The BET Hip-Hop Awards took place last night, and you can certainly be forgiven for neither knowing who was nominated or really caring who won. (FTR, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj were among the big winners, but it's not like they—or Jay-Z, Kanye, Drake, etc.—were even in attendance to accept.) No, the main reason you watched the Hip-Hop Awards, aside from always-welcome comeback performances from Heavy D and DMX (grrrrr BARK BARK BARK BARK) is to check out the rap cyphers.
An expanding tradition of the five-year history of the BET Hip-Hop Awards, the cyphers contained strategically (or in a couple cases, somewhat miscellaneously) grouped rappers taking turns styling over the beat to James Brown's "The Payback" (except for the Shady 2.0 Cypher, who use East Flatbush Project's "Tried By 12"). The cyphers include such up-and-coming rappers as Kendrick Lamar, Pill, Kevin McCall, Dom Dom Kennedy and Yelawolf trading verses with such established rappers as B.o.B., Busta Rhymes, Lady of Rage, Ludacris, Rick Ross and Eminem.
It's fun to see the relative young'ns try to scene-steal with their verses–Kendrick Lamar, Stalley, Saprano and Joell Ortiz all particularly impress—but the real joy here is seeing the established stars, many of whom have since embraced the crossover and rarely take the time to truly get ill anymore, get back to scrapping. When was the last time you heard Eminem this raw? Busta Rhymes this authoritative? B.o.B. this...likeable? Been a while for us, and we're more than happy to welcome 'em back. Hell, even Chris Brown kind of owns his flow. And Joe Budden? Who knew?
Check 'em out below They're all must-watches, but if you only have time for a couple, we particularly recommend the Maybach Music and Shady 2.0 cyphers.
Big K.R.I.T., Tech N9ne, Machine Gun Kelly, Kendrick Lamar, and B.o.B
Reek da Villian, 2 Chainz, Busta Rhymes, and Ludacris
Lady of Rage, Blind Fury, Dom Kennedy, and Skillz
Maybach Music Group (Wale, Pill, Stalley, Meek Mill, and Rick Ross)
Chris Brown, Tyga, Ace Hood, and Kevin McCall
Estelle, France’s Soprano, Houston’s Lecrae, and Nitty Scott
Shady 2.0 (Yelawolf, Joe Budden, Crooked I, Joell Ortiz, Royce da 5'9" and Eminem)