This year, like every year, the BET Awards were about one thing and one thing only: Black excellence. Jamie Foxx, who hosted (more on that later), repeated the phrase over and over again — between demanding that the audience clap louder — to really hone in on what exactly was being celebrated. Yes, it's a celebration of black excellence in music, in movies, in fashion, in television, and in activism. It was a beautiful night full of familiar faces, stuck-in-your-head songs, and powerful speeches.
Jamie Foxx. What are we going to do with him? The talented actor, singer, and producer is one of Hollywood's biggest stars, but a ground-breaking host he is not. Foxx's time spent on stage felt more like an embarrassing dad on the mic at a family reunion rather than an entertaining performance like Tiffany Haddish delivered as a host at the MTV Movie & TV Awards. But what Foxx lacked in humour (sorry!! It's true), he made up for in pure musical talent.
After bringing up Michael B. Jordan for a "surprise" stage conversation, and later Donald Glover in a truly unscripted moment (Glover sang a few lines of "This Is America," which Foxx says the show wanted him to joke about, but he refused), Foxx reminded the audience why he was really there: He. can. sing.
Foxx showed off his talents during the tribute to Anita Baker, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, where he sang a few chords of her most popular songs. He then introduced Ledisi, Marsha Ambrosius, and Yolanda Adams who finished up the medley of Baker's most powerful and popular hits. From the audience, Baker appeared to tear up multiple times.
Are we done with Foxx for now? Yeah, we're done with Foxx for now. But let's keep talking about the music. Janelle Monae and Meek Mill had the most memorable performances of the night, but for different reasons. Monae's focused on Black Girl Magic, while Mill's focused on social justice. And XXXTentacion. Mill wore a hoodie with a painting of both Jimmy Wopo, a Pittsburgh rapper shot and killed last week, and controversial 20-year-old rapper who was shot and killed last week in the midst of disturbing allegations of sexual harassment and assault. The subject of X's death would come up later in the show, when BET flashed a picture of the rapper during the in memoriam segment. Standing under the photo, Foxx solemnly remarked, "No matter where you start, you should be given the opportunity to change," which seemed to reference the allegations against the performer.
But as quickly as the X moment presented itself, it was gone. The decision to go from tribute focused on a controversial performer to an homage to Snoop Dogg is one of the most bizarre choices I've seen an award show make. But, judging from the crowd's pure joy while dancing to "What's My Name" and "The Next Episode," everyone seemed to appreciate the subject change.
Speaking of subject changes: Black Panther continues to be the shit. And tonight was just another night for the record-breaking film to shine. The Marvel movie won Best Movie, and Ryan Coogler, the director, accepting the award with Jordan. Coogler gave an inspiring speech urging viewers and audience members to travel to Africa, or at the very least learn about the culture and their roots. In addition to our favourite fictional superheroes popping up, six incredible real-life heroes were honoured in the middle of the show. John Legend came out to present the Humanitarian Award to James Shawn Jr., Anthony Borges, Mamoudou Gassama, Naomi Wadler, Justin Blackman, and Shaun King. "Don’t be afraid to be a hero,” Legend urged the crowd.
Overall, the show, which ended with a lively gospel service led by Snoop and Foxx themselves, was hosted by an embarrassing dad (who just couldn't resist bringing his kids on stage), honoured talented Black artists, and reminded us how much "The Next Episode" still bops.
And since the BET Awards didn't do it enough, here are all the highlights from the incredible, inspiring, and immensely talented women that graced the show with their presence.
SZA was adorably bashful about her well-deserved win as Best New Artist (although she doesn't feel too new to us). She finally got justice after her Grammys snub.
Tiffany Haddish winning Best Actress and delivering a sweet speech about believing in yourself because then other people believe in you, and then before you know it, everyone believes in you. Believe it.
Cardi B getting a shout-out from Offset. He also reminded all men to shout-out their wives more, too. Smart guy.
Nicki Minaj's sparkly pink horse.
H.E.R.'s electronic guitar solo, which immediately made her my new favourite artist.
Monae everything. Legit everything.
And finally, Baker's words of wisdom: “Let’s take care of each other. We need each other. We can’t do it alone.”