The night of the BET Hip-Hop Awards is the closest thing hip-hop has to a cultural holiday, in large part, because of the freestyle “Cyphers” scattered throughout the evening. The Cyphers are modeled on the age old practice of rap sessions on street corners, in music studios, around lunchroom tables, and in music venue parking lots from which the traditions of freestyle and battle rapping arose in the earliest days of the burgeoning culture.
Along with the selection and revelation of the XXL Freshman cover, the annual BET Cypher is the largest showcase for up-and-coming rap talent, where newcomers make their names, old-timers remind a new generation of fans of their legendary status, and battle lines are drawn in the proverbial sand with proud declarations of allegiance to the art of rhyming. In 2017, Eminem generated a tremendous buzz with his inflammatory anti-Trump callout, while in previous years, standout performances have been the launching pads for some of the most lauded rappers of an era, including Nicki Minaj, Big Sean, and more.
This year’s Cypher has already created an air of intrigue and controversy after several prominent figures called out Chicago rapper Vic Mensa online for his verse which reminded listeners that the late XXXtentacion, undoubtedly a crowd favorite despite his shortcomings, was accused of domestic abuse before his untimely death. All eyes and ears will certainly be on Mensa’s performance to find out just what was so incendiary about his rhyme, but with a wide-open array of fresh talent to pick from there will be undoubtedly be plenty of surprises throughout the evening. Stay tuned throughout the show as we’ll be updating with the Cypher videos as they become available.
YBN Cordae, Tobe Nwigwe, Duckwrth, Blocboy JB
Sharaya, Chika, Neelam Hakeem, Bri Steves with Erykah Badu
Flawless Real Talk, Casanova, Shawn Smith, Phora, Reason
Vic Mensa, Taylor Bennett, G Herbo, Nick Grant