BET Awards 2016 Complete Recap: Beyonce, Epic Prince Tributes and Moving Speeches
Beyoncé brought down the house, artists paid tribute to Prince and more.
June 27, 2016, 11:29 AM
• 3 min read
-- BET had a lot to live up to Sunday night at the 2016 BET Awards, and it's safe to say the network delivered.
To start off the festivities, the network quickly got into "formation" with a surprise appearance by Beyoncé, who stunned the crowd with a live performance of "Freedom." The singer, joined by rapper Kendrick Lamar, silently awaited her dancers as they marched into the theater to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and performed a water dance.
BET also provided a series of tributes to Prince throughout the show. Highlights included Jennifer Hudson’s wrecking the house with "Purple Rain"; soul singer Bilal channeling the Purple One in his performance of "The Beautiful Ones"; and Stevie Wonder and Tori Kelly teaming up for the "Purple Rain" duet “Take Me with U.”
Maxwell also belted out "Nothing Compares 2 U"; Janelle Monet revved up the crowd with a set of Prince songs that included "Kiss"; and Shelia E closed out the show with a string of Prince hits, including "Erotic City" and "Let's Go Crazy."
Other notable performances included Fat Joe, Remy Ma and French Montana performing "All the Way Up"; Desiigner's hit "Panda," Alicia Keys singing her new single "In Common"; Bryson Tiller offering crowd favorites "Don't" and "Exchange"; Maxwell crooning his smooth ballad, "Lake by the Ocean"; and Usher providing a "No Limit" performance with Atlanta rapper Young Thug.
The theme of social and political activism stayed present throughout the night. Hosts Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson repeatedly reminded viewers to get out and vote, while "Grey's Anatomy" star Jesse Williams, who received the Humanitarian Award, delivered arguably the most inspiring speech of the evening that called for action and change in the community.
"The more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize,” he said, dedicating his award to black women “who have spent their lives dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves."
"We can and will do better for you,” he said.
Other award winners included Samuel L. Jackson, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his catalog of work.