ATLANTA — Lil Wayne can be called many things — Hottest MC in the Game, Best Rapper Alive, Mr. Milli First Week — but one title that doesn't fit: disillusioned. With 12 BET Hip-Hop Award nominations, Weezy arrived at the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center on Saturday knowing it was his night.
"These awards have been wonderful, especially when they call my name," Wayne told MTV News as he got ready for the show. "That's the best part about them. Twelve nominations — I think the only categories I'm not in are the female categories."
Weezy beat out DJ Khaled, T.I., Jay-Z and Kanye West for MVP. He also took home Lyricist of the Year and People's Champ. More important, though, was Wayne's announcement that he's expecting a son "any day."
Rookie of the Year went to Shawty Lo, and DJ Khaled won Best Hip-Hop Collabo for the "I'm So Hood" remix. He also took home the unofficial award for best speech of the night. With half of the hip-hop community standing behind him, including Lil Wayne and Rick Ross, Khaled thanked just about every rapper and employee at Koch and Def Jam.
A whole slew of other winners won't be announced until the show airs on BET, on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.
Wayne said he was "thankful" during this award season, dating back to the MTV Video Music Awards in September. "The nominations already blow my mind," he said before the show. "By me winning the VMA — that was stupid. I already got the VMA at the crib."
Though he appreciates the accolades, Weezy said he would rather be doing what he's been nominated for — making music. "Just another day at the job, man," he said of being at the show. "Just another distraction from what I really wanna be doing — being in the studio recording. That's my job to do these award shows and shows. My life is the studio recording."
Despite all the promos, comic warlord Katt Williams was replaced by T-Pain, who still kept the whole crowd laughing. Pain could have a career in stand-up, should he ever want to moonlight. BET's Web site says Pain took over as host because he beat Williams in a dance battle. But the word from various sources was that Williams and BET had an irreconcilable difference at the 11th hour, causing Katt to up and leave.
"I don't know what happened," Pain said diplomatically on the red carpet. "All I know is that they called me at 4:30 in the morning to come host." A rep for BET was unable to be reached for comment.
During the hours before the show Saturday, hip-hop's elite were carrying out what would be the underlying theme of the whole weekend: rap unity. In the talent trailer park, you could see Rick Ross laughing with DJ Drama. Playaz Circle and Swizz Beatz were chillin' in Ludacris' trailer. T.I. was saying "what's up" to everybody in sight. Pharrell Williams had just left Wayne's tour bus minutes before the Birdman Jr. talked to MTV News. And Common couldn't stop smiling at all the love being shown.
"I love hip-hop, and I love artists that love hip-hop," Common said. "When I get around the artists that are really passionate about the music and they really feel it, it's a good feeling, because you know you gonna get some good music. I'm looking at artists such as MC Lyte and Nas from the past, to some of the new cats, such as Lil Wayne, who are passionate about hip-hop, and that's when you know you gonna get a good mix."
Common promised big things for the evening. "I'm rocking 'UMC,' and I'm rocking with N.E.R.D. [on] 'Spazz,' so we got a combination of performances," he said. "We just gonna give that energy we gave out on tour, just enjoying ourselves and rockin' the party."
During the high-powered rock-and-roll romp of "Spazz," Lil Wayne couldn't fight the feeling and jumped out of his seat and onto the stage to rock out with his friends. Busta Rhymes also joined in, at the encouragement of Skateboard P.
Most of the night's performances became instant highlights. T.I. and Ludacris set the tone, opening up with "Sitting on Top of the World." The sight of the former lyrical enemies/ kings of the town together for the first time? Wow!
"Wait until you see what I do!" Young Jeezy forewarned Friday night. The Snowman didn't disappoint with "Crazy World." Jizzle from the Bottom of the Map brought a live band, an astounding operatic backup singer, pyrotechnics and even a blazer and tie as he killed a presidential-election-themed mini set. And you can't discount Rick Ross teaming with Nelly, or Plies with Ne-Yo — collaborations that brought the entire auditorium to their feet.
But if there's one performance that can be labeled absolutely timeless, it was the tribute to the females of rap. The ladies were represented proudly with a stroll down nostalgia lane. The Lady of Rage, MC Lyte, Yo-Yo and Salt-N-Pepa were engaged in a medley that made hearts stop. To hear everyone scream "Raaaaaaaage!" during "Afro Puffs" was well worth the damage to your ear drums.
On a sad note, Ice Cube was supposed to be a surprise guest of Game during a performance, but it was said onstage that a member of Game's family had been a victim of gun violence.