At Sunday’s BET Awards, it was clear the night belonged to Diddy.
Walking the red carpet, friends, collaborators and celebrities (some of whom weren’t even born when Diddy released his debut single in 1997) named his tribute performance as what they were most looking forward to, praising his tireless work ethic and his list of achievements.
But by the start of the show, Lil Nas X had garnered attention. Two days before the BET Awards, the artist took aim at the network on Black Entertainment Television with “Late to the Party,” his YoungBoy Never Broke Again-backed diss track.
And on Thursday afternoon, Nas X teased a mock cover artwork of someone urinating on the star-studded trophy presented to BET Award winners (à la Kanye West peeing on a Grammy), but the official artwork was one tamer shot of a car license sign that reads “F— BET.”
On the pre-show red carpet, Jack Harlow made sure his Industry Baby collaborator was there when he appeared in a Lil Nas X t-shirt, earning his friend a “Wow, I really love this man” elicited as soon as it hit Twitter. (Harlow had removed the T-shirt while performing at the awards ceremony, where he brought brandy to recite her educative verse on his song “First Class.”)
Other artists also expressed their support for Nas X, saying his talent deserves to be recognized.
“I love BET, and I love black people, but Lil Nas X is Lil Nas X,” Mind Yo Business artist Lakeyah said on the red carpet ahead of the show. “He’s a really great artist.”
But it was Diddy, as usual, who added some sparkle.
“He’s an entrepreneur with a diversified portfolio spanning music, fashion and education with his academy in Harlem,” Shyne, who took the stage with Diddy to perform “Bad Boys for Life,” told The Times on the red carpet . “He did everything.”
Shortly after the collective musical tribute to Bad Boy during the awards ceremony, another hip-hop legend surprised the crowd and voiced Diddy – Kanye West. Dressed in a baggy hoodie, his face covered by a hat, sunglasses and mask, Yes’s performance got the crowd on their feet. He then recalled stories about how the pioneering mogul had influenced him.
“[I was sitting] at my mom’s cradle when i tried to add the bad boy shakers to my beats thought i was one of them [producers] killers,” he said. “I was signed to Puff without him knowing.”
“This statement is not legally binding,” he added after a pause.
After all the hype, Diddy strutted onto the stage, flashed his pearly white teeth and urged the crowd to join his energy. In an eight-minute speech, Diddy pledged $1 million each to his alma mater Howard University and Jackson State University, the historically black college that’s making waves in football under NFL Hall of Famer and coach Deion Sanders.
“Today isn’t about me, it’s about my mother,” Diddy said, blowing her kisses in the audience. “My mother had three jobs, helping patients with cerebral palsy at night, becoming a bus driver and then working in a clothing store. I don’t even know where she slept.”
Perhaps the second biggest winner of the night was the Afrobeat genre. After a year of African artists continuing to make their way into mainstream American culture, the genre was well represented in both performances and the trophy department.
Nigerian singer Tems won two awards, Best International Artist and Best Collaboration for Essence with WizKid and Justin Bieber. Nigerian singer Pheelz performed his hit single “Finesse” at the pre-show and Fireboy DML gave a fiery rendition of his song “Peru” on the main stage (a song that received a rare Ed Sheeran remix in December 2021).
“It’s been a long time coming,” DML told the Times on the red carpet of the growth of African music in the United States. “We’ve worked hard to make sure we bring the sound of the continent out there. And there’s more to come. We just build on the momentum.”
Speeches and actions against gun violence were sewn throughout the awards ceremony, along with calls to action after the Supreme Court’s overthrow of Roe vs. Wade and the decision that states can make abortion illegal. Host Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, Latto and many others tore up the Supreme Court’s decision, stressing that the follow-up ruling is not the end of the fight.
“As a black woman, we always had to figure that out,” said “Sistas” actress Mignon. “We always had to find a way when it didn’t work, and we will do it again.”
Many of the surprise moments overshadowed the awards themselves, but if you were curious – Silk Sonic took home album of the year. Jazmine Sullivan won Best R&B/Pop Artist. Kendrick Lamar received the male hip-hop artist award, while Megan Thee Stallion was honored as the female hip-hop artist.
Check out the full list.
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-06-27/bet-awards-lil-nas-x-diddy-kanye-west-silk-sonic-tems Diddy, Kanye and other surprises shine at the BET Awards