Scarface, Puff Daddy & The Family Crush 2015 BET Hip Hop Awards
Not a second left.
ATLANTA, GA—The BET Hip Hop Awards returned to Atlanta’s Civic Center on Friday (October 9) to celebrate the newcomers and the OGs of the industry, from iHeartMemphis to this year’s I Am Hip Hop recipient: Scarface.
The evening kicked off with a special set from awards host Snoop Dogg, appearing as his DJ alter-ego Snoopadelic. He spoke briefly on the police brutality epidemic and set the tone with a quick spin of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” but before things could get too heavy Snoop moved on. “Future taught us a couple things about spending money this year,” he teased, before dropping “Fuck Up Some Commas.”
“Y’all need to save up some commas,” Snoop taunted, “Especially y’all up at the very top.” Then before wrapping his set, Snoop picked a side in the Meek vs. Drake beef. “And my boy Aubrey…,” he chuckled, then said, “He got away with murder this year.” “Back to Back” boomed in the venue and the crowd was on their feet, ready to relive the last year in hip-hop for another couple of hours.
The BET Hip Hop Awards are notorious for putting on full-on concerts every October rather than presenting the statues, which the audience never seems to mind. On this night, only two awards were presented outside of the I Am Hip Hop award: Best Club Banger and the Who Blew Up award. Beyond that, there were some tremendous performances and cypher verses.
From Jack Spade to Joyner Lucas and Tink— who received the loudest response from the crowd—the first cypher set a precedent over the “Ain’t No Nigga” instrumental, saying maybe the kids will be alright. Tink’s flow was so clean-cut and clever, every other line was a standout. “Used to be in motion, now they braking like a red light,” she rapped.
The Def Squad cypher was another great one, as neither Erick Sermon, Keith Murray nor Redman seem to have lost a step. In fact, Red may have picked up a few over the years, he’s still line-crossing and button-pushing in his lyrics, but with the unwavering confidence of a rap vet. “Told my b-tch be easy like ‘Straight Outta Compton’…,” then there was a run-on of lines where the Brick City rep perused text acronyms to include LOL and SMH, just to keep the kids interested and aware that if they’re young enough to have missed Red’s ’90s career, he’s still a beast. Black Thought did the same in his cypher later in the evening, the Roots frontman went on and on with perfectly constructed bars, proving that late-night show or not, he’s still an MC.
Then there was a remarkable beatbox cypher featuring Doug E. Fresh, Nicole Paris, and Rahzel: two OGs from NYC and an up-and-coming star from St. Louis. Paris had the audience staring up at the screen in amazement as she mimicked sample scratches with her mouth. The three joined up at the end to put their own spin on the classic dancehall hit “Freak,” by Little Vicious.
There were a few other rappers that commanded attention in their respective cyphers. Atlanta’s own Raury is sounding more and more like he’s finding his place in hip-hop—there’s a tinge of Andre 3000 in his flow but the young upstart is finding his way. Vince Staples went in with the gangsta talk, even shouting out Snoop who set the standard in his Long Beach hometown. Albe Back (also known as one of Tip’s homeboys in “ATL”) was a nice surprise on the mic. J-Doe may not have had the provocative lines, per se, but he had “something.” A woman in the audience was overheard chuckling after one bar in particular. “What’d he say?,” her companion asked. “Nothing,” she replied. “He just got a mean swag!”
There was also a live battle cypher introduced by Smack—something they were calling “Gladiator School,” and that concept featured a few little-known rappers going in over the instrumental to “Made You Look.” There were a couple complaints overheard about the number of cyphers presented but trust that there were plenty of heavily-produced performances to even things out.
Dro and Tip performed the remix to “We In Da City” amidst an aerial view of what looked to be Atlanta and upshoots of pyrotechnics. Tip bounced out with the energy of any one of his young sons and hit a “dab” so intense towards the end of the set, we had to wonder if it was one of them who had him practicing the dance before hitting the stage.
Speaking of dancing, Puff Daddy was ready to move when his set was announced. Puff appeared on an elevated platform alongside Lil’ Kim, spitting something about “knowing the summer’s coming.” The beat was thick with blaxploitation vibes of the 1970s when Diddy and Kim were kids. The next song though was the one that had the crowd jumping out of their seats to encourage the Bad Boy CEO. “Workin” hit hard but it was easy to dance to, as Diddy and his crew of 15 showed the audience onstage. Puff hit a baby Nae Nae and people screamed their approval, including one woman close by. “Okay Diddy! Okay Diddy!,” she hollered.
Travis Scott also delivered an engaging set, though not because of his moves. The G.O.O.D. Music producer obviously put a lot of time and thought into the aesthetics of his performance of “Antidote.” The stage was cloaked in fog and a giant Tonka Truck sat in the middle. As the bassline of the track rumbled through the venue and everyone’s ribcages (“I feel the bass in my chest!,” one woman shouted), the shell of the truck lifted and Scott emerged as flames lit up all around him. Very fancy.
Rich Homie Quan’s performance was a little more low-key but not by much. “Flex” inspired his team to hire four gyrating dancers in glittering hot pants and rent a big-bodied convertible, coated in candy paint. It was a rock rendition of the song which sort of threw the audience for a loop but they got over it quickly as the rapper hit the Quan back and forth across the stage while donning a well-tailored suit.
Lastly, newcomer iHeartMemphis fittingly closed the show out with a performance of his breakout smash “Hit the Quan.” Sporting a referee jersey, the young artist took to the stage with about eight uber-bubbly kids and they popped and jittered for the duration of the song, paying homage to the originator of the dance while Memphis carved out his own lane in hip-hop—a lasting theme of the BET Hip Hop Awards.