In the year of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, BET’s annual Hip-Hop Awards celebration took place at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia. This year’s ceremony placed a special emphasis on giving DJs and producers their flowers, and giving a much needed tribute to the culture, because without DJs and producers, the genre would be much further behind without the curators and creators of beats and sounds themselves.
To understand your destination, you must first recognize your origins. The evening’s lineup exemplified this, offering a diverse spectrum of hip-hop artists. It celebrated the OGs of the early aughts of hip-hop, such as Marley Mal, LL Cool J, and Rakim, while also highlighting the emerging talents shaping the new school era, including Lady London, FoggieRaw, and Lanell Grant.
The awards show featured a wide range of performances, from iconic figures such as Mannie Fresh and Juvenile of Cash Money sharing the stage with DaBaby to powerful female rappers like City Girls and Sexyy Red gracing the spotlight. Notably, acclaimed producers like Scott Storch, DJ Quik, and Swiss Beatz also took their turn in the limelight. Keep scrolling to read five highlights from the 2023 BET Hip-Hop Awards.
2023 Rock The Bells Cultural Influence Award
Swizz Beatz and Timbaland made a significant impact during the quarantine period with their highly-praised Verzuz series. They brought together some of the most prominent stars to showcase their greatest hits, spanning across various genres. This included R&B legends SWV and Xscape, as well as gospel luminaries Fred Hammond and Kirk Franklin. The Verzuz masterminds were honored for their remarkable cultural contributions to hip-hop and their boundless creativity.
“I always dreamed I’d be on stage accepting an award about hip-hop. Doing music back in Virginia, I never thought I’d make it, but I’m here,” began Timbaland. “Me and my brother created something special, and it ain’t over. Black-owned, Verzuz, me and Swizz Beatz. I’m glad to share this with my brother.” Swizz echoed those sentiments, dedicating the award to the late rapper DMX and his Ruff Ryders family.
Marley Mal Accepting the ‘I Am Hip Hop Award’
Known as one of the greatest rap producers of all time, Marley Marl was honored at the award show when he received the prestigious ‘I Am Hip Hop Award.’
Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, who had earlier received the Rock The Bells Cultural Influence Award, presented the accolade to Marley Marl. The event paid tribute to him with a moving highlight reel that showcased his most significant achievements, including his production of Roxanne Shante’s “Roxanne’s Revenge” and LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out.”
Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def Performance
It’s common knowledge that Atlanta has made significant contributions to the music industry, and much of the credit goes to the exceptional production skills of Jermaine Dupri. As the head of So So Def, he played a pivotal role in shaping the careers of artists we now recognize as Bow Wow, Xscape, and Da Brat. Moreover, his influence has solidified Atlanta’s status as a cultural hub within the Black community, particularly in the realm of music.
His performance stood out as the night’s highlight, as he brought a star-studded lineup to the stage, including Ludacris, Lil Jon, Bone Crusher, Nelly, Tyrese, Chingy, Dem Franchize Boyz, and reunited Da Brat and Bow Wow.
Kendrick Lamar Wins Four Awards, Makes History
Kendrick Lamar secured a dominant victory at the 2023 BET Hip Hop Awards, claiming victory in four major categories. He was named Hip Hop Artist of the Year, Best Live Performer, Lyricist of the Year, and, in partnership with his creative collaborator Dave Free, Video Director of the Year. Lamar’s triumphs in all four of these categories marked a historic achievement.
He became the first artist to clinch the title of Hip Hop Artist of the Year three times. His fourth win as the Best Live Performer tied him with Kanye West and Jay-Z for the most victories in this category. Lyricist of the Year was also a category where he shone, securing his ninth win and further solidifying his lead for the most wins in this particular category. In another remarkable feat, Lamar and Free won Video Director of the Year for the second consecutive year, making them the first directors to achieve back-to-back victories in this category since Hype Williams accomplished this feat during a four-year streak from 2009 to 2012.
DJ Drama Set
Once again, the evening paid homage to producers, and DJ Drama took the stage for the final performance. Closing the night with flair, DJ Drama, alongside Fabolous, T.I., Jeezy, and Lil Jon, delivered a star-studded performance in his hometown of Atlanta. Together, they set the stage ablaze with hit singles like ‘You Be Killin Em,’ ‘Rubber Band Man,’ and ‘Get Ya Mind Right.’