Political performances by Public Enemy, DaBaby, Alicia Keys and John Legend, civic-minded speeches by Michelle Obama and Beyoncé, and chronic tributes to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor led a digital, principally socially distanced and social justice-themed model of the BET Awards on Sunday, the primary main awards present of the pandemic period.

The host, Amanda Seales, a comic, actress and activist, cited “Covid and cops and Karens gone wild” as the explanation for an atypical occasion, however insisted in her opening monologue: “We needed to do the awards. We deserve a break. And after I say we, I imply all us black of us.”

Almost each act, look, acceptance speech and even commercial that adopted made some reference to the wave of protests in opposition to police brutality that unfold worldwide after Floyd was killed in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, bringing renewed consideration to many different instances of black individuals who have suffered by the hands of legislation enforcement or racist violence.

The awards present, which was made up of taped performances and speeches due to the virus, aired for the primary time on CBS, along with BET, following the merger final 12 months of the printed big and Viacom, BET’s father or mother firm. And moderately than the lo-fi, at-home performances from couches and kitchens which have change into normal tv fare in the course of the Covid-19 disaster, BET offered budgets for its far-flung expertise to supply distant segments that have been usually extra like mini-music movies than the usually uncooked and typically glitchy dwell awards-show stagings.

Megan Thee Stallion, who gained the award for finest feminine hip-hop artist, carried out her hit “Savage” — sans Beyoncé, who seems on the remix — in a “Mad Max”-style desert panorama, full with a black energy fist background, whereas Legend was joined by a choir in an deserted warehouse for a rendition of his newest tear-jerker, “We Will By no means Break.”

The present — celebrating its 20th 12 months, together with 40 years of BET as a community — started and ended with gospel music, first that includes Keedron Bryant, a 12-year-old internet sensation whose tune “I Simply Wanna Dwell” begins, “I’m a younger black man/Doing all that I can.” In a closing quantity, the mom and daughter mixture of Kierra Sheard and Karen Clark Sheard (initially of the Clark Sisters) sang “One thing Has to Break.”

Earlier, in fiery segments, Public Enemy was joined by Nas, Rapsody, Black Thought, Questlove, YG and others for an up to date model of the hip-hop traditional “Battle the Energy”; Lil Wayne led a rapped tribute to Kobe Bryant; and the North Carolina rapper DaBaby opened his remix of the Billboard No. 1 single “Rockstar” pressed up in opposition to asphalt, a police officer’s knee pressed into his neck in an unmistakable reference to the video of Floyd’s demise. Later within the tune, DaBaby appeared atop a police automotive, smashing the windshield whereas surrounded by protesters in T-shirts studying “I Am George Floyd” and “I Am Breonna Taylor.”

An epilogue following his performance learn, “In loving reminiscence of all of the lives misplaced to racism and police brutality.”

Anderson .Paak and Keys additionally centered their segments round black lives misplaced, with Keys singing “Excellent Strategy to Die” on an empty road nook surrounded by the names of victims written in chalk. Roddy Ricch carried out “Excessive Trend” and “The Field” in a Black Lives Matter shirt.

Extra tributes included Wayne Brady performing in honor of Little Richard, who died in May, and Jennifer Hudson doing her tackle Aretha Franklin’s gospel model of “Younger, Gifted and Black,” initially by Nina Simone.

The previous first woman Michelle Obama introduced BET’s humanitarian award to Beyoncé (“To my woman, I simply need to say: You encourage me, you encourage all of us,” she mentioned), whereas the singer — whose new “Lion King”-inspired music movie, “Black Is King,” will premiere on Disney Plus on July 31 — used her acceptance speech to thank protesters and encourage them to vote.

“We now have to vote like our life is dependent upon it,” Beyoncé mentioned, “as a result of it does.”