They say the past is the best predictor of the future, and based on that, as we scan the just announced list of performers at this year’s BET Awards, we’re already scrambling for the best spot on the couch. With sizzling A-listers including Andra Day, DJ Khaled, Kirk Franklin, Migos, and Roddy Ricch among the more than a dozen artists who will light up the stage on the culture’s biggest night, we’re counting down the hours until 8PM EDT on June 27th.
Until then, let’s take a look back at some of the great moments when each of these artists let us know that when they step on stage, it’s for one purpose only: to blow the roof off.
Andra Day (2015)
When Andra Day performed “Rise Up” at the 2015 BET Awards, she was still an up-and-coming artist, with a lot to prove and a hunger to make the most of her time in the spotlight. As always, she captured attention from jump with her flawless, vintage yet timeless look. Bringing smoldering intensity to every inspiring lyric of her breakthrough single, Day’s voice alternated between soulful pain and a soaring determination to overcome all of life’s obstacles. When she flipped into falsetto for the song’s post hook, chills ran through the audience: it was obvious we were witnessing the emergence of a major new star. Since then she’s scaled the highest heights, winning the Golden Globe for "Best Actress" in her titular role for The United States vs. Billie Holiday and even performing “Rise Up” at President Biden’s inauguration earlier this year. And to think, we knew her from the beginning.
DJ Khaled (2019)
No matter where he goes, DJ Khaled always goes big. The man cuts a towering figure, and two years ago when he was joined by Meek Mill & Jeremih to perform “Weather The Storm” & “You Stay” at the 2019 BET Awards, the spectacle was epic as usual. He appeared in an actual cloud of fog on top of a massive platform emblazoned with the words “We the Best,” and amongst plenty of special effects, from clouds of smoke to lightning strikes. But it was Khaled’s magnetic presence that captured all the attention. We can’t wait to see what kind of weather he brings this year.
Kirk Franklin (2019)
Franklin is without doubt the ultimate Christian hype-man. For his 2019 BET Award performance, the irrepressibly energetic multi-instrumentalist and songwriter orchestrated a performance collaboration that began with Jonathan McReynolds’ gentle singer-songwriter approach on a stripped-down version of Franklin’s song “Love Theory.” Then Erica Campbell joined him to add beautiful vocal harmonies. But after about 58 seconds, it became the Kirk Franklin show, and we got a reminder of his 1,000 watt stage presence. After dancing like MJ on a triple espresso, he stood next to a baby grand and pounded the keys, while Kelly Price joined him in bringing the entire audience to their feet. Franklin did what he always does, erasing the line between gospel and every other form of Black musical expression. It was an unforgettable a joyride to the peak of spiritual love.
After winning the award for Best Group earlier in the night, when Migos took to the stage at the 2017 BET Awards to rip through blazing live versions of "T-Shirt" and “Bad and Boujee” the crowd went bananas. Rocking heavy down jackets, Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset performed in a wintry landscape but brought more than enough heat to melt any amount of ice and snow. Given that they are nominated for Best Group this year, we can’t wait to see what kind of fire they bring.
Roddy Rich (2020)
Last year, when Roddy Rich took the stage to perform “High Fashion,” the anticipation was high: after all, he was the second most nominated artist that night alongside Megan Thee Stallion, and behind Drake. The Compton rapper delivered a chilling spectacle, proving the power of understatement, which felt especially relevant for our first-ever remote awards show.
Wearing a simple black button down T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Black Lives Matters,” Ricch was joined by a lone female dancer and performed while seaed at a baby grand and then in a Ferrari. Ricch integrated videos fans had submitted of themselves vibing from home. If there was no way to avoid the isolation of the pandemic quarantine at that time, Ricch at least found a thoughtful and moving way to bring us all together. We look forward to seeing how his brilliance shines onstage this year.
Watch the BET Awards on June 27, 2021 at 8/7 C