Taking place at the Microsoft Center in Los Angeles, the 2023 BET Hip Hop Awards embraced a slightly unconventional format. In lieu of a traditional host, the stage was graced with performances, honoring the essence of hip-hop’s 50-year legacy.
To truly encapsulate hip-hop’s 50 years of existence it’s important to start at its early beginnings — deejayed by Kid Capri, the beginning of the show included appearances from The Sugarhill Gang, MC Lyte, Big Daddy Kane, and D-Nice. Perhaps the most impressive thing to note from the performance, was that none of the icons missed a beat, had commanding stage presence, and maintained breath control throughout the show.
The challenges of packing 50 years of hip-hop into one show
Kid Capri, MC Lyte, Big Daddy Kane & More Bring 80s Hip-Hop Front & Center! | BET Awards ’23
Celebrating hip-hop’s 50th anniversary is a large undertaking, and it’s nearly impossible to include all the pioneers of the genre, the new school, with every single region and subgenre when granted such a short amount of time. Some artists are bound to be left out. Whether by intention or oversight, the show was still a culturally relevant moment for those in attendance.
Not to mention putting together an awards show amidst a writers strike poses numerous challenges. The endeavor encountered some production mishaps, such as Lola Brooke’s set getting cut short ahead of commercials, lapses where nothing was happening, and the absence of a host certainly affected the show’s overall rhythm.
There were also noticeable shortcomings that hindered the overall experience. One glaring issue was the lack of cohesion and coherence in the show’s flow. Transitions between segments felt disjointed, leading to a lack of fluidity which impacted the overall pacing of the show. Without a host to lead the show along, it seemed difficult to stay on task. Towards the end of the show, you begin to realize that a handful of awards went unannounced — Best Female R&B/Pop Artist, Best Male R&B/Pop Artist, Best Group, Best Collaboration, and more. Moreover, the performances for Hip-Hop 50 lacked coherence, with artists like Yoyo, Tyga, E-40, and Coco Jones appearing back-to-back without a clear thematic structure. It’s hard to tell if it was by design, but at times, the overall presentation felt disorganized, lacking a clear direction.
Nonetheless, the show had plenty of memorable moments from start to finish, such as Offset and Quavo reuniting for a surprise performance in Takeoff’s honor, Teyana Taylor’s mom calling her to accept the video director of the year award, and Coco Jones receiving the award for best new artist.
Congrats To Coco Jones On Taking The Best New Artist Crown! | BET Awards ’23
This year’s show had noticeable representation across the diaspora, paying homage to dancehall, reggae, and Afrobeats. Davido, Musa Keys, Doug E. Fresh, Mad Lion, and Patra all graced the stage.
Mad Lion & PatraTake Us To Jamaica For Kid Capri’s Hip-Hop Celebration! | BET Awards ’23
There were also a few unplanned happenings that made the night interesting, like Patti Labelle admittedly forgetting the words to “The Best,” the show’s tribute to the late Tina Turner, and Sexxy Redd performing “Pound Town” in the aisle of the theater with a stack of money during a commercial break.
Busta Rhymes gets his flowers
Busta Rhymes received the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, handed to him by Swizz Beats. His award also came with a heartfelt video tribute with words from Diddy, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, and Pharrell. He offered a tear-jerking speech about his journey in the industry following leaving his group Leaders of the New School. Plus, a few unforgettable one-liners about the existence of a Black caveman and how he navigated music after his group disbanded, leaving us with a resounding “I pioneered the feature.”
His performance not only provided a retrospective glimpse into hip-hop’s history but also offered a promising gaze into the future. Showing us he hasn’t missed a beat, Busta Rhymes delivered a medley of his iconic, tongue-twisting hits, leaving no doubt that his skills are still sharp. With his reliable hypeman Spliff Star by his side, Busta Rhymes commanded the stage, blending crowd favorites like “Scenario” and “Gimme Some More.” The stage was ablaze with star power as M.O.P. and Remy Ma joined forces for a captivating rendition of “Ante Up (Remix).” Swizz Beatz and Rah Digga added their performance of “Touch It (Remix).” Additionally, Coi Leray took the stage to perform “Players,” while Scar Lip delivered a captivating rendition of “This Is New York.”
Rah Digga, Swizz Beatz, Coi Leray & More Pay Tribute To Busta Rhymes! | BET Awards ’23
Amidst both the triumphs and missteps of the evening, the 2023 BET Awards remained a significant celebration of Black culture. Albeit sometimes out of touch, unlike its mainstream counterparts, BET wholeheartedly embraces and honors Black entertainers and their relentless pursuit of success, leaving no room for dismissal.
Regardless of award outcomes, the event amplifies the richness of Black art. While BET is not exempt from criticism, it is important to recognize the effort invested in commemorating the talents within the Black community. Every effort counts, particularly when reflecting on past instances where Black individuals were marginalized or overlooked by other award shows. The BET Awards are a testament to the influence of Black people in the realm of entertainment.
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