You already know what went down last weekend during the taping of the BET Hip-Hop Awards. Or do you? Media outlets that normally show no interest in rap whatsoever jumped all over the disturbance that broke out backstage, pulling their info from second- and third-hand sources. Much of what has been reported to date has been inaccurate, and all the negativity has overshadowed the show itself, which airs one week from today, October 9 at 8 p.m. Complex reached out to the man behind every BET Awards show, Stephen G. Hill, President of Music Programming and Specials, to find out what really happened. As Chuck D once put it, don't believe the hype.
Interview by Rob Kenner (@boomshots)
Let’s talk about something constructive first. I understand that you have a very special tribute to Chris Lighty on this year’s show. Can we please start with that?
Stephen Hill: Oh yeah. I mean we had an unbelievable showing of love for Chris Lighty, and support for his family, with an all-star lineup of hip-hop hitting the stage. Especially in wake of the other things that happened later, this is important to highlight. There was a reunion of A Tribe Called Quest, coming back together to pay tribute to Chris Lighty. And there was Fat Joe and 50 Cent on the same stage.
There was a reunion of A Tribe Called Quest, coming back together to pay tribute to Chris Lighty. And there was Fat Joe and 50 Cent on the same stage.
Wow. We heard that might be happening, but it’s still pretty unbelievable.
What will impress you even more is that in rehearsals—you won’t see it on the air, but in rehearsals on Saturday, everyone was kind of wondering. We knew Joe was going to do it, and Joe knew 50 was going to do it, and everything else, but to have them come on the stage and see everyone standing together, you know, in support of Chris... So everybody comes out—I won’t give you the exact order—but they were all standing there. Once we realized that rehearsal was over, everybody’s on the stage, and it was so simple. 50 just turned, walked to Joe, stuck his hand out, said something in his ear, shook his hand, and they walked off together.
Now were they going to go out and get a beer afterwards? Probably not. But you know, these are people who have had a long-standing beef. At least they can squash it and be on the same stage together, and give each other a pound.
This is the stuff that most publications that are jumping on the negative things, they don’t pay attention to those kinds of moments do they?
It’s depressing. It’s depressing that we have to have a juxtaposition of what happened on Saturday night against that. Because it was just a simple, beautiful moment in hip-hop. A lot of times you don’t put those terms together. It was a simple, cool moment in hip-hop, when 50 went over, Joe shook hands, and they walked off the stage.
Were any members of Chris Lighty’s family involved in this? Or was this all the artists and people who worked with him?
We only had artists on stage. There was so many people who wanted to be on stage, like friends, that we just said only artists with whom he worked with directly.
At any time did anybody say, “Hey, that’s not a good idea to get 50 and Joe together?” Was that ever a concern?
No, no. I can honestly say that was never—it was a thought. It wasn’t a concern. And that’s a testament to Chris, and the respect everyone has for Chris. Nobody at any point in time thought that there’d be a disrespect of Chris on stage by the two of them, or any other factions going at it.
OK so let’s turn our attention to all the other things that have been written about your show. What can you tell us about what took place, and how the story has been told in the press?
I think there’s a lot of misinformation that went out. For the Twitter Generation, 140 characters for some people just equals truth—no matter who it’s from, no matter where those people are—whatever you read on Twitter is true. I think that’s one of the real problems of information accumulation in the last 5–6 years or so. There was absolutely an altercation behind the stage, it involved the crews of Ross and Jeezy. Ross and Jeezy passed each other in the hall. There was some shoving—it never turned into a fight. They realized it’s an awards show. They realized we spend a lot of money to make hip-hop look good on TV. We want to give them the same shining forum that other music forms get.
Maybe some members of the crew weren’t thinking that way. It was a dust-up, and it was over like that. I mean I’ve seen it on TMZ, there happened to be a mirror there, they weren’t throwing the mirror—it kind of just got in the way. If you look, people are trying to avoid the mirror as it falls. And Ross is walking towards the stage. This happened right before he went on stage.
Where were you when all this happened?
When Ross takes that left to get to the doorway, that’s roughly where I am. It was during a commercial break, so I wasn’t at the desk where I usually am, and when I came back, Ross was getting ready to go on stage. I had no idea what had just happened.
So he performed right after that took place?
Yeah, and if you see the performance, you could not tell. It didn’t spill out into the stage by any stretch of the imagination.
And you’re saying the artists were not involved in the shoving—it was only their crews.
We’ve debriefed as many people as humanly possible. It was not the artists.
OK now we’ve read a lot of other stuff. We read about gunshots in the parking lot.
You heard about gunshots in the parking lot because somebody heard somebody say something, and they carelessly tweeted. Now they may have heard pyro, but no one has said there was gunshots in the parking lot. Police would’ve closed this down a completely different way had there been gunshots. If there’s gunshots, your show’s not going on. Everything comes to a halt. Nothing came to a halt.
Again, reckless tweeting. One person said there was gunshots. Somebody took that. I used to do this thing when I was a little kid. I used to say something outrageous. I’d say, “I read that somewhere.” I wrote it down, closed my eyes, and then I read it, and so it’s true. That’s exactly what happens with Twitter. People read it, so they think it’s true, and people retweet it like, “Oh my God, there were gunshots.” Cause some fool tweeted, “I heard gunshots.” There were no gunshots.
People read it, so they think it’s true, and people retweet it like, 'Oh my God, there were gunshots.' Cause some fool tweeted, 'I heard gunshots.' There were no gunshots.
Like I said, the police, who are everywhere, because they’re the security, right? If the police heard gunshots—and there was no place on that campus where you would not have heard them—they would’ve shut the place down. Anybody that knows police procedure knows that if there’s gunshots, everything gets shut down.
So what about the report that the building was locked, and nobody could go in and out? Not true?
That was true for a corridor. Not the building I don’t believe. I believe there were parts of it that nobody could come into once they cleared people out so there was no dust-up there.
One of the things that struck me that was a whole lot of publications that don’t have a lot to say about hip-hop in general on a daily basis, suddenly became fascinated with hip-hop when this happened.
When something bad happens, that’s always going to happen, right? Everyone is talking about this, no one is talking about 50 and Joe shaking hands. Like nobody. Huge beef. They reported the beef. Oh my gosh—anytime they would do a diss song, it would be everywhere, right? So now we got something that’s not huge, but it’s in the right direction, and all people want to do is talk about this other thing, and make up things about it.
While I’m talking to you, I’m literally seeing a new item on PerezHilton.com—not the biggest hip-hop authority—50 and Diddy supposedly had a problem at your show, according to this, uh, trusted source. I don’t know where to file that, but if you have any insights to clear that up, that would sure be interesting. No, no, no. I’m sure that’s not right—what was the problem?
It says, “Reportedly 50 and Diddy were joking around with each other backstage until things got taken too seriously, with 50 getting in Diddy’s face. Onlookers say that everyone thought a full-blown fight was going to happen, but Diddy quickly defused the situation by saying he was too much money for it.” Again, people who usually don’t care about hip-hop suddenly become obsessively focused when there’s bad news to report.
All this does is make it really difficult for us to give hip-hop a place to shine. None of these people have written about this show the past seven years when we’ve done this in peace. What I find really interesting is that the hip-hop awards is a place where people get along. You get different crews together, you get groups who don’t know each other, who get to know each other at the hip-hop awards. We’re the place where T.I. and Ludacris got on stage together when everybody thought they were beefing.
Our goal was to bring everyone together and celebrate the culture. You’re going to have differences—not everybody is going to make friends, but they’ve come for the last seven years, and they’ve come in peace to celebrate this culture, and hit the streets afterwards.
For me the highlight is always the cyphers. What should we be looking forward to on the cyphers?
We got a couple of great crews in there. Grand Hustle does quite well, Ruff Ryders are there, but my personal favorite is Childish Gambino. Childish Gambino’s fantastic. Ab-soul did it well, and we’ve got a west coast cypher that you have to see to believe.