The 2014 BET Awards (or as host Chris Rock called it, the “Black World Cup”) ran for almost four hours on Sunday night. Awarding black artists in the entertainment industry, the annual ceremony encompassed everything you could want in an award show. That included tons of over-the-top performances; ’90s throwback songs; awkward jokes about people in the audience; an obligatory (recorded) performance by Beyoncé and Jay Z; and a truly wild Nicki Minaj speech.
Big winners of the night included Beyoncé, who didn’t show up but won three awards, including Best Female R&B/Pop Artist. Pharrell Williams and August Alsina, both in attendance, each got two trophies, and incidentally they each had some of the best speeches of the night. (Full list of winners and nominees below.)
Here are some of the highlights from the show.
Chris Rock. Generally, award show hosts disappear about halfway through the ceremony, but Rock was a frequent presence throughout the entire thing. He also seemed genuinely delighted to be there — sometimes that’s also a rare quality in a host. “Tonight, you’ll see something you never see,” he said to kick things off on the annual show. “Black artists getting credit for something they created.”
His opening monologue obviously made fun of the Solange/Jay Z elevator incident, noting that Jay Z didn’t fight back now because he’s a businessman. Then, a joke about Dr. Dre selling his Beats Electronics company for $3 billion, as opposed to Rick Ross, who just has “Dia-beat-es.”
Rock’s other targets included “Scandal” (the actual reason it’s a hit, Rock theorized, is that “Every Thursday at 10 p.m. there’s a white president … white people get to tune in and feel good for one hour”); how Kevin Hart is secretly in every movie, including “Maleficent” and “Transformers”; Oprah, who should have gotten an Oscar for playing way against type as a poor person in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”; and naturally, Donald Sterling (“An 83-year-old white man doesn’t like black people. Is that news?”).
Oh, and Rock announced he was going to steal Ellen DeGeneres’s idea for bringing in food halfway through the show. Except instead of pizza, as she did at the Oscars, the audience could snack on chicken and waffles from Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. Indeed, Rock started walking around with Styrofoam containers containing the food.
Most memorable speech. Would anyone except Nicki Minaj even come close? Winning her fifth consecutive Best Female Hip Hop Artist award, Minaj announced, “When you hear Nicki Minaj spit, Nicki Minaj wrote it,” causing the audience to start screaming and applauding. “No, no, no, no, no, no shade,” she clarified. But it was too late, as Twitter immediately blew up with speculation that she was aiming that criticism at new rapper Iggy Azalea (who does have a writing credit on her smash hit “Fancy.”)
What else was on Minaj’s mind? “I really don’t even care if I get my credit or if I don’t. I don’t look at myself as a female rapper ’cause I know what I do,” she declared.
She went on with her thank-yous, fearing the cameras would cut her off, but they let her keep going with this non-sequitur: “I just want to say that the other day, literally, I didn’t tell anybody this, I really thought I was about to die,” she said. “Like, I was saying my prayers to die. And I didn’t even want to call an ambulance because I thought, ‘Well, if I call the ambulance, it’s gonna be on TMZ.’ And I would rather sit there and die. And it made me realize — I don’t care anymore what anybody gotta say.”
Most emotional moment. In the midst of all the entertainment, it was a jarring transition as BET Networks CEO Debra Lee appeared on stage to talk about this year’s 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “We are here on this stage tonight because this generation of citizens stood, marched, sat, moved and refused to move in order to make this country better,” she said.
Lee then introduced the winner of the BET Humanitarian Award, civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who was murdered in 1963. Evers-Williams delivered a powerful speech about how much progress has been made in the last five decades. “Some 50 years ago when I was widowed, I could only recall the television stations that would go black whenever someone of color would appear on the screen,” she said.
Right after, Phylicia Rashad continued the somber mood with a touching tribute to both Ruby Dee and Maya Angelou.
Best introduction to a performance. Rock introduced Usher, who performed a medley of his greatest hits, with a dig at one of the more troubled young pop stars of our time. “This next performer discovered Justin Bieber — and now he’s going to spend the rest of the night apologizing for it.” Rock also wasn’t afraid to go topical, such as announcing Chris Brown’s performance of “Loyal,” his first award show appearance since being released from jail this month. “He just signed a new deal; too bad it’s a plea deal,” Rock said. (Brown actually just rejected a plea deal in D.C.)
Best camera cutaway. Most definitely to Snoop Dogg earnestly singing along to “Brick House” during Lionel Richie’s Lifetime Achievement Award tribute.
Most unintentionally hilarious camera cutaway. That would be Nicki Minaj during Iggy Azalea’s performance of “Fancy” to just dance for the camera, ignoring the actual song that was playing.
Best performance. We’ll give this a tie: Usher’s medley of hits was excellent and he wore his famous raccoon hat. It was impossible to look away from August Alsina’s aerialist during “Kissin’ On My Tattoos.” And Trey Songz had similar back-up dancer stunts during “Na Na,” as various people did all kinds of crazy splits that shouldn’t even be physically possible. Also, it’s worth saying that there is nothing creepier than a grown person dressed as a rabbit. (See: Nicki Minaj’s wacky set during her performance of “Pills N Potions.”)
’90s throwback moment. Troop, Color Me Badd and Silk all reunited on stage for a medley of ’90s songs (“All I Do Is Think Of You,” “Freak Me”) that sent the audience into a frenzy.
Best speech. Easily Lil Wayne — earbuds in both ears and phone in his hand — accepting the award for Best Group (Young Money), knocking over the microphone so hard that he nearly broke it.
Most emotional speech. Well, August Alsina actually cried when he won Best New Artist, but Pharrell Williams got pretty thoughtful when he accepted the trophy for Video of the Year. “When I see performances like Lil Wayne’s, it only makes me smile to see how far BET has continued to grow,” he said, referring to the rapper’s set earlier in the night. “Because it allows us as black people to be different and do what we want to do and we have that outlet.”
New appreciation for Nick Cannon. Mariah Carey sure doesn’t seem like the type who has a sense of humor about herself, but her husband, Nick Cannon, apparently does. Who knew? While on stage to present an award, Disney actress Zendaya asked if Cannon had any advice. “First off, save your money. Secondly, save your money. Thirdly, marry well. Hey baby!” Cannon winked, drawing big laughs. Think Mariah enjoyed that one?
Obligatory Beyoncé/Jay Z performance. Too busy with their dual-headlining On the Run tour to attend, the A-list couple let video from a recent performance (Beyoncé’s “Partition”) serve as the closing number to the show.
Best trying-to-be-funny-and-only-sort-of-succeeding bit. Kevin Hart crashed Kerry Washington’s appearance on stage to announce that he was now “Oliver Pope” (Washington’s Olivia Pope character’s secret brother). It was really just an excuse to repeatedly yell “Scandal!” as loud as possible.
WINNERS AND NOMINEES
Best Female R&B/Pop Artist
Beyoncé — winner
Best Male R&B/Pop Artist
Pharrell Williams — winner
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Young Money — winner
August Alsina f/ Trinidad Jame$ – “I Luv This”
Beyoncé f/ Jay Z – “Drunk In Love” – winner
Drake f/ Majid Jordan – “Hold On (We’re Going Home)”
JAY Z f/ Justin Timberlake – “Holy Grail”
Robin Thicke f/ T.I. & Pharrell Williams – “Blurred Lines”
YG f/ Jeezy & Rich Homie Quan – “My Hitta”
Best Male Hip Hop Artist
Drake — winner
Best Female Hip Hop Artist
Nicki Minaj — winner
Video of the Year
Beyoncé – “Partition”
Beyoncé f/ JAY Z – “Drunk In Love”
Chris Brown – “Fine China”
Drake – “Worst Behavior”
Pharrell Williams – “Happy” — winner
Video Director of the Year
Hype Williams — winner
Best New Artist
August Alsina — winner
Rich Homie Quan
Best Gospel Artist
Tamela Mann — winner
Lupita Nyong’o — winner
Chiwetel Ejiofor — winner
Michael B. Jordan
KeKe Palmer — winner
“12 Years a Slave” — winner
“The Best Man Holiday”
“Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain”
“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”
Subway Sportswoman of the Year
Serena Williams — winner
Subway Sportsman of the Year
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Kevin Durant — winner
Coca-Cola Viewers’ Choice Award
August Alsina f/ Trinidad Jame$ “I Love This” — winner
Beyonce f/ Jay Z — “Drunk in Love”
Drake — “Worst Behavior”
Jhene Aiko — “The Worst”
Pharrell Williams — “Happy”
Beyonce — winner
Aloe Blacc – “The Man”
Jennifer Hudson f/ T.I. – “I Can’t Describe (The Way I Feel)”
Jhené Aiko – “The Worst” — winner
LiV Warfield – “Why Do You Lie?”
Wale f/ Sam Dew – “LoveHate Thing”
Best International Act: Africa
Davido (Nigeria) — winner
Diamond Platnumz (Tanzania)
Mafikizolo (South Africa)
Tiwa Savage (Nigeria)
Best International Act: UK
Krept & Konan — winner
Lifetime Achievement Award
BET Humanitarian Award