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.
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.
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