5. Queen Latifah as host
Hosting the BET Awards is not an easy task. It’s a huge party of a show that can dwarf its host because of its superstar talent and their unforgettable performances. So a BET Awards host not only has to deliver, but must do so in an entertaining, multifaceted way. (Mo’Nique’s unforgettable opening number interpretation of Beyoncé’s Crazy In Love anyone?) But Ms. Dana Owens did her thing royally by being funny, singing a tribute to the evening’s stars, and rapping to remind audiences once and for all that she remains hip hop’s one and only Queen.
4. The Return of T.I. and Kanye West
Both have been away from the rap game a little too long. One from a prison stint, another from a self-imposed hiatus after his Taylor Swift MTV Video Music Awardsgate moment, but T.I. and Kanye West took the stage with a feverish energy as if they never left. West opened the show with a performance of his new single “Power” that grew tired and a bit tedious, but the comeback king of the evening, T.I., bought more drama and excitement to the stage in his delivery of, “Yeah Ya Know (Takers)” with Blink 182’s Travis Barker on drums. Clearly his absence made T.I.’s heart grow even fonder for the rap game.
3. The Return of El Debarge
TV One’s Unsung: DeBarge, immortalized the full and mostly unknown tragic tale of Motown’s 2nd family of music (after The Jacksons.) But El DeBarge laid that silky falsetto just lovely on the crowd with his family’s hit-parade, “All This Love,” “I Like It,” “Time Will Reveal,” and “Rhythm of the Night” to remind audiences what DeBarge’s real legacy is: joyous, ethereal R&B music. El obviously still has his chops, so the only question remains: When’s the new album dropping?
Chris Brown’s razor sharp dance medley routine of “The Way You Make Me Feel,” “Remember The Time” and “Smooth Criminal” was exciting to watch— Brown is both a direct a disciple of MJ’s moves and one of the most innovative dancers of his generation. But it was his teary breakdown during his attempt to sing, “Man In The Mirror,” which even eclipsed his dazzling moves. The combination of performing a tribute to Jackson, whose death and absence still breaks our hearts (and also left Stevie Wonder in tears at 2009’s 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert in New York City) plus Brown’s continuous plea for the public’s forgiveness in his attack of Rihanna gave “Mirror” a profound new meaning—in that moment it became Brown’s personal redemption song.
1. The ‘Prince Girls’ tribute to Prince
Girl power was in full effect and the obviously the boys could not have done any better (did you glimpse Prince’s face during Trey Songz’s version “Purple Rain?” His royal badness was not impressed.) Some like Janelle Monae brought her best Fishbone energy-inspired punk rock insanity to “Let’s Go Crazy,” Esmerelda Spaulding’s stand up bass playing brought sexy and cool back for “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” and Alicia Keys gave a sex kitten interpretation to “Adore” (the obvious inspiration for her imitation, sound-a-like single, “Like You’ll Never See Me Again”.) But it was showstopper Patti LaBelle’s throwdown, kick off your shoes (and Prince caught one!) rendition of “Purple Rain” that brought down the house. LaBelle’s powerhouse voice filled in all the blanks of a wailing guitar and then some. And best of all, it was obvious the 2010 BET Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Prince, truly loved every minute of it.—Ronke Idowu Reeves