Rappers shine at star-studded BET Hip-Hop Awards

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ATLANTA – Atlanta lived up to its reputation as the Hollywood of the South on Saturday, with the seventh annual BET Hip-Hop Awards.

All the big names in rap music graced the red carpet and gave high-energy performances at downtown’s Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center. The show was highlighted by several freestyle sessions that included rappers B.o.B., Snoop Dogg, E-40 and Cassidy.

The night kicked off with a well-received performance by Amber Rose’s beau, Wiz Khalifa. Draped in a huge gold medallion, rapper 2 Chainz won the People’s Choice award and gave fiery performances of his hits, “Birthday Song” and “I’m Different.”

Other high points included, T.I presenting legendary MC Rakim with the “I Am Hip-Hop Icon” award. In a touching speech Rakim said, “I want to thank my mom and pops. Big up BET for giving hip-hop a platform.”

The crowds also went wild when Kendrick Lamar, winner of the Lyricist of the Year award, performed on the stage. Rapper T.I., who was described by the announcer at the “King of the South,” was back in the spotlight with his “Trap Back Jumpin” and “Go Get It.”

Everyone who was anyone was there, including performances by hip-hop heavy-weights Rick Ross and Diddy with his Bad Boy crew, as well as rising stars like Kirko Bangz. The only notable absences were J-Zay and Kanye West, who were both tied up with projects and didn’t attend.

Presenting duo Damien Dante Wayans and Craig Wayans, attempted to shift the spotlight to the forthcoming elections by urging the audience, of mainly young African-Americans, to cast their votes. In a humorous speech, Wayans said, “even if you wear pajama jeans, your vote counts.”

LL Cool J paid homage to Chris Lighty in a video message and said the music producer had helped shape his career and that of many others in the industry. Afterwards, Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip, Fat Joe, Missy Elliott and 50 Cent all took part in a tribute performance to the music mogul, who reportedly committed suicide earlier this year.

The show, which was hosted by Mike Epps, was marred by media reports of an altercation in the backstage area, which TMZ reports was a brawl between Rick Ross and Young Jeezy — and their entourages. Though, the incident did not interrupt the show and Atlanta police said there were no arrests or serious injuries.

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti