This time last year, the BET Awards left viewers with indelible moments that included Beyoncé’s epic performance of Freedom with Kendrick Lamar (and four tons of water) and multiple star-studded Prince tributes featuring The Roots, Erykah Badu, Stevie Wonder, Sheila E and more.
While it can be a difficult proposition to top yourself, this year’s BET Awards came close — thanks to a series of riveting performances, stirring tributes, a couple of welcome trips down memory lane and rapper Remy Ma ending Nicki Minaj’s seven-year win streak.
And at the end of the four-hour marathon inside Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theatre — marking comedian Leslie Jones’ debut as host — an absent Beyoncé emerged as the night’s big winner.
The new mum of twins claimed five statuettes including album of the year (Lemonade) and best R&B/pop female artiste – out of her leading seven nominations.
Bruno Mars, coming in with five nominations, took home his first two BET Awards for best male R&B/pop artiste and best video (for “24K Magic” tied with Beyoncé’s Sorry).
Also joining Mars and Beyoncé in the winner’s circle were Kendrick Lamar (best male hip-hop artiste), and three more first-time winners: Solange (Centric Award for Cranes in the Sky), Chance the Rapper (best new artiste and best collaboration for No Problem featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz) and Migos (best group and also best collaboration for Bad and Boujee featuring Lil Uzi Vert).
On the African front, Babes Wodumo who failed to attend the awards ceremony after failing to secure a visa on time lost out to Nigeria’s Wizkid in the Best International Act: Africa category.
Keeping the audience out of its seats with their own standout performances were French Montana and Swae Lee (Unforgettable), Chris Brown and Gucci Mane (Party), Migos (T-Shirt, Bad and Boujee), Mary J Blige (Set Me Free, Love Yourself with A$AP Rocky) and Future joined by Lamar on Mask Off.
Perhaps one of the evening’s biggest surprises was Tamar Braxton’s powerful, throw-the-mic-stand-down performance of her latest single My Man. By the end, the singer had the audience erupting in a cheer-filled ovation.
In the night’s major upset, Remy Ma won best female hip-hot artiste and ended Nicki Minaj’s multi-year reign in that category. During her acceptance speech, Remy Ma thanked two correctional facilities, her husband Papoose and partner/brother Fat Joe.
“You can make mistakes and come back,” said a triumphant Remy.
DJ Khaled brought the long show to a close as he, Chance the Rapper and Lil Wayne reprised Khaled’s hit I’m the One. Standing in for the missing Justin Bieber on the song: Khaled brought baby son Asahd on stage for a verse. — Billboard/The Chronicle