On Sunday night (June 24), the 2018 BET Awards made its way inside the Microst Theater in Los Angeles for its annual festivities. This year, BET dished out a healthy balance rap heavyweights (J. Cole, Nicki Minaj and Migos), and R&B upstarts (Ella Mai, H.E.R., Daniel Caesar) which certainly made the show a well-rounded affair.
Take a look at the seven best moments from the 2018 BET Awards below.
Meek Mill Urges America to “Stay Woke”
Since his triumphant return to hip-hop last April, Meek Mill has earned acclaim for his rock-solid approach towards criminal reform. On Sunday night, the Philly rapper unabashedly pushed his agenda forward again with his new song “Stay Woke.”
Donning a black sweatshirt that portrayed the faces XXXTentacion and Jimmy Wopo, both whom were murdered last week, Meek touched on a myriad issues including police brutality and mass incarceration. The somber performance included a chilling murder scene a young boy, inmates standing behind bars and more.
“We screaming black lives matter but we still toting ladders/ Watching our own brothers trying to get at us,” rapped Meek. “Stay Woke” also features Miguel, who performed “Come Through and Chill” and “Skywalker” earlier on in the night.
Anita Baker Gets Honored for Her Impeccable Legacy in R&B
Jamie Foxx and a triad singers including Ledisi, Yolanda Adams and Marsha Ambrosius showed honor and reverence for the eight-time Grammy-Award winner Anita Baker during Sunday night's festivities. Baker reached the apex R&B in the '80s and '90s with her slow-burning singles including “Caught Up in the Rapture” and “Sweet Love.” Later, Baker delivered a poignant speech as part her Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony.
“I would ask that the music be allowed to play, that singers are allowed to sing, and rappers are allowed to rap, and poets are allowed to rhyme,” she asked.
Jamie Foxx Praises Donald Glover
Throughout the show, Jamie Foxx exuded his versatility as an entertainer. Not only did he wow the crowd on the piano, but he also kept them entertained with his affability. One highlight from Foxx's memorable night came when he rhapsodized about Childish Gambino and his record “This Is America.”
“Everybody begged me to do a joke about that song,” began Foxx. “I said that song should not be joked about. You're not gonna see me joking.” Foxx continued showering Glover with effusive praise when he touched on his talent as an entertainer. “They say he's a young me, but I think he's better looking, he's incredible, and his hairline is real.”
Later, Glover walked onto the stage and embraced Foxx as fans appreciated the special moment shared between the two hyphenates.
J. Cole Delivers a Surprise Performance
BET managed to squeeze in a huge surprise on the performance front, despite their starry lineup. J. Cole — who wasn't originally penciled in as a performer — delivered an enchanting rendition his KOD standout record “Friends.” With Daniel Caesar assigned to hook duties, Cole tackled a slew issues including substance abuse and police brutality.
The masterful performance ended on a high note, as several children were spotted onstage meditating before jumping into an impressive dance routine.
Jamie Foxx Morphs into ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, Presents Tiffany Haddish Best Actress Award
As previously mentioned, Foxx had the crowd dying in laughter with his endless quips. For one skit, he transformed into ESPN's First Take co-host, Stephen A. Smith, when he presented Tiffany Haddish her award for best actress.
“Thank you to my grandma and all the women in my family that are strong and that have taught me great work ethic,” began Haddish. “I wanna give a shout-out to all the kids out there that's hurting and feeling like, 'Man, I don't know if I can do it.' They have a dream and don't know if they can pursue it, guess what, you can achieve whatever you want in life. You just gotta believe in yourself.”
BET Pays Homage to Some the World's Biggest Heroes
John Legend was on-hand to give out a bevy awards to those that displayed heroics and bravery when their number was called on to step up to the plate.
“Typically, the BET Awards honors a celebrity humanitarian who has done something extraordinary for our world,” Legend said. “But tonight, we want to honor a few the individuals who have had the opportunity in their everyday lives to do something unexpected and impactful for our community.”
Some the individuals who were honored includes 11-year-old Naomi Wilder and Anthony Borges. Wilder gained recognition after she gave a captivating speech earlier this year in Washington D.C. during the March For Our Lives event. Borges gained media attention after he was shot five times while trying to protect his fellow students during the Parkland mass shooting last February.
Debra Lee Earns the Ultimate Icon Award
After spending 32 years trying to build BET into a media powerhouse, Debra Lee stepped down as chairman and CEO the company last month. Lee's efforts were applauded by the likes Mary J. Blige and LL Cool J, who presented Lee the Ultimate Icon Award Sunday night.
“The power black culture is unmatched. It's beautiful. It's amazing. It's everything. It's us,” she said. To punctuate her speech, Lee dropped her imaginary microphone a la Barack Obama and bid adieu to her longtime family at BET. “And, it's Debra Lee out,” she said.