Unfortunately for me, the reception in the Shrine auditorium sucks, so I wasn’t able to keep up with the tidal wave of commentary on Twitter. I had to rely on the peanut gallery of industry insiders (and their plus-ones) sitting around me for my cherished dialogue.
By the time Bey-Bey hit the stage (sorta) via satellite (“live” from the Glastonbury Festival in the UK), I’d come to the conclusion that the audience liked Busta and Chris Brown, especially Breezy’s (hard-won) acknowledgement, “I’m not so good at public speaking.”
I agreed with the crowd that Kelly Rowland finally stepped out of her Destiny Child’s shadow and that Kevin Hart was hysterical as a host. (Those “Real Househusband” skits? *dead on*.) And while there was a collective “Again?” after the second and third times Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and DJ Khaled all hit the stage, it was admittedly hard to complain when at least one of that trio is on every current summer anthem.
Did the show have its flaws? Yes. But across the board and on all channels, awards shows are not what they once were. Some would argue that’s because music and its budgets for artists are also not what they once were. Based on the commentary swirling around me and considering the sources (industry types who are the most jaded on the planet), I figured that for once, the show might actually be solidly received.
Of course, I was wrong. Reuters kicked off the anti-BET field day in classic fashion with an article literally entitled “Stars with criminal pasts honored at BET Awards.” The article went on to actually list performers and celebs like Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Michael Vick, and recapped what they’d done time for.
Syracuse University professor and social commentator Dr. Boyce Watkins jumped aboard with, “Lil Wayne & BET Music Channel – The New KKK.” He wasted no time denouncing the network’s numerous nominations for Lil Wayne. “By accelerating, financing and supporting the “Lil Wayne gospel” to a community that is already dying, BET has effectively positioned itself as a new and improved version of the KKK,” Watkins wrote. In the same article, he compared Lil Wayne to cult leader Charles Manson.
Really, fam? I know BET has been every literate person’s favorite gripes for so long that it feels a little “Twilight Zone” not to have something massive to complain about. Admittedly, I have gone hard in the paint against the network in the past (full disclosure: I worked there nine years ago). But the reality is, the network’s come a long way, baby.
BET has stepped up. And we know this. That’s why the complaints this year just sound so… well, petty. Are we really slamming the network for featuring the felonious artists that we’ve made hot by supporting their work? It’s like we’re looking for things to criticize so we can carry out the bond of tradition.
If the celebrities BET featured on the awards show are a real concern, that’s something we should be addressing within ourselves, not the Black network that reflects our musical palette and taste. I know it’s hard to break with tradition, but it’s time to give a little credit where it’s finally due.
Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: Your Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter: @abelleinbk