The 2023 BET Awards commemorated 50 years of hip-hop with honors to its pioneers, late luminaries, and rising stars in a party-like evening.
Quavo and Offset, the remaining Migos bandmates, played “Bad and Boujee” in front of a photo of Takeoff, who was shot and killed last December.
“BET, do it for Take,” the pair exclaimed at the start of their show as their background changed from a space shuttle to Takeoff pointing in the air.
Performers and emcee Kid Capri paid tribute to late hip-hop artists including Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Biz Markie, and Pop Smoke by briefly playing their biggest hits. Capri and BET focused on music in a low-award event.
Swizz Beatz gave Busta Rhymes the Lifetime Achievement Award. With seven Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 songs, the 12-time Grammy Award-nominated rapper, producer, and hip-hop pioneer is considered a great MC.
Diddy, Janet Jackson, Chuck D, Missy Elliot, Pharrell Williams, and Mariah Carey made a Rhymes tribute video.
I’ll wear it proudly. Rhymes began, “I wanna cry.” He spoke about his six children, being expelled out of his hip-hop group Leaders of the New School, and rebuilding by going into studios, smoking a cigar with the other artists, and “quickly whipping up a 16 bar verse.” … “By default, I pioneered the feature,” he claimed. “Our culture’s greatness is by default. We have magic.”
The MC and Spliff Star performed “Ante Up Remix,” “Scenario,” “Look At Me Now,” and “I Know What You Want” before Scar Lip, Coi Leray, and BIA performed “This Is New York,” “Players,” and “Beach Ball,” respectively. Rhymes celebrated dancehall halfway through the show with Dexta Daps’ “Shabba Madda Pot,” Spice’s “So Mi Like It,” Skillibeng’s “Whap Whap,” and CuttyRanks’ “A Who Seh Me Dun (Wait Deh Man).”
Onstage, old-school hip-hop legends and new talents performed songs honoring rap’s most impactful locales and innovations. Trick Daddy, Trina, and Uncle Luke performed “Nann” and “I Wanna Rock (Doo Doo Brown)” in Miami. Jeezy, T.I., and Master P performed “They Know,” “24’s,” and “No Limit Soldiers” in Atlanta. Jamaica’s Doug E. Fresh and Lil ’Vicious sang “Freaks” acapella, Mad Lion sang “Take It Easy,” and PATRA sang “Romantic Call” for hip-hop’s reggae influence.
Capri teased a crash course in West Coast rap by spinning Tupac’s “Hail Marry” and Warren G’s “Regulate,” Yo-Yo’s “You Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo,” Tyga’s “Rack City,” and E-40’s “Tell Me When To Go.”
Capri launched the trap tribute with Pop Smoke’s “Dior,” followed by Chief Keef’s “Faneto” and Ying Yang Twins’ “Wait (The Whisper Song).
While Capri and MC Lyte hosted the hostless performance, audience members danced, sang, and leaped on stage. For an event scheduled during the Hollywood writers’ strike, it was relatively hiccup-free, save for Patti LaBelle’s performance and the almost four-hour runtime.
LaBelle sang Tina Turner’s “The Best,” saying she couldn’t see the words. She shouted, “I’m trying, y’all!” before the chorus.
The Los Angeles Microsoft Theater event began with a history lecture from a masked Lil Uzi Vert. Capri led the audience through a medley of early 1980s New York City rap culture, including 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 Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend.”
“I would not be in this business on the stage tonight if it wasn’t for one person,” Big Daddy Kane remarked before the song. “Sleep well.” He encouraged audience members to chant the catchy chorus.
Coco Jones won the female-only best new artist award.
“For all my black girls, we do have to fight a little harder to get what we deserve,” she stated in her acceptance speech. “But fight even when it doesn’t make sense. You’re unsure how to escape. Keep going—we deserve big things.”
After that, Latto’s “Put It On Da Floor Again,” without Cardi B, was performed at a store. “RIP Shawty Lo,” the screen stated.
Nikki Taylor interrupted the performance to videocall her daughter Teyana “Spike Tey” Taylor, who won video director of the year.
Rhymes ended his acceptance speech by calling on the hip-hop community to “stop this narrative that we don’t love each other,” encouraging veterans and novices to unite.
Ice Spice performed abbreviated versions of “Munch (Feelin’ U),” “Princess Diana,” and “In Ha Mood,” Glorilla sang “Lick Or Sum,” and Kali performed her TikTok smash, “Area Codes.”
Hip-hop royalty applauded.