The 2020 BET Awards kicked off with an explosive performance of Public Enemy‘s protest anthem Fight The Power featuring Chuck D, Professor Griff, Flavor Flav, Nas, and members of The Roots.
Each act performed virtually amid images from the recent Black Lives Matter protests across America.
Other highlights from the BET Awards on Sunday (June 28, 2020) included Jennifer Hudson‘s showstopping rendition of Aretha Franklin‘s Young, Gifted & Black, which was followed by the premiere of her new Aretha biopic, RESPECT, in which the Oscar winner portrays the late Queen of Soul – handpicked by Franklin before her death in 2018.
There were also creative virtual performances from Megan Thee Stallion, who treated fans to her new track, Girls in the Hood, and Savage with a Mad Max-type video in the California desert, surrounded by dancers, and John Legend and Alicia Keys also hit the high notes, while the night’s Best Male Hip-Hop Artist Da Baby and Best New Artist and Album of the Year winner Roddy Ricch debuted a new version of their hit Rockstar, honoring the victims of police brutality.
The performance began with Da Baby pinned to the ground by a police officer’s knee on his neck – a reference to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the end of last month (May 2020).
The new video ended with a card that read: “In loving memory to all the lives lost to racism and police brutality.”
Meanwhile, the night’s top honor, the 2020 BET Humanitarian Award, went to Beyonce for her philanthropic contributions, and the singer’s daughter, eight-year-old Blue Ivy Carter, picked up her first-ever honor for her work on mum’s Brown Skin Girl from The Lion King: The Gift soundtrack.
There were also tributes to the late Little Richard and rapper Lil Wayne saluted the memory of Kobe Bryant, who perished alongside his teenage daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash in January (20).
Bryant closed out the awards ceremonies In Memoriam segment, which launched into Wayne’s performance of his 2009 song Kobe Bryant as footage from the basketball icon’s career flashed on the screen.
Lil Wayne previously honored the sportsman on his album Funeral earlier this year – one track, Bing James, included 24 seconds of silence – a nod to Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers number 24.
The evening featured several mentions of the recent Black Lives Matter protests, sparked by Floyd’s death, and host Amanda Seales opened up about the importance of the prizegiving, making references to Breonna Taylor, who was killed when police officers raided her apartment on a drugs bust and poking fun at all the white people passionately supporting the movement.
“I must admit, this BET Awards is a little different,” she said. “The main thing is it’s virtual. We’re getting real in touch with being real inside. Because outside is on one. It’s got COVID and cops… It’s like we hated on 2019 so much, it called its brother, 2020, to come through and provide a collective Molly whop. And that’s precisely why we had to do the awards because we deserve a break.
“And when I say ‘we’, I mean all us black folks watching the kneeling… the ‘I take responsibility’ vids, and saying to ourselves, ‘Wow, Y’all goofy…!’ America is acting brand new about racism, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was doing all the speeches for album interludes…
“We been out here in these streets marching, and this new eruption of consciousness has been beautiful. But keep it real though, some of y’all was only at the protest because the club is closed (sic).”
The full list of winners is:
Best Female R&B/Pop Artist – Lizzo
Best Male R&B/Pop Artist – Chris Brown
Best Female Hip-Hop Artist – Megan Tee Stallion
Best Male Hip-Hop Artist – Da Baby
Best New Artist – Roddy Ricch
Best Group – Migos
Best Collaboration – No Guidance by Chris Brown feat. Drake
Video of the Year – Higher by DJ Khaled feat. Nipsey Hussle & John Legend
Video Director of the year – Teyana ‘Spike Lee’ Taylor
Album of the Year – Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial by Roddy Ricch
Best Gospel/Inspirational Award – Just For Me by Kirk Franklin
BET Her Award – Brown Skin Girl by Beyonce feat. Blue Ivy Carter, Wizkid & Saint Jhn
Viewers’ Choice Award – Hot Girl Summer by Megan Thee Stallion & Nicki Minaj
Best International Act – Burna Boy (Nigeria)
Best New International Act – Sha Sha (Zimbabwe)
Best Movie – Queen & Slim
Youngstars Award – Marsai Martin
Best Actor – Michael B. Jordan
Best Actress – Issa Rae
Humanitarian Award – Beyonce
Sportswoman of the Year – Simone Biles
Sportsman of the Year – LeBron James