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We Knew Them When: The rappers of the BET Hip-Hop Awards cyphers

Danielle Cheesman

 // Oct 6, 2016

Performances, upsets, and acceptance speeches aside, every year the highlight of the BET Hip-Hop Awards comes in the form of the classic cypher, bringing together the most promising talent to flex and finesse their lyrical abilities against one another for friendly competition.

And this year's select few looked awfully familiar to REVOLT. Here's a look back at the artists we knew would be stars and their promising paths.

BET

Young M.A, Sam Black, Dave East, Ms. Jade, Kur

Dave East: Before he nabbed a spot on XXL's Freshman cover or became Def Jam's newest signee, we spoke to his East about his 2014 mixtape Black Rose, when the former basketball player admitted that rap "came from left field" for him, a now Nas-appointed artist. The next year, he took us behind the scenes of his music videos for both "The Offering," the aggressive single that struck a nerve, and "No Coachella." Later, he was forthcoming in discussing his faith and religion and the growth he experienced after having his daughter--who he would later go on to name his debut album after: Kairi Chanel. You can catch him at this year's REVOLT Music Conference, too.

Young M.A: Before Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, and The Game, Meek Mill, and Sean Kingston, used her "OOOUUU" hit to, respectively, celebrate a birthday, deliver an assault of a freestyle, and serve as the soundtrack to a silly beef, we followed Brooklyn's own raspy, nonchalant, and swag-filled MC as she made her way to the iconic Apollo Theater where Jadakiss himself was set to introduce her. She talked her childhood, finding inspiration in 50 Cent, and (self-coined) "headphanies."

Watch their cypher here.

BET

Nick Grant, Don Q, Russ, Kent Jones, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie

Nick Grant: Before he dropped his jazz-infused, Watch the Duck-assisted single "Get Up," we shone our Spotlight on Grant's "The Jungle" visual, during which he recalled his hip-hop-less upbringing in South Carolina, being the youngest in most rap battles, studying the likes of Big Daddy Kane and Rakim, the teacher who told him to drop out, and the path from making mixtapes to getting a manager. We watched him execute the greatest heist in his clip for "The Plan" and captured the experience as he made his first appearance at Austin's SXSW: a five-performance day after a 15-hour drive.

Kent Jones: Before he said hola, coma estas?, konnichiwa, and bonjour, ma'dam on the #UndeniableFave song of summer "Don't Mind" and before we secured a spot for him at this year's REVOLT Music Conference, DJ Khaled-protege Kent Jones was dubbed the secret weapon behind We The Best. More than a 15-minutes-of-famer, the self-described "musically-inclined" artist (and secret jazz musician) has applied everything into his own creations to make for inarguable hits.

A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie:Before he earned a guest spot on the latest mixtape of the frequently underrated Fabolous, we asked "Who is A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie?" The answer? A Highbridge, BX native who built a wave through grassroots marketing that was neither attached to a sixty-second clip, dance move, nor big-time label deal. With a melodic flow, he blurred the lines between Trap&B and rap. He brought his unique sound to REVOLT to talk about his craft, debut album plans, and reveal his real name: Artist. Yes, Artist.

Don Q: Before he managed to nab a feature on the same aforementioned mixtape from Fab, Don Q, the Bronx native with the rich baritone, talked to us about his sound, breaking out from the Bronx, and how Highbridge the Label (which also houses A-Boogie) manages to keep "everything lit." He also unveiled his video of the same name.

Watch their cypher here.

Yazz the Greatest, Bre-Z, Ronnie DeVoe, Mike Bivins

Bre-Z: Before being tapped to play the sister of New Edition member Ricky Bell in the band's upcoming biopic and holding her own alongside other members of that exact group in her first BET-commission cypher, Philly's own (and Empire breakout star) Bre-Z delivered a tough 16 with a freestyle on The Breakfast Club. She talked to our hosts about her come up (she was a barber for Akon and Chris Brown before landing in the studio with J.Lo and Dr. Dre, among others), being mentored by Philly, and moving from the small screen to the big screen.

Yazz the Greatest: Before scoring the role of Michael Bivins in the same aforementioned film and not crumbling under the pressure of having to then spit in front of the New Edition member himself, fellow Philadelphian and Empire star Yazz the Greatest talked to us working with Timbaland, his contribution to the show's soundtrack, and how playing Hakeem has helped his real-life rap career.

Watch their cypher here.

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