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From the pre-show calls to get everyone seated to the endless procession of songwriting awards to the evening’s rap-a-long finale with up to 40 people on stage, the BMI 2013 R&B/Hip-Hop Awards, held at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom on Thursday night, was a chaotic affair.
The main focus of the show was a special salute to BMI icons Bryan ‘Birdman’ Williams and Ronald ‘Slim’ Williams, a.k.a. the founders of the Cash Money Records empire. Label stars Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj were on hand to pay tribute to their bosses and collect several awards. Minaj never performed, though Wayne, wearing white ear buds all night and dressed in his trademark low-riding jeans, did jump up for the frenetic finish.
Minaj and producer Benny Blanco shared the prestigious Songwriter of the Year award; both had four of the year’s most performed songs. Song of the Year went to Minaj’s “Starships” (co-written with Wayne Hector and RedOne). Hit-Boy earned Producer of the Year for his work with Kanye West, Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar and others. The white rap-rock trio Machine Gun Kelly received the Social Star award, which was voted on Twitter. See the complete list of song winners here.
Machine Gun Kelly also performed a brief set, as did Mario, Busta Rhymes and DJ Khaled leading up to the night’s big moment. Co-hosts Ray J and BMI VP Catherine Brewton gave way to Doug E. Fresh, who began throttling up the honors for the Williams Brothers, sitting in the front row with Wayne.
After a video montage, guitarist Kevin Rudolf cranked out a rock tune, followed in rapid succession by Mystikal, Trina and Curren$y, who all performed briefly. Juvenile, Turk and Mannie Fresh bounced on stage for a highlight rendition of “Back That Azz Up.” Finally, Slim, Birdman (a.k.a. Baby) and Wayne made their way onto the stage. Birdman, whose face and head are doctored with tattoos, acknowledged that he “wouldn’t be standing here right now if it wasn’t for Wayne Motherf—ing Carter.” He continued: “I knew this shit was bigger than me… If you go against me, you’re guaranteed to lose.”
According to BMI president and CEO Del Bryant, 2013 was the company’s “biggest revenue year ever.” In big part this is due to Cash Money and Young Money’s stable of hit-making artists. Throughout the night we reminded by Bryant, Ray J and others that Cash Money has sold more than 500 million songs worldwide since its humble beginnings in New Orleans more than two decades ago.
To top off the occasion, Birdman exhorted the increasingly crowded stage to finish the night off with a freestyle jam that concluded with the Hot Boys’ “I Need a Hot Girl.” What started in chaotic fashion ended similarly with 30 to 40 dudes (Minaj was long gone by this point and in fact did not accept the Songwriter of the Year award) jumping around to celebrate the improbable success of Cash Money and the Williams Brothers.
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Jamie Lee Curtis
Monday Night Football