HOUSTON — You know you're in for a memorable awards show when fists are thrown, the police are called in and somebody gets (mildly) injured before one award is announced or anybody gets to perform. On Monday night at the George R. Brown Convention Center, the third annual Ozone Awards began with a physical altercation between H-Town MCs Mike Jones and Trae that took place while some audience members were just getting to their seats. The show hadn't even started.
After the scuffle, Trae was escorted out of the main hall by police, but later returned. Jones — who has lost a considerable amount of weight in recent months — was taken away for minor medical assistance.
Host DeRay Davis was obviously unaware of the clash as he began his opening monologue, telling the audience that everyone came in peace and no one was fighting. Some audience members immediately retorted that he was wrong.
"Did I miss an ass-whoopin' or somethin'?" he asked.
"Damn!" the comedian responded with surprise.
Once the show finally started, artists from the South and the West Coast did show strong unity, especially during a moving tribute to UGK's late Pimp C, in which MCs joined forces for covers of some of Pimp's famous verses. Too Short came out and did C's rhyme from Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin'," David Banner followed with bars from UGK and Outkast's "Int'l Players Anthem," to which Big Boi added his own verse. Webbie was next, rapping Pimp's lines from "One Day." Bun B closed it out backed by a full choir for "Angel in the Sky."
Shortly after the tribute, T-Pain beat out Pimp and others for the TJ's DJ's Tastemaker Award, which goes to the person who sets standards in music, fashion and style. T-Pain's victory was clearly an anticlimactic moment: The crowd had anticipated a win by their hometown hero, even yelling out "Pimp C! Pimp C!" in the anxious moments before the winner was announced. Pain later forked over his award, saying C deserved it.
No one was upset by Shawty Lo winning Breakthrough Artist. The MC, who performed a medley beforehand, brought his daughter and a female companion onstage with him to accept the honor.
DJ Khaled took home best DJ honors, and wouldn't you know it? Mike Jones showed shades of Paul Pierce in this year's NBA finals, coming from the back of the room with a small bandage across his nose, to announce the nominees in the category.
Co-presenter Alfamega — who's signed to T.I.'s Grand Hustle label — asked him, "Are you all right?"
"What don't kill me makes me stronger," Jones said. He apologized to the crowd for the preshow scuffle, saying, "We don't get down like that in H-town," but also had words for Trae: "If you gonna get me, get me straight up."
As for Khaled, he and his Florida collective had the performance of the show, closing out with a medley. The entire crowd got on its feet as Khaled, Rick Ross, T-Pain and Ace Hood went through "The Boss," "Cash Flow," "I'm So Hood" and "Out Here Grindin."
"Ozone Awards are so big," Ross said backstage before performing. "This is something major for the streets! A lot of people who didn't or who don't normally get love from other outlets can count on Ozone to shed some light on them."
Ross won Best Rap Album for Trilla; Snoop Dogg won Best Rap Album (West Coast). The coveted lyricist of the year nod went to Lil Wayne.
The awards took over the city for the weekend, filling H-Town with revelry fitting such a major event. MCs both established and on the rise came out for the celebration: At clubs around town, you'd see familiar faces like T.I., Young Jeezy, even Nelly and the Game, and Rick Ross performed on Saturday night.
Despite a brief scuffle between DJ Vlad and a member of Rick Ross' entourage, having a good time and networking was the focus.
"The weekend is big for the South," Jeezy said backstage at his show on Saturday. "It's big for hip-hop, period."
Ozone magazine was started by journalist Julia Beverly and is dedicated to providing coverage to acts from the South and West who were overlooked or undiscovered by more mainstream publications. The awards followed in the spirit of the magazine honoring up and coming acts as well as artists who have broken through.
"After all these years, the only award I've ever received was a Ozone award," the legendary Mannie Fresh said backstage. "So I love the show. It's the third year, it keeps getting better."
The complete list of Ozone Award winners:
Best Rap Album
Rick Ross Trilla
Best Rap Artist
Best R&B Artist
Best Rap Group
Best Rap/R&B Collaboration
Usher (featuring Young Jeezy): "Love in This Club"
Club Banger of the Year
Webbie (featuring Lil Boosie & Lil Phat): "Independent"
Most Slept-On Artist
Pimp C Award (Trillest Artist) [Editor's note: i.e. "not afraid to speak their mind"]
TJ's DJ's Hustler Award
TJ's DJ's Tastemaker Award
UGK (featuring Outkast) "Int'l Players Anthem"
DJ of the Year
Best Mixtape/ Street Album
Tie: DJ Drama and B.G.: Gangsta Grillz: Hood Generals
Chamillionaire: Mixtape Messiah 3
Polow Da Don
Best Rap Artist (West Coast)
Best Rap Group (West Coast)
D.P.G. (Dogg Pound)
Best Rap Album (West Coast)
Snoop Dogg: Ego Trippin'
Patiently Waiting: Florida
Patiently Waiting: Georgia
Patiently Waiting: Texas
Patiently Waiting: Mississippi
Patiently Waiting: Alabama
Patiently Waiting: Louisiana
Patiently Waiting: Tennessee
Patiently Waiting: Carolinas
Snook Da Rokk Star
Patiently Waiting: Kentucky
Patiently Waiting: California
Patiently Waiting: Arizona