Grandmaster Flash breathed a sigh of relief after being recognized for his turntable expertise, and T.I. finally believes the South has gotten some respect.

The Atlanta-based rapper, who was up for eight nominations, was a winner in three of the categories at the first-ever BET Hip Hop Awards on Sunday. T.I. won best hip hop video, CD and MVP of the year honors.

"You can't hate on hard work and talent," he said. "This awards show will show people a lot about where I come from."

Grandmaster Flash was honored with the I Am Hip Hop Icon award. When Flash received the award, he gave recognition to all other disc jockeys who he has met, saying being a DJ was better than rapping.

"To get an award for my technological ability means a whole lot more than anything else I've accomplished in my life," he said.

When hip-hop mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs took the stage, he offered brief words for R&B singer Gerald Levert and Ed Bradley, who both died last week. Bradley, the award winning "60 Minutes" correspondent passed away at 65 on Thursday. Levert, who was known for his sensual, romantic songs, died at 40 on Friday.

"Let's celebrate their lives," Diddy said. "People will forever miss y'all."

Rappers Ludacris, Jermaine Dupri and Young Jeezy teamed with super-producer Lil' Jon to kick off the show with the 2001 hit, "Welcome To Atlanta." Dupri, who won best producer, said he felt humbled for having the event in Atlanta.

"For the awards to be in my city and I win something for producing, it's exciting," he said. "The outcome was something I could never imagine."

In his first act as the host, comedian Katt Williams stood in a blue suit and red tie behind a wooden podium with a sign posted on the front that said, "President Of The Hip Hop Nation." He said some jitters set in before the show.

"It's a good thing I was nervous," Williams said. "Being around hip hop helps me though, because there's a type comfort I have around these great artists."

The award show airs Nov. 15.