The BET Awards likes to call itself “Culture’s Biggest Night.” The 2023 edition, which aired on BET from the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday (June 25), may also have been Culture’s Longest Night. The show ran nearly four hours, with a well-deserved but overlong tribute to lifetime achievement award winner Busta Rhymes taking up at least a half-hour of that time.
The show was dominated by a 50th anniversary to hip-hop, a genre that has been celebrated almost non-stop since the Super Bowl LVI halftime show in February 2022. Dozens of artists were featured in that salute. In addition, the show included performances from Ice Spice, Latto, Coco Jones, Doechii, GloRilla, Lil Uzi Vert and Patti LaBelle, who sang Tina Turner’s “The Best” in tribute to the rock legend who died last month.
Some of the winners were thoroughly expected. Burna Boy won best international act, which was basically a foregone conclusion, especially after his “Last Last” was nominated for the viewer’s choice award. (It was the only nominee in that category that wasn’t a No. 1 hit on the Hot 100.)
This was Burna Boy’s fourth win for best international act in the past five years. Other winners have won even more times in their categories at the BET Awards. This was Chris Brown’s seventh win for best male R&B/pop artist; Kirk Franklin’s seventh win for the Dr. Bobby Jones best gospel/inspirational award; and Kendrick Lamar’s sixth win for best male hip hop artist.
But not everything was predictable. The show also contained a fair share of snubs and surprises. Take a look:
GloRilla was second only to Drake in number of BET Awards nominations – six, to his seven – but she went home empty-handed. Lizzo, who had five nods, was also shut out, as was Ice Spice, who had four nods; and Cardi B, FLO and Jack Harlow, who had three each.
Surprise: Coco Jones
Jones won best new artist, even though she had just three nominations – half as many as fellow nominee GloRilla. Jones also had fewer nominations than fellow nominee Ice Spice. Jones is the first female R&B singer (as opposed to rapper) to win in this category since SZA five years ago. This boosts Jones’ chances of landing a Grammy nomination for best new artist. Last year’s BET winner for best new artist, Latto, was nominated in that category at the Grammys (though she wound up losing to jazz singer Samara Joy).
Surprise: So Few Awards
Just six of the 21 awards were presented on-the-air. And just two winners, Coco Jones and Latto, were present to accept their awards in-person. Such important categories as album of the year, best male and female R&B/pop artist, best male hip-hop artist, best group, best movie, best actor and actress and sportsman and sportswoman of the year were not even mentioned on the show. This is an awards show that puts the emphasis almost entirely on the show.
Surprise: Two Ties
There were two ties among the 21 categories. Beyonce’s Renaissance and SZA’s SOS tied for album of the year. Chris Brown and Usher tied for best male R&B/pop artist. Fairly or unfairly, ties often feel like a cop-out at award shows, unless they’re exact numerical ties.
Mild Surprise: Latto
It certainly wasn’t a shock that Latto won best female hip hop artist. “Big Energy” was one of the biggest hits of 2022, ranking No. 7 on Billboard’s all-genre, year-end Hot 100 for the year. But it was at least a mild surprise that she beat Nicki Minaj, Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B, who have won a combined 12 times in the category.