By Rob Markman
ATLANTA — It was only fitting the "King of the South" made his regal return on a stage so close to where his troubles began back in 2007, but also so near where he first got his start in the game. After completing his 11-month prison sentence on September 29, T.I. opened the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards with Young Jeezy as the two performed the Snowman's new single "F.A.M.E."
The awards show, which taped at the Atlanta Civic Center on October 1, is set to air on Tuesday, October 11; comedian Mike Epps hosted with assistance from Da Brat. While T.I. arguably provided the show's grandest moment, Rick Ross and his Maybach Music crew, Lupe Fiasco, Big Sean, Heavy D, DMX and Wiz Khalifa all electrified the crowd with hyped-up performances throughout the night.
Rap legend LL Cool J received the show's highest honor when he was presented with the I Am Hip-Hop Award for his career of achievements in music, movies and television.
The awards show's black carpet was equally star-studded. Rival rap crews like Ross' Maybach Music rubbed shoulders with G-Unit's newest members Shawty Lo and Kidd Kidd in a show of peace, love and appreciation for the culture.
As most fans know, BET's pre-taped rap ciphers typically generate some the of the ceremony's most buzz-worthy moments, with memorable performances from Kayne's G.O.O.D. Music crew, Mos Def and the Roots' Black Thought going viral in recent years. This year, the network upped the ante adding more rhyme ciphers than ever before. MCs like French Montana, Tech N9ne, Big K.R.I.T., Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, Maybach Music Group, Slaughterhouse, Yelawolf and Eminem all traded rhymes while DJ Premier spun the beats.
Among the leading nominees are Lil Wayne (who earned a record-setting 18 nods), Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj and Waka Flocka Flame, while stars like NBA star Amar'e Stoudemire, Tracee Ellis Ross and Nelly were among the presenters.
Tune in to the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards on Tuesday, October 11, at 8pm ET to see who took home the prizes!