Five Things We Learned From the 1999 Source Awards

Categories: Hip-Hop

The Source
An Award Show So Important, it Had Its Own CD!
This month marks 15 years since The 1999 Source Awards were broadcast nationwide on UPN. While at first glance it may seem inconsequential to note the anniversary of yet another award show, these particular Source Awards were a landmark event for many reasons. Recorded at Los Angeles' Pantages Theater, the show marked the first time two major network television hours were devoted exclusively to hip-hop. From paying tribute to the pioneers to offering an accurate snapshot of the entire hip-hop nation, it's a surprisingly well done broadcast.

After revisiting a copy of the original broadcast (complete with commercials), here's 5 Things We Learned from the 1999 Source Awards.

Hip-Hop Made the Awards Their Own
While the night begins with a somewhat awkward start as most rappers and athletes aren't used to being around an award show podium and reading banter to each other off of cue-cards, a celebratory unifying vibe eventually fell into place. Hosted by Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes (fresh off of hosting duties on MTV's "The Cut") and Naughty by Nature's Treach (who, at the time, was seemingly in every fifth movie that was released,) their presence bridged the gap between hip-hop and the award show format. While historically this was the third Source Awards ceremony, the television element came with its own set of restrictions, but Treach and Lopes helped that transition along smoothly.

Hip-Hop's Past, Present and Future Were in One Room
Watching the awards now, its attendance were a pretty staggering mix of hip-hop who's who both at the time, as well as the leaders of the next millennium. Of course there's the headliners of the time like Puff Daddy, Master P, and DMX (who weirdly no-showed his first award but was somehow in attendance to accept a later award as well as perform) but we also get the national television debuts of the very young Eminem and Lil Wayne.

Hip-Hop Was Commercially Commercial
The copy we obtained wasn't from the eventual commercial VHS release of the event, but the original UPN broadcast, so rap marketing was in full force. While there existed a pretty strong mainstream vs. underground divide at the time, the commercials showed how blurred those lines were. From a pre-love ballad Ja Rule performing a, well, love ballad in a Coca-Cola commercial to underground hero Pharoahe Monch re-writing the lyrics to his indie smash "Simon Says" to be about Lugz boots, to the top female MCs of yesteryear and '99 performing with Kool Keith of all people in a series of Sprite commercials, it's unclear which side hip-hop purists would have tried to be on.

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