BET Awards: Nipsey Hussle's Legacy Remembered by Marsai Martin, Anderson.Paak and More
“The concept of an awards show really evolved into a celebration of life," BET president Scott M. Mills told The Hollywood Reporter of the 19th annual ceremony, which paid tribute to the late rapper, among others.
At the 2019 BET Awards on Sunday, a who’s who of black stars filed down the carpet, which was blue in honor for late rapper Nipsey Hussle.
The musician and entrepreneur, known for his hip-hop career and mission to uplift his community, was killed in front of his Los Angeles clothing store in March. He received a tribute by fellow collaborators Marsha Ambrosius, DJ Khalid, John Legend and YG — a performance that became one of the highlights of the awards ceremony.
Others included Mary J. Blige’s tribute and acceptance of the Lifetime Achievement Award, including a performance by the singer of hits spanning her entire discography; Tyler Perry’s moving speech upon receiving the 2019 Ultimate Icon Award; Cardi B and Offset’s opening number; and the first-ever televised performance of “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus.
In their 19-year history, the BET Awards have evolved beyond just recognizing talent in the black community, BET president Scott M. Mills told The Hollywood Reporter at the show. “It started as an awards show, but it really evolved into a celebration of black culture, that allows us to celebrate artists and humanitarians and allows us to take moments to acknowledge people who are important to our community,” he said. “The concept of an awards show really evolved into a celebration of life.”
Mills also said he felt that “the biggest African-American event on television” seemed only appropriate to celebrate the life and legacy of Hussle, who was top of mind for a number of artists, honorees and presenters walking down the blue carpet.
Anderson.Paak, who matched the carpet by donning an all-blue ensemble, dubbed the late rapper a “Los Angeles staple.”
The multihyphenate said some of the things that impressed him most about Hussle was his focus, dedication and consistency to his mission. “One of the things to take from his passing was how consistent his message was ... and [his death] just magnified what he was doing 10 times,” Paak told THR.
Young Stars Award winner Marsai Martin (Black-ish, Little) said she also continues to find inspiration in Hussle despite his death, dubbing him a “real business man.” “He’s really still here, his vibe and his energy and his marathon is still here,” she said. “He really inspires me as a businesswoman in how to just hustle.”
Besides being an inspiration, Hussle touched others in many different ways, said Steven Caple Jr. The director, whose film Creed II was up for the night’s best movie award, recalled meeting Hussle once at a Los Angeles Lakers game at Staples Center. Caple said what struck him most about the entrepreneur was his down-to-earth demeanor, and added that the community should continue spreading Hussle’s mission through action.
Also on the carpet, Martin praised honorees Perry and Blige. Martin said that Blige's honor needs no explanation, given "she's just a queen." She also called Perry “an icon in himself” and spoke about her experience visiting the Hollywood icon’s production studios in Atlanta. “Just seeing what he’s built from the ground up is absolutely amazing, and seeing that he’s not finished is absolutely dope, and I love him for that,” she said.