The 2017 BET Awards have come to an end, after four hours of star-studded performances, electric reunions and tributes, and several speeches that stood out for their eloquence and poignance. From Bruno Mars’ opening set to Chance the Rapper’s Humanitarian Award (delivered with an assist from Michelle Obama) to powerhouse performances from Mary J. Blige, Tamar Braxton and SZA, just to name a few, here are the 10 best moments from the 2017 BET Awards.
Bruno Mars Opens With “Perm”
Mars’ infectious energy was a perfect way to open up the 2017 awards, particularly after he provided such a memorable moment at last year’s honors with his tribute to Prince, and his funk jam “Perm” making the crowd dance immediately — but not enough for Mars. Twice he stopped his performance to jokingly urge the crowd to get on their feet, and his own moves led the way.
The Cast of the Film Detroit Say Their Names
Cast members from the upcoming film Detroit, about the police raids that set off race riots in that city in 1967, came out to debut new scenes from the movie that will be released on Aug. 4. But before showing the clip, the cast took a moment to “honor our fallen brothers and sisters with a few of their names. Philando Castile. Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. Alton Sterling. Freddie Gray. Michael Brown. And Trayvon Martin… We gotta influence change.” It was poignant and powerful in its simplicity and thoughtfulness. Later, Yara Shahidi also took a moment to remember Tamir Rice on what would have been his 15th birthday during her speech accepting the Young Stars Award.
The Migos Turn Things Up
Before the show began, one of the most hotly anticipated performances was from the Migos, and the trio didn’t disappoint. Opening with Quavo joining Post Malone for “Congratulations,” the three then came out in winter attire with a set that resembled their instantly iconic, Alaskan-trapper-themed video for “T-Shirt,” which got the crowd’s attention right away, before those in the arena erupted for the group’s chart-topping hit “Bad and Boujee.” Their energy was so infectious and flows so meticulous that the television censors couldn’t keep up — not that you’d hear anyone complaining.
Xscape Returns With a Flawless Reunion
Iconic R&B group Xscape reunited with a three-song medley that showed not only their enduring influence, but the power of their raw vocals, which were over-the-top impressive. Running through “Understanding,” “Who Can I Run To” and “Just Kick It,” the ladies had everyone in the crowd singing along, and the cameras captured all of it.
If Mary J. Blige’s performance earlier in the evening wasn’t memorable enough, Tamar Braxton tore things down with a powerhouse performance of “My Man” that showed off her effortless vocal range. They both sounded incredible (and looked it as well; Jamie Foxx reserved part of his time introducing awards to praise Ms. Blige) and showed that neither has lost even a slight step over the years. Braxton’s mic drop was a fitting exclamation point. And the incredible SZA’s performance toward the end, even after technical difficulties, proved once again that there are plenty more great artists on the rise as well.
Chance the Rapper Honored With Humanitarian Award
Chance brought his mother to the BET Awards this year, and she was a fitting sidekick to help celebrate his Humanitarian Award for his pledge to donate $1 million to Chicago’s public schools. BET chairwoman/CEO Debra Lee started the tribute saying, “He created his own path to the top of the charts and took that same incredible creativity to provide children with the type of education they deserve.” But it was Michelle Obama, in a surprise video statement delivered on behalf of her and President Obama, who delivered a more specific message.
“We are so incredibly proud of you Chance. We have known Chance and his family since he was a wee little baby rapper, and it has been a thrill to watch him come into his own in so many different ways,” the former First Lady said. “Time and again, he has beens tanding up, speaking out and doing the work to get kids in our community the education they deserve… Chance is showing our kids that they matter and they they have so much to contribute to our community and our country. Because of you, countless young people will grow up believing in themselves, fulfilling their god-given potential, and then reaching back to others as well.”
Chance, for his part, was alternately hyped and heartfelt, speaking about marijuana legalization (and freeing those incarcerated for selling weed before legalizing it) and the lack of convictions of police officers, particularly in recent weeks, who have killed African Americans over the past few years.
“I didn’t prepare a speech because I really wanted to see what would happen when I got up here and speak from my heart,” he began. “I’m 24. To be receiving something like this at my age, it feels good as hell… It feels a little early to get something like this. But my God doesn’t make mistakes and I’d like to think he’s putting this enormous pressure on me to see how I react… I’m a good man and I’m gonna become a better man.”
Roman GianArthur, El Debarge, Kamasi Washington Pay Tribute; Prodigy Gets Love
In what seemed to be a little bit of a hastily tossed-together tribute section, Tyrese kicked off a remembrance of some of the artists who have passed in the last year, before Roman GianArthur (from Janelle Monae’s Wondaland Records) tore through a tribute to Chuck Berry, and Kamasi Washington — with his smooth and sweet saxophone — and El DeBarge paid tribute to George Michael with “Careless Whisper.” But it was puzzling that Mobb Deep MC Prodigy — who died suddenly and shockingly last week at the age of 42 — was merely mentioned and not given a larger tribute. But Havoc and Lil’ Kim’s tribute to him later on was eloquent, and Kendrick Lamar’s shout-out to him in accepting his award later on was also touching.
New Edition Gets the Tribute Treatment and a Lifetime Achievement Award
BET’s New Edition mini-series last year was one of the best-received bio-series of the past year, and they rolled out an extensive tribute to the trailblazing R&B group. It was nostalgic, fun as hell and a great and poignant trip down memory lane, to say the least. A tribute video prior had stars as wide-ranging as Erykah Badu, LaLa Anthony and even the Backstreet Boys weigh in on their influence, which was felt throughout, as the original group looked on from the audience, and then delivered heartfelt, and at times humorous, remarks. (“Y’all have been with me through thick and thin, and I’ve been through some sh-t,” Bobby Brown cracked at one point.) And then, to cap it all off, all six members — after a brief break and impressively-fast outfit change — performed a medley that included “Mr. Telephone Man,” “Can You Stand the Rain” and “If It Isn’t Love.” It kept on going, and the crowd didn’t seem to want it to end, either.
Remy Ma, Remy Ma, Remy Ma
Remy Ma won best female hip-hop artist at the awards this evening, and while shouting out her husband Papoose and all those currently dealing with issues with the correctional department of this country, she also took time to recite a few choice lines from her Nicki Minaj diss track “SHEther,” another dig in their long-running feud that erupted earlier this year. Regardless of how you feel about the beef, it livened up an evening that was running long at that point.
Asahd Khaled Is the Best
As the evening came to a close — after an exhaustive four hours, no less — DJ Khaled, Chance the Rapper, Quavo and an energetic and exuberant Lil Wayne hit the stage to perform their chart-topping collaboration “I’m the One.” And as he always does, Khaled paraded his son, the months-old Asahd, out onstage with his headphones on his adorable little head, and Asahd won once again. The fact that he wore a suit that matched Gucci Mane’s — to the point where Gucci posted it on his Instagram — only made it better.