(The Root) — The apparent scuffle that took place between Rick Ross and Young Jeezy's crews backstage at the 2012 BET Hip-Hop Awards taping in Atlanta on Sept. 29 went virtually unnoticed by audience members, and had no significant impact on the show's production quality. Atlanta police denied earlier reports claiming shots were fired, and no arrests were made.
Other than that, it was all love as the rappers made their way in from the red carpet to their designated places at the seventh-annual awards show, which was held at the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center. The show featured greatly anticipated performances by 2 Chainz and T.I., the BET Awards Cypher sessions and a touching tribute to late music-industry exec Chris Lighty.
Best mixtape nominee Wiz Khalifa opened the show with his hit "Work Hard, Play Hard," displaying an onstage swagger reminiscent of the Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger. Juicy J from Three 6 Mafia and Young Jeezy joined him and his live band onstage, hyping up the crowd.
With the election less than 40 days away, host Mike Epps provided a not-so-subtle reminder to re-elect President Obama. He did a funny impression of the president in a pretaped skit, in which he chided Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on issues like health care. But that wasn't the only character Epps played during the event. In another comic bit, he dressed as an 18th-century symphony conductor, accompanied by an opera singer who wore a horned helmet and was backed by a mini orchestra.
G.O.O.D. Music's Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz picked up the first award of the night (the Reese's Perfect Combo award) for their collaboration on "Mercy." West, who was nominated for a record 17 awards, wasn't in the building but 2 Chainz accepted on his behalf.
RZA shared that he was glad to see hip-hop come so far from mixtapes to movies as he plugged his upcoming flick, The Man With the Iron Fists, which hits screens Nov. 2.
The Cyphers segment also had the audience captivated to see which rapper spit the dopest rhymes. A highlight of the show, this year's Cyphers featured a great mix of veteran rappers and newcomers. T.I. and his Grand Hustle crew Trae Tha Truth, Chip, Iggy Azalea and B.o.B. presented the first Cypher of the night.
RZA also participated in another freestyle round — the Iron Fists Cypher — featuring Angel Haze, Joey Badass, Driicky Graham, Childish Gambino and A$ap Rocky. Snoop headed a rhyme session that included Kurupt, E-40, YG, Xzibit and DJ Quik, while DMX hosted the Ruff Ryders rap exchange with rappers Murder Mook, Cassidy and Eve. Talib Kweli dropped lyrics with Ab-Soul, Sarkodie and Jean Grae. Plus, Mystikal returned as part of the Raw Cypher which also featured Jaybird the PurdiBoi, SchoolBoy Q, Hopsin and Mac Miller.
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."