Have you ever wondered what makes a good bar, well, good? It’s a combination of the chemistry of the words and the power to paint a fully-formed image that involves all five senses. It’s something that makes people remember it word-for-word over the countless other rinse and repeat rap lines you hear streaming out of your headphones and car stereos.
There’s one piece of the bar in particular that is, perhaps, even more important than the power of the words themselves: the delivery. For an artist to capture the attention of the people listening, there has to be some emotional engagement with the words bringing us as listeners a modicum of excitement.
Every artist involved in the last 14 years of the BET Hip Hop Awards’ legendary cyphers understands the production of impactful bars like a well-studied science. And through their endlessly exciting lyrics, they’ve created so many memorable moments with their excellent chemistry and tenacious delivery.
Whether they throw a middle finger to pop culture or just a grit-teeth show of skill, these selected bars are unforgettable.
Check out these bars from the BET Hip Hop Awards cyphers and you’ll soon understand why these artists were selected to bring their talents to this massive and historic stage.
“I’m way more polished than 99% of the scholars
That you thought had graduated/
I’m the master that masturbated on your favorite
Emcee until the industry wanted them assassinated”
Fresh off his legendary verse on Big Sean’s “Control (Remix),” K. Dot took over the TDE Cypher with a massive verse that ended with him declaring himself, rightfully, King Kendrick. This bar, in particular, captured the energy of a newly minted monarch ready to instill fear in his royal subjects.
“I’m a bad teacher who give the class seizures
I smash divas, stash reefer, in the lab freezer”
Back when he was a part of the YBN collective, Cordae was an even hungrier menace eager for the platform to show off his recently-viral rap skills. He got the chance at this cypher where he masterfully folded pop culture into his knack for twisting word elements together to create awe-inspiring combinations.
“I don’t blame y’all for being trash fans and copping it
The radio is the crime scene and the masses are the hostages.”
From the second that Joe Budden declared himself “Hip-Hop’s Foster Child” in this cypher, it was clear that he didn’t come to play any games. Instead, he wanted to tell it how it was, and that involved letting the world know that the music that they were buying, sucked.
“I’m a soldier, thought I already told you,
Negative door closer, championship holder,
How could I get closer, all apart of the plan
I’m in my position from videos on the Gram.”
Chika’s viral rap videos made her a star so when she made it to the BET Hip Hop Awards cypher, she put the world on notice for anyone who hadn’t heard of her. Her witty and wondrous verse was a surefire highlight of an awesome all-female cypher.
“Where the love at, Why you hate me
In my own lane HOV like Jay-Z,
Only into business that pays me
And everything I’m not that makes me.”
Chicago rapper Dae Jones made one hell of an entrance to the 2019 BET Hip Hop Awards with her broiling cypher verse. Packed out with intensely delivered bars, it was her shoutout to Jay-Z that cemented her as someone to watch out for.
“In real life I really dodge court
And use the raw fork, trying to get both my daughters a small Porsche
While y'all ni**as be in the mall short
We bury the money,
I got holes in my lawn like a golf course.”
The way that Benny The Butcher can keep a sound on a string and stretch it for miles makes him a rapper that you’re always curious to listen to because you never know how far that he will go. In 2017, he showcased just how long he was willing to go.
“Everybody staring like they’re looking at leprechaun
All chrome shoes, these the type you ain’t stepping on.”
Who has the swagger and sexuality that Lil Kim has when they hold the microphone? Next to no one. In her 2013 cypher, she dropped high-octane bars before giving Biggie an amazing shoutout to wrap it up.
“But we better give Obama props
Beause what we got in office now is a kamikaze
That'll probably cause a nuclear holocaust
And while the drama pops/ And he waits for shit to quiet down, he'll just gas his plane up
And fly around until the bombing stops.”
It’s no secret that Eminem, like many, isn’t a fan of the current President. With a legendary cypher verse dedicated to letting the world that well-known fact, he found creative ways to alert the world to what he believes that Trump would do in the event of a disaster of his causing.
“I’m gonna speak it directly at you ,no subliminals
See all my life i was raised by a line of criminals
So all I know is clutching my pistols and my genitals.”
Pill took the world to the streets in a wholly fresh and authentic way when he jumped into the MMG cypher. With animated hand movements backing up his wild bars, he set himself into BET Hip Hop Awards history.
“We really rapping, y’all boys be yapping,
I’ll smack a chick quick like bitch what happened”?
Remy Ma and husband, Papoose’s joint cypher verse was legendary within itself, but when Remy split for a quick solo tangent, she brought out the heavy-hitting, one-hitter-quitter bars that astounded everyone listening.
Watch the he 2020 Hip Hop Awards on BET on October 27 at 9/10c.
Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET