from the Peach State and we won’t even impeach Trump.” Fat Joe closed out the cyphers by jocking Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock’s flow to namedrop Nicki Minaj in Remy Ma’s defense, and call out the KKK, or as he put it, “Trump in disguise.” Watch here.
3. Zoey Dollaz, Denzel Curry, Ball Greezy, and Ski Mask The Slump God
The Young Miami cypher was more than just a group of freestyles; it was a historical moment for Florida overall. Since 2008, only two MC’s from MIA have blessed the BET cyphers: Ace Hood and Rick Ross. This year, BET dedicated an entire cypher to Miami’s newest top-tier rappers in the game, from long-time hit-makers like Ball Greezy and Zoey Dollaz to the new generation of Denzel Curry and Ski Mask The Slump God. Ball Greezy kicked things off by likening himself to the greatest rappers to ever step into the booth.
Ski Mask’s verse was hard to untangle, while Denzel Curry stunned the masses with his classic rapid-fire verse. Yet it was Zoey Dollaz who sent the cypher (and the Internet) into overdrive when he told the rap world to “never go Joe Budden.” “Jay told me never go Eric Benet,” Zoey Dollaz raps. “I say never go Joe Budden, and lose a bad chick like Tahiry all on TV.” Joe Budden swiftly posted and deleted his response to Zoey on Twitter, but we’ll have to see whether or not he’ll strengthen his response on Complex’s Everyday Struggle. Watch here.
2. 6LACK, Axel Leon, Mysonne, Tee Grizzley, & Little Simz
The Bronx’s Mysonne and Axel Leon, Detroit’s Tee Grizzley, the UK’s Little Simz, and Atlanta’s 6LACK were all war-ready for the most diverse cypher of the night. Little Simz put on for hardcore female wordsmiths around the world by opening the cypher. Puerto Rican MC Axel Leon was thankful for being in the cypher, but pissed that it didn’t happen sooner. Eventually, he relished in the fact that he made it to the Hip-Hop Awards without a hit song.
Tee Grizzley dragged the fake friends who only hit him up for protection in Detroit, and 6LACK made it known that the game made a mistake by sleeping on him all these years. Yet, it was Mysonne’s verse that made a bold statement for everyone in the squad. He closed out his verse by rapping “Crown me the same way you do any king/ I’d rather kneel for something than just stand for anything” as he raised his fist and took the knee. Watch here.
1. Eminem’s “The Storm” Freestyle
It was the most quoted, most surprising freestyle of the night. Shortly before the Hip-Hop Awards aired on Tuesday, Shady Records revealed Eminem would return to the cypher to deliver a sermon to the people. The world knew Marshall Mathers would arrive strapped with lyrical ammunition that could take out every clique in the rap game, but no one was prepared for the atomic bombs he dropped directly on the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, and his bigoted supporters.
“Any fan of mine who’s a supporter of his/ I’m drawing in the sand a line, you either for or against/And if you can’t decide on who like more and you split/On who you should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this (Throws up the middle finger).”
The Shady Records CEO went on to demolish Trump’s plan of inaction in Puerto Rico, his inability to speak out on gun control, and his childish feud with the NFL. Em’ has fired shots at 45 before on his 2016 song “Campaign Speech” and in his guest verse on Big Sean’s “No Favors.” Yet, even the hearing-impaired could see and feel his immense fury with each bar he hurled at the POTUS. For Trump supporters who are fans of Eminem, it’s clear he doesn’t consider you fans anymore. His message demanded change in our country, and he encouraged Trump’s opponents to keep the fight going.
“The rest of America stand up!/We love our military and we love our country, but we fucking hate Trump.”