The BET Awards 2021: the big talking points, from Cardi B’s bump to a poignant DMX tribute

We've picked out five of the best moments from a show that championed Black musical talent, proving that the ceremony is still on brilliant form

The BET Awards are always an event on black people’s calendars, a chance for us to see our culture flourish, and last year it was no different – the show was vitally political and poignant despite its socially distanced nature. 12 months on, though, and we can see some of our favourite black creators and innovators take to the red carpet in their best post-pandemic frocks and rock the night away. Hopefully debunking all that messy talk on Twitter about BET not being a true representation of black culture anymore, the network put on a beautiful show to showcase some of the best black talent. Here are five of the best moments from the awards show, held last night (June 27) at the Microsoft Theater in LA.

Big Bump Bardi

There’s of course always a plethora of dazzling performances to wow the studio audience as well as us at home. And although we saw some real crowd pleasers such as Lil Nas X paying tribute to Michael Jackson‘s ‘Remember the Time’ music video, dressed in Egyptian-themed garb as he sang ‘Montero’, and Megan Thee Stallion putting her hands on her knees, shaking her ass to her ‘Thot Shit’, the performance that took the cake came from the world’s leading rap group, NME‘s recent cover stars Migos. A medley of their two most popular tracks from new album ‘Culture III’ – ‘Straightenin’’ and ‘Type Shit’ – featured Offset’s wife and world-renowned pop star Cardi B. Here, the rap star introduced the world to her baby bump. Fitted into a skin-tight, jewel-encrusted bodysuit with her bump peeping out, Cardi showed out whilst introducing her second mini-me to the world.

Ladies’ night

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Lil Baby and Kirk Franklin. Credit: Getty

The theme of this year’s BET Awards was “the year of the black woman”, explained host Taraji P Henson (of Empire acclaim). And it truly was. Throughout the show, cameras panned across the front row, showing a bunch of hot-shot industry women such as Issa Rae and Zendaya, who showed up for their fellow sisters as they received their awards. It should be noted that this year’s BET Awards actually boasts the most number of women winners, including Album of the Year going to Miss “I’ll bust ya windows out your car” Jazmine Sullivan, whose comeback to R&B, ‘Heaux Tales’, was unavoidable. 2021’s BET Awards definitely proved that the future is female.

Celebrating Royalty

And to continue the women empowerment stance of 2021’s BET Awards, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award went to the original woman’s advocate Queen Latifah. About 20 years late, it’s great to finally see Latifah got her roses when she could smell them. Whether you’re too young to know of Queen Latifah’s rap career and only thought she was a stellar comedic actor in films such as Taxi and Last Holiday, or have been there since the start and remember her singing ‘U.N.I.T.Y.’ when ladies were scarce in hip-hop, you’ll know that she highly deserves this award. Honoured by her two hip-hopping best gal pals, Lil Kim and MC Lyte (who both are iconic women themselves), as well as two younger bucks Monie Love and Rapsody, the New Yorker received a heartfelt tribute.

Is Lil Baby Godsent?

Lil Baby and Kirk Franklin. Credit: Getty

The show was opened by a longtime friend of BET, Kirk Franklin, a gospel megastar who earned 16 Grammys and is a 22 times Dove Award winner — shall we continue? He’s known for reinventing himself to make gospel music that all generations can enjoy, but this time he enlisted help from an unlikely collaborator: Lil Baby, a guy known for his gun-toting and drug-slinging lyrics. Weirdly enough, their performance together doesn’t seem like a desperate grab for young people’s attention, partly because the performance of ‘We Win’ seemed to seamless.

A tribute to the fallen Ruff Ryder

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In April of this year, the world stopped when we heard that iconic Yonkers star DMX had sadly passed away from a suspected drug overdose after struggling with his addictions for decades. Getting together other rappers with similar gruff deliveries and cadences, Swizz Beats, The LOX, Ruff Ryders and Busta Rhymes (the latter was extremely good at getting his bark just right), and making space for an impassioned monologue from Community and Empire actor Michael K. Williams, BET truly celebrated all that DMX did for the rap world. The segment ended with a recording of DMX performing 2001’s ‘Prayer IV’, accompanied only by a live violin. It was a fine example of how the BET Awards truly got it right this year.

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