Easily the most exciting hip-hop moments of the week took place, for once, on television. The BET Awards featured five incredible cyphers, with some of our favorite — and least favorite — rappers appearing (we’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to guess who is who). Every gathering had plenty of highlights, and we couldn’t include them all. Below are five of the top moments from all of the rhyming.
5. ”Dope fiend wrist covered in packs, multiple rocks/Step inside my garage, I can disappear multiple tops” — Trae Tha Truth, ‘Grand Hustle Cypher’ lyrics
The South rose again with the Grand Hustle cypher. Great performances from T.I. and B.o.B. were nearly overshadowed by a fantastic turn from H-town veteran Trae Tha Truth. Trae’s verse had a flow and individuality that many of his cypher confederates lacked. He also had this super-hot line, which sounds even better when delivered in the rapper’s inimitable voice.
4. ”You may not see me on the TV channel/But in the hood I’m still hot like the left sink handle” — E-40, ‘The West Coast’ lyrics
Bay Area pioneer E-40?s verse was a highlight of the West Coast cypher — though props should be given to the always-incredible Kendrick Lamar and Snoop, the only rapper on the show who bothered to actually freestyle. But E-Fizzle’s joke was both funny and pointed, as it pointed out that, for all his hip-hop respect, he still lacks the mainstream looks he has long deserved.
3. ”This be the preview of primeval hip-hop retrieval/I hold illegal like ‘em coppers hold weasels to squeal” — Joey Badass, ‘Man With the Iron Fists’ lyrics
Young phenom Joey Badass has taken rap by storm lately. His turn on the big stage did not disappoint. This couplet sounds as impressive as it reads (“primeval”!), and the final touch of turning “squeal” into a two-syllable word won us over big-time.
2. ”I ain’t never lie/I ride with cats that got tats of tears under they eyes, but they never cry/And they’ll let it fly/Disconnect your head from your body, have you looking like the lowercase letter i” — Cassidy, ‘The Ruff Ryders’ lyrics
Cassidy has been one of our favorites since the beginning of his career. His insane punchline-heavy freestyles still get burn from us, and hearing he would show up on the awards show got us very excited. Cass didn’t disappoint, stacking his tough talk with his patented clever jokes and threats.
1. ”Praying so much, Spanish friends call me Lourdes/Quarter Loch Ness, 75 percent Chuck Norris” — Jean Grae, ‘The True School’ cipher lyrics
Leave it to Jean to fly right over our heads. When she says “Spanish friends” here, it is meant to sound like “Spanish France”. In this way, she nods to both meanings of “Lourdes” — the French city where a 14 year old famously claimed to see the Virgin Mary in 1858, and Madonna’s daughter, who is Cuban on her father’s side — thus the “Spanish”. The “Loch Ness” line is, as Jean told us in a recent interview, a nod to the fact that far too many people are amazed at seeing a great female rapper, and doubt that such a creature could possibly exist. And only Jean Greasy is bad-ass enough to make a comparison to Chuck Norris seem realistic.
Groaner of the Week:
“We striped like Adidas, and we bang like speakers/’Bout to cop a couple houses and have more spots than cheetahs” — YG, ‘The West Coast’ lyrics
Well, not everything on TV can be great. YG falls into the trap of relying on painfully obvious, predictable similes and metaphors here. Undoubtedly, he’s also hot like the sun.