Last night, VH1 taped the seventh annual Hip Hop Honors, a massive party celebrating the innovators and originators of the Dirty South. This year’s honorees include Rap-A-Lot Records mogul J. Prince, producer and So So Def mastermind Jermaine Dupri, Miami genesis point Luther Luke Campbell, OutKast producers Organized Noize, No Limit honcho Master P, super-producer Timbaland and the bawdy and boundary-breaking 2 Live Crew. Rolling Stone was on the scene absorbing everything from the monumental performances to the technical mishaps. Here are five things to know before the watching the TV version on Monday, June 9th:
1. It’s a show for legends, but young bucks still get the most applause.
Drake showed up as an unlikely guest in a tribute to Houston’s Rap-A-Lot records, garnering something between rapturous applause and total freak-out. Despite being known mostly for his cushion-soft sing-song, the actor-turned-rapper (wearing a Free Wayne shirt, no less) held his own in the 2006 UGK team-up “Get Throwed,” laying down the entire opening Pimp C verse alongside the late rapper’s partner, the mighty Bun B. The barely out-of-jail Gucci Mane got the second biggest applause of the night, emerging in a churchly white suit to huge cheers and proceeding to reverently cover Master P’s 1997 tear-jerker “I Miss My Homies.” Also, T.I. didn’t perform but his arrival into the building caused a brief hullabaloo and his introduction to a tribute to Atlanta seemed larger than most performances.
2. Old friends made the biggest impressions.
Despite luminaries like Diddy, Nelly, Flo Rida, Rick Ross, Mystikal and Juvenile all taking their turns at the mike, one of the biggest responses of the night came from Atlanta’s Bone Crusher, who lurched out to perform a piece of his speaker-rattling 2003 hit “Never Scared.” Huge applause and fist pumping continued as he roared the chorus and lifted up his polo to show his sizable belly, still hanging around even after a season on Celebrity Fit Club. Missy Elliott showed up in a bedazzled Adidas track suit and hair down to her back for a Timbaland tribute and completely stole the night. A two-drummer, two-synthesizer, two-guitarist lineup was required to approximate the Timbaland sound, and Missy and a crew of hyperkinetic dancers did backflips all over it for a headbanging “Get Ur Freak On” and a spirited “Work It.”
3. You might want to bone up on your history.
Despite Pitbull stopping by for “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho),” not every song performed was a chart-storming megahit. If you’re under 25, you might want to get familiar to “Po Pimp” by Chicago rappers Do Or Die, one of the biggest hits in the Rap-A-Lot catalog, since A.K.-47 from the group stops by for a quick verse. Also, the No Limit tribute begins in the era before their “Make Em’ Say Uhh!” ubiquity, with Romeo tackling Tru’s 1995 classic “I’m Bout It, Bout It.”
4. Some absences were felt hard.
While it was great to hear the booming voice of Geto Boys rapper Willie D on the seminal “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” with superfan the Game, it would have definitely been better with his bandmates Scarface and Bushwick Bill. Scarface boycotted the event altogether, claiming it was making a mockery of the South, telling Ozone, “They’re gonna try to put us with some cows and just make us look fucked up, man, like we don’t know what the fuck we doin’ down here.” And while the tribute to Atlanta production team Organized Noize was certainly lively, it certainly felt a bit lacking without the help of Andre 3000 and Big Boi of OutKast; Cee-Lo Green, Big Gipp and T-Mo of Goodie Mob; Killer Mike or even Bubba Sparxxx. Having Asher Roth in shorts and black socks covering Ludacris’ “Saturday (Ooh Ooh)” doesn’t exactly cut it.
5. The best stuff definitely won’t make TV.
Kid Rock once again proved to be America’s coolest hip-hop nerd, wearing the iconic “Censorship Is Unamerican” T-shirt that Luke wore on the cover of 2 Live Crew’s 1990 album Banned In The U.S.A. and screaming the chorus to their “We Want Some Pussy” in a live, unbleepable room. But what you won’t see on TV is Kid Rock’s hilarious repartee with the production crew after a technical snafu required a second take from the singer. “We’re doing retakes? What kind of shit is that?” Rock said into the microphone with a huge smirk. “You owe me money, motherfucker!” Later, when 2 Live Crew’s turntable setup refused to work, Brother Marquis tried to lead the crowd in an a cappella version of their Kinks-biting, XXX-rated 1988 album track “One and One” — the most real and intimate part of the evening despite being loaded with swears.