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17th Annual BET Awards Ceremony Stays Focused on Performances, New Edition Tribute

The biggest weekend in Hip-Hop and R&B concluded on Sunday with the 17th annual BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles.

“Saturday Night Live” star Leslie Jones led the night’s festivities, which included musical performances, tributes, and honors. Bruno Mars opened the awards show with a high-energy performance that included his group of dancing bandmates and pyrotechnics.

Chris Brown, Mary J. Blige, Big Sean, Trey SongzFrench Montana and others also took the stage to perform their biggest hits of the year. Kendrick Lamar joined Future on stage for a surprise remix performance of “Mask Off.” There was also ’90s R&B group Xscape, who performed together for the first time in over a decade, singing a medley of the songs that made them famous, such as “Understanding,” “Who Can I Run To?,” and “Just Kickin’ It.”

The girl group announced earlier this year they will be touring and working on a new TV show, set to air on Bravo.

The award ceremony continued its time-honored tradition of recognizing both new school and old school artists who have left a significant mark on popular culture.

BET president Debra L. Lee honored Chance the Rapper with the Humanitarian Award, noting that “he’s not afraid to speak out and speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves.”

“This is overwhelming,” said the recording artist, who was praised for giving back to the public schools in his native hometown of Chicago. “I’m 24. To be receiving something like this at my age, it feels good. It feels a little early, but my God doesn’t make mistakes. I like to think that he’s putting this pressure on me to see how I react.”

New Edition, who received a three-part biopic mini-series on the network earlier in the year, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The cast including Bryshere Gray and Luke James gave musical tributes to the group before they came onstage to accept their award.

“Back in the days when we first began, I use to tell the guys we’re gonna be successful. I just didn’t know how successful,” said original group member Bobby Brown in his acceptance speech. “I didn’t know how much our fans were gonna stick with us. For thirty-five years, y’all have stuck with us. I love y’all.”

The boy band ended their honor with an onstage performance alongside the actors who played their characters in the adaptation. The rousing mini-concert had attendees singing along and doing dance moves at their seats.

Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Bruno Mars, Remy Ma, Solange, and Migos took home some of the night’s biggest awards.

Mars, who won for best male R&B and pop artist, gave a shout out to former BET executive Stephen Hill during his acceptance speech. Hill also received onscreen kudos for his work on “The New Edition Story” mini-series.

This year’s ceremony appeared to run much longer than past years, totaling four hours. The show’s minor technical difficulties and jam-packed roster of musical performances contributed to the network forgoing many of the awards show’s biggest categories. Album of the Year, Best Collaboration, Sportsman of the Year, Best Actor, and Best Video of the Year are just a few that didn’t make the program.

Even still, DJ Khalid, Quavo (of Migos), Lil Wayne and Chance the Rapper closed out the show with their hit single “The One,” sans Justin Bieber.

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