Concert Reviews

The 2012 BET Hip-Hop Awards Cypher Breakdown

In the last couple of years, the BET Hip-Hop Awards have proven to be the most ironic awards show on television. There's little to no merit in an artist actually taking home an award anymore, unless you get the I Am Hip Hop lifetime achievement honor. The most important accolade an artist can really hope to achieve on this night is a successful outing in the annual freestyle cyphers.

Each year, the network curates groups of emcees based on affiliation, talent level, or hype level, and has them freestyle over DJ Premier. The cyphers are the only place in the entire BET media empire where lyrical skill is valued over money and major labels. When the awards originated in 2006, they produced three small cyphers to use as commercial break bumpers. Since 2010, they've increased to six to seven per year, including about 30 different emcees from various sub-genres and lanes. The performances of the BET Hip-Hop Awards now actually outweigh the amount of airtime dedicated to the award-giving itself, making the annual cyphers the equivalent of the rap Super Bowl. If you didn't tune in last night, here's what you missed.

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Vanessa Quilantan