Let’s face it: for the last five or six years, the BET Awards has been killing all music shows, period point-blank. Yet, last night CBS brought a little BET to their usual snoozefest and slayed (more on Beyoncé in a minute) bigly. Love you Uncle L, but I actually thought “Carpool Karaoke” host James Corden did a smashing job. He made us laugh, he poked fun at celebs and he brought just the right amount of energy to the stage. Besides those wonderful Brits (Corden, Adele, Ed Sheeran), there were actually some authentic Black moments during the 59th Annual Grammys, which made them so good this year! Below are the Top Five:
1. A Tribe Called Quest & Busta Rhymes Went Straight Brooklyn On ’Em
Unlike Lady Gaga’s tepid and bo-ring Super Bowl performance, some artists know that we are living in precarious times and that artists have traditionally been the on front line against fascism and inequality. “We’d like to say to all of those people around the world, all those people who are pushing people who are in power to represent them: Tonight we represent you,” said Q-Tip.
A Tribe Called Quest incl. Jarobi, Busta Rhymes, Consequence and Anderson .Paak not only brought back that actual boom-bap when they performed “We The People” off Tribe’s new album, We Got It From Here … Thank You For Your Service, but Busta called out “President Agent Orange”—twice—and kept shouting “Resist!” All ended on the Black Power fist stance and that fire in mi belly for rap was back just like that.
2. A radiant Beyoncé proved she is amazing no matter the circumstance.
What could be blacker than Miss Tina introducing Beyoncé and bragging about her girls – each won Grammys on Sunday (Solange won for Best R&B Performance)? Though many would say Beyoncé was robbed—after being nominated for a record nine Grammys, she only took home two, and then in the “urban” (read “Black”) and video categories. But that performance? It was like Lemonade, the visual album: breathtaking, gorgeous, Black-girl bulls-eyed, delicate, powerful, amazing (though her levitating backwards in a chair six feet off the ground while holding a belly full of Jays was slightly scary). Eff what you heard, Beyonce’s grown-womaness looks good on her, and to be totally petty, that performance made Katy Perry’s look cheap. Ladies, take that chair Beyoncé used to levitate, have a seat (yes, you too, Gaga), and pay attention.
2.5 Adele gave Beyoncé all the props and then some
After sweeping Beyoncé for Song, Album and Record of the Year, Adele brought Queen Bey to tears with these amazing words: “The Lemonade album, Beyoncé, was so monumental, and so well thought out, and so beautiful and soul-bearing. And we all got to see another side of you that you don’t always let us see, and we appreciate that. And all us artists adore you. You are our light.” She continued, “And the way that you make me and my friends feel, the way you make my black friends feel, *is empowering, and you make them stand up for themselves. And I love you. I always have. And I always will.” (And for some reason, I believe Adele really does have Black friends.)
3. Morris Day and The Time Rocked Out
When Morris Day and The Time took to the stage to kick off an amazing Prince tribute, I thought the channel was on BET. Besides the fact that “the time” done caught up to folks (yes, Morris looked a wee bit long in the tooth, but still good and Jerome was still the same . . . mostly) it was a real, Black old school hit in primetime. Why?! Hallelujah!
4. Chance The Rapper Took Folks to Chuuurch
Lil Chino did that. Chance the Rapper not only won two Grammys without having a “real” album out, but he didn’t just bring a choir to the Grammys to back him (that’s been so overdone). He brought da chuuurch with him. With the blackest choir and singers ever to bless a Grammy stage, it was like praise and worship time up in there—but with him spitting fire lyrics. From Nicole Steen and Tamela Mann to Kirk Franklin, Jesus was present in the Staples Center and it was glorious to watch.
5. Blues Got Its Props on a Major Grammy Stage
Pet peeve – rock music is the supposed “foundation” of American music, or at least it’s the genre that gets the most props (see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, rock bands raking in kabillions, when you get “free” stations there are always 30 rock ones, and one “Black” one, etc.) But the real foundation of rock music is the blues. In fact, the main three chords that mark blues riffs are present in nearly all rock songs. And you know who started the blues . . . and thus birthed rock. That would beBlack folk. When Gary Clark Jr. did a short but sweet set with veteran soul man William Bell, a rendition of the classic song, “Born Under a Bad Sign” (which Bell co-wrote), I was transported to a juke joint. And I was sucking on a rib bone, drinking strong liquor with cornbread on the side. And it was marvelously Black. The thrill was not gone. It was so very present.
Bonus: Rihanna Sipping on a Jewel Encrusted Flask All Night
Wild gyal RiRi didn’t get much in the way of actual Grammys, but she still had a good time channeling the real person in us all by giving up some pretty funny facial expressions, say, during a Bruno Mars performance. The piece de resistance was when Rihanna was caught saying, “Time for another shot” and then took one. And then, taking one, wiping her mouth and passing it to her girl. Savage!