Things are finally getting back to normal–or at the very least, full capacity–more than a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent nationwide shutdowns.
Tonight–Sunday, June 27–the 2021 BET Awards marks the first major live, in-person awards show since the pandemic with a full audience. With Taraji P. Henson on hosting duties, fans can expect one of the most exciting nights on TV in a very long time.
“This is what we live for. It’s life, and it’s time we go out to play,” Henson told Variety as she prepares to host the show at Microsoft Theater in Downtown Los Angeles.
There’s a lot going down at the show tonight, but one of the sequences the host, herself, is looking forward to the most is paying tribute to BET Awards Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Queen Latifah.
“I want to tell her in person and on live television how much she has meant to me and how much she has inspired me,” she said. “She built a brand. She came from hip hop, she had a record label and flipped that, she became a TV executive producer and had her own show. She did movie after movie. She just reinvents herself.”
Another big name being given their flowers at the ceremony tonight is DMX, who was taken from us far too soon on April 9, 2021. It’s only right that one of the people who knew him best, Swizz Beatz, does the honors.
“You see a lot of tributes and you can almost predict [what’s going to happen],” Beatz told Complex about this upcoming tribute. “This time we wanted to do something a little different. We wanted to add some curation and [include] different types of artistry. Everybody that’s coming on stage, X had a serious respect for them.”
With seven nominations each, Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby lead the pack, with the former up for Best Female Hip Hop Artist and Video of the Year. On his end, DaBaby is in the running for Best Male Hip Hop Artist and Album of the Year. Right behind them are Cardi B and Drake, who each picked up five nominations, while Anderson .Paak, Bruno Mars, and Chloe x Halle are nominated four times each.
Throughout the night, fans can expect performances from the biggest artists in the game including Migos, Andra Day, Tyler, The Creator, H.E.R., City Girls, Jazmine Sullivan, DJ Khaled, Lil Durk, Kirk Franklin, Moneybagg Yo!, Rapsody, Roddy Ricch, and Lil Baby.
With this event being the first awards show at full capacity since the start of the pandemic, there are some things more important than entertainment: safety. Connie Orlando, exec VP of specials, music programming, and music strategy at BET Networks, told Variety that COVID safety protocols are in place for the event and that her team has been working closely with LA County to make sure all attendees are safe.
Orlando went on to say the show would deliver a great celebration of Black excellence and calls it “culture’s biggest night.”
“These are moments that drive culture and we’ll have things you’ll be tweeting and talking about,” she said. “With Taraji hosting and honoring Queen Latifah, that’s so big. They’re both icons, and it really goes to show that we’re coming back.”
The 2021 BET Awards air tonight, Sunday, June 27 at 8 pm EST.