The "I Am Hip Hop" honor at the BET Hip Hop Awards is bestowed to one emcee every year.
Past winners have a history of achieving significant heights over long-spanning careers and changed the game for the better, it’s like hip hop's unofficial hall of fame.
Since the BET Hip Hop Awards debuted in 2006, there has been an emphasis to give hip hop royalty their flowers, starting with Grandmaster Flash to Master P in 2020. Here are five of the best acceptance speeches and notable quotes from the trophy recipients in the last 14 years.
Ice Cube - 2009
Ice Cube is everyone's big homie and the West Coast legend still doesn't get the credit he deserves.
Besides his legendary stint in hip hop, where he'd break ground with the N.W.A. before leading a successful solo career, Ice Cube wrote words and made up characters that, at this point, the culture would be nothing without. From his Friday movie franchise to Boyz In The Hood and Barbershop, he gave roles and put money in all of your favorite comedians' and actors' hands.
The announcement that he was being honored in 2009 with the award was long overdue.
After accepting his award, he addressed the masses::
"We got to do what we feel," he said. "We can't be slaves to video programmers, we can't be slaves to radio programmers, A&R's, we got to be slaves to our own creative minds. To all the old people in the house, keep doing your music. Don't let the industry push you out. Keep doing what you feel. As long as you have a tongue, you're not too old to rap."
Lil Wayne - 2018
Lil Wayne's a walking museum — the true definition of a living legend. It seems, however, that because the Louisiana native has done so much, writing him off was the only thing left to do.
Well, Weezy F. Baby must have heard all the chatter because the five-time Grammy-winning, 120 million record-selling artist has been rapping like a bat out of hell, ripping features for the past year like he has something to prove.
The streak makes the rapper's “I Am Hip Hop” Award at the 2018 BET Hip Hop Awards both timely and vital, as legacies are often rewritten with selective memory. Joined on stage by his daughter, Reginae, and his mother, Wayne dedicated the award to the "people that refuse.
"People who refused to stop supporting me, the people who refused to see me as not putting an album out in six years. You guys respected me, you guys supported me, you came to every show, you respect every album, every feature," the rapper explained.
Lil Kim - 2019
While petty rap feuds may have gotten the facts misconstrued, Lil Kim — the original Queen Bee — is undoubtedly one of the most influential women in rap's history.
She gave feminine anthem after feminine anthem in the late 90s and early 2000s with her unapologetic style, empowering others to do the same. Before there was a Cardi B, or Megan Thee Stallion, there was Lil Kim.
During her acceptance speech at the 2019 BET Hip Hop Awards, she thanked all her supporters and touched on how much the late B.I.G impacted her.
"I don't know if any of yall know how it feels to have an angel following you all around all the time, but that's Biggie," she said, pointing to the sky. "I'm going to always love him, I'm always going to ride for him, I don't play about him, that's just what it is," she continued. "I love you to the Heavens, Biggie."
MC Lyte - 2013
MC Lyte held the golden mic for conscious women in rap, far before the Rhapsody's and Noname's of the world.
Her debut single, written when she was 17, in fact, "I Cram To Understand U (Sam)”, released in 1988, was about drug abuse and the effects.
Related: Evolution of MC Lyte
MC Lyte's selection for the 2013 BET Hip Hop Awards illuminates the Brooklyn rapper's work over the years. Yet, even in her speech, she showed humility, thanking her family, friends, and supporters while also giving advice.
"Men, we are depending on you," she said. "We need you to protect us when no one will. So stop cursing us out all the time, okay? Find some love for us somewhere, God bless." She ended her statement with a demand for women listening to her speech. "And ladies, if you want to be treated like a queen, act like one."
Master P — 2020
Master P's selected as the “I Am Hip Hop” award recipient at the 2020 BET Hip Hop Awards for his almost thirty-year career as a rapper, label head and entrepreneur could not have gone to a more deserving individual.
As founder of No Limit, the Louisiana native is responsible for a family tree of talent in hip hop Furthermore, his ventures afterward – whether it be a television show, making it to the NBA or having his clothing line — set a blueprint that young rap hopefuls try and emulate till this day.
During his acceptance speech, the New Orleans rap icon spoke about generational wealth, what inspires him and advice on how others can be a force of change within their communities.
"I want to let the people know that [by] watching my story, [they] don't [have to] be afraid to change and grow up. That's what the Lord has blessed me with," the 50-year-old said. "Your story could be even greater than mine if you don't be afraid to put the work in."