BET Awards show honors Busta Rhymes, hip-hop’s 50 years and pays tribute to Takeoff and Tina Turner

The night’s biggest surprise was a rare public performance by Quavo and Offset, the surviving members of Migos, who did a rendition of ‘Bad and Boujee’ in front of an image of Takeoff, who died in a shooting last November

Offset, left, and Quavo of Migos perform at the BET Awards on June 25, 2023, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
Offset, left, and Quavo of Migos perform at the BET Awards on June 25, 2023, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.Associated Press/LaPresse (APN)

The 2023 BET Awards celebrated 50 years of hip-hop with tributes to the genre’s earliest voices, late legends, and new talent during a show packed with spectacular performances that consistently felt like a party. Sunday’s biggest surprise came when Quavo and Offset, the surviving members of Migos, performed Bad and Boujee in front of an image of Takeoff, who died in a shooting in November.

“BET, do it for Take,” the duo shouted near the beginning of their set, as their backdrop switched from the image of a space shuttle to one of Takeoff pointing in the air.

Throughout the show, whether it was Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Biz Markie or Pop Smoke, performers and emcee Kid Capri paid homage to late hip-hop stars, often by quickly highlighting a taste of their best-known hits. In a show where few awards were given, Capri and BET kept the emphasis on the music.

Busta Rhymes took home the night’s biggest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award, handed to him by Swizz Beatz. The 12-time Grammy Award nominated rapper, producer, and pioneering hip-hop figure is widely regarded as one of the great MCs, with seven Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits to his name.

Diddy, Janet Jackson, Chuck D, Missy Elliot, Pharrell Williams, and Mariah Carey recorded a video tribute to Rhymes.

“Alright, Imma wear it on my sleeve. I do wanna cry,” Rhymes started his speech, as his eyes started to water. He talked about his six children, being kicked out from his hip-hop group Leaders of the New School, and learning how to rebuild by going into studios, sharing a cigar with whoever was in the studio, and “quickly whipping up a 16 bar verse… By default, I pioneered the feature,” he said. “A lot of greatness from our people in our culture is by default. Because it’s just a magic we have.”

An energetic tribute to Rhymes followed — the MC teamed up with Spliff Star for Ante Up Remix, Scenario, Look At Me Now, I Know What You Want, before a long list of A-listers jumped in: Scar Lip with This Is New York, Coi Leray with Players, BIA with Beach Ball, among them.

Throughout the show, old school hip-hop heroes and modern stars mixed it up onstage, performing tracks celebrating rap’s most influential cities and innovation. For Miami, Trick Daddy and Trina rocked through Nann and Uncle Luke took on I Wanna Rock (Doo Doo Brown). For Atlanta, Jeezy ripped through They Know, T.I. hit 24′s, and Master P did No Limit Soldiers into Make ‘Em Say Ugh. And for hip-hop’s reggae influence, Jamaica’s Doug E. Fresh and Lil ‘Vicious did an a cappella version of Freaks, Mad Lion performed Take It Easy, and PATRA nailed Romantic Call.

Audience members, danced, sang along (and a few hopped up on stage) while Capri and MC Lyte keep the hostless show moving. It was a mostly hiccup-free show — save for a hitch during Patti LaBelle’s performance and the show running nearly four hours — particularly noteworthy for an event scheduled in the midst of the ongoing Hollywood writers’ strike.

LaBelle honored the Tina Turner with a performance of the late singer’s hit The Best, telling the audience at one point she couldn’t see the words. “I’m trying, y’all!” she said before powering into the chorus.

A masked Lil Uzi Vert opened the show at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater before it jumped into a quick history lesson. Capri walked the audience through a medley of the earliest days of New York City ‘80s rap culture featuring The Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight, MC LYTE’s Cha Cha Cha, D-NICE’s Call ME D-Nice and Big Daddy Kane’s Raw, into a partial cover of Just A Friend, an homage to the late great Biz Markie.

“I would not be in this business on the stage tonight if it wasn’t for one person,” Big Daddy Kane said introducing the song. “Rest in peace.” He invited audience members to sing along to the song’s infectious chorus.

The coveted best new artist award went to Coco Jones, in a category which featured only female performers.

“For all of my black girls, we do have to fight a little harder to get what we deserve,” she said in her acceptance speech. “But don’t stop fighting, even when it doesn’t make sense. And you’re not sure how you’re going to get out of those circumstances. Keep pushing because we are deserving of great things.”

Teyana “Spike Tey” Taylor won video director of the year, which was accepted by her mom Nikki Taylor – like a true matriarch, she interrupted the show to videocall her daughter and let her have the moment.

At the end of his acceptance speech, Rhymes urged the hip-hop community to “stop this narrative that we don’t love each other,” urging veteran musicians and newcomers alike to embrace one another.

In the audience, generations of hip-hop heavy-hitters cheered.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

More information

Archived In

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS