On Sunday night during the 2016 BET Awards, there was plenty of Prince tributes throughout the show from many who either worked with him, were his peers, or had some type of influence from the late great star. What was originally thought to be one single big performance Prince tribute that would involve D’Angelo, The Roots and others, after it was first announced a month or so ago, ended up being several performances throughout the evening paying tribute to, The Purple One.
The first one came 35 minutes into the show with a very sobering and touching introduction from comedian/actor Dave Chappelle, wearing shades and a purple pocket square in his jacket taking the stage and speaking in a surprisingly husky voice. “On April 21st, we got that news, and literally our hearts were broken. I was 11 years old when Purple Rain came out, and by the time I was 20, Prince had changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol,” Chappelle said. “We miss him dearly and tonight we celebrate the rich legacy of his remarkable genius, who we are all so proud of.” As he then introduced his old friends, The Roots and their longtime collaborators and friends Erykah Badu and Bilal.
With Badu rocking an opulent fur, beret and tight leather pants setting things off by performing Ballad of Dorothy Parker, as The Roots backed her, before being joined by Falsetto crooner Bilal. As rocking a white buttoned-down shirt, the crooner slowed down the tempo by taking and embracing Badu by the arms and bringing her in by him for the first few bars of Prince’s classic ballad, The Beautiful Ones. The singer very convincingly singing and nailing Prince’s galvanic vocal turns and the hight notes of the timeless record, as he dramatically unbuttoned the shirt with the legendary The Roots crew rocking behind him. With Bilal even sprawling, floor-humping and shrieking at the end of the performance to mimic Prince’s moves from the film in a comical but respectful way.
Longtime friend of Prince and fellow legend Stevie Wonder was joined by Tori Kelly for the next tribute and the night’s most upbeat spot. With the unlikely duo wearing complementing purple-accented outfits and harmonizing on the Prince and Appollonia duet/jam from Purple Rain, Take Me With U. As Wonder and Kelly left the stage with Kelly picking up a guitar and Jennifer Hudson soberly entered the stage as the opening chords of Purple Rain rang out. Donning a pearly, hooded dress, Hudson like she has done so many times before was able to steal the show with her stunning ability to turn someone else’s music into almost like it was her own. With the very talented singer and actresses heart-moving performance of Prince’s most famed record resulting in a swaying, standing and teary ovation from the crowd at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
With two hours left to go in the show, it was unclear if that moment could be equaled, let alone topped. But within half an hour of that R&B singer Maxwell was the next Prince tribute up with his powerful performance of yet another Prince ballad, Nothing Compares 2 U, which he segued perfectly and very suddenly into after performing his very own BlackSUMMERS’Night single Lake by the Ocean. Giving it a brawny, orchestral treatment, Maxwell sang very emotionally, as he updated the lyrics to address Prince too: “It’s been 7 hours and 66 days since you took your music away. I went to the record store, Apple, Spotify too and they told me ‘Boy you’d better try to make some music, which you can’t do’ cause Prince is the truth!”
While a majority of the tributes focused on Prince’s more slowed down tunes and/or ballads, a lot of people forget he was a real energetic and upbeat performer with a lot of real energetic, funky and exuberent pop records that made you want to get up and dance or groove. So it was only right the next tribute was performed by one of the few newer artists of the past few years to have a real close relationship with The Purple One and could be as exuberant as he was whenever she performs, Janelle Monáe. With several outfit changes throughout her performance that recalled some of her late mentors most famous hits, Monáe give one of the most energetic and impassioned, yet personal performances of the night. Running through a medley of Delirious before segueing to Kiss. Also running through a quick tour of Pop Life before going into an up-tempo dance sequence of I Would Die 4 U. Being one of the closest of any of the performers to Prince, Monáe’s performance felt the most poignant and personal, as well as easily one of the best performances of the night that would have made Prince very proud. Even with her homage to the late entertainers iconic “assless chaps” look that he wore at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, which will definitely have people talking about for days to come.
The night ended with longtime Prince collobarater and muse Shelia E. going over 10 songs in a 10-minute medley of Prince’s hits. Accompanied by her own band and Prince’s backup singers Liv Warfield and Elisa Fiorello, the band went back in time with Sign O’ the Times jam, Housequake, before going into the first ever collobaration between Prince and Shelia with 1984’s Erotic City. The band then briefly went into 1981’s Let’s Work, before going into a verse of U Got The Look. That then went into three of Shelia’s Prince-penned songs with A Love Bizarre, The Glamorous Life and Soul Salsa. Donning a sparkly purple guitar, Shelia then did a brief performance of the Revolution’s record, America, before going into the triumphant end with Purple Rain’s, Baby I’m a Star. As after the very emotionally charged and amazing performance, Shelia stood holding aflot one of Prince’s signature lyre-shaped guitars with tears streaming down her face. Prince’s ex-wife Mayte Garcia standing next to her, as flower pedals fell from the ceiling.