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Comedian Mike Epps returned to host the special in the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center. His first skit of the night centered on President Obama speaking directly to his Republican competitor Mitt Romney. "Heard you talking 'bout me, you ain't 'bout that life...," Epps said, emulating Obama's distinctive voice and cadence.
The cyphers are always an anticipated highlight at the awards. This year was no different with legends like Snoop Dogg and DJ Quik anchoring the younger MCs. Talib Kweli, Mystikal and T.I. were at the helm of their respective sequences. Kurupt, Jean Grae and E-40 made notable appearances as well but Kendrick Lamar had one of the best lines of the night.
"Snoop gave us the torch to burn these rappers with...," Lamar rapped. The most visited topic within the bars was Stevie J's infamous "rat face" expression made popular on VH1's "Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta."
Kanye West's "Mercy" scored the evening's first award for the Reese's Perfect Combo Award (Best Collabo). Pusha T and 2 Chainz, who also showed up on the song, were there to accept the win on West's behalf. Deuce would step up to the podium more than once throughout the night. He returned to accept the People's Champ Award Presented by Verizon for his "No Lie" record featuring Drake.
"Last year when I walked the red carpet, they was trying to put me on the other side of the ropes...," he explained while accepting his award. "This is just to let you know what can happen in a year, man."
Later, during 2 Chainz's performance, the self-proclaimed "Hair Weave Killer" leaped out of a white coffin as a small choir swayed in harmony. He jumped into "Birthday Song," featured on his debut LP, Based on a T.R.U. Story, with wild energy, hopping around the stage and flailing his arms as the choir broke their reverence, imitating his signature spastic dance with gusto.
Tip followed with his performance of "Go Get It," a single off his upcoming album, Trouble Man. He rapped under flashing green lights while a live band gave new life to the growing smash. The craziest performance of the evening though had to go to Diddy and the Bad Boy crew.
The set initially belonged to Future, who started strong with "Turn Off the Lights" and moved into the remix of "Same Damn Time." Diddy, who appears on the remix, elevated from beneath the stage and the audience screamed their approval. Before anyone could wonder why Ludacris wasn't there to perform his verse, it quickly became a Bad Boy takeover with Machine Gun Kelly being lowered from the rafters, swinging and kicking his legs the entire time. Then French Montana took the stage, keeping the flow going with his smash "Pop That."
Rakim graciously received the I Am Hip-Hop Icon award from T.I. and Kendrick Lamar. The rap legend spoke directly to DJ Red Alert from the stage, expressing his appreciation for the pioneer's guidance during the MC's early career.
The show had been running smoothly but the climate changed after Rick Ross' shirtless performance of "Can't Hold Me Back." When the Miami MC left the stage en route to his dressing room, an exchange occurred between him and longtime rival Jeezy. There was a brief shoving match and the two separated. Not long after that altercation, a melee between Maybach Music Group's Gunplay and members of 50 Cent's entourage erupted in the parking lot of the Civic Center. Gunplay found himself in the center of some rowdy G-Unit affiliates and fought his way through until the entire mob was pepper sprayed by Atlanta police.
While the MMG crew found themselves hashing out old beefs, inside, the show moved forward in preparation of the night's most touching segment, which was indisputably the tribute to music executive Chris Lighty, which brought many of his friends and colleagues to the stage. A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, Fat Joe and 50 Cent were among those honoring Lighty, who passed away Aug. 30, from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Fat Joe and Fif had a longstanding public beef that Lighty tirelessly tried to squash over the years. However, his passing finally brought the two together. Before the tribute, the lights dimmed in the Civic Center and a visibly shaken LL Cool J appeared onscreen. He kicked off the memorial, his voice cracking ever so slightly. "Without Chris Lighty there wouldn't be music like this...," he stated. Those onstage performed their biggest hits and by the end, attendees at the awards show were holding two fingers up for the Violator brand Lighty built.
The BET Hip Hop Awards have come to represent more than crowd favorites, infamous beefs or industry clout. In 2012, the event has grown into an annual celebration of a culture appreciating all elements of hip-hop. From highlights on past and present entertainers to fallen figures and those still thriving, the show gives fans a well-rounded look at hip-hop today.
Watch more winners accept their trophies when the 2012 BET Hip Hop Awards air Tues., Oct. 9 at 8PM on BET.
- Nas, Life Is Good
- Elle Varner, Perfectly Imperfect
- Curren$y, The Stoned Immaculate
- Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
- Odd Future, The OF Tape Vol. 2
- Emeli Sande, Our Version of Events
- Ab-Soul, Control System
- R. Kelly, Write Me Back
- B.o.B., Strange Clouds
- Rick Ross, God Forgives, I Don't
- Usher, Looking 4 Myself
- Schoolboy Q, Habits & Contradictions
- Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio
- Big K.R.I.T., Live From the Underground
- BJ the Chicago Kid, Pineapple Now-Laters
- Stars Surprising Studies
- Ice Cube
- Destiny's Child Michelle Williams
- Public Enemy's Chuck D
- Asher Roth
- Jill Scott
- Erykah Badu
- Ryan Leslie
- Talib Kweli's Favorite Vinyl
- 'People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,' A Tribe Called Quest
- 'Power,' Ice-T
- 'Don't Believe the Hype,' Public Enemy
- 'Do This My Way,' Kid 'n Play
- 'The Great Adventures of Slick Rick,' Slick Rick