From left, Justin Timberlake, Charlie Wilson, Snoop Lion, and Pharrell Williams pose backstage at the BET Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Sunday, June 30, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Scott Kirkland/Invision/AP)
by Chris Talbot
AP Music Writer
Charlie Wilson’s red coat. Kendrick Lamar and Miguel. Nicki Minaj’s chair. And just where did Chris Tucker go?
There were a lot of memorable things about Sunday night’s BET Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles that are worth talking about Monday morning. Here are five to reflect on:
CHARLIE WILSON: The Gap Band singer and hip-hop producer’s best friend, dubbed “Uncle Charlie” years ago by Snoop Dogg, wasn’t content to just accept his lifetime achievement award. After dancing through a tribute from Stevie Wonder, Indie.Arie and Jamie Foxx and giving a long, inspiring speech, Timberlake persuaded Wilson to grab a mic. Wearing a fantastically bold red jacket and white pants, the 60-year-old took command of the show, performing a number of hits with assistance from Timberlake, Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams, including “You Dropped a Bomb on Me.” We’re not going to say Uncle Charlie showed up that group of modern-day superstars, but there is video on the Internet this morning. Make your own decision.
THE FUTURE: Aside from Wilson, the night’s most memorable stars were Los Angeles rapper Kendrick Lamar and R&B singer Miguel, who both took victory laps after breakout years. Miguel won the night’s first award, best male R&B/pop star over Chris Brown, and performed three times — including once with Lamar on “How Many Drinks.” And Lamar was the night’s top winner tied with Drake with three awards, including best male hip-hop artist and best new artist. The 26-year-old used the moment to make an inspirational speech for “all my little homeboys and homegirls” in nearby Compton where he grew up: “I came up in that same county building. Food stamps. Welfare. Section 80. Check it out. You’re looking at me on TV right now. This is living proof you can do anything you put your mind to. You feel me?”
CHRIS TUCKER’S NIGHT: With a dearth of stars in their seats (or the building) for the camera to throw to as the show started, host Chris Tucker turned to an unexpected target — himself — and found comedy gold by poking fun at his $11 million tax problem. “I’m gonna tell you why I’m doing it,” he said of his hosting duties. “The IRS got me doing the BET Awards, I ain’t gonna lie. They make me sick. They’re back there right now counting my money and eating chicken. Pay your taxes, y’all.” A little later he did a fairly impressive Michael Jackson impression, then disappeared for long stretches before finishing things off with the help of a poodle. The long vacuum gave comedian Kevin Hart the opening he needed as he exhorted the crowd to “turn it up!” in a few appearances and riffed off the cuff about the joy of being Nicki Minaj’s chair.
BEWARE THE GUEST PERFORMER: Everyone take a lesson from Uncle Charlie: Don’t let your guests show you up. Guests are supposed to enhance a star’s song, not take it over. In a couple of cases, though, they high jacked things. Young Jeezy, for instance, had the run of the stage as a mic-bound Mariah Carey looked like a songbird trapped on a gilded set for their performance of “#Beautiful” with Miguel. And Erykah Badu nearly stole the mojo from both Lamar and Janelle Monae in surprise guest appearances.
MANDELA MOMENT: Don Cheadle took things in a serious direction, dedicating the show to ailing South African leader Nelson Mandela, 94. “We want to take a moment to send our thoughts and prayers to a man who literally changed the world, a man who once said, ‘Our human compassion binds us the one to the other,’” Cheadle said. “This evening we’d like to offer prayers and support — and hope — to the extraordinary Nelson Mandela and his family.”
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