“If I gotta pay for the commercials, hit me with the bill. I got it!” That was Sean “Diddy” Combs’ proclamation a half-hour into a sprawling performance and acceptance speech for the life achievement award recipient at the 2022 BET Awards on Sunday night (June 26). Celebrating an illustrious career in the spotlight and as a hitmaker, Sean “Diddy” Combs showcased some of his biggest hits along with a slew of his famous friends and collaborators — including a surprise appearance by Kanye West — then shared some insight into his long journey while accepting the honor for the show-stopping highlight of Sunday’s telecast.
The tribute performance consisted of a full overview of Diddy’s professional and personal impact — starting with his Uptown Records days behind the scenes, as Jodeci opened the medley with a loving rendition of “Come & Talk to Me” (with Bruno Mars giddily singing along from the audience), and moving on to Mary J. Blige’s My Life smash “I’m Goin’ Down.” Diddy then crashed his own party, rattling off some rapid-fire bars from “Victory,” before kicking off the most crowd-pleasing segment of the medley — the Bad Boy era.
Shyne, the Bad Boy standout turned Belizean politician, took the stage for a very rare live performance, which then transitioned into an “It’s All About the Benjamins” showcase, featuring the LOX and an especially ferocious Lil’ Kim. Eventually, the medley landed upon the finale of “I’ll Be Missing You,” with Diddy dancing around the stage while honoring the Notorious B.I.G. and letting his emotions flow while Faith Evans brought the song home.
Babyface — who joined Ella Mai for a performance earlier in the evening — then honored Diddy with the lifetime achievement award, telling stories about his resilience and comparing his drive in the studio to that of Michael Jackson. “He made me feel like I could do anything and go anywhere, and that’s the mark of a great producer,” said Babyface.
Babyface then brought out a surprise presenter, Ye, whose face was fully covered in a ski mask, sunglasses, and a baseball cap. The artist formerly known as Kanye West waxed poetic about Diddy’s early influence and how he was Ye’s “favorite artist” growing up, to the point where he would do anything to meet him in person. “Back then, there was so many rules to hip-hop — and he broke all of them,” Ye said of Diddy, adding that he still takes career and financial advice from the lifetime achievement recipient.
Babyface and Ye then brought out Diddy to accept his award, and he started out with some celebratory exclamations before thanking God, then his mother, who was proudly watching from the audience. The extended thank-you list ranged from Andre Harrell to Cassie to Bobby Brown to Kimberly Porter, his longtime significant other who passed away in 2018.
Diddy finished his speech by championing unity among Black people and viewing togetherness as an urgent matter that transcends modern life: “We’re not just here for ourselves, we’re here for our ancestors,” he said. He also pledged to donate $1 million to Howard University, and another $1 million to Deion Sanders’ football program at another HBCU, Jackson State University.
Watch Diddy’s performance and acceptance speech, as well as Kanye’s tribute below: