Kendrick, Rapsody, Action Bronson + More Represent at The BET Hip-Hop Awards Cypher
The cypher is one of the most notorious hallmarks of hip-hop culture, the pillar upon which the entirety of the tradition is upheld. Last night we were graced with the opportunity to catch a who's-who of relevant MCs in the game deliver a sliver of their best wordplay at the BET Hip-Hop Awards Cypher. In case you missed the immense series of roundabout verse slinging (and the long overdue Kardashian references), we've got the breakdown of whose clique went in and whose is on the way out, as well as the top performers from each of today's lyrical lightening rounds.
First up, we've got the a rag-tag team up of emcees from Georgia, Michigan, New York, the DMV and Italy(?!) In what was certainly the most diverse cypher of the night, Wax, Rapsody, Emis Killa, Rittz and Jon Connor took to the floor to throw nothing but heat. Wax delivered his patently clean, socially-aware repertoire, chock full of Matrix references and sociopolitical commentary. Rapsody, despite Lil Kim's short-lived cameo later in the program, hit hard with what was definitely the best performance from this group, stringing together some impressive wordplay and cementing (in this writer's opinion) her status as the Queen of NYC. The only critique one could surmise would be that her segment was simply too short. We need more from this youngun. What followed from that point on was Rittz's machine-gun patter, promising Aftermath MC Jon Connor's underwhelming verse and a nonsensical attempt to bring BET to the world's stage with Emis Killa's poorly translated verse on women and shiny things.
Next we had a short list of talented rhyme-sayers delivering four strong performances and one that might have left some of us scratching our heads. This merry-go-round-o-funk starts off incredibly strong with Action Bronson doing what the big man does, which is time and time again proving that he is capable of the most casual coolness that exists in hip-hop today bouncing between intelligent wit and absolute absurdity. Then another promising emcee from Georgia Starlife Breezy proceeds to not only hold his weight, but deliver one one of the strongest verses in the arrangement. What follows is Travi$ Scott delivering a half-baked string of lines that must have been written on the floor, as the talented, yet underperforming emcee literally did not take his eyes off the ground for the entirety of his verse. Then the ferocious Tiffany Foxx enters the picture, a picture we can expect to be burned into the back of most our minds. Tiffany struts the many lyrical strengths that have propelled her to to forefront of the hip-hop dialectic and will continue to solidify her as a major presence from here forward. Tiffany's verse was the perfect precursor for the guest spot from the Queen B, Lil Kim. The pint-sized Brooklyn MC still has the big voice and excellence of delivery that threw her into the gamut of prominent BK rappers in the golden era.
The third installment of The Cypher profiled notorious Shady Records supergroup Slaughterhouse and its' four horsemen of lyricism. Joell Ortiz started the show with some great lines thrown through his silky delivery, followed by a thunderous and exquisitely stung verse from Long Beach native emcee Crooked I. Boasting the clear second best verse to only the "King Of New York" himself (more on why he wasn't the all out victor later), Crooked I has the most impressive flow and the clearest prowess for writing that we were able to witness throughout the entirety of the performances from the other night. Embracing the arduous task of being next in line, Royce Da 5'9" represents Detroit ably with his clean-up bars.
True to the spirit established on their Shabba Ranks tribute, A$AP Mob brings a West Indian-inflected style of speak to their cypher (Lawd!) A$APs Ferg, Twelvy, Nast & Ant all do their thing but you already knew what it is, A$AP Rocky's flow is the headliner, even in a cypher and he earns his spot here. If anything it sounds like Rocky is aiming to out-Kendrick Kendrick Lamar with his bars, which not only mention K.Dot and the HiiiPower movement by name but also namecheck Malcolm X and Huey Newton--Rocky even calls himself "the trill Martin Luther" !
Last but certainly not least...TDE represents. Kendrick Lamar bodies the world.