As expected, the 2022 BET Awards, hosted by Golden Globe winner Taraji P. Henson, on Sunday night (June 26) delivered incredible performances, star presenters, hilarious jokes, and an undeniably uplifting energy that permeated from inside Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater throughout the entirety of the live show.
With epic sets from surprise guests including Mariah Carey and Brandy, audience members and viewers were offered delight after delight.
Also exciting, Grammy-winner and business magnate Sean “Diddy” Combs was honored with BET’s lifetime achievement award in recognition of his immense contributions to the entertainment industry and beyond. In addition to launching his own label Bad Boy Records in 1993, Diddy signed fan-favorite artists including Biggie Smalls, Faith Evans, The Lox, B5, Mase, and 112. In total, the Revolt Network and Capital Preparatory School founder has appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 chart 37 times, with 15 top 10 hits and five No. 1 smash jams.
As part of his honorary acceptance speech (which came after an all-star tribute performance including Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, Shyne, Lil’ Kim, Busta Rhymes, Faith Evan and Diddy himself), the proud Howard University alumni pledged to donate $1 million to his alma mater, and an additional $1 million to Jackson State University — both HBCUs. BET Awards host Henson is also a Howard University graduate and was among those to celebrate the grand act.
Since the January 1997 release of his debut single “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” featuring Mase (No. 1 on the Hot 100 for six weeks), Combs has sold 8.1 million albums and registered 979.6 million on-demand streams in the U.S. in all his iterations, according to Luminate.
Pre-show events also attracted crowds. Dre London’s promotional party at Harriets was a hit with special guests Mario and Bia. Plus, moments ahead of the show, rising artist Saucy Santana was spotted entering the event check-in area with a videographer documenting his award-show experience. And amid the ceremony, “Heartbreak Anniversary” singer Giveon delivered powerful vocals from a lit-up, rotating stage fixture. “Culture’s biggest night” left the audience in a state of constant standing ovations.
Mary J. Blige, Billboard’s 2022 Icon Award recipient, also took home this year’s BET HER award following the release of her latest album, Good Morning Gorgeous, with the audience to erupt into applause once more when she accepted.
Yung Bleu’s afterparty was “turnt up” after the BET Awards, and Chance the Rapper was spotted walking across the theater during a commercial break. Check out 10 more notable moments you didn’t see on TV.
Ye Caused a Buzz Before He Even Utters a Word
Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, made a rare appearance to deliver a heartfelt speech dedicated to Diddy after presenting Combs with the lifetime achievement award alongside esteemed producer-artist Babyface.
“Is that Ye?” “Is that really Kanye?” audience members were heard saying amongst each other before the “True Love” rapper — who was in an outfit that covered him literally from head to toe — reached the microphone. The 10-time Billboard 200 chart-topper, who admitted to wanting to be on hiatus, revealed that he receives advice and encouragement from Diddy frequently — even seeming to joke about ex-wife Kim Kardashian.
Brandy and Kirk Franklin Wowed Fans With Their Kindness
At separate moments throughout the evening, the actress-singer as well as “Melodies From Heaven” singer Franklin gave fans unforgettable memories. Each artist greeted fans who called their names from various seats, even stopping for photos and hugs. One audience member thought she was too late to greet Franklin, but the four-time Hot Gospel Songs chart-topper didn’t mind taking another moment to address his supporter and snap selfies.
Jussie Smollet Interacted With Attendees
Jussie Smollet made a rare public appearance at the BET Awards after being released from prison. The Empire star was greeted by model Shaun Ross as the pair exchanged pleasantries during commercial break, and later in the night, Smollet was among the stars dancing along to breakout artist Doechii’s performance of “Crazy” and “Persuasive.”
Busta Rhymes Grooved to City Girls’ “Twerkulator”
Ahead of his tribute performance for Diddy with his fellow iconic hip-hop contemporaries, Rhymes was smiling and shaking hands front and center in the audience. The “Scenario” rapper also stood up during commercial breaks to greet his peers, and danced along to the City Girls’ hit “Twerkulator.”
Giveon and Tems Hugged
As Ella Mai prepared for her performance backstage, guests mixed and mingled. That’s when Giveon and Tems exchanged small talk and a hug. The brief moment between the two stars was a stellar example of Tems practicing what she had preached onstage during her speech — how important it is to have unity among Black people.
Wiz Khalifa and Tank at Yung Bleu’s Afterparty
Bleu held a private afterparty at The Britely on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. The event drew a crowd of industry friends and folks. But guests likely first saw four-time Billboard Hot 100 singer Tank when they entered, as the Grammy-nominated artist was seated at the booth closest to party’s main room, and was actively engaged in conversation with various guests.
Wiz Khalifa was seated nearby at his own table.
Marsai Martin Danced to Doja Cat and SZA
Black-ish star Martin, also the youngest Hollywood executive producer, was the presenter of the best collaboration category. But as the nominated songs were presented onscreen, Martin was seen off-camera dancing to Doja Cat and SZA’s Hot 100 No. 3 single “Kiss Me More.”
Wale Proudly Sang Along With Fireboy DML
During the show, Wale rose from his seat to sing along to Fireboy DML’s performance of Afrobeats hit “Peru.” The track, which debuted in February, charted for 15 weeks and peaked at No. 53.
Doechii Earned a Standing Ovation
Doechii also received support from Wale, but nearly the entire audience was standing, dancing, and recording from inside Microsoft Theater as the newcomer nailed her debut BET Awards performance.
DJ Diamond Kuts Rocked the House
The Philadelphia DJ (who spins daily tunes on the hit radio station Power99 FM) previously told Billboard on set of the newly rebooted series YO! MTV Raps, “I’m excited to show my energy, the versatility, being able to host and get back on the turntable.” Based on her song selection at the event — ranging from classics such as Mario’s “You Should Let Me Love You” to mainstream pop including Doja Cat’s “Get Into It (Yuh)” and beyond — Kuts (née Tina Dunham) effortlessly showed her energy and versatility. It was the turntable artistry of Diamond Kuts that kept fans dancing and entertained in-house throughout the nearly four-hour show.