( ENSPIRE Entertainment ) After a year in chaos, the annual BET award show comes back to celebrate the year of the black woman.
ENSPIRE Contributor: Alisha Durosier
“We gon’ be Black AF tonight,” says actor Taraji P. Henson in her opening monologue of the 2021 BET awards Sunday night, following an electrifying opening performance from Kirk Franklin and Lil Baby. Aired live from the Microsoft Theater in L.A., this year’s BET award welcomed a live audience, different from last year’s virtual ceremony.” I am so excited to be here with humans, we need each other.” Henson says.
The theme that this year’s show centered on was “The year of the Black Woman.” “Tonight I’m giving all my sisters their flowers,” host Taraji states, as prominent women such as Zendaya, Jazmine Sullivan, Issa ray, and Maxine waters, sitting in the celebrity audience were presented with roses. Black Athletes such as Naomi Osaka, Sha’carri Richardson and Simone Biles were also acknowledged by Henson. To further honor this year’s theme, the empire star appeared onstage in various outfits, commemorating her favorite black women, which included women in the entertainment industry such as, Erika Badu, Tina Turner, and H.E.R.
The award show itself was a testament to how quintessential Black women are in the entertainment space, as many Big winners were black women. Among the big winners was Grammy-winning rapper, Megan Thee Stallion, who secured four awards for Best Collaboration and Best Video for her collaboration with Cardi B for the 2020 single “W.A.P,” along with the viewer’s choice award for her remixed single “Savage” which featured Beyonce. In her tearful speech after accepting the award for best female hip hop artist Megan recognized her late mother, who passed away in 2019 “Thank you, mama, for even putting it in me to want to be a female rapper and putting the work ethic inside of me and the drive and the push,” the rapper said. “She can’t be here with me today, but I still think about her every day and she is the reason why I keep going.” Earlier that night, Megan set the stage aglow with an icy blue haze, in a latex bodysuit and platinum blonde wig, and delivered one of the most favored performances of the night with her new single “Thot Sh*t.”
Megan’s W.A.P collaborator, Cardi B. who joined the Migos in their performance of “Type Sh*t,” delivered an explosive performance while simultaneously announcing her pregnancy with her second child. The “Up,” rapper appeared onstage in a glittering, diamond-studded Dolce & Gabbana bodysuit with her belly exposed, surprising fans who had not seen the rapper live since her Grammy performance in march.
After Cardi’s surprising reveal, H.E.R, who was also celebrating her 24th birthday, took the stage performing her single “we made it.” She kicked off her performance descending from the ceiling atop a drum set and closed with an exhilarating electric guitar solo. She later took home the award for best female R&B/pop artist. During the R&B singer’s speech, she paid tribute to the R&B genre “I just want you guys to know how important this stage is, How important for us to recognize each other and to celebrate each other,” she says “and when they say R&B is dead r&b is not alive, I’m like it’s in everything and I’m here and chloe’s here,” acknowledging Chloe Bailey of the sister duo ChloexHalle, who presented the award.
Jazmine Sullivan, another R&B singer, took home best album for her recent EP “Heaux Tales,” and after premiering her new single “Tragic,” R&B artist, Ari lennox joined Sullivan in a stunning vocal performance of “On it,” a song from Sullivan’s award-winning album. When accepting her award Sullivan brought her mom on stage and acknowledged her as well as her peers. “It means more to me than anything that she’s here with me. She’s supported me all my life. She’s pushed me and led me all my life, so I’m so grateful for her.” she said, “It’s for all the women, all the Black women that are amazing and strong that have inspired me all my life. I’m so glad that I was able to tell part of our stories. I hope I did y’all proud.”
Silk Sonic, the musical duo composed of R&B singers Anderson Paak and Bruno Mars, delivered a soul-tingling 70s inspired performance of their first single “Leave the Door Open,” Earlier that night they accepted the award for best group/duo, and in Bruno’s lengthy list of thank you’s, he acknowledges their fans who have been patiently awaiting an announcement of the Duo’s next release. “Andy and I promise y’all it’s gonna be worth the wait,” he said.
Best actress went to Oscar nominee, Andra Day for her role in The United States vs. Billie Holiday. “Thank you so much to my family at bet for supporting me way before this,” she said in acknowledgment of her performance of Rise Up on the new talent stage at the. 2015 BET award. Later that night, Day performed “Strange Fruit,” a ballad by Billie Holiday
The late Chadwick Boseman was also honored with the award for Best Actor for his role in Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The actor died last august after battling colon cancer in secret for four years.
One of the most memorable performances of the night was that of Lil nas x, who performed Montero (Call me by your name),” The rapper’s egyptian themed performance took inspiration from Michael Jackson’s “remember the time,” and ended off with an intense kiss between Lil nas x and one of his backup dancers.
Also among the most memorable performances, the City Girls showcased their dance moves and brought the heat with their fun performance of the summer jam, “Twerkulator.”
With a Basketball court-themed set, DaBaby, performed “Ball If I Want To. Featuring Cheerleaders and Big baby mascot, DaBaby delivered an exciting performance. The rapper also joined DJ Khaled, H.E.R, Megan Thee Stallion, and Lil Baby, who took home Best Male Hip Hop Artist, to perform a medley of songs that include “Hats Off,” “I Did It,” and “Every Chance I Get.”
There were two tributes of the night. The first tribute was Queen Latifah, who accepted the BET lifetime achievement award. “I want to thank BET for creating an outlet for beautiful blackness to thrive, to shine. When we couldn’t get played on the radio and other places; we couldn’t get our videos played. There was BET, that allowed us to be in our fullness and to shine,” Latifah said during her acceptance speech. “Thank you so much, everyone. Thank you, my sisters – y’all my sisters in the name of rap. You always have been. I’m so extremely moved that I don’t even know what to say.” Latifah said, acknowledging the female rappers, Lil’ Kim, Monie Love, Rapsody, and MC Lyte who took part in her tribute performance.”
The second tribute was to the late DMX, who died earlier this year, after suffering a heart attack. Rappers, Method Man, Busta Rhymes, and Swizz Beatz, who were all close friends of the late rapper went on stage and performed a medley of DMX’s most notable songs along with rap trio Griselda. Songs such as “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem,” Where the Hood At,” and “Party Up” were included in the line-up.
The group ended their tribute performance with their heads bowed as an audio recording of a prayer said by DMX played. “I Stand for you and I’ll rap for you sing for you reach for you preach for you teach for you I will love you like you love me Unconditionally,” DMX states in the audio recording, you gave me a love most of my life I didn’t know it was there I give you my life cause you care; amen.”