LL Cool J Salutes Hip-Hop's Growth At BET Awards

'To go from an hour or two hours at night to entire award shows ... that's a big thing,' LL tells MTV News on black carpet.

Who would've thought that hip-hop would take it this far? When he got his start in 1984, LL Cool J remembers how the genre was marginalized in the media, but Tuesday night's 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards are a definite sign of the times.

"When we first started the music, they didn't even play it on the radio in the daytime," BET's I Am Hip Hop Icon Award winner told MTV News on the show's black carpet. "Hip-hop was two hours at night or an hour at night on the weekends, and that was it. So to go from an hour or two hours at night to entire award shows and whole generations of people whose lives have been changed just because they're involved with the music, that's a big thing."

The awards show started off with a bang. Young Jeezy opened with his new single "F.A.M.E." and gave way to T.I. on the song's final verse, marking the first television appearance for the King of the South since his prison release in September. Lil Wayne — who was nominated for an astounding 18 awards — took home five, while Busta Rhymes accepted four on behalf of his absent "Look at Me Now" collaborator Chris Brown. Nicki Minaj was named MVP of the Year, while Wiz Khalifa took home the Rookie of the Year award. Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy won CD of the Year, and Jay-Z was crowned Hustler of the Year.

The show's live performances were something to marvel at, as DMX and Swizz Beatz surprised viewers with a medley of classics. Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa rocked spirited sets, while Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group performed their singles "That Way" and "Ima Boss."

Rap icon Heavy D closed out the show, but the real highlights were the rap ciphers. B.o.B, Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, Tech N9ne, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem and Rick Ross all participated in the rap segments, while DJ Premier curated the rhyme showcase.

"It makes me feel good to be a person that contributed, that helped make this happen," LL said.

How's that for cultural growth?

What did you think of the BET Hip Hop Awards? Let us know in the comments!