At the tender age of 24, Chance the Rapper accepted the Humanitarian Award during the BET Awards on Sunday for his work in his hometown of Chicago, winning over fans for both his musical talents and his philanthropic efforts.
One of his biggest fans, former first lady Michelle Obama, delivered a taped message for the rapper, saying he was an “outstanding role model” who shined his big light on young people in the community. Michelle Obama honored Chance, who has raised $2 million dollars for Chicago Public Schools. The former first lady said she and Barack Obama knew Chance “since he was a baby rapper.”
“Chance is showing our young people that they matter,” she said. “Because of you, countless young people will grow up believing in themselves.”
Chance acknowledged that the honor felt early in his young career, but said, “My God doesn’t make mistakes.”
The rapper said he didn’t prepare a speech. When the crowd cheered at one point, he urged them on, telling them to “Please, gas me up!” The cheers grew louder, and he shifted his remarks from his own feelings about the award to other topics.
His wide-ranging speech called out several institutions, including the federal government, the Chicago Public Schools system and the judicial system. But he ended by saying he was a good man, and he wanted to be better. He gave a shoutout to his young daughter, Kensli, saying, “I want to be a better father to Kensli. I want to spend more time with her.”
Remy Ma ended rival Nicki Minaj’s seven-year winning streak at the 2017 BET Awards, a show highlighted by ’90s R&B and groups popular in that decade.
Ma, who returned from jail in 2014, won best female hip-hop artist Sunday in Los Angeles, an award Minaj has won since 2010.
“I wanna thank God first and foremost,” said Ma, who also won the honor in 2005. “You can make mistakes and come back.”
In March, Ma released the hostile diss track “Shether,” which earned praised from critics and rap fans. Minaj never officially responded to the song.
At the live show at the Microsoft Theater, ’90s R&B favorites New Edition and Xscape shined onstage.
New Edition, whose three-part biopic was a white-hot rating success for BET earlier this year, earned the lifetime achievement award and received a lengthy tribute. It started with the child actors from the movie singing “Candy Girl,” later followed by the older actors for some of the band’s hits apart from the group, including BBD’s “Poison” and Ralph Tresvant’s “Sensitivity.”
The real group then hit the stage to sing “Can You Stand the Rain” and “Mr. Telephone Man.” The actors later joined New Edition for “If It Isn’t Love.”
Girl group Xscape, which is set to launch a reality show, reunited at the BET Awards and sang the popular hits “Just Kickin’ It,” ”Understanding” and “Who Can I Run To?” The crowd was in awe, singing along and filming the performance with their phones.
Bruno Mars, whose new album was heavily inspired by ’90s R&B, also shined Sunday. He won best male R&B/pop artist and kicked off the show with a fun and funky performance of the song, “Perm.”
“To the fans, you know I love you. My first BET Award,” he screamed.
Kendrick Lamar, who surprised the audience when he performed with Future, won best male hip-hop artist. He gave a shoutout to fellow nominee Chance the Rapper, who earned the humanitarian award at the age of 24 and also won best new artist.
Beyonce, who reportedly had her twins earlier this month, though she hasn’t commented on the topic, was the top nominee with seven. When it was announced that she won the viewer’s choice award, Chloe x Halle — the young duo signed to Beyonce — recited a speech given to them from the pop star.
Solange, Beyonce’s younger sister, had a big night: She won the Centric Award and called Sunday “the best birthday ever” — she turned 31 on Saturday.
“My armpits are sweating so much right now,” said Solange, who also thanked BET for showing her “queens” like Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, Erykah Badu and others during her teenage years.
Solange held a moment of silence onstage later on, and the show also honored some of the minorities who died at the hands of police officers, including Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Eric Garner and others.
Other winners included Migos, who took home best group. The hip-hop trio also won over the audience with its performances of the hits “Bad and Boujee,” ”T-Shirt” and “Congratulations,” with Post Malone. Chance the Rapper, and his mom, danced during the long set; as did Queen Latifah, Cardi B., “Stranger Things” actor Caleb McLaughlin and “black-ish” actress Yara Shahidi, who won the YoungStars award.
Others shined onstage, too, with slower songs: Tamar Braxton and Maxwell gave vocally impressive performances, and Mary J. Blige sang songs from “Strength of a Woman,” her recent album that includes emotional tunes about her divorce.
“Mary J. got that break-up body. Whoa,” screamed Jamie Foxx, who presented an award after Blige’s performance.
Leslie Jones of “Saturday Night Live” hosted the four-hour show.
Mesfin Fekadu | AP Music Writer