July 17th, 2024

Childish Gambino, Keke Palmer pay tribute to Usher at 2024 BET Awards

By Maria Sherman, The Associated Press on June 30, 2024.

Actor Will Smith poses during a photo shoot to promote his latest film, "Bad Boys: Ride or Die", in Mexico City, Friday, May 31, 2024. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

No long after taking home the trophy for best male R&B/pop artist, Usher was honored with the lifetime achievement award at the 2024 BET Awards.

Childish Gambino kicked off an all-star tribute to the R&B pop performer with “U Don’t Have to Call,” joined by Keke Palmer, who took the lead on “You Make Me Wanna…” Summer Walker hit the stage for “Good Good”; Coco Jones appeared in the audience for a sultry rendition of “There Goes My Baby,” serenading Usher and his wife Jenn Goicoechea.

Marsha Ambrosius tackled “Superstar”; Chlöe picked it up with “Good Kisser.” Tinashe did “Nice & Slow”; Teyana Taylor – dressed like Usher – and Victoria Monét teamed up for “Bad Girl.” Latto brought the energy for “Yeah!”

Usher is an eight-time Grammy winner who recently ended a two-year Las Vegas residency, “Usher: My Way” at the Park MGM. In February, he released his first solo album in eight years, and in August is scheduled to kick off a 24-city U.S. tour titled “Past Present Future.”

Earlier in the night, Will Smith stood in a circle of fire – joined by Fridayy and the gospel choir Sunday Service – to make the live debut of his latest single, “You Can Make It.”

“I don’t know who needs this right now,” Smith opened his set. “But I am here to tell you, you can make it.”

Mid-way through, Kirk Franklin joined, and then two rapped together. “Nobody gets an easy ride,” Smith, who is in the midst of his comeback from slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars two years ago, told the room. “There is wisdom in that fire. Dance in your darkest moments.”

The forthcoming presidential election was a huge topic of conversation at Sunday’s show. After Childish Gambino presented Killer Mike with the album of the year award for “Michael,” the rapper used his acceptance speech to address his Grammys arrest and voting.

“Technically, I was not supposed to be here. I was put in handcuffs, and I was marched out of this building. But I want to tell you, look at God. ‘Cause I’m back, baby. I’m back and I’m winning,” he said in his speech. Killer Mike was arrested at the Grammys earlier this year over a physical altercation he said was caused by an “over-zealous” security guard; he was not charged over the incident.

“They going to tell you who we vote for is important,” he continued his speech, “And it is who we vote for on the big stage. It’s important, but it’s more important you know who your city council person is, who your prosecutor is.”

Megan Thee Stallion opened the show by emerging from an egg – a metaphor for her a new musical rebirth – before diving into with an energetic medley of her new singles “Hiss” and “Boa.”

“BET, Where my girls at?” she said, shouting out Monét and Jones in the crowd before launching into “Where Them Girls At” – a track that’s been an immediate fan favorite since Friday’s release of her third studio album, “Megan.”

Taraji P. Henson hosted the show at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles. Her opening monologue was a performance, Henson rapping “It’s about us,” in a loose parody of Kendrick Lamar’s “Not Like Us.” The diss track became Lamar’s fourth No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 this year – and was released in the midst of his recently reignited, once-dormant feud with Drake.

“No beef in here tonight,” she joked, “Can we say plant-based?”

The first award of the night, best international act, was presented by actor Colman Domingo. It was given to Tyla, the Johannesburg , South African amapiano superstar.

“This is very heavy, guys,” she joked about the weight of the award. “Thank you to BET for always pushing the culture.”

Later in the night, she’d take home the award for best new artist. “This is crazy,” she said. “I just want to dedicate this one to Africa. I want to dedicate this one to all the African superstars before me that didn’t get these opportunities that I’m getting.”

Monét, who earlier this year won the Grammy for best new artist, made her BET debut and set a high bar for performances, condensing a full set into a few mins with three costume changes and a pair of songs, “On My Mama” and “Alright.”

Then Sexyy Red took the stage, performing her smooth bedroom ballad “U My Everything” before moving to another stage and a costume change – tackling “Get It Sexyy” in front of an LED screen depicting the White House and dancers dressed like the Secret Service.

The show took a tonal shift when VanVan and Heiress Harris, two child rappers, their empowerment anthem “Be You” in a school room set. Harris is the daughter of rapper T.I. and singer Tiny Harris.

Country musician Tanner Adell brought her “Buckle Bunny” and her new song, “Cowboy Break My Heart.” GloRilla emerged from above, descending to join her dancers for “Yeah Glo!” and “Wanna Be” ““ the latter of which saw a surprise appearance from Megan Thee Stallion. Shaboozey kept the country coming with “A Bar Song (Tipsy),” one of AP’s picks for song of the summer. His track includes an interpolation of J-Kwon’s “Tipsy,” so naturally, the rapper made a surprise appearance – an unexpected and rewarding collaboration across genres.

Drake leads the nominations. Those include an album of the year nod for his eighth studio album, “For All the Dogs.” One of the awards he’s up for is the music video for “First Person Shooter,” his collaboration with J. Cole that may have been a catalyst for his recent beef with rapper Kendrick Lamar.

Nicki Minaj follows with six, including for album of the year for her highly anticipated “Pink Friday 2″ release. Two of her nominations were for her song with Ice Spice, “Barbie World,” part of the blockbuster “Barbie” soundtrack.


For more coverage of this year’s BET Awards, visit https://apnews.com/hub/bet-awards

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