Ludacris (Bounce TV)

Last year’s Trumpet Awards on Bounce TV came just weeks after the black-focused network acquired the long-running show, so they didn’t get a chance to really put their stamp on it.

This year is totally different. As the jam-packed red carpet raged on one side, there was a straight-up party on the other at Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Folks were throwing back drinks and chomping down on caveman style lamb chops at the McDonald’s-sponsored pre-party. Posing with trumpets to show off your red carpet digs at the on-site portrait studio was also a hit.

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Music always looms large at the Trumpet Awards, and so Jermaine Dupri being honored with the Music Innovation Award on the 25th anniversary of So So Def, and Cameo receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award is in keeping with the show’s tradition of celebrating black excellence.

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Black Excellence also came through with the new Essence Communications owner Richelieu Dennis’s Entrepreneur Award; Women’s March national co-chair Tamika Mallory’s Impact Award; 13-year-old #1000BlackGirlBooks visionary Marley Dias’s Trailblazer Award; and super soaker inventor Dr. Lonnie Johnson’s Innovator Award. McDonald’s Rising Star Award went to Rhyon Brown, the singer and actress who starred as Michel’le in the 2016 Lifetime film Surviving Compton.

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While the Bounce Trumpet Awards are no longer as overtly civil rights-oriented as they have been since their founding over 25 years ago by Dr. King comrade Xernona Clayton, the first black person to host a daily prime-time talk show in the South, they aren’t quite hip-hop either. The evening is more a blend of old-school R&B and hip-hop, and more in tune with the Essence Festival, if you will.

Nostalgia makes for good times and there are indeed some in this show. Ludacris during the So So Def tribute took the crowd back to the city’s glory days when parties truly didn’t end “til eight in the mo’nin.” Folks were so lit and on karaoke fire that surely there was a missed Guinness World Record attempt. And don’t forget Atlanta now has “a mayor named Keisha” thanks to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who is continuing former Mayor Kasim Reed’s Atlanta National Awareness campaign. There’s something for the bloggers too. Let’s just say that Kandi Burruss’ leaving Xscape appears confirmed.

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It wouldn’t be the Trumpet Awards without a few questionable moments. And the biggest one just might be Michel’le’s appearance. It’s not that it was bad, it was just odd especially since she duets with V. Bozeman (yeah, the bald stunner from Empire.) So was Keke Wyatt’s attire during the gospel performance. But hey who can blame anybody that snatched after birthing baby number nine, N-I-N-E for added emphasis, less than six months ago. Sang hallelujah! Digging up Arrested Development was a good move too. “People Everyday” surprisingly jams.

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The Cameo tribute is very fitting for both Atlanta and Jermaine Dupri. Larry Blackmon, the group’s most recognizable member thanks to that strategic red cup placement, was a source of inspiration for many in the A. According to JD, Blackmon was blinging and rolling up in the hood in a Ferrari long before “money ain’t a thing.” Atlantans like JD and CeeLo Green, who curiously keeps it Adidas-jumpsuit-might-be-headed-to-the-gym-or-not real, count him as an inspiration. Doug E. Fresh, Carl Thomas, Big Daddy Kane and Bilal might elicit a thought cloud (even among those who know who they are) for a Cameo tribute, which of course, includes “Word Up” and “She’s Strange,” but trust that it works, even when your momma won’t recognize some of the other cats on the stage. There was no prompting from the producers to get out of your seats either; that partying is real. Unlike some awards shows, these folks are having a great time.

I would, of course, be remiss not to dedicate at least a line or two to the Bounce Trumpet Awards hosts. No, you aren’t the only one questioning an aging backward Benjamin Button Larenz Tate pairing with Erica Ash of Survivor’s Remorse. Seriously, though, it’s cool. All awards shows get corny so you already know, but these guys did put in some kee kees. Keep your eye on “Darius” when that Cameo tribute rolls around.

It’s a Sunday night, Trump is POTUS and he’s doing his best to ride this thing out, so why not find that Bounce TV channel in your city and chime in on Black Twitter? It won’t save the country, but it just might lift your spirits. We all love “Candy” right?

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The 2018 Bounce Trumpet Awards air on Bounce TV tonight, February 11, at 9/8c.