BMI’s most prestigious accolade, the Icon Award, was presented to the one and only Lil Wayne at Miami’s LIV nightclub Wednesday (September 6). The venue, which is located in the luxurious and renowned Fontainebleau, was the perfect backdrop to celebrate an artist whose impressive career spans over two decades.
Wayne’s imprint on hip hop is indelible, as the New Orleans native not only carved his own unique space in the industry but prompted a generation of younger emcees to do the same. The festivities kicked off a day prior to the awards show with BMI’s Acoustic Sunset Sessions at The Goodtime Hotel.
In conjunction with YoCo vodka, the showcase introduced a chic crowd to the sonic stylings of up and coming artists like Juicy 2xs, Marley Bleu and Tone Stith. The soulful evening was the perfect precursor to the 2023 BMI R&B/Hip Hop Awards, which featured an array of stars ranging from rap’s newest talent to its most revered veterans.
The evening kicked off in a dramatic fashion with an opening set from Ja Rule, who was carried onstage with his hands tied to a wooden pole which drew religious comparisons–especially from one rapper in particular. Still, he delivered hits like “New York,” “Livin’ It Up” and “Put It On Me.”
BMI President & CEO Mike O’Neill and BMI Vice President Catherine Brewton served as hosts for the private affair, which would pay homage to music makers who have been making major waves over the last year. Ice Spice, whose songs “Munch (Feelin’ U)” and “in ha mood” catapulted her into stardom, received the Impact Award for her creativity.
Song of the Year, Lizzo’s “About Damn Time,” went to Ricky Reed and Blake Slatkin. Songwriter of the Year was surprisingly awarded to three people: Chris Brown (“Baddest,” “Under the Influence”), Doja Cat (“Get Into It/Yuh,” “Woman”) and Tems (“Free Mind,” “Lift Me Up”). Tay Keith and Lil Yachty both took home Producer of the Year.
Before Wayne accepted his Icon Award, hip hop’s most notable legends gave electrifying performances of classic hits that spanned decades in honor of its 50 year anniversary. Too Short made sure the West Coast was represented with “Blow the Whistle” and “Shake That Monkey.” Flo Milli welcomed Trick Daddy and Trina to the stage to perform “Da Baddest B*tch” and “Nann N*gga.”
Mannie Fresh hopped in front of the crowd to do his verse on “Back That Azz Up” (he was awarded for “Gyalis” alongside Juvenile and Capella Grey) while the Ying Yang Twins delivered a plethora of bangers such as “Wait (The Whisper Song)” and “Salt Shaker.” Doug E. Fresh was a one-man band as he beatboxed, danced and rapped in front of onlookers before artists like NLE Choppa, Big Freedia, Bobby Valentino and Trombone Shorty did tributes to Weezy before he gracefully accepted BMI’s most distinguished prize.
Nicki Minaj’s virtual video appearance praised Wayne’s well-earned status as a visionary. “Where do I begin?” she stated. “You know what, I just wanna say, I so greatly appreciate your contributions that you have made to the culture of rap. Thank you for all of the inspiring things you’ve said to me personally to make me want to go super duper hard. Thank you for just always being the genius you are and the leader you are.”
Confetti covered the venue as Weezy accepted his award and was all smiles for the heartwarming moment. “First of all, I want to thank God of course,” he said. “Thank my family of course. My people, my Young Money family but, most importantly, it’s all about the fans. So, if you are a fan or a supporter of myself, I appreciate you. Please know that I pray for you every day–you are a blessing to me.”
Everyone in attendance left feeling inspired and certain that Wayne’s legacy in music will continue to serve as the blueprint for artists to come.