The BET awards were telecast last night from Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater, and the recipients of its coveted awards for hip-hop and R&B were largely expected/deserved. Kendrick Lamar, for instance, won in the Best Male Hip-Hop Artist category, and I don’t think many people are going to be scrambling to deny that that was the proper choice. (He beat Drake, Future — who he performed with last night — J. Cole, Big Sean and Chance the Rapper.)
And if you were feeling bad for the prodigious, staunchly light-spirited, and politically active Chance, fear not – the young rapper certainly got his share of praise. Lamar even gave him a shout out in his speech, saying “What you’re doing, you’re just getting started.” (Lamar also used his speech to honor Mobb Deep’s Prodigy, who died last week, saying his work inspired him “to study [his] skills and work on [his] connection with [his] neighborhood.” He said it led him to think, “how can I inspire them the same way [Prodigy] inspired the streets?”)
And Chance himself won the Best New Artist award — though he’s more young than new, but sure. Chance was also honored with the Humanitarian Award for his charitable and motivational presence in the public education sphere in his hometown, Chicago. The award was introduced in a video by Michelle Obama, who said, “Chance is showing our young people that they matter, that they have something inside them that is worthy of being expressed and that they have so much to contribute to their communities and to our country.”
The 24-year-old rapper/activist took the opportunity to “tell everybody in this government that y’all need to let everybody out of jail for selling weed before you start making it legal, [before] people sell it and make capital off it.” He also stressed that judges need to start convicting cops for killing black people. His speech was framed, however, within personal reflection as well, and he also spoke about fatherhood, family more generally (including good cousinhood, v. crucial), and other goals for political involvement.
Another expected set of wins — five, to be exact — was for Beyoncé, who took home both Best Female Pop/R&B Artist (also nominated: Rihanna, Solange, Mary J. Blige, and Kehlani) and Album of the Year for Lemonade. (Though Solange’s “A Seat at the Table,” which was also nominated, would have been just as deserving — if not as grandiose — a win.) Beyoncé’s Lemonade track/video — and originator of the infamous Becky with the Good Hair — “Sorry” won the Viewers Choice Award. (That track also tied with Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic” for Video of the Year; Mars incidentally won the Best Male Pop/R&B Artist award.) Beyoncé, who recently gave birth to twins (but of course you knew that), was not present at the ceremony.
Meanwhile, in an interesting twist, Remy Ma won Best Female Hip Hop Artist, a category that Nicki Minaj was also nominated in, and had previously won seven years in a row. The two rappers had a much-publicized feud this year (though one that apparently really dates back a decade), fought via a rap battle that Ma started with the explicitly Minaj-centric diss track “Shether.” Ma had ultimately commented on the nature of the feud, and of the track, saying on BuzzFeed’s Another Round podcast, “It just bothers me that this record that I put out, where it’s literally picking apart a female, went so viral…We could have done the same thing, working together.” There’ll soon be plenty of room for Remy Ma to win new audiences over outside of this context, though: her last solo studio album was released in 2006, but 2018 will see the release of her follow-up, Seven Winters & Six Summers.
Beyond music, the results in the main movie category were a bit disappointing: Hidden Figures, an uplifting movie and great story, beat cinematic masterpieces like Moonlight and Get Out. The acting category winners made more sense: Taraji P. Henson won for Best Actress and Mahershala Ali won for Best Actor. They’re undeniable talents, though these were also tough categories: they applied to actors across TV and film, with Issa Rae and Donald Glover clearly given nominations for their work in/creation of Insecure and Atlanta, respectively.