Emerging from a red-and-green-striped coffin, 2 Chainz performed “Birthday Song,” complete with a crunked-out gospel choir and pianist on a white grand. The dreadlocked rapper also performed “I’m Different,” which had the crowd on their feet. 2 Chainz also took home the People’s Choice award.
ATL always shows love for a local boy, and T.I. (a.k.a. King of the South) was no different. The local crowd roared when Tip performed “Trap Back Jumpin” and “Go Get It” with a live band. Future performed “Turn on the Lights” and “Same Damn Time,” during which P. Diddy raced down a ramp to join in and Machine Gun Kelly descended from above and then ran up to the audience in the box seats. French Montana and Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell, whose voice is sampled on French Montana’s “Pop That,” joined the rappers onstage to perform the hit.
Later, T.I. presented the I Am Hip-Hop Icon award to rap legend Rakim, who thanked his parents and family for their support. On the red carpet before the taping of the show, several artists, including Uncle Luke and A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg, shared why Rakim deserves this award. “The things that he and Eric B. did were astronomical. I really appreciate what they’ve done and the contribution to the music industry that they’ve had,” Uncle Luke said.
Let’s hope that in a few years, Rick Ross’ memorable contribution to the rap game won’t just be photos of his tattooed torso. Following the Rakim tribute, the forever-shirtless Miami rapper performed “Hold Me Back” with his crew from Mayback Music Group. Omarion joined Ross — clad in a cream-colored fur — to perform “Ice Cold.”
Then Violator Management artists performed a touching tribute to its founder and CEO, Chris Lighty, who died of an apparent suicide in August. It reminded everyone of the critical role he played in the industry. A Tribe Called Quest rapped “Award Tour,” while Busta Rhymes got the crowd on their feet with “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See.” Fat Joe rocked his big hit “Lean Back,” Missy Elliot encouraged the crowd to “Get Your Freak On” and 50 Cent closed out the tribute with “I Get Money.”
Diggy Simmons, whom Lighty managed, and DJ Red Alert, who helped Lighty get started in the industry, also took the stage for the tribute. A photo tribute introduced by LL Cool J, showing Lighty with various artists, played on the screen during the performances.
“We’re happy to be a part of [the tribute] and to celebrate his legacy and what he’s done for us and what he’s done for hip-hop in general as a father, a brother, a son,” Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest said before the show. “He’s an awesome and incredible spirit. And he will be missed.”