Nelly received the “I Am Hip Hop” Award, given to those who have made indelible contributions to Hip Hop music and culture.
Nelly paid tribute to his St. Louis, Missouri roots.
“First of all, it’s truly my honor, man,” he said. “You know, you from St. Louis … 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; this for my whole area, this for my whole city. Just to be clear, I never had a co-sign. Nobody stood on stage and put their arm around me. Nobody gave me a feature. Nobody put a chain around my neck. I got thrown in the deep end and was told to swim.”
Nelly saluted LL COOL J, for shaping him as an artist.
“Let me tell y’all something… that guy,” he said. “The influence that he put on Nelly was incredible because all up until L, I thought you had to be one way to be a rapper. I never looked at rap a certain way until that man did his thing, and then I was like, ‘Woah! I think I can do that.’
Nelly performed a medley of his greatest hits. Stepping out of a 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass — a nod to his classic “Country Grammar” video — with the St. Louis skyline in the background.