BET: So easy to make fun of, and yet black people still watch it. Thankfully, between the showings of Baby Boy and reruns of Eve, the network also gifts us with award shows. Beautiful, terrible, car-crash-quality-with-moments-of-spectacular-brilliance award shows.
This Sunday, all of Twitter will be watching to see if BET delivers on its promise to send Prince off correctly. While the BET Awards show has always been the crown jewel of the network, its quality hasn’t been consistent. The show is, at times, spectacular (see Ciara doing her best “Pleasure Principle” tribute for Janet Jackson), but it can also be a flamingly hot mess (see all the times a wrong or misspelled title card pops up).
Below are the most memorable and disastrous moments of the BET Awards of yore.
1. Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” Performance
It wasn't just the lyrics, or the infectious hook against a violent 2015 backdrop of violence against unarmed black men, women and children, that made K. Dot's performance iconic; it was the visuals. Kendrick Lamar, who has never shied away from addressing police brutality in his music, opened the BET Awards atop a bombed-out, spray-painted cop car. An American flag waved in the background as Lamar told us all, "We gon’ be alright."
2. 2010’s Prince Tribute
On April 21, your favorite artist's favorite artist was found unresponsive in an elevator inside his Paisley Park studio in suburban Minneapolis. Good thing BET made sure to give him his roses while he was still here. In 2010 a reportedly Prince-approved lineup including Janelle Monáe, Esperanza Spalding, Alicia Keys and Patti LaBelle sang a melody of Prince tunes before he received a Lifetime Achievement Award.
3. 2012’s Patti LaBelle Tribute
In 2012, K. Michelle and Tamar Braxton had beef. Serious Twitter beef. I don't remember all the details, but it had something to do with K. Michelle's ex Memphitz being abusive and the tallest Braxton jumping to his defense. Braxton issued a cease and desist. K. Michelle called Tamar a Muppet or a Fraggle. It was about as petty as petty can get. Who said that the BET Awards don't promote harmony? The two C-list celebs squashed their beef when they both sang a tribute to LaBelle.
4. The Gif(t) That Keeps on Giving
This might have been one of the most epic tributes ever. Reportedly, Prince did not authorize Trey "Goat Tonsils" Songz to honor him, but in his best Ricola-mountain-goat vibrato, Songz gave the Purple One the tribute of his life. Was it horrible? Absolutely, but had it not been, we would never have gotten this:
5. Drunk Uncle Ving Rhames
So apparently Ving Rhames has worked with his management to scrub the internet of his meltdown during the 2009 BET Awards, so I will do my best to recount the entire scene from memory.
First, an aside: I cannot unequivocally say that he was drunk (he was smashed!) because I don't know if he was drinking. (He was slathered.) But he definitely wasn't "normal" and looked a lot like my drunk uncle who has a drinking problem that no one talks about.
So Michael Jackson had just died, and Rhames went on a nondrunk (so drunk) rant about butter and guns. It's a line from the movie Baby Boy. Rhames was babbling about how guns appreciate with time and the butters don't. He then said, days after Jackson's death, that guns were like Michael Jackson because they don't depreciate.
[Cue audience silence.]
Because Rhames was not drunk (s—t-faced), he then said that the butters is all them other fake bitches.
Yep, makes perfect sense to me.
6. Lionel Richie, or Is It “Ritchie”?
During the 2014 BET Awards, Lionel Richie, the big tribute, the big name, received a Lifetime Achievement Award. He was honored with a three-song medley from John Legend, Ledisi and Yolanda Adams. During his acceptance speech, Richie would note, “Soul is a feeling, not a color. Talent is a God-given gift and not a category, and out of the box is the magical place where true talent goes to thrive and breathe.” Perfect, right? Except that while he was accepting his award, the banner across the screen had his name spelled wrong.
The Lifetime Achievement Award name-spelling guy had one job. One job.
7. Oh, Chris, You Almost Had Us Fooled
When I was in the 10th grade, I once fake-cried my way out of a relationship. I was young and it worked. So I know fake crying when I see it. More importantly, I know fake crying intended to get out of a situation, and damn if Chris Brown didn't fake-cry his way out of a Michael Jackson tribute song during the 2009 BET Awards because he couldn't hit the high notes. I know there are those who want to believe that C. Breezy was really having a moment, but I implore you to watch the video below and look for the performance inside his performance.
8. What Do Busta Rhymes and Cheesecake Factory Have in Common? His Jacket
Below is a photo of Busta Rhymes at the 2014 BET Awards doing his best impression of a Cheesecake Factory bag.
9. Prince Shades Trey Songz
This deserves another mention. While he may have been Prince, he was the King of Shade, and as such, the face he gave Goat Throat will live on forever. Now watch the performance, because it was horrible.
10. Ace Hood’s Folex
Quick: Name an Ace Hood song! I know; I can't, either. But I do remember the bezel of his Rolex watch falling out while he was talking with Bow Wow on the 2013 BET Awards red carpet. It isn't that the watch fell apart; it's that it fell apart during a live interview and you can see Ace Hood wondering if he should pick it up. He does, and the rest is internet history.
Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is a senior editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.