The BET Hip-Hop awards aired this week, an annual awards show whose sole purpose now seems to be to provide Black Twitter with joke fodder. It’s gotten so bad that the thoughts about the show don’t even make it to the thinkpiece level. Why even bother writing 800 words about Bobby Shmurda when a couple 120 character tweets says all you have to say and expends all the thought you want to devote to them?
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. The Hip-Hop awards don’t have to be an irrelevant celebration of barely relevant stars. After al. This is Hip-Hop. Black Excellence and Black Star Power and shit. We can do better, and here’s how.
1. Do what it takes to get actual rap superstars there: Notable rap names not in attendance: Jay Z, Kanye West, Drake, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Nas, Young Jeezy.
Regardless of how you feel about some of the people listed above, you can’t dismiss that these are people who legitimately move the needle. And, with Jay, Kanye, Drake, Wayne, and Nicki, those are the five biggest names in rap. Can you imagine an NBA All-Star game without Lebron, Kevin Durant, and Kobe? The VMAs without Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry? An appropriation convention without Iggy Azalea, Robin Thicke, and Vogue Magazine? Of course not.
2. The cyphers are clearly the highlight of the evening, so make them mean something: It’s already the most compelling part of the show — a genius combination of adroitness and competitiveness — so why not make it more compelling by adding an edge to the competition?
Separate them into teams and have them battle each other with a cash prize and a donation to their charity or strip club of choice to the winners. Or do it Survivor-style as the audience and other rappers “vote off” the three wackiest members in each cypher, culminating with the five or six “survivors” battling each other on stage at the end of the show. Or do the same Survivor-style format, but with unsigned artists, and promise that the winner will get a deal. Those are just three ideas, and I’m sure people much smarter than me can think of dozens more.
3. Make it live: I know, I know, I know. There are many good reasons why BET is reluctant to air this show live, the most notable being that these types of awards show tend to attract a certain, um, demographic — both the audience and the participants — that has an, um, tendency to be in situations that involve violence. Also, you need two weeks of prep to be able to understand Young Thug so that you’re able to bleep out when he cusses.
But the spontaneity and unpredictability of being live is what gives awards shows their juice. Watching something that happened two weeks ago just isn’t as compelling as watching something that happened seven seconds ago. (The Wiz and Amber references were pretty awkward.) So, perhaps it’s time for BET to bite the bullet (no pun intended) and try the live thing next year. Maybe they won’t catch each of Young Thug’s and Migos’ profanities, but…who are we kidding? It’s not like they’ll be performing again next year anyway.