“The best of the best in Black entertainment. All Day. All Night. All In.”
That’s what BET promised to deliver with its inaugural three-day music and lifestyle festival, the BET Experience. Staged in association with AEG at the latter’s L.A. Live downtown complex (June 28-30), the festival made good on that promise.
Capping the three-day affair was the 13th annual BET Awards from which Kendrick Lamar emerged the big winner with two key category awards: best new artist and male hip-hop artist (see complete list of winners below). Drake also won two awards: video of the year and the Coca-Cola Viewers’ Choice award.
Other key winners included Rihanna (female R&B/pop artist), Nicki Minaj (female hip-hop artist), Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (group), A$AP Rocky (collaboration) and Tamar Braxton (Centric Award).
Adopting the slogan, “Anything can happen,” the show was jam-packed with performances. Top crowd-pleasers included Kendrick Lamar, Robin Thicke, Chris Brown and J. Cole. By far the most riveting performance was the medley of Gap Band hits sung by Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, Snoop Dogg and former Gap Band member Charlie Wilson, who was this year’s lifetime achievement recipient. As Timberlake remarked during the introduction of the special segment, “Charlie Wilson is soul music. He has a voice that comes along once in a lifetime.”
This year’s ceremony was hosted by Chris Tucker, whose seemingly sporadic presence onstage prompted this overheard comment from one audience member, “I forgot he was the host.”
This was also the first time the BET Awards was held at the Nokia Theatre, up the street from its previous home, the smaller Shrine Auditorium.
Prefacing the awards was the June 28 launch of the first-ever BET Experience festival. Visitors were treated to a host of various free events over the course of the weekend. These included the Music Matters stage, which presented various acts over the three days ranging from BJ the Chicago Kid, Raphael Saadiq protégé Adrian Marcel, PJ Morton, Elijah Blake, Marsha Ambrosius, K. Michelle, Mateo and RaVaughn. “106 & Park” held live broadcasts from the Nokia Plaza.
Rounding out the free weekend offerings were the Taste of Soul food showcase, a beauty lounge, photo booth, celebrity meet & greets (including the cast of “The Game”), a celebrity basketball game and a film festival at the nearby Regal Cinemas. A series of panels were also held on Saturday, running the gamut from one-on-one conversations with Pharrell and Nick Cannon to social issues. On the latter front, one of the best attended was the “No Guns Allowed: Disarming Violence in Our Community” session featuring Snoop Dogg, T.I., news/media executive Soledad O’Brien and Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Each night of the BET Experience featured nightly concerts and comedy shows at the Staples Center and Club Nokia. Friday night marked the U.S. launch of Beyoncé’s Mrs. Carter World Tour at Staples Center with opener Melanie Fiona. Holding court just before at Club Nokia was comedian Mike Epps, while Erykah Badu took over that venue following Beyoncé’s sold-out show.
On Saturday, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, J. Cole, Miguel and ScHoolboy Q brought down the house at the Staples Center with Cedric the Entertainer and the Roots (with Nelly, MC Lyte, Too $hort) doing pre- and post-concert shows at Club Nokia. And on Sunday, Kirk Franklin and friends offered up “Sunday Best Live” at Club Nokia before the BET Awards. Closing out the festival weekend at Staples were R. Kelly, New Edition and the Jacksons.
List of BET Awards Winners:
Female R&B/Pop Artist: Rihanna
Male R&B/Pop Artist: Miguel
Group: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Collaboration: A$AP Rocky f/ Drake, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar -- Problems
Male Hip Hop Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Female Hip Hop Artist: Nicki Minaj
Video of the Year: Drake -- Started From The Bottom
Video Director of the Year: Benny Boom
New Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Gospel Artist: Mary Mary
Actress: Kerry Washington
Actor: Jamie Foxx
YoungStars Award: Gabrielle Douglas
Movie: "Think Like A Man"
Subway Sportswoman of the Year: Gabrielle Douglas
Subway Sportsman of the Year: LeBron James
Coca-Cola Viewers Choice Award: Drake -- Started From The Bottom
Centric Award: Tamar Braxton -- Love and War
FANdemonium Award: Chris Brown
International Act: Ice Prince (Nigeria)
International Act: Emeli Sandé (U.K.)
Humanitarian Award: Dwayne Wade
Lifetime Achievement Award: Charlie Wilson