Many stepped up, but which rappers killed the BET Cypher the hardest?
Another edition of The BET Hip Hop Awards have passed, and another batch of cyphers have come and gone. As is always the case, this year brought out many dope lyricists, who took turns bodying an old-school beat spun by the legendary DJ Premier. Plenty of rhymers came out from all corners of the country, and even overseas in Little Simz’ case, but only a few were dope enough to merit a top five spot.
After all, this is hip-hop, a genre that’s all about a little friendly competition. Therefore, it’s only natural that the top five verses have to be ranked in numerical order. And while many held it down, these five artists managed to stand out as the leaders of the game, four up-and-comers and one veteran. Note that this list will examine the verses on an individual level, and therefore, results may differ from the overall cypher ranking, which can be found here.
5. Denzel Curry
Denzel has been one of Florida’s best kept secret, and the young Aquarius Killa has earned his spot as the cypher’s closing verse. With a rapid fire delivery and some dope wordplay, Denzel came through heavy on the wordplay, bringing out his signature geek-friendly references: “Aquarius'killa the ultimate no Marvel or DC, you'll never be superman cuz I'm where the green be, Kryptonite, you say we blood until they lay you in the crypt tonight.” The rhymes are on point, and while Denzel’s full potential is never quite reached, his presence and energy solidify him as a standout addition to the lineup. Keep an eye out for more from Denzel Curry, who is poised for a breakout album. Taboo coming soon.
Em’s verse has largely been the talk of the town, and it’s not without reason. His Donald Trump Ether has been largely celebrated by the hip-hop community, though certain fans were quick to criticize the harsh flow and stop and start nature of Em's acapella performance. Still, when you're that much of a legend, it's inevitable that the haters will be quick to emerge from the woodwork. Despite the fact that Em’s contribution to the cypher was arguably his weakest BET performance (with his Mos Def & Black Thought collaboration being a clear highlight), the scathing, unapologetic, and no-fucks-given style were enough to earn it a spot as one of the evening’s standouts. With one verse, Em proved that he could still piss world off while simultaneously creating overnight hype for his upcoming album.
6lack is an impressive dude. Not only was his debut mixtape Free 6lack one of the dopest debuts in recent memory, but the Atlanta artist has already landed a spot closing out a BET Cypher. Decked out in all black with the hoodie up, the young rapper delivers an impressive verse, reflecting on his come up and sounding natural over Primo’s old school bounce. It’s a testament to 6lack’s versatile skillset, and he takes a page out of Em’s book, going off beat to deliver his final statement: “It's a DMX flow, it's a we are next flow, They can't really handle bars, it's a BMX flow, I'm skippin' through this thing like I'm Snoop, what it do? Atlanta got a star, boy, I'm the proof.”
Ski Mask has been steady emerging as a future superstar, earning co-signs from Timbaland, Missy Elliot, A$AP Ferg, Offset, and basically anybody with an ear for talent. His flow is insane, and while some have stated that it can be repetitive at times, Ski’s verse in the South Florida Cypher seems dedicated to those detractors. He switches it up with finesse, sliding over Primo’s instrumental with several different, and equally impressive flows. There’s a sort of old-school, lackadaisical swagger in Ski’s performance, which is subdued by his usual standards. Still, that doesn’t make it any less dope, and one wonders what might have happened if he was given even more time to go off. In fact, it's a crime he didn't, as Ski proudly boasted the best overall flow.
The underrated mastermind behind The Never Story and the incredible single “Hasta Luego” most definitely earned his spot as the “young spittaz” cypher’s anchor. J.I.D closes off the session with an impeccable verse, ripe with wordplay and complex flows. In fact, he wouldn’t be out of place with any of the cypher artists, including heavyweight Eminem. The Dreamville signee delivers gems like “Hasta Luego, back to Africa they say, pack a bag with an AK, grab a gat for the melee, dracka-dracka to the races like Ricky Bobby & Tay-K.” Damn. Overall, J.I.D’s effort was the strongest verse of the night, right down to the hilarious ending. While Em's verse may have had the most overall impact, J.I.D's verse stood out as the perfect showcase of strong lyricism, flow, and swagger.