Political performances by Public Enemy, DaBaby, Alicia Keys and John Legend, civic-minded speeches by Michelle Obama and Beyoncé, and chronic tributes to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor led a digital, largely socially distanced and social justice-themed model of the BET Awards on Sunday, the primary main awards present of the pandemic period.
The host, Amanda Seales, a comic, actress and activist, cited “Covid and cops and Karens gone wild” as the explanation for an atypical occasion, however insisted in her opening monologue: “We needed to do the awards. We deserve a break. And once I say we, I imply all us black people.”
Almost each act, look, acceptance speech and even commercial that adopted made some reference to the wave of protests towards police brutality that unfold worldwide after Floyd was killed in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, bringing renewed consideration to many different instances of black individuals who have suffered by the hands of regulation enforcement or racist violence.
The awards present, which was made up of taped performances and speeches due to the virus, aired for the primary time on CBS, along with BET, following the merger final yr of the printed big and Viacom, BET’s guardian firm. And quite than the lo-fi, at-home performances from couches and kitchens that have become standard television fare during the Covid-19 crisis, BET provided budgets for its far-flung talent to produce remote segments that were often more like mini-music videos than the typically raw and sometimes glitchy live awards-show stagings.
Megan Thee Stallion, who won the award for best female hip-hop artist, performed her hit “Savage” — sans Beyoncé, who appears on the remix — in a “Mad Max”-style desert landscape, complete with a black power fist background, while Legend was joined by a choir in an abandoned warehouse for a rendition of his latest tear-jerker, “We Will Never Break.”
The show — celebrating its 20th year, along with 40 years of BET as a network — began and ended with gospel music, first featuring Keedron Bryant, a 12-year-old internet sensation whose tune “I Simply Wanna Stay” begins, “I’m a younger black man/Doing all that I can.” In a closing quantity, the mom and daughter mixture of Kierra Sheard and Karen Clark Sheard (initially of the Clark Sisters) sang “One thing Has to Break.”
Earlier, in fiery segments, Public Enemy was joined by Nas, Rapsody, Black Thought, Questlove, YG and others for an up to date model of the hip-hop traditional “Combat the Energy”; Lil Wayne led a rapped tribute to Kobe Bryant; and the North Carolina rapper DaBaby opened his remix of the Billboard No. 1 single “Rockstar” pressed up towards asphalt, a police officer’s knee pressed into his neck in an unmistakable reference to the video of Floyd’s loss of life. Later within the tune, DaBaby appeared atop a police automobile, smashing the windshield whereas surrounded by protesters in T-shirts studying “I Am George Floyd” and “I Am Breonna Taylor.”
An epilogue following his performance learn, “In loving reminiscence of all of the lives misplaced to racism and police brutality.”
Anderson .Paak and Keys additionally centered their segments round black lives misplaced, with Keys singing “Good Strategy to Die” on an empty road nook surrounded by the names of victims written in chalk. Roddy Ricch carried out “Excessive Style” and “The Field” in a Black Lives Matter shirt.
Further tributes included Wayne Brady performing in honor of Little Richard, who died in May, and Jennifer Hudson doing her take on Aretha Franklin’s gospel version of “Young, Gifted and Black,” originally by Nina Simone.
The former first lady Michelle Obama presented BET’s humanitarian award to Beyoncé (“To my girl, I just want to say: You inspire me, you inspire all of us,” she said), while the singer — whose new “Lion King”-inspired music film, “Black Is King,” will premiere on Disney Plus on July 31 — used her acceptance speech to thank protesters and encourage them to vote.
“We have now to vote like our life is dependent upon it,” Beyoncé stated, “as a result of it does.”