BET Awards: Burna Boy, Queen Latifah Among Winners

BET Awards: Burna Boy, Queen Latifah Among Winners

Taraji P. Henson hosted Sunday’s ceremony, where H.E.R., Cardi B and Silk Sonic also were among the winners, while Cardi B revealed her second pregnancy during her performance with Migos.

Andra Day, H.E.R., Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion and Silk Sonic were among the winners at the 2021 BET Awards, which were handed out Sunday night at a live, in-person show that felt like a return to pre-pandemic norms.

Taraji P. Henson hosted the ceremony, which this year featured the theme “Year of the Black Woman.” Last year, the BET Awards was one of the first major awards shows to take place after the start of the pandemic, though it took place virtually and remotely. This year, the BET Awards returned to the live show format and welcomed back an in-person, vaccinated audience along with a red carpet. Organizers said they would work closely with Los Angeles County to support community vaccination efforts and ensure adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

“I am so excited to be here with humans; we need each other,” Henson said after coming out onstage, talking to the live audience, some of whom were in masks, while many were not.

Henson went on to recognize several Black women in the audience, including Issa Rae, Zendaya (who was wearing a purple mask) and Jazmine Sullivan, as well as “political trailblazers” including Maxine Waters. She also gave shoutouts to Stacey Abrams and Kamala Harris.

“We gonna be Black AF tonight,” she added, noting she would be coming out onstage dressed as “some of my all-time favorite women” (among them: H.E.R., whom she came out dressed as and playing multiple instruments, calling herself “S.H.E.”; Erykah Badu; and Tina Turner). She went on: “Tonight we’re also reclaiming our aesthetics, baby hairs, long blinged-out nails, yeah, we taking all that back, gold hoops, bamboo earrings. … Our Black men, we want all y’all back, because we love you, we see you, kings, and most importantly, we need you.”

During the show, Queen Latifah was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Before she took the stage to give her acceptance speech, Monie Love, Rapsody, MC Lyte and Lil’ Kim performed a tribute to Latifah, including her own hit “U.N.I.T.Y,” as the rapper-actress got emotional while watching from the audience.

Latifah brought her own father onstage, along with a photo of her mother, who died in 2018. “I am so extremely moved, I don’t even know what to say,” she said, before thanking God and her parents, family, friends and fans for supporting “every crazy-ass thing I’ve done over the years.” “creating an outlet for beautiful Blackness to thrive, to shine. When we couldn’t get played on the radio in other places, we couldn’t get our videos played in other places, there was BET that allowed us to be in our fullness and to shine to this night, right now, right here.”

Latifah, who has kept her personal life private, gave a shoutout to “Eboni, my love, Rebel, my love” — a reference to her rumored longtime partner, Eboni Nichols, and son — neither of whom she has publicly confirmed a relationship with or spoken about. “Peace, happy Pride,” she ended her speech.

Meanwhile, the first winner announced on the telecast was Andra Day, named best actress for her role in The United States vs. Billie Holiday, which earned her an Oscar nom and a Golden Globe award earlier this year. Day noted in her speech that she was genuinely surprised: “I really didn’t expect this.”

The late Chadwick Boseman was named best actor, while Judas and the Black Messiah was named best movie, but neither award was handed out during the telecast.

Silk Sonic — comprised of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak — was named best group. Paak and Mars took the stage in matching tuxedos — Mars in pink, Paak in blue. “To the fans patiently waiting, Andy and I promise y’all, it’s gonna be worth the wait,” Mars said of the group’s upcoming debut album, which does not yet have an official release date. “Here’s to y’all,” he added, raising a flask to the audience.

Meanwhile, Cardi B revealed her pregnancy on Sunday night during her performance with Migos. The rapper, who has a daughter named Kulture with husband Offset, wore a blinged-out, one-piece outfit with a mesh cutout showing off her pregnant belly. Offset is a member of the group Migos.

Video of the year went to “WAP,” by Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion. Megan came onstage to accept the award moments after performing. (Cardi B did not come onstage to accept.) In her speech, Megan noted the popularity of the song and thanking fans for making it a hit. “They was in front of the White House singing ‘WAP’!” she said. Noting the theme of the night, she went on: “Black women — we are the culture, we been the culture, and in the future, we’re still gonna be the culture. So shout out to us.”

Megan also was named best female hip-hop artist and the viewer’s choice award for “Savage (Remix)” featuring Beyoncé. In her speech for the former, she thanked her mom for inspiring her to pursue her dream of being a rapper, while she noted later that “Savage” fulfilled another dream, that of getting to work with Beyoncé.

Jazmine Sullivan won album of the year for Heaux Tales and brought her mom upstage to accept the award with her. She noted that, two years ago, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. “Two years ago, we would have never expected to be here,” she said, getting emotional as she noted her mom is now in remission. “This is my prize. This is my gift. It means more than anything that she is here with me. She has supported me all my life. She has loved me all my life.” (Later in the show, Burna Boy was named best international act and also brought his own mom onstage with him.)

H.E.R. performed during the show and was later named best female R&B/pop artist, following on the heels of her best song Oscar win earlier this year for “Fight for You.” “I just want you guys to know how important this stage is, I want you guys to know how important is it to recognize each other and to celebrate each other,” she said in her BET Awards speech. “We all know sometimes, if we don’t, who else will?” She also went on to talk about how R&B is the foundation of many genres of music, including country. “There wouldn’t be a lot of other genres if it was not for Black music. When they said, ‘R&B is dead, it’s not alive’ — it’s in everything,” she said.

Kicking off the show were Lil Baby and Kirk Franklin, who performed their song “We Win,” from the soundtrack of Space Jam: A New Legacy.

Other performers included Lil Nas X, who sang “Call Me by Your Name” donning Egyptian-themed attire against an Egyptian-themed backdrop. The energetic performance featured male backup dancers, one of whom Nas kissed at the end. Performers also will include Silk Sonic, Andra Day, DaBaby, DJ Khaled, Sullivan, Lil Baby, Roddy Ricch, City Girls, Lil Durk, Moneybagg Yo, Rapsody and Tyler, the Creator.

Swizz Beatz oversaw a tribute to the late rapper DMX, who died in April at age 50. Busta Rhymes, Method Man and Griselda performed during the tribute, which followed the “In Memoriam” segment remembering those who died over the past year. Their medley included a rousing performance of “Party Up (Up in Here).”

The awards aim to honor “creative expression and Black excellence across music, television, film and sports” across 21 categories. Heading into the ceremony, Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby led the nominations for the 2021 BET Awards, with seven apiece.