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Billboard Honors 2022 R&B/Hip-Hop Power Players, Blxst, SAINt JHN & More at Star-Studded LA Event

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Billboard unveiled its 2022 R&B/Hip-Hop Power Players list that honors executives across the business and celebrated current cover stars SZA and Future at Billboard Live: R&B/Hip-Hop on Thursday night at Academy LA.

The night’s program began with Billboard executive director of R&B/hip-hop Gail Mitchell and deputy editor of hip-hop Carl Lamarre taking the stage. The pair congratulated the night’s honorees, which numbered over 200 on the Power List, thanked the rest of Billboard‘s R&B and hip-hop team, including reporters Neena Rouhani, Heran Mamo and Cydney Lee and charts team member Trevor Anderson, and devoted a moment of silence to Takeoff, PnB Rock, Young Dolph, Pop Smoke, Nipsey Hussle and other rappers who have lost their lives in recent years as a result of gun violence.

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Future kicked off the awards presentation by introducing the Rookie of the Year, Blxst, who sported a gray mohair shirt-jacket with matching pants and his shiny Evgle label chains. “Sheeeesh,” the LA singer-rapper-producer said to the crowd, his signature ad-lib, before beginning his speech. “God is real. I just came back from a sold-out world tour, so to come home to this is nothing short of amazing, you feel me?” he said. “For me, this is like a symbol of believing in yourself, trusting your heart, trusting the process.” Blxst then told a story about how he used to get in trouble for singing all the time, which was met with laughs from the crowd. “My dad used to be like, ‘You can always remember lyrics to a song, but you can never remember to be quiet.’ But I guess it’s just in me,  not on me, but that sh– paying off now.” Blxst then thanked his Evgle team, Red Bull Records, his support system and Billboard.

Later in the night, SZA presented the Executive of the Year award to “a gentleman that has contributed so much to our culture,” Amazon Music executive Tim Hinshaw. “I’m overjoyed to accept the award,” he said after embracing SZA on stage, while thanking “everybody in this room for picking up my calls, answering my calls, showing up for me” as well as his wife and two children. “When I was growing up, I used to go see my pops in federal prison at Terminal Island, and everybody’s asking ‘bout my outfit. It was inspired by the canvas he used to wear,” Hinshaw explained. “I wanted my kids to see this moment so they remember.” 

Then Hinshaw tearfully thanked his mother, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. “My mom worked in my high school, and I was going through so much. I didn’t want to go to school and I would embarrass my mom. The teachers would come and say, ‘He’s not doing his work.’ My mom would come and talk to me and I could see the pain in her eyes. I just couldn’t move in that moment because I was stubborn, I was going through what I was going through. But Mom, I hope this moment makes up for all the times that I embarrassed you. I really appreciate you.” Hinshaw, who reminded everyone he will forever be “Westside Timmy from the west side of Compton,” shouted out his Rotation team and assured there was no beef between him and Carl Chery, creative director/head of urban music at Spotify, who was gleaming nearby. “Carl told me I was the first streaming executive to receive this award, so I’m super appreciative. Thank you everybody.” 

Vibe magazine and Remy Martin’s Impact and Excellence Award was presented by Vibe editor-in-chief Datwon Thomas to Guyanese-American artist SAINt JHN. “That’s a fantastic introduction,” he began, gazing down at his “well-designed” award. The songwriter extraordinaire, who self-identified as “well-spoken,” shared that the award was his first that he was invited to accept in person, speech and all.

In addition to the issue cover stars and award recipients, guests at the night’s festivities included artists, managers and executives, with DJ Drama, Nick Cannon, Hit-Boy, Pusha T, Epic Records CEO Sylvia Rhone, EMPIRE CEO Ghazi, Top Dawg Entertainment president Terrence “Punch” Henderson in the crowd. The night also included a women-centric show, including performers Flo Milli and City Girls. Sporting a racy two-piece set, Flo Milli opened the show with her viral hit “Conceited” and later used a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 to record a thank you message to Samsung. Milli is a celebrity mentor for Billboard and Samsung’s NXT 2.0 competition to discover the next great unsigned artist.

City Girls’ JT and Yung Miami delivered an electrifying medley of their hits to a sold-out crowd, including “Jobs,” “Pussy Talk,” “Take Yo Man,” “Twerkulator” and their top 40 hit “Act Up.”

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