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24th BET Awards celebrate Black culture with energetic musical performances

Usher accepts the award for Best Male R&B/Pop Artist on June 30, 2024 during the 24th BET Awards at Los Angeles’ Peacock Theater. The R&B icon was also recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented by Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Babyface and L.A. Reid after a 17-minute tribute performance by several contemporary R&B artists that featured nine songs from across Usher’s 30-year career. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET)

By Reid Sperisen

July 1, 2024 2:20 p.m.

The 2024 BET Awards dazzled on Sunday night thanks to the combined talents of dozens of Black celebrities.

The 24th annual ceremony of “Culture’s Biggest Night” was held at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles and presented awards to several Black superstars for their musical and filmic artistry. The telecast stretched across four hours and 13 musical numbers, but still captured a celebratory tone that sustained through dance-forward performances of past and present hits.

[Related: UCLA Juneteenth celebration honors Black history through music, dance, spoken word]

Emerging from a giant egg, Megan Thee Stallion kicked off the show, wearing a blue and green bodysuit to perform a medley of songs from her latest album “MEGAN.” Atop a tiered staircase, she twerked and flipped her hair to January’s number-one single “HISS.” Strutting to the edge of the stage, she was joined by about a dozen female dancers for a punchy dance to “BOA,” swerving her hips in synchrony with the song’s sample of Gwen Stefani’s “What You Waiting For?” More dancers flooded the stage for “Where Them Girls At,” with the choreography-heavy performance getting the crowd on their feet and ready for the night’s proceedings.

Six-time BET Award winner Taraji P. Henson hosted the event for the third time, first arriving on stage in a red hoodie and baggy jeans to rap a parody of Kendrick Lamar’s chart-topper “Not Like Us.” Throughout the night, she cycled through several increasingly glamorous dresses, played the banjo and joked with the audience. She also appeared in a promotional video for the Biden-Harris campaign in a pre-recorded segment that depicted Henson on a FaceTime call from her green room with Vice President Kamala Harris.

Victoria Monét gave the night’s second performance, clad in bedazzled oversized jeans and a blue and white letterman jacket for a rendition of “On My Mama” – which won both the BETHer Award and Video of the Year later in the night. Transitioning to a crisp white suit in a dark industrial room alongside KAYTRANADA, Monét recreated the choreography from the music video for her latest single “Alright” while replicating moves from Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.” The funky track ended with Monét and her dancers writhing beneath a shower feature.

“Anybody in this room that is a Black female artist, I would love to collaborate and make that anthem that’s going to break the internet together,” Monét said while accepting the BETHer Award. “I know we need that.”

Victoria Monét (center) and her dancers writhe beneath an artificial rain feature to the tune of her latest single "Alright," recreating the seductive choreography from the song&squot;s Michael Jackson-influenced music video. Monét won both the BETHer Award and Video of the Year for her summery feminist anthem "On My Mama" at Los Angeles&squot; Peacock Theater on June 30, 2024. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET)
Victoria Monét (center) and her dancers writhe beneath an artificial rain feature to the tune of her latest single "Alright," recreating the seductive choreography from the song's Michael Jackson-influenced music video. Monét won both the BETHer Award and Video of the Year for her summery feminist anthem "On My Mama" at Los Angeles' Peacock Theater on June 30, 2024. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET)

A message of unity carried over to the embrace of country music, which got its due in performances from rising stars Tanner Adell and Shaboozey. Adell sang “Buckle Bunny” and “Cowboy Break My Heart” from the offstage Nissan Mobile Studio, dancing in a lacy white bodysuit. In an elaborate stage setup that featured pool tables and a bar, Shaboozey played guitar and line-danced to his top-three hit “A Bar Song (Tipsy)” before being joined by J-Kwon, whose 2004 hit “Tipsy” is interpolated in the track.

Winners in the midsection of the show included SZA for Best Female R&B/Pop Artist and Regina King for Best Actress, though neither were in attendance. Killer Mike won Album of the Year for 2023’s “MICHAEL,” which also earned Best Rap Album at the Grammys in February. During his acceptance speech, he encouraged the audience to become involved in local politics.

“Who we vote for on the big stage is important, but it’s more important you know who your city council person is, who your prosecutor is,” Killer Mike said.

[Related: Album review: ‘COWBOY CARTER’ redefines genre through inventive renditions, collaborations]

Several performances by up-and-coming female rappers were accompanied by maximalist set pieces. Sexyy Red delivered “U My Everything” and “Get It Sexyy” atop a gray platform and screen projection of the Capitol with a believable “Sexyy Red for President 2024” logo. GloRilla descended from the ceiling on a parachute into a chain link-filled alley during “Yeah Glo!” and ended up at a backyard barbecue set with Megan Thee Stallion for their collaboration “Wanna Be.” Ice Spice’s “Phat Butt” and “Think U The Shit (Fart)” were performed alongside a life-size gas station and dancers straddling motorcycles. Latto’s fur robe and leopard-print couch brought a burlesque edge to her songs “Sunday Service” and “Big Mama,” and an additional performance saw Doechii rapping “ROCKET” from a verdant synthetic jungle.

South African breakout artist Tyla ended the ceremony as a two-time winner, collecting trophies for Best International Act and Best New Artist. Her performance of her recent single “Jump” with Gunna and Skillibeng featured several dancers drenched in body paint cleverly placed in a golden cage to create the illusion of a real tiger. Tyla dropped into the cage on a swing, crawled across the stage and grooved beneath dancers in stilts.

“I want to dedicate this one to Africa,” Tyla said when accepting the Best New Artist statuette. “I want to dedicate this one to all the African superstars before me that didn’t get these opportunities that I’m getting.”

Tyla shimmies her hips and struts away from several backup dancers covered in body paint resembling a tiger&squot;s stripes while on stage at the 24th annual BET Awards. The South African amapiano and Afrobeats singer performed her collaboration "Jump" with Gunna and Skillibeng, and took home trophies for both Best International Act and Best New Artist. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET)
Tyla shimmies her hips and struts away from several backup dancers covered in body paint resembling a tiger's stripes while on stage at the 24th annual BET Awards. The South African amapiano and Afrobeats singer performed her collaboration "Jump" with Gunna and Skillibeng, and took home trophies for both Best International Act and Best New Artist. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET)

The penultimate performance of the show was a sweat-soaked tribute to Usher, as 10 artists teamed up for an electrifying 17-minute medley of nine hits from across his 30-year career. Childish Gambino crooned “U Don’t Have to Call,” Keke Palmer swaggered through “You Make Me Wanna…,” Summer Walker sang “Good Good,” and Coco Jones pulled Usher up out of his seat in the front row during “There Goes My Baby.” After Marsha Ambrosius’ take on “Superstar,” the heat turned up further as Chlöe gyrated on a bench to “Good Kisser,” Tinashe rolled on the floor to “Nice & Slow,” and Teyana Taylor and Monét paired up for “Bad Girl.” Latto closed the segment by rephrasing portions of Ludacris’ verse on “Yeah!”

The concluding performance saw Lauryn Hill, adorned in a voluminous yellow cape, grace the stage to perform several songs with her son YG Marley and former Fugees bandmate Wyclef Jean. Hill played two songs from her seminal 1998 album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” – the title track and “Lost Ones” – before accompanying Marley in his songs “Survival” and “Praise Jah In The Moonlight.” Jean appeared for a head-bopping “Fu-Gee-La” from Fugees’ 1996 sophomore record “The Score,” but Hill’s raspy, soulful voice still held court.

Ultimately, the night’s celebration of Usher went on to take up more than half an hour of the broadcast, with the Lifetime Achievement Award presented to him by record producers Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Babyface and L.A. Reid. Usher also won Best Male R&B/Pop Artist earlier in the evening, but for the Lifetime Achievement Award he gave a 13-minute spontaneous acceptance speech. Visibly emotional, Usher spoke about fatherhood, forgiveness and the necessity of commitment to one’s ambitions.

“The reality is you have to express your goals outwardly,” Usher said. “No matter what people may see, no matter what they may feel, no matter how dark it may look, no matter how complicated it may be, because that’s the only way that it will ever become a reality.”

Email Sperisen at [email protected].

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Reid Sperisen | Music | fine arts editor
Sperisen is the 2024-2025 music | fine arts editor. He was previously an Arts contributor from 2023-2024. Sperisen is a third-year political science student minoring in professional writing from Stockton, California.
Sperisen is the 2024-2025 music | fine arts editor. He was previously an Arts contributor from 2023-2024. Sperisen is a third-year political science student minoring in professional writing from Stockton, California.
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