Since 1987 the Soul Train Awards has been celebrating and honoring the best in black music and entertainment. Countless musicians and figures in the music industry have been awarded for their outstanding achievements in soul, R&B, gospel, jazz and hip-hop. Sunday night’s (Nov. 26) edition celebrated the 30th anniversary of the high-profile event and it was a spectacle to behold, with Bruno Mars topping all winners with five awards, including best R&B/soul male artist, video of the year and album/mixtape of the year, among others.
The show has been one of the premier awards programs on television, so expectations were high this year. Erykah Badu took on hosting duties for the third time in a row on the BET telecast, providing the audience and viewers at home with a fun-filled, exciting evening. Some of the performers included Tamar Braxton, 112, Tank, Kirk Franklin, and more. SWV received the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award and Toni Braxton was honored with the most prestigious award of the night, the Soul Train Legend Award for her work in R&B/Soul.
Solange Knowles was the artist to beat at the star-studded award show with seven nominations and Mars trailing behind her with six. SZA took home two awards, Solange one, as Mars ruled the night with his five trophies. As everyone tuned in, BET and the producers of the legendary Soul Train put on one great show. Here are the top five highlights from the night.
Badu Proves Why She’s the Go-To Host
In her third year hosting, Badu added on to what was an already great night. She flexed her comedy muscles, keeping the audience rolling all night with her clever banter. She took hilarious shots at disgraced former Weinstein Company co-founder Harvey Weinstein, news outlets, and showed the dance moves Donald Trump would perform if he found himself on a Soul Train line. But one moment in particular stood out from the rest. After a stellar opening performance by SWV, Erykah opened the show with an incredible, moving sign of solidarity.
Arriving on the stage in purple sweat suit, Badu told the crowd, “I know I usually do a big elaborate musical number, but right here I feel I need to this,” before taking a knee. The gesture was a sign of support towards GQ’s citizen of the year, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick who has yet to receive a new contract this year from a team. “This is for Kap,” Erykah announced as members of the audience raised their fists high in solidarity with the player who spawned the movement of taking a knee during the National Anthem. “Kap we appreciate you, for giving up your life, your dream, for your belief in us,” Erykah said.
SWV Wins First Ever Award While Showing They Haven’t Missed a Step
SWV kicked off the 30th anniversary of the Soul Train Awards with a riveting performance of their classic hits “Weak”, “Right Here” and “Rain.” Cheryl “Coko” Clemons, Tamara “Taj” Johnson-George, and Leanne “Lelee” Lyons took the audience and those watching at home back to the 90s, showing why they are in a category of their own. The set ended with a lively performance of “Anything” with surprise appearances by U-God and Method Man.
The night didn’t end there as the Sisters With Voices were honored with the Soul Train Lady of Soul award, the first award they ever received in their 25-year career. A video reel covering different moments in their 25-year career played on the big screen before the historical moment took place. “In the past we were nominated and we lost every single time. But how many know that God’s delay is never denial,” said Clemons. “No one can understand the ups and downs, the victories and losses that we’ve had to endure over the last 25 years. But I can honestly say that every last minute was worth it,” Johnson-George added.
Tamar Braxton, Tank, Kirk Franklin and More Steal the Spotlight with Amazing Performances
The show featured so many excellent performances, each raising the bar to new heights as the audience couldn’t get enough of it. Keyshia Cole delivered an exceptional performance of “Incapable” while 112 hit the stage and showed they still had the moves with a medley of some of their greatest hits. Tank, fresh off the release of his No. 1 album Savage, got very steamy with his performance Sunday night. While going into his next song “When We,” Tank mentioned to the crowd “I say we get a little comfortable,” before taking off his button-down shirt.
Kirk Franklin, with help from Daniel Caesar, Ledisi, Le’Andria Johnson and Major took the crowd to church with a moving performance of “Wake Up Everybody.” But Tamar Braxton really left the audience in awe. With the spotlight solely on her, Braxton gave a powerful performance of her Etta James inspired ballad “Blind.”
Fantasia, Bilal, Mali Music, and Faith Evans Sing Their Hearts Out for the Soul Cypher
R&B soul’s presence was strong at the show, but it was nothing like the feeling the Soul Cypher evoked Sunday night. With Badu, billed as Lo Down Loretta Brown, on the turntables and Robert Glasper on the keys, some of R&B’s strongest voices, old and new, left it all out on the table. This year’s edition featured Fantasia, Bilal, Mali Music and Faith Evans going toe-to-toe. Each year, the Soul Cypher is one of the main highlights of the night and this year’s edition was no different.
All four performers showcased their vocal abilities and showed that soul music was still important. The audience reveled at each performer and the moment couldn’t have been any better once all four performers harmonized to close the segment.
Toni Braxton Receives the Soul Train Legend Award
For over two decades, Toni Braxton was a force to be reckoned with. The legendary singer’s voice is incomparable and her storied catalog has enchanted listeners for all these years. Sunday night was a special moment for her as Toni was honored with the Soul Train Legend Award. Ro James, Jessie J, and Luke James gave a touching tribute to the singer performing her hit records “Seven Whole Days”, “You Mean The World To Me” and “Un-Break My Heart.”
The true moment of the night went to the woman herself as Toni took the stage to perform more of her classic hits. Draped in a black shiny dress, Toni performed a medley of “He Wasn’t Man Enough for Me”, “You’re Making Me High”, and “Love Shoulda Brought You Home”. Toni’s beauty radiated throughout the venue as the audience wowed at how amazing she looks at age 50. During her acceptance speech, Toni had some advice for the new singers coming up, “That’s the fuel, when you’re feeling low. All the new artists, when you’re feeling low and you need that little bit of energy to get you through, the negative and positive energy is all a part of the journey.”
Check out the full list of winners below:
Don Cornelius Legend Award
Lady of Soul Award
Best New Artist
Best R&B/Soul Male Artist
Best R&B/Soul Female Artist?
Soul Train Certified Award
Bell Biv Devoe
Video of the Year
?Bruno Mars – “24K Magic”
Best Gospel/ Inspirational Award
Album/ Mixtape of the Year
Bruno Mars – 24K Magic ?
Rhythm & Bars Award (Formerly Best Hip-Hop Song of the Year)
Cardi B – “Bodak Yellow”
?Song of the Year
Bruno mars – “That’s What I Like”
The Ashford & Simpson Songwriter’s Award
“Cranes in the Sky” – Written by: Troy L. John, Solange Knowles, Raphael Saadiq (Solange)
Best Dance Performance
Bruno Mars “24K Magic”
DJ Khaled ft. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller – “Wild Thoughts”