The BET Hip-Hop Awards cypher was a major event for rap fans. For a long time, the award show curated cyphers that included some of the biggest and most skilled lyricists in hip hop. Many of these performances include labels and groups, with various collectives allowing each member to showcase their lyricism in hip hop’s most pure art form. The BET Hip-Hop Awards produced many iconic cyphers, with arguably it’s most legendary being the Shady 2.0. Eminem recruited the now-former signees to his Shady Records label for an all-star display of lyricism. The cypher consisted of Slim Shady himself, Yelawolf, and the members of Slaughterhouse: Royce Da 5’9”, KXNG Crooked, Joell Ortiz, and Joe Budden

This 2011 performance was shot in an abandoned warehouse in Detroit, the hometown of Eminem and Royce. With a roster of elite lyricists, the competition was stiff between each rapper in the cypher, making for a legendary hip-hop moment. Each artist did not disappoint with their bars. Today, we rank each verse of the Shady 2.0 Cypher from worst to best. Take a look at the list below.

6. Joell Ortiz

No rapper in the Shady 2.0 Cypher spat a weak verse, but Joell Ortiz ranks at the bottom of the list. His flow is very nonchalant compared to some of his best verses in cyphers and on Slaughterhouse songs. Joell’s aggressive flow that he has used on posse cuts with his fellow House Gang members would have been more fitting for a cypher setting. His bars are humorous, making some funny references to House of Payne, Eddie Murphy, Beyoncé, and more. Compared to the other rappers in the set, his bars just did not stand out as much. One of Joell’s best lines was, “This is an all day slaughter. They fiendin’ for us to break, like Beyonce’s water.” It is still a very good verse with some good rhyme schemes, but his label mates set the bar quite high.

5. Yelawolf

Yelawolf certainly set the tone for the Shady 2.0 Cypher with the first verse. The beat from East Flatbush Project’s “Tried by 12” is a slow loop, but he skips across the beat with his choppy flow. He even switches rhyme patterns to showcase his skills, proving he can easily hang with the best lyricists. Yelawolf’s verse is quite short compared to the verses from Eminem and Slaughterhouse. Because of that, his opening appearance is impressive but does not stack up to the longer and more substantial verses.  

4. Royce Da 5’9”

One standout verse in the Shady 2.0 Cypher comes from Royce Da 5’9”. His jarringly brilliant verse sees him greeting and saying goodbye to Rihanna in a humorous manner, to which she actually replies following the cypher. Royce has the most commanding delivery out of every other rapper, drawing listeners into his witty rap style. While each of his punchlines is very clever, the majority of his bars are set up identically, using a famous name as a simile.

He references famous rappers and celebrities, as well as saying, “We cornered the market, like a Wal-Mart in a cul-de-sac.” Easily, his best scheme in Royce’s verse is when he raps, “I tell you like I tell my Spanish chick. You fly, but I ain’t goin’ down on no landin’ strip. So get your wax on, like Daniel San or I’ma have to run like De la Hoya in drag when cameras come.” Spitting hard bars seems effortless for Royce Da 5’9,” which is clearly reflected in his cypher verse. However, his competitors performed arguably equal or better verses. 

3. KXNG Crooked

Lyrically, KXNG Crooked, formerly Crooked I, excels at everything. His flow, rhyme schemes, delivery, punchlines, and wordplay are top-tier in almost every verse. The cypher is where he truly shines. Crooked starts his verse with a double-time flow before the beat drops, making the bars hit harder when the drums come in. He impressively controls his breath as he transitions between fast and slower flows. His schemes are skillfully constructed. Much like Royce, Crooked makes a reference to the Smiths, rapping, “Before you die, you should do the Jada and leave a will.” With KXNG Crooked’s impeccable verse running on the shorter side, he ranks within the Top 3. If he rapped a few more bars, he probably would have had the best performance. Still, Crooked will leave a lasting impression on a cypher no matter the position in the order.

2. Eminem

Eminem goes last in the cypher for a good reason. The Shady Records boss delivers a masterfully composed verse on a technical level, with internal and multisyllabic rhyme schemes. The way Eminem raps is unparalleled, no matter how outrageous the lyrics may be. In true Slim Shady fashion, his verse is animated and appallingly funny enough to garner laughs from his signees. He jokingly starts his verse by making fun of “lyrical miracle” rappers. Slaughterhouse and Yelawolf watch Eminem in awe as he spits some killer punchlines, even naming them in certain lyrics.

One of Eminem’s best bars is when he raps, “Flippin’ the script up, like Mike Vick gettin’ bit in his junk by a Pit, yup, I’m a sick pup. I’d be a horrible magician, ’cause I’d f*ck a trick up / Fix your lips up to say somethin’ fly, or zip up!” He also flips the alphabet into an impressive scheme of one-liners. Eminem might not have the tightest flow compared to other rappers in the Shady 2.0 Cypher. Still, he manages to stun following five incredible verses. The fact that he also has the final and longest part contributes to his performance.

1. Joe Budden

Joe Budden absolutely snapped on his verse in the Shady 2.0 Cypher. He slides across the beat with ease. His delivery may be more relaxed than his contemporaries, but Budden spits his bars with conviction. Joe mostly raps with his signature flow, but manages to showcase his ability to spit double-time with some of the best one-liners in the entire cypher. The best part about Budden’s verse is his wordplay, giving new meaning to a variety of topics. “So I lock her out, and now she doubt David is Stern,” he raps.

Some of Joe’s lines are simply clever and witty as he says lines like, “I’d done took the wine outta Amy house,” and “Both her parents broke, but she come from money.” He creatively sets up his punchlines in ways that set his verse apart from his fellow rappers. Each lyric smoothly transitions into the next one, even when he changes his flow. Joe Budden’s verse is funny, clever, complex, and simple at the same time. Looking back at his verse in the Shady 2.0 Cypher 13 years later, it serves as a reminder of the rapper-turned-podcast host’s elite bars.

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