VH1 Gives Rap Greats the Royal Treatment

The pre-party celebrating the VH1 Hip Hop Honors awards went for baroque.

September 28, 2005, 12:00 AM EDT

VH1's Hip Hop Honors awards pre-party at Splashlight Studios had a regal atmosphere, with tall candelabras and a fleur-de-lis pattern projected on the walls.

VH1's Hip Hop Honors pre-party Splashlight Studios Tuesday, 09.20.05, 9 PM to midnight
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In the world of hip-hop, LL Cool J, Ice-T, Salt-N-Pepa,
Big Daddy Kane, the Notorious B.I.G., and Grandmaster Flash are the blue bloods. It was fitting then, that VH1 feted these aristocrats with an imperial-looking pre-party at Splashlight Studios the night before the VH1 Hip Hop Honors awards at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

Event sponsor Kia parked a red car in front of Splashlight, where the entrance was lined with black velvet ropes and beefy security guards. Guests were corralled into the main floor to watch honorees and other special guests give interviews in front of a backdrop dotted with more sponsor logos. Catering staff circulated with wine, champagne, crudités, mini mushroom tarts, beef skewers, and salmon pâté on toast. Then, as cameras flashed and the crowd thronged, organizers unveiled portraits of the honorees by Kehinde Wiley, who often depicts modern subjects—like hip-hop artists—in classical portrait styles.

The artwork inspired the look of the party upstairs. “We wanted to take the richness of the portraits, and make the room feel like that,” said Theresa McGowan, director of event marketing for VH1, who worked with the Experiential Agency to plan the event. “So we put pictures of the portraits upstairs, and stayed with the heavy reds and blues.”

The regal touches in the paintings were echoed throughout the space: velvet cushions and throws on the leather couches, Corinthian-style columns, and baroque candelabras with dripping tapers, gilded in gold. Even the lighting included a noble touch, with fleurs-de-lis projections shining on the walls and floor. Moving gobos projected the VH1 logo throughout the cavernous space, which comprised two studios opened up into one large space for dancing.

Music emanated from the custom-built DJ booth, upholstered in a red snakeskin material and perched atop a carpeted platform strewn with pillows in vermillion and gold satin and velour. Despite artful mixing by special guest DJ Q-Tip, few danced early in the evening. The Bacardi girls—models in red hot pants printed with the rum brand's logo—strutted around the room offering shots. (Perhaps the dancers in the crowd just weren't feeling it, since the sound system malfunctioned twice within 15 minutes. Although technicians swarmed the DJ booth, Q-Tip warned, “We got legends in here—we can't be havin' this shit.")

Maybe that's why the crowd favored the terrace, set up as a lounge with bamboo accents, wooden patio tables and chairs, and two bars. It was by far the more popular spot for the legends in attendance and other guests, who packed the open-air area to enjoy the balmy late-summer evening. That is, until the honorees took the stage and started rapping, filling the dance floor inside just before the event ended.

“I was hoping more people would stay inside,” McGowan confessed. “We had another party there a couple of years ago and it was nice to be outside, but it was supposed to rain [that night]. We weren't sure we could use the outside area.”

Which just goes to show that, no matter how carefully an event is planned, the weather reigns supreme.

Jenny Sherman

Photo: Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images (Ice-T)

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