The BET Awards '20 are officially underway and this year, just like every year, it's an unabashed and defiant celebration of Black lives, Black love and Black people. The show is also a tribute to 40 years of BET, and host Amanda Seales will take us through four decades of the network's groundbreaking programming, from Video Soul to 106 & Park.
This year's show will be virtual, of course, but that doesn't mean it won't be the Black family reunion we all need. We'll post all the updates as the show goes on over here, and follow the conversation on Twitter as well.
Let's get to it!
"Breonna Taylor's killers are still walking free."
The mother and daughter duo literally took us to church with this one.
After a heartfelt intro from Michelle Obama, a video package showed just how much Bey has done for the community over the years. Tina Knowles, Tyler Perry, Sybrina Fulton, pastors, doctors, scholarship winners and more people who have been touched by Beyonce and her Bey Good Foundation/s generosity provided the details. Most recently, Bey provided free Covid-19 testing to underserved communities in Houston and, with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, donated $6 million for Covid relief.
Bey's speech was inspiring. "I want to dedicate this award to all of my brothers out there, all of my sisters out there ... You're proving to our ancestors that their struggles were not in vain." She went on to encourage people to vote, saying, "we have to vote like our life depends on it, because it does."
The singers' uplifted us and filled our hearts with joy and hope, which is not an easy thing to do these days.
Tenet star John David Washington, looking casual and fine in a simple red t-shirt, announced Roddy Ricch as the winner for his album Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial. Ricch's acceptance speech from his private jet will go down as one of the most baller moves in BET Awards history.
Summer started things off in a pink-hued living room with "Session 32" and "Come Thru" before Usher joined her from his adjacent, blue-tinted stage for "You Make Me Wanna." Ursh ultimately decides to risk it all, social distancing-wise, by leaving his stage and joining Summer on hers — but did sit six feet away on her couch.
The host of BET's Video Soul takes us through 40 years of BET's history, from Video Soul to 106 & Park to Comic View. Celebrities pop up in a montage to pay tribute to the groundbreaking network. "BET is like family. It's not always perfect, but it's always there," says Lena Waithe, while Lizzo adds, "Don't forget, the B stands for Black in BET." Bob Johnson, the founder of BET, has the last word, saying, "I felt like Black Americans needed a voice. BET is a voice. BET has been that voice for over 40 years now, and I expect that BET will be that voice for many years to come. That culture of BET is like a beating heart, that I believe will be beating for a very long time."
Shaq DJing, mock Verzuz or Club Quarantine
Beyonce's proteges always have us seeing double, but with this performance, we were seeing...quadruple? A visual trick brought the siblings face to face with themselves as the Black girl magic multiplies before our eyes.
Immediately after Keys' performance, James Baldwin takes over the screen, saying his powerful words: "How much time do you want for your progress?" Baldwin is followed by a string of celebs, from Michael B. Jordan to Idris Elba, reading the names of Black lives lost at the hands of police. The montage wraps up with a powerful statement, an answer to Baldwin's question: "It ends now. we will not lose."
In this heartbreaking tribute to the lives lost to racism and police violence, Keys sings as the faces of Sandra Bland, George Floyd, Michael Brown Jr. and many others flash behind her. At the end of her performance, she gets off her piano bench and takes a knee.
Deon Cole presented the "Truth Hurts" singer with the award, but offered a word of advice for Black folks: "Stop talking white at work." Now that corporations across the country are ready to accept Black Lives Matter, Cole thinks the water cooler small talk can stop. "When you go to work, be your most beautiful, Blackest self." When Lizzo accepted her award, she paid homage to Queen Bey, saying, "thank you for everything you've done for Black culture." She added a message to her fans: "As long as you're winning in life, that's the only trophy you need."
Wayne's rap performance intercut with highlights from Kobe's career was an amazing tribute to the G.O.A.T. Wayne ended his performance by saying "Black Lives Matter, facts," and then — try to hold back your tears with this one — a clip of Kobe's last moment on the court when he says "Mamba out."
It's hard to believe how many icons went home this year: Lil Richard, Miss Minnie, Andre Harrell, Rep. Elijah Cummings, Pop Smoke, Diahann Carroll, Bill Withers, John Witherspoon, Kobe Bryant, Jas Waters and so many more.
From the gold suit to the jheri curl, Wayne Brady had this tribute to the late rock 'n roll legend on lock from the first piano keys. The medley included a bunch of hits, including "Good Golly, Miss Molly" and "Tutti Frutti."
The song has a double meaning for the twin pandemics plaguing Black Americans: Covid-19 and police brutality.
J. Hud looks regal and resplendent in an emerald green gown, performing Nina Simone's ode to Black excellence.
This powerful performance begins with a closeup shot of DaBaby laying on the ground, cheek to asphalt. As the camera slowly pulls back, we see the knee on his neck. Images from protests across the country flash across the frame as DaBaby and Roddy Ricch perform against the light of police sirens and flames, surrounded by men and women holding protest signs. If you're not crying in the ending beats, when the audio of the little girl whose pleas about police brutality went viral, you might want to check your pulse.
Naomi Campbell presented the award to the Nigerian artist, who takes the award for the second year in a row. Burna made a strong statement in his acceptance speech: "Around 1835, there was a mission to turn Africa, the nation of Africa, into a dominating nation," he said. "Now is the time to go back to the royalty that we were. Because in order for Black lives to matter, Africa must matter."
Meg turned up the volume with an amazing Mad Max-style performance in the desert, complete with ATVs and a moving train.
Lizzo poured herself a drink and presented this award, presented by 1800 Tequila. Khaled accepted the award on behalf of the group, being sure to shout out Nip and everyone in his family.
The Inglewood-raised brothers were joined by their mother Jackie Gouché. We know where Miss Jackie's boys got their talent: she provided background vocals for Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and many more icons.
You know this kind of thing exists in real life — it's called "Book Club."
The Kingston, Jamaica native performed "Queen Tings" in an indoor garden, backed up by a full band.
Marsai Martin presented Hot Girl Meg with this award. Meg accepted it from home. "It feels so crazy doing this from my house," she said, before thanking Houston, her mother, God and — of course — her Hotties.
Something about JL and his piano makes us believe everything's gonna be alright.
The performance starts with just Roddy, a piano, and some gorgeous models at a safe social distance away, before another model shows up...Roddy's whip. The artist goes for a virtual ride before hopping out and continuing his performance against the dopest Zoom call you've ever seen. He stayed true to the evening's theme by rocking a simple Black Lives Matter shirt.
Amanda Seales kicked off the show with an opening monologue that somehow manages to be disarmingly real and utterly hilarious at the same damn time. You know Amanda had to take shots at all the performative wokeness going around these days. "Y'all feeds went from OnlyFans to only fists in 24 hours," she jokes, adding that "America is acting brand new about racism." She specifically called out this year's unprecedented celebration of Juneteenth: "Ya'll don't let them Cinco de Mayo our day," she joked.
What a way to open the show. If there's an anthem for this moment, "Fight the Power" is it. Public Enemy members Chuck D and Flava Flav are joined by Nas, Black Thought and others for this pulse-raising tribute to protest, hip hop and Black power.