Jamie Foxx Talks Preparing to Host BET Awards, Kanye West and "F—d Up" Politics
The actor/musician/comedian reveals what he has in store for Sunday's awards show and reminisces on how he coped with the tragic news of Michael Jackson’s death just days before the 2009 BET Awards.
There’s nothing that actor/musician/comedian Jamie Foxx can’t do. After nearly 10 years, the triple-threat will once again return to host the 2018 BET Awards for his second time this Sunday, following up last year’s host Leslie Jones. The Academy Award and Grammy winner will grace the stage at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles to highlight the year’s groundbreaking moments, as well as celebrate the most dynamic talent in the industry.
Foxx is no stranger to hosting, as he previously emceed the BET Awards back in 2009 — mere days after Michael Jackson’s tragic death. The multi-talented entertainer took an uplifting approach to the tribute as opposed to a somber one in an attempt to keep spirits high, remembering Jackson for his exquisite talent and overall infinite contribution to the music industry. "No need to be sad. We want to celebrate this black man," Foxx said in respect of Jackson at the BET Awards nine years ago.
Now, just days after XXXTentacion was fatally shot in an armed robbery, there’s no word as to whether the network will pay tribute to the emerging Florida rapper, but if so, Foxx is once again tasked with paying tribute to an artist, albeit one with a much shorter career shrouded in legal controversy.
The 50-year-old Foxx is returning to the awards show in good spirits and ready to celebrate the culture’s accomplishments. Billboard caught up with him to find out what he has in store for viewers on Sunday.
What drew you in to host the BET Awards once again?
You know this is the greatest year to do it! I mean Cardi B’s success, DJ Khaled’s success, Kendrick Lamar’s success, Kevin Hart’s success…and Black Panther. It’s like the mantra is, "I’m not here to host. I’m here to celebrate, so hopefully if all comes together, it’ll just be one big party."
As far as the opening monologue goes, are any jokes off-limits?
Nothing is off-limits, but you know what you don’t want to do? You don’t want people to feel like they got dressed up and we got the family here [to make them feel uncomfortable]. I think we have a way to do it where it’s funny. And like I said, it’s a celebration, so any [lighthearted] jokes [go]. We don’t ever bite our tongues with jokes, but we've got to [do it in] a good way where we feel good.
You hosted the 2009 BET Awards just days after Michael Jackson’s tragic death. Do you remember those days preparing for the big show, and what was that experience like for you?
It was tough. Fingers crossed everything works out good this year, but that was a tough time because we’re rehearsing and then a couple of days before, Michael Jackson, who is the biggest musical influence in the world [died]. So we didn't know at the time, but I was like, "OK, if we’re going to do a Michael Jackson tribute, just put it on me. I’ll take whatever it is [we do], but I think we should do it in a fun way." When you look back on it, [I don’t want] it to be dreary. BET was the only entity to actually do a tribute, so it was a unique time. I remember the managers and people were like, "What are we going to do now?" Like man, we still got to celebrate the music! I think the most poignant moment was when Janet Jackson came out. This time, we’re going to stay upbeat.
There's not one thing you can't do — you do it all from music to acting to stand-up. What are you up to next?
We’re doing a stand-up right now called #BackOnMyFunnyShit, and it really is funny. Everything is so heavy right now...like comedians, we have a lot of heavy lifting to do because politicians won’t do it. So all the things that are being done is fucked up. Politicians put their tail between their legs and don’t say anything, so it has been up to Dooley, George Lopez, [and] other comedians like Stephen Colbert. Everything like that to sort of bring balance. But I hope to remind [everyone] to come out and have some fun. Come have some fun...come smoke your weed and get your drink on.
You’ve done some major features and cameos, including your latest in Migos and Drake's “Walk It Talk It.” How did that cameo come to be?
They called me to do it, but it’s always great to be with the young guys and be a part of whatever they’re trying to do. They’re doing their thing — directing the video. Whenever you get that moment like that, it’s just fun. And you know, those guys come to my house and kick it, so a lot of things sort of happen organically within our little circle.
And speaking of collaborating with artists, you did an iconic feature on “Slow Jams” with Kanye West in 2003. What do you think of Ye’s latest bodies of work? Would you be open to doing more collaborations with him?
Whatever Kanye want to do, man I do with him. That’s my guy. His music will always be another level. I’ve never experienced a person like Ye when it comes to music. He’s the homie. We did something incredible with “Slow Jams.” We performed in front of Clive Davis. I’ve watched all of it. You know when you’re a friend, you’re a friend. That doesn't mean you can’t still have fun and talk trash or whatever. It is what it is.
The 2018 BET Awards airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on BET.
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.