The third annual BET Hip-Hop Awards kicked off with a bit of a surprise in Atlanta this evening (Oct 18).
Attendees of the event were greeted by surprise host T-Pain, who took over the role of master of ceremonies from comedian Katt Williams, who has hosted the award show since its inception in 2006.
While T-Pain provided no clue to the last minute line-up change, rumors have surfaced that the replacement was made due to a disagreement between Williams and the brass at BET or even that the pint-sized comedian had been arrested in the hours preceding the start-studded live taping.
BET.coms P.O.V. blog, however, provides a much more interesting theory, courtesy of the Networks Executive Vice President Stephen Hill.
So we were all hanging out last night and Katt bets T-Pain couldnt beat him in a break dance battle, Hill was quoted as saying. Not knowing T-Pain was an extremely DOPE break dancer, Katt thought it was an easy win. T-Pain said if I win, I get to host the Hip-Hop Awards.
An official statement released by BET Networks following the awards ceremony at the Atlanta Civic Center simply stated that Williams was unable to attend.
The Hip-Hop Awards provided several memorable moments, in a year where on-stage performances provided a much more balanced look at the culture.
The contrast could be seen from performances by T.I, who kicked off the festivities with some assistance from Ludacris and later Swizz Beats; to Common and N.E.R.D. performing Spazz and Universal Mind Control, the first single from Commons forthcoming eighth studio album of the same name.
Additional performers included Nas, Young Jeezy, Plies, Ne-Yo and Rick Ross, who was joined by Nelly and Avery Storm on Here I Am.
The most spectacular moment of the night was a tribute to women in Hip-Hop, showcasing the talent of some of the genres lady pioneers.
The Women In Hip-Hop medley consisted of rousing performances by YoYo, MC Lyte, the Lady of Rage and Salt-n-Pepa, who dedicated Push It and What A Man to Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama.
In 2008, were pushing for change in America, and were pushing for Barack Obama, explained Cheryl Salt Wray of the first dedication, before launching into the second with photos of the Obamas together on the campaign trail.
On a tragic note, The Game missed his scheduled performance alongside Ice Cube and Musiq, due to the recent accidental injury to his sister, up-and-coming rapper B-Fly, during a drive by shooting in Compton.
At press time, there is no word on the young womans condition, although sources told AllHipHop.com that she is recovering from a minor graze wound.
Presenters and performers alike used the platform as one more opportunity to speak on the importance of taking part in the electoral process, with Lil Wayne making the Republican ticket a target of a freestyle verse.
There were several performances dedicated to Democratic candidate Barack Obama, and Ice Cube urged the audience to vote black.
The BET Hip-Hop Awards also featured an exclusive trailer of the Notorious B.I.G. bio-pic Notorious, set to hit theaters in January.
Lil Wayne was the evenings biggest winner, taking home four of the five awards presented during the taping.
He shared one award, Best Hip-Hop Collaboration, with Young Jeezy, Ludacris, Busta Rhymes, Big Boi, Fat Joe, Birdman and Rick Ross for DJ Khaleds Im So Hood.
Wayne also took home the Alltel Wireless Peoples Champ Award, Lyricist of the Year and MVP of the Year.
The only other award presented Saturday night, MySpace Music Rookie of the Year, went to Shawty Lo, who made it a point to shout out T.I. during his acceptance speech.
The special I AM HIP HOP Icon Award was presented to Russell Simmons by LL Cool J for his notable contributions of outstanding significance to the Hip-Hop community.
The Third Annual BET Hip-Hop Awards will debut on BET Thursday, October 23 at 8 p.m. EST.