10. Ella Mai
Even with “Boo’d Up,” the hottest R&B song in the country -- which recently peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 -- Ella Mai was relegated to the BET Awards’ Nissan stage, used mainly to showcase up-and-coming talent. She made the most of the opportunity and gave the audience all the feels with the lovey-dovey tune, as her smooth, rich voice spilled over the laid-back melody until the commercial break started.
Miguel’s performance of “Come Through and Chill” was just as dreamy as the white suit he donned. Set in front of a large screen with clouds, the singer waltzed around the stage, often slipping into a few subtle dance moves before bathing under soft blue lights at the top of stacked white stairs at the end of his performance.
8. Jay Rock
Jamie Foxx was tasked with hosting the 2018 BET Awards and hyping the crowd up from start to finish. Foxx employed Jay Rock to kick off the show with a fiery performance of his Redemption lead single, "Win," with marching bands, tons of fire effects, and of course, dancers performing this year’s newest dance craze, the “Shoot” dance, which was popularized by hip-hop newbie BlocBoy JB.
7. Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg released his debut album Doggystyle 25 years ago, so what better way to celebrate his timeless debut offering than with his G-Funk classic “What’s My Name.” Snoop's next pick was Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode" before he took the BET Awards to church with a few cuts off his gospel album Bible of Love. Sly Pyper accompanied Snoop on stage for their Bible of Love collaboration “Sunrise” while Tye Tribbett (and Jamie Foxx) helped Snoop punctuate his performance and the award ceremony with the foot-tapping “You.”
6. Nicki Minaj/YG, 2 Chainz, Big Sean
Nicki Minaj kicked off her first major award show performance of the year with one of her two comeback singles, “Chun-Li,” and brought the Japanese-inspired video to life with the help of her dancers and intricately-designed stage set-up. From there, Nicki peeled off her shiny latex robe to show off her curvaceous figure in a fire red latex dress as she upped the ante with the lusty Lil Wayne-featuring “Rich Sex,” sans the Young Money head honcho.
Minaj was able to take a breather when YG touched down on the stage to perform his chest-thumping track “Big Bank” featuring 2 Chainz, Big Sean, and Minaj. Each rapper performed in front of different settings, from 2 Chainz’s all-gold animal-themed room to Minaj delivering her verse atop a pink horse similar to the one she used in the freshly-released “Big Bank” music video.
5. Anita Baker Tribute
Jamie Foxx’s hosting duties didn’t stop at his jokes or skits. Before introducing the trio of powerhouse female vocalists that would later pay tribute to the legendary Anita Baker, Foxx brought the crowd back to 2003 to perform “Slow Jamz.” Then, he ripped through into a medley of Baker’s enduring classics like “Same Ol Love,” “Angel,” and “Giving You The Best That I Got.” Marsha Ambrosius sang “Caught Up In The Rapture” while Ledisi jumped into “Sweet Love.” The highlight of the tribute, however, was Yolanda Adam’s stunning vocals permeating the Microsoft Theater for “You Bring Me Joy,” bringing Baker to tears and leaving Migos’ Quavo at a loss for words as he mouthed “Wow” during Adams’ performance.
Shrouded by clouds of smoke with teal and pink lights illuminating her stage, H.E.R. dipped back into her debut EP H.E.R, Vol 1. for her hit “Focus.” The minimalist melody gave the up-and-coming crooner just enough room to flex her warm, silvery voice that later morphed into buttery vocal runs. She transitioned into “Best Part” and was joined by Daniel Caesar, whose heavenly warble enveloped around H.E.R’s voice with ease.
3. Janelle Monae
Janelle Monae shut down the BET Awards with a scorching performance of her empowering single “Django Jane” and flexed her rapping chops while spitting, “Yeah, this is my palace, champagne in my chalice/I got it all covered like a wedding band/ Wonderland, so my alias is Alice/ We gon' start a motherfuckin' pussy riot.” The performance was dripping in black girl magic, as Monae was surrounded by an army of black female dancers who kept the energy levels at an all-time high as Monae closed out her set with “I Like It.”
2. Meek Mill
Meek Mill debuted his powerful new song “Stay Woke” featuring Miguel in a dark hoodie with a portrait of the fallen rappers XXXTentacion and Jimmy Wopo plastered on the front and back. The dramatic performance placed a spotlight on some of the issues plaguing the black community, including street violence and police brutality as he rapped, “How can I pledge allegiance to the flag when they killing all our sons, all our dads?”
1. J. Cole
Instead of opting for the bouncy standout cuts like “Motiv8” or “ATM” from his newest album KOD, Cole reached for the heartfelt song “Friends” for his captivating performance, with cameos from Wale and Daniel Caesar who handled the chorus. Situated on a dark stage with red lights peering from the side stage, Cole rapped with vigor and anger as he touched on topics from substance abuse to police brutality.
Towards the end of the performance, the lights on the stage brightened to reveal a phalanx of children meditating on the floor before they launched into an interpretive dance number.