Just before closing out the 2021 BET Hip Hop Awards, Nelly, this year’s “I Am Hip Hop” honoree, alongside some musical friends took the stage.
Wasting no time, the 46-year-old jumped right into a vibrant medley of his hits including “E.I.,” “Country Grammar,” “Dilemma” sans Kelly Rowland, “Where The Party At” with a surprise appearance from Jermaine Dupri, “Air Force Ones,” “Grillz” with a crowd-pleasing appearance from Paul Wall, and “Ride Wit Me” featuring City Spud of St. Lunatics.
Before his performance, the St. Louis native made sure to honor his midwestern roots in his acceptance speech. “We don’t get a lot of this. We don’t get a lot of chances to stand on stage and say, ‘Yeah, it’s our turn.’ So, this ain’t just for me; it’s for my whole area, my whole city,” he began.
“It’s a little different when you tryna rep for you and your whole crew and when you tryna rep for a whole state, and just to be clear, I never had a co-sign,” he explained. “I got thrown in the deep end and was told to swim.”
He thanked BET for continually providing a platform for him to feel visible—dating back to his “Country Grammar” debut on 106 & Park in 2000. He later named LL Cool J as his OG. “That guy,” he chuckled. “The influence that he put on Nelly was incredible because all up until LL, I thought you had to be one way to be a rapper. I never looked at rap a certain way until that man, until that man did his thing.”
He jokingly admitted that he even “jacked a lot of sh*t” from the “G.O.A.T.” rapper, but the men worked it out and all is forgiven. He thanked his entire team and gave a special shout-out to his “little brother,” City Spud. Nelly mentioned that this was one of City Spud’s first times being able to perform alongside him.
Check out Nelly’s full performance above and acceptance speech below.