The Best Hip-Hop Moments From the 2015 BET Awards
Last night's 2015 BET Awards were marked foremost by a tribute, a reunion and a celebration of achievement, interspersed with a handful of electrifying performances and truly bizarre exchanges. Somewhere in between all that, Beyoncé somehow wound up walking away with the most victories with three awards despite 1. Not being in attendance, and 2. Not having a single one of her awards televised, including otherwise-significant categories like Best Female R&B/Pop Artist and Video of the Year. Queen Bey's three victories tied Chris Brown for top honors; Brown won Best Male R&B/Pop Artist, the #Fandemonium Award and the Coca-Cola Viewers' Choice Award for his work on Nicki Minaj's "Only" (how the two fan-voted awards are different is a great question). Nicki herself won two awards.
But it wasn't really about the awards last night, was it? Not with Diddy reuniting a good chunk of his Bad Boy Entertainment roster from the mid-to-late-1990s (Ma$e, Faith Evans, Lil Kim and 112 all made appearances); Jason Derulo, Tinashe and Ciara paying tribute to Janet Jackson before she was gifted the Ultimate Icon: Music Dance Visual award; and a stirring speech from Smokey Robinson as he accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award. The 2015 BET Awards, like many awards shows, was built around moments and events that only have happened at the BET Awards. Here are the best of those moments from last night's broadcast. —XXL Staff
Don't miss the rest of our coverage of the 2015 BET Awards, including the full winners list, all the performances, hip-hop's reactions, the best Instagrams and the BET Awards' best Eye Candy.
When he first dropped To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick was able to bask in the universal praise for such a densely musical and deeply personal and lyrical project as a whole, so much so that he rarely addressed the underlying anger and struggle, both as a man and as a Black man in an unsupportive America, that was the superseding theme of TPAB. Now that the album has been on stands for three months, that stance has changed, and K.Dot's opening performance at last night's BET Awards was a visual and lyrical reminder that there is much more to do and say regarding the problems of police violence and racism in this country.
But that's point in and of itself is common knowledge now—everyone knows there's a problem that needs to be fixed by now—but Kendrick's performance of "Alright" was about the next steps, which start with unity before change can set in. And honestly, with so much negativity in the news and around the world in the past few years, it can be reassuring when someone, while still pointing out the issues and the anger, comes to the conclusion that we gonna be alright. Let's hope so. Thanks Kendrick.
The Weeknd and Alicia Keys
Okay, so everyone knew The Weeknd could sing, and "Earned It" has been hovering in the top 10 of the charts for weeks now. But we were blown back by his performance, which started with a gripping solo rendition of "The Hills" before Alicia Keys, who kind of specializes in this kind of award show appearance, joined him for a stirring run through "Earned It." It was a reminder that there is an alternative to the Chris Brown/Trey Songz-esque ratchet R&B that tends to dominate the airwaves (not that there's anything wrong with that). The Weeknd made a claim for superstardom armed with just his voice and that gravity-defying hair.
The Bad Boy Reunion
That had just about everything didn't it? Diddy was so hype to bring back some of the Bad Boy icons that he fell through a hole in the stage, for crying out loud. Ma$e came through for "Mo Money Mo Problems" and "Feel So Good," Faith Evans emerged for "Love Like This," Total dropped "Peaches & Cream" and Styles P and Jadakiss hit the stage to rep for the LOX while everything wrapped up with a video tribute to the Notorious one. Lil Kim ascending from underneath the stage in her throwback, old school crouch like it was 1996 probably brought the biggest roar from living room couches across the country.
Trust Diddy to recover from last week's legal issues at UCLA by reminding everyone that he brought them hip-hop's original Empire more than two decades ago now, though including French Montana, who showed up to perform Bobby Shmurda's "Hot Nigga," seemed a bit off considering the nostalgic theme. Diddy and Pharrell also performed a new track towards the end which most people, consumed by the good vibes from seeing the Bad Boy family back together again, largely ignored. Missing in action: Total, Craig Mack, Black Rob, Loon and the legally-prohibited duo of Shyne (deported to Belize) and G. Dep (in prison on a murder charge). Rest in peace Biggie Smalls!
Meek Mill and Nicki Minaj
We predicted before the show that it would be Nicki Minaj's night to shine, but her baby Meek Mill came off just as well and, by dropping his album Dreams Worth More Than Money on iTunes immediately after the BET Awards ended, he might have come out better than the record-setting Barb. So when they hit the stage to perform Meek's just-released "All Eyes On You" alongside Chris Brown, it was a coronation of sorts for hip-hop's favorite couple of the moment. Somewhere, as Meek and Nicki walked off stage hand in hand, Safaree Samuels was crying silent tears.
But honestly, with early listens to Dreams Worth More Than Money indicating that this was an album worth waiting for, does life get any better than this for Meek Mill? The Philly MC is on top of the world right now.
Smokey Robinson's Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech
First of all, he opened things up by saying "Thank you Sean" to Diddy, which was excellent for many reasons but mostly because of how many times Puff has changed his name over the years. But Smokey's speech was heartfelt and honest, going beyond the mere "Thank you" that is expected when someone is given a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Smokey invoked history, called for innovation and implored the artists and creators of the current age to not be so full of themselves and to understand that they are just one part of a long line of creativity that neither began or will end with them. He was emotional and real when talking about his wife and his career. And then he capped the whole thing with a stripped down "The Tracks Of My Tears" singalong that built into a groovy medley that included "Cruisin'" and "My Girl" while the crowd—most hilariously August Alsina and Wale—danced like children in the aisles. One of those classic moments where everyone in the building gets to re-live their childhood at once that the BET Awards always manages to serve up at least once every year.
Big Sean's Entire Performance
Big Sean had his own statement to make last night, with his status as a top-level hip-hop artist all but assured following the success of his third LP Dark Sky Paradise. Opening his set with the piano intro from "One Man Can Change The World," his dedication to his grandmother, he launched into an explosive, cinematic and slightly re-worked version of "Blessings" by announcing that his debut album, Finally Famous, had dropped four years ago to the day of the BET Awards. And he's been performing "I Don't Fuck With You" at awards shows for a minute now, but rarely does he bring out E-40 to rock his verse. But just as the time came for 40 Water's spot, the Bay Area legend was there to deliver his rapid-fire 16 complete with all requisite punchlines ("I'll make you stand outside forever like the Statue of Liberty" is our personal favorite).
"I just want to say thanks for giving me the best year of my life, the best year of my careeer," Sean said before launching into the song's hook. Safe to say he's completed the transition from earnest, up and comer to rap star in control of his own destiny.
The Janet Jackson Tribute
Plenty of people were hyped about the Janet Jackson tribute planned for the BET Awards and Tinashe, Ciara and Jason Derulo paid homage via complicated choreographed dances to a medley of Janet's bigger songs. Ciara was particularly on fire—almost literally—and resurrected the "Rhythm Nation" before Janet walked calmly on stage to accept her Icon Award. It was a fittingly, er, iconic moment for Janet, who is justifiably getting her respect for being one of the most influential performers in recent memory. A classy touch.
Lmaooo wow RT @SheSeauxSaditty: "But why? This the fuck why I hate coming to BET."