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John Legend, 2 Chainz honored at Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball

January 21, 2013|By Wesley Lowery

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Doug E. Fresh, 2 Chainz and MC Lyte were among those on hand to be honored at Sunday night's Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball at the Harman Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C. But none let the fact that they were collecting hardware keep them from taking the mike.

MC Lyte and Doug E. Fresh -- hip-hop icons both credited with influencing many of the genre's current artists -- showcased their talents while receiving lifetime achievement awards.

Stepping back on-stage after her acceptance speech, Lyte flashed a quick smile. "I had said I would do a little something a capella," she said, before performing "Slave 2 the Rhyme."

Moments later, Doug E. Fresh took the stage, beatboxing as comedian and singer-comic Wayne Brady delivered a cover of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" Brady then dropped a crowd-pleasing freestyle before the two exited the stage to joyous roars.

The ball - thrown by rap mogul Russell Simmons - honored and highlighted the role hip hop played in the 2012 election.

"I think hip hop had a role in making sure we elected a black president," R&B singer John Legend told ball attendees as he accepted the humanitarian award. "We made it so that black people were in people's homes ... through our music and through our culture," he added.

Speakers noted that hip hop has long been intermingled with politics. They praised the genre for allowing white Americans to become comfortable with black culture.

"A generation of people were seeing black men with power," said Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University professor and noted scholar on race and hip hop, during an interview. "Without Busta Rhymes, Barack Obama wouldn't have been able to bust a rhyme," he added, previewing a line that would later earn him cheers from the crowd.

Other performances included a duel act by Lil Mama and Yo Yo and a performance by British singer Marsha Ambrosius, who sang "Butterflies," which she co-wrote for Michael Jackson's 2001 album, "Invincible."

"This is for you, Michael," she said quietly before beginning.

Rappers Swizz Beats and Meek Mill also took home honors from the event, the second installment of a ball thrown for the first time in 2009.

Most of those honored joined goers during the following reception. Doug E. Fresh started a crowd surge toward the rear of the event as he "taught" the crowd to dougie -- the popular West Coast dance named after his on-stage moves.

Scheduled to run until 2:30 a.m., the party began to clear almost an hour early, after a male attendee seemingly got into a verbal altercation with 2 Chainz.

The Grammy-nominated rapper was honored for his work with the "Respect My Vote" campaign, which educates ex-felons about their voting rights. Around 1 a.m. he grabbed a mike and delivered impromptu performances of a handful of his hits, including "I'm Different" and "Birthday Song."

Twitter: @WesleyLowery

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