In light of the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless Black folks who have been killed by police, many of this year’s performances included strong messages supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Fallen heroes such as Kobe Bryant and Little Richard were also honored, while other performances provided a comforting sense of normalcy during this time in history.
DaBaby and Roddy Ricch, “Rockstar”
DaBaby and Roddy Ricch kicked off their performance of “Rockstar” with a shot of DaBaby rapping with a cop kneeling on his neck, making viewers remember Derek Chauvin and other members of the police force who have used this to hurt and kill members of the Black community. Clips of the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests were also a focus in this video, with the two rappers fully supporting the movement.
Public Enemy, Nas, Rapsody, Black Thought, YG and Jahi, “Fight The Power”
Nas, Rapsody, Black Thought, YG and Jahi joined forces with Public Enemy for an updated rendition of their classic yet still relevant track, “Fight The Power.” The video begins with a young Black man beautifully singing about the Black experience in America, saying, “I just wanna live, God protect me,” followed by each rapper’s take on the protests happening this 2020.
Anderson .Paak and Jay Rock, “Lockdown”
Jay Rock hopped on Anderson .Paak‘s latest track “Lockdown,” released in support of BLM. The two offer a moody performance of the single, which also shows .Paak performing with a bloody face. Shortly after Rock absolutely bodies his verse, he throws a molotov and burns an effigy.
Megan Thee Stallion, “Girls in the Hood” and “Savage”
2020 BET Awards winner Megan Thee Stallion performed her Eazy-E flip “Girls in the Hood” and “Savage” with a Mad Max setting. Utilizing the hot sun and desert, she and her group appeared with cars and a full-on wooden stage, showcasing a BLM logo on the back.
John Legend, “Never Break”
Using only his voice and piano, John Legend shared a hopeful message of solidarity on “Never Break.” Performing inside a dark warehouse, he’s later joined by a lovely choir that adds strength to his already powerful message.
Lil Wayne, “Kobe Bryant”
The world suddenly lost Kobe and Gigi Bryant earlier this 2020, so Lil Wayne decided to perform his 11-year-old track “Kobe Bryant” in honor of the NBA star and his daughter. The video showed some highlights from Bryant’s career, reminding us that legends never die.
D Smoke and SiR, “Let Go” and “Black Habits”
Brothers SiR and D Smoke performed their collab “Let Go” and the latter “Black Habits,” focused on the Black experience in America and the current BLM protests. The two further elevate their message with dancers of different styles, beautifully symbolizing the harmony in individuality.
Roddy Ricch, “High Fashion” and “The Box”
This year’s Album of the Year winner performed two of his biggest hits, “High Fashion” and “The Box.” Ricch, who sports a BLM collared shirt, starts off playing the piano then moves on to a car for “The Box,” where the screen behind him continues to show support for the movement.
Alicia Keys, “Perfect Way To Die”
The debut live performance of Alicia Keys‘ newest single “Perfect Way To Die” is heartbreaking to say the least. With her piano set up in the middle of the street, she narrates the all-too-familiar story of mothers who lose their children to both senseless violence and police brutality. Images of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Michael Brown are projected on to buildings, and the singer-songwriter ends by kneeling on the ground where she’s surrounded by the names of Black people who have been killed by the hands of police.
Jennifer Hudson, “Young, Gifted & Black”
Jennifer Hudson is set to portray the Queen of Soul in an upcoming film, so she showed off her vocal chops on a cover of Aretha Franklin‘s “Young, Gifted & Black.” The Dreamgirls star was handpicked by Franklin to play her in RESPECT and this performance is proof that she’s the ideal actress and singer for the job.
Jonathan McReynolds and Kane Brown, “People” and “Worldwide Beautiful”
Gospel musician Jonathan McReynolds and country singer Kane Brown shared the stage for their songs “People” and “Worldwide Beautiful,” preaching about togetherness in this time of divide.
Lonr., “Make The Most”
Lonr. offered a solo offering of his H.E.R.-assisted track “Make The Most,” making use of colorful projected backdrops to highlight his performance.
Masego, “Queen Tingz”
Surrounded in a nature-filled room, Masego and his band offer a slick performance of “Queen Tings.” He honors the woman in his life and the other powerful women like Solange, Rashida Jones and Lupita Nyong’o, ending the video with the musician on the sax.
Chloe X Halle, “Forgive Me” and “Do It”
R&B duo Chloe X Halle debuted their Ungodly Hour cut “Forgive Me” with a stunning vocalization intro, followed by the album’s lead single “Do It.”
Wayne Brady, “Lucille” and “Good Golly Miss Molly”
“The Innovator, The Originator and The Architect of Rock and Roll” Little Richard passed away in May 2020, but Wayne Brady is making sure his legacy lives on with covers of “Lucille” and “Good Golly Miss Molly.”
Kierra and Karen Clark Sheard, “Something Has to Break”
Mother and daughter duo Kierra and Karen Clark Sheard closed the 2020 BET Awards with a passionate performance of “Something Has to Break,” spreading the word of believing that God will make a way during this time of political and economical upheaval.