A show of solidarity.
Sunday saw the return of BET’s 20th annual award show, celebrating its 40th year as a network. In light of the current climate, the award show not only paid tribute to the black-led visionaries of the entertainment and music scene but particularly voicing the topic of systematic racism, equal rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. Hosted by Amanda Seales, the show was presented virtually offering remote segments of mini music video performances fit for purpose.
Kicking off the show, a remixed version of New York veterans Public Enemy and their 1989 anthem ‘Fight the Power’ which set the tone for every forthcoming act. Featuring photos of this month’s street protests following a slogan that read: ‘our culture can’t be cancelled’, the song also featured Nas, Black Thought, Rapsody and YG, whom added new lyrics to the song.
Meanwhile, DaBaby continued his politically charged releases paying tribute to George Floyd, whose death has channelled nationwide protests against police brutality. Initiating his performance on the ground with a white actor portraying a police officer pressed his knee onto his neck – DaBaby replicated the last few moments of George Floyd’s life. Using his musical dexterity to rap on his own encounters, the Charlotte-native featured a verse from his Black Lives Matter Remix of his number one single ‘Rockstar’ featuring newcomer Roddy Ricch who joined above the police car.
On the subject of Ricch, the up-and-coming rapper, singer and songwriter – also took home an award for ‘Album of the year’ – sporting a Black Lives Matter shirt whilst performing his hit singles ‘High Fashion’ and ‘The Box’.
Anderson Paak and Jay Rock were also among the many artists that referenced the wave of protests and police brutality. Their song ‘Lockdown’ was released on Juneteenth, acting as the soundtrack for the many Black Lives Matter protests across the USA. Bruised and battered by makeup, their staging identity portrayed the injuries inflicted every day at the protests by police overstepping their authority. The backdrop of the performance also featured the BLM icon, artistically compiled with names of victims.
Among the array of virtual performances and speeches, a new video from John Legend ‘Never Break’ featured a chorus that highlights ‘we will never break’. Beyoncé, Lil Wayne, Michelle Obama and 12-year-old online sensation and performer Keedron Bryant were also among the celebrities involved in highlighting black lives and black voices.