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T.I. Returns, Chris Brown Wins Big at 2011 BET Hip-Hop Awards

Chris McKay, Getty Images

The 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards opened on Saturday (Oct. 1) in the spirit of determination and perseverance with a strong performance of ‘F.A.M.E.’ by Young Jeezy and T.I. The pre-taped show was the perfect setting for Jeezy to thumb his nose at skeptics and solidify his place in the industry despite the most recent delay of his long-awaited LP ‘TM103.’

Bringing Tip out for his featured verse quelled the murmurings regarding whether or not he still possesses his fiery stage presence. He does — unequivocally. As the crowd rose to its feet both in anticipation and support, Tip delivered as always, looking cool, confident and obviously ecstatic to be back at work.

Chris Brown‘s monster hit, ‘Look At Me Now,’ won awards in multiple categories. Busta Rhymes, whose spitfire flow was featured on the track, accepted all the awards on behalf of Brown, who was absent due to his touring schedule. Upon the acceptance of the third award, Busta quipped that this was the first time he had won so many trophies in one sitting in his career, hinting that Brown might be part of the reason why.

Watch Chris Brown’s ‘Look At Me Now’

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Comedian Mike Epps hosted the show, and although some jokes fell flat, he was current in his content, at one point suggesting that Ray J and Fabolous take boxing lessons. “No more scratching!” he scolded.

LL Cool J graciously accepted his ‘I Am Hip Hop Award’ — given to OGs in the rap industry — from Nelly. Sporting a pair of shades at the podium, LL admitted in disbelief that he was “choked up” at the honor. His acceptance speech was — in true hip hop fashion — an insightful and moving poem.

The focal point of the Hip Hop Awards has always been the collection of cyphers, spotlighting lesser-known artists in addition to those who’ve already made their mark. Newcomers such as Blind Fury and Sean Cross, freestyled alongside a host of veterans, including Lady of Rage and Ludacris. Slaughterhouse, Yelawolf and Eminem evoked the biggest response from the audience. Gospel rapper Lecrae was crisp and focused as he spit one-liners on faith and saints. But the most pleasant surprise was singer-songwriter Estelle, donning her MC cap and going in over a James Brown sample, doing an amazing job.

The performances ranged from old school to new school, with Wiz Khalifa and rookie Chevy Woods igniting the auditorium with the banger ‘Taylor Gang.’ The slim rapper spastically hopped across the stage, writhing around shirtless while practicing near-perfect breath control.

Watch Wiz Khalifa in DJ Drama’s ‘Oh My’

DMX, celebrating his own homecoming, shocked everyone in attendance, rocking a medley of tracks from his Ruff Ryders catalogue. Swizz Beatz assisted as Darkman X blew through ‘Get At Me Dog,’ ‘Stop, Drop’ and ‘Lose My Mind.’ MMG, Big Sean and Lupe Fiasco all had their turn onstage as well. Perhaps the most intriguing performance of the night was Heavy D closing out the show with his own collection of hits, ranging from ‘Nuttin’ But Love’ to ‘Is It Good To You.’ The “Overweight Lover” glided effortlessly across the stage with his crew of dancers and proved to be just as graceful as he was in the early ’90s.

The 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards will air on BET on Tues., Oct. 11 at 8PM. Click here for a full list of the nominees.

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