The show’s most anticipated performance—the Prince tribute—lived up to the network’s promise of topping the Billboard Music Awards’ tribute. Introduced by comedian (and renowned Prince impersonator) Dave Chappelle, the multi-part performance began with The Roots backing Erykah Badu and Bilal, who performed “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” and “The Beautiful Ones,” respectively. The second piece featured singer Tori Kelly alongside a purple-suited Stevie Wonder for a rendition of “Take Me With U.” Jennifer Hudson then performed the iconic “Purple Rain” before Maxwell (perhaps taking over for D’Angelo, who was supposed to perform) sang “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Janelle Monáe finished the performance with a medley of songs including ”Delirious,” “I Would Die 4 U,” “Kiss” and ”Pop Life.”
Each artist, exemplary in their own right, ultimately warmed up the crowd for a finale performance from drummer Sheila E., Prince’s longtime collaborator. Joined by Prince’s ex-wife Mayte Garcia and The Time’s Jerome Benton, Sheila E. tore through exercepts of “Erotic City,” “The Glamorous Life” and “Baby I’m A Star,” among other hits. She finished the set holding a purple guitar remniscent of Prince’s own, tears streaming down her face.
Outside of the Prince tributes, the show’s biggest performance came from Viewers’ Choice Award winner Beyoncé, who delivered “Freedom“ with flames and choreography—and a little help from Kendrick Lamar. Other notable performers included rising R&B star Anderson .Paak, Atlanta-bred trap rap star Future and co-hosts Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson, who spoofed “Hamilton” in their opening number.
Outside of the performances, the BET Awards honored actor and activist Jesse Williams (Humanitarian Award) and Samuel L. Jackson (Lifetime Acheivement Award). Award winners included Drake (Best Male Hip-hop Artist), gospel singer Kirk Franklin (Dr. Bobby Jones Best Gospel/Inspirational), Taraji P. Henson (Best Actress) and Serena Williams (Best Sportswoman).
Check out the ceremony’s winners and performance highlights over at BET.com.
What was your favorite part of the BET Awards 2016? Let us know in the comments.