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BET Awards: 10 things to know, from the DMX tribute to Queen Latifah’s speech to Maxine Waters’s cameo
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Host Taraji P. Henson speaks at the BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
ByEmily Yahr
June 28, 2021 at 6:00 a.m. EDT
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Last summer, the BET Awards had the unfortunate distinction of being the first major award show to try to figure out how to proceed in a global pandemic. This year, aside from a socially distanced audience setup, it was basically back to business as usual. Here are 10 things to know from the telecast Sunday night:
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Darnella Frazier’s award
Several weeks after she won a citation from the Pulitzer Prize board for recording cellphone footage of George Floyd’s murder that led to a racial reckoning and worldwide protests against police brutality, teenager Darnella Frazier was also given the BET Shine a Light Award. Frazier was not in attendance, presenter Lauren London said, but the network wanted to recognize her contributions to social justice.
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“Tonight, we’d like to shine a light on the brave and transformative heroics of Darnella Frazier. This young woman who captured a moment in history that reflects our brutal past, helping to forge a way forward with her cellphone in hand, she recorded nine minutes and 29 seconds of social injustice highlighting the murder of George Floyd,” London said. “Sometimes in life it just takes one person to prove that we play a large part in getting the accountability we deserve. She didn’t set out to change the world, she set out to do what was right.”
The DMX tribute
The show closed with a powerful tribute to DMX, the legendary rapper who died in April at age 50. Method Man kicked it off with “Get at Me Dog,” followed by Griselda, Swizz Beatz, Busta Rhymes and the Lox for a medley of hits, including “Party Up (Up in Here),” “Where the Hood At?” and “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem.” Actor Michael K. Williams joined for “Slippin’” and was so spot on that he immediately became the top fan contender to play DMX in a future biopic. The performance ended with “The Prayer IV,” with everyone’s arms up in the air to honor the rapper.
Queen Latifah’s medley and speech
Queen Latifah — rapper, producer, Oscar-nominated actress, etc. — received the lifetime achievement award for her multi-hyphenate career, and she could barely keep her emotions together as Monie Love, Rapsody, Lil’ Kim and MC Lyte joined together for “Ladies First” and “U.N.I.T.Y.” Latifah brought her father onstage for an emotional acceptance speech and held up a photograph of her mother, who died in 2018.
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“I want to thank BET for creating an outlet for beautiful Blackness to thrive, to shine. When we couldn’t get played on the radio in other places, we couldn’t get our videos played in other places, there was BET that allowed us to be in our fullness and to shine to this night, right here,” she said. She thanked her family, her team and then her fans for making “The Equalizer” the No. 1 new show of the season, and concluded with, “Eboni, my love. Rebel, my love. Peace. Happy Pride!”
Megan Thee Stallion’s big night
Megan Thee Stallion gave a typically dynamic performance of her latest single, although she also caused a stir online when she appeared with DJ Khaled, Lil Baby, Lil Durk and DaBaby for “I Did It” — but notably left before she had to cross paths with DaBaby. The two recently unfollowed each other on social media after DaBaby recorded a single with Tory Lanez (who was charged with assault in an incident where she was shot last summer), which led to an argument on Twitter.
But Megan was onstage several more times as she picked up three awards: best female hip-hop artist, the viewers’ choice award for the “Savage” remix featuring Beyoncé, and video of the year for “WAP,” her collaboration with Cardi B. “Thank you to everybody who supported ‘WAP’ all across the world,” she said, noting fans even sang it in front of the White House last November when Joe Biden was officially projected to win the presidential election. “Black women: We are the culture, we’ve been the culture, and in the future, we’re still going to be the culture.”
Megan Thee Stallion receives the viewers' choice award. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)
Cardi B’s pregnancy reveal
How do you steal the show at an awards ceremony? As celebrities know, just use it as a platform to announce your pregnancy. Cardi B did just that as she joined for a verse during Migos’s performance — she has been married to Migos member Offset since 2017 — and nonchalantly strolled onstage in a sparkling bodysuit with a cutout showcasing her bump. An Instagram post confirming the news appeared simultaneously, because Cardi B is nothing if not savvy.
Cardi B and, from left, Quavo, Offset and Takeoff of Migos perform at the BET Awards. (Bennett Raglin/Getty Images)
Lil Nas X’s performance
The BET Awards announcer told the audience to get ready for “the Lil Nas X experience,” and there’s really no other way to describe what happens every time the TikTok phenom hits the stage. Lil Nas X decided on an Egyptian desert theme for “Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” and capped off the performance by kissing his backup dancer. Some on the Internet immediately decided it might be a callback to the much-hyped Britney Spears-Madonna kiss at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, though we may never know for sure.
H.E.R.’s speech
Grammy Awards regular H.E.R. sang “We Made It” while playing the drums and simultaneously being lowered on a platform from the ceiling — before standing up behind the microphone and then switching to guitar. After she was done multitasking, she won the trophy for best female R&B/pop artist and had a pointed comment about her performance at the CMT Music Awards this month, where she sang a duet with country star Chris Stapleton.
“I had the pleasure of being on the stage of a different genre, and they asked me: ‘What are you bringing to this stage? It’s a completely different world, you know — you come from R&B.’ And I said, ‘Well actually, R&B and soul music is a foundation of country music,’ ” she said, and the audience cheered. “There wouldn’t be a lot of those other genres if it was not for Black music. When they say ‘R&B is dead, R&B is not alive,’ I’m like, ‘It’s in everything.’ ”
H.E.R. speaks after receiving the best female R&B/pop artist award during the BET Awards. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)
The Rep. Maxine Waters cameo
Jazmine Sullivan’s new song “Tragic” samples from Rep. Maxine Waters’s famous “reclaiming my time” quote in 2017, so Sullivan invited her onstage to kick off the performance: “Reclaiming my time: When it’s my time, you can’t talk in, you can’t walk in, and you may never get in,” Waters (D-Calif.) said. “Reclaiming my time.”
Silk Sonic’s performance
Silk Sonic — otherwise known as Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak — brought the energy with “Leave the Door Open,” their No. 1 debut single and popular TikTok meme, as they performed for newly vaccinated fans inside a club in Los Angeles. When the duo won group of the year, Mars acknowledged those who have been “patiently waiting” for Silk Sonic’s long-awaited first album, but promised “it will be worth the wait.”
Taraji P. Henson as host
Taraji P. Henson was a frequent presence throughout the night, whether she was using a map to show how the concept of twerking made its way around the world or making multiple outfit changes to honor Black female music artists.
“Tonight, you’re going to get 100 percent of our full Blackness … because this is where we matter, where our Black entertainment matters. It’s 2021, and we are celebrating the year of the Black woman,” she said at the top of the show. “Celebrating Black women isn’t a fad or a trend, it’s a forever mood, okay? And there is more than enough room for all of us to thrive.”
Read more:
‘One of the most influential rappers’ of all time: Fans, hip-hop community remember the ‘legendary’ DMX
Megan Thee Stallion was mocked after being shot. As she reclaims the narrative, Black women recognize her pain.
TikTok’s Black dance creators are on strike
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