The BET Awards has brought excitement, thrills and surprises since its inception in 2001. In celebration of the 2020 BET Awards on June 28, Wonderwall.com is looking back at the most unforgettable moments of BET Awards past, starting with this joyful performance by Lizzo. If there was one moment that solidified her as a definite queen, it was this. At the 2019 BET Awards, Lizzo took the stage to deliver her smash hit "Truth Hurts" amidst a wedding theme, and between her veil, lace bodysuit and sunglasses, she was serving major looks that night. We loved when she whipped out her flute and took the already electrifying performance to another level. Keep reading to see what other memorable moments have rocked past BET Awards ceremonies…
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Teena Marie and Rick James brought the "Fire & Desire" when they performed together at the 2004 BET Awards. Their red-hot performance had the whole audience singing along and reminded fans why Rick was such a legend. The iconic moment became even more significant when Rick passed away later that year, making it his last public performance before his death.
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At the 2003 BET Awards, Beyonce made her first performance as a solo artist post-Destiny's Child with an electrifying rendition of her breakthrough solo single "Crazy in Love." From the gigantic letters spelling out her name to the hard-hitting choreography, Bey did not come to play that night!
As the recipient of the Ultimate Icon Award at the 2019 BET Awards, Tyler Perry gave a powerful, heartfelt speech during which he spoke about the history of his Atlanta-based production studio. "The studio was once a Confederate Army base," he said. "And, I want you to hear this, which meant that there was Confederate soldiers on that base, plotting and planning on how to keep 3.9 million negroes enslaved. Now that land is owned by one negro." The celebrated TV mogul went on to explain how the studio allowed him to have control over the projects he wanted to produce in a predominantly white industry. "But while you're fighting for a seat at the table, I'll be down in Atlanta building my own. Because what I know for sure is that if I could just build this table, God will prepare it for me in the presence of my enemies."
At the 2019 BET Awards, the late Nipsey Hussle was honored with the Humanitarian Award for his service to his community before his death. Nipsey's longtime partner, Lauren London, daughter Kross, mother and grandmother all took the stage to accept the award on his behalf. John Legend, YG, DJ Khaled and Marsha Ambrosius then performed a tribute to the neighborhood legend.
Legendary singers Michael Jackson and James Brown shared the stage at the 2003 ceremony when Michael presented James with a lifetime achievement award. The Godfather of Soul and the King of Pop then busted a few incredible moves together as the crowd went wild. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime moment!
On May 31, 2019, Ava DuVernay's Primetime Emmy-winning limited series "When They See Us" — which tells the story of five young black men who were wrongly accused of a brutal assault in New York City in 1989 — debuted on Netflix. At the BET Awards that year, the Exonerated Five — once known as the Central Park Five — took the stage to introduce H.E.R.'s performance of "Lord Is Coming." Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Raymond Santana Jr. were welcomed with a standing ovation.
All hip-hop heads know that the Fugees are one of the best rap groups of all time so fans were truly freaking out when the trio reunited at the 2005 BET Awards. Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill and Pras performed a 12-minute set of some of their biggest hits eight years after their bitter breakup.
The ladies of Destiny's Child know how to bring the sexy and that was never more obvious than at the 2005 BET Awards. The singers delivered a sultry performance of their hit "Cater 2 U" while giving lap dances to Magic Johnson, Nelly and Terrence Howard. While Magic and Nelly took it all in good fun, Terrence seemed to forget that this was a public performance and got a little too into Beyonce's sexy moves.
After accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award from Rihanna at the 2019 BET Awards, Mary J. Blige went on to perform an electrifying 20-minute set filled with hits from her extensive catalog. From "No More Drama" and "You're All I Need to Get By" to "I'm Goin' Down" and "Just Fine," the music legend showed the world exactly why she's one of the best in the business.
Chris Brown brought all the feels at the 2010 BET Awards when he paid tribute to the late King of Pop Michael Jackson one year after the King of Pop's death. The singer performed "Man in the Mirror" complete with all of MJ's legendary dance moves and became so overcome with emotion that he eventually broke down in tears. The unforgettable performance was also a redemptive moment for Chris as it was his first since he was arrested for assaulting ex-girlfriend Rihanna.
The music industry was rocked by the devastating news of Prince's death in April 2016. As a result, at the BET Awards that June, a slew of artists took the stage throughout the night to perform tributes to the Purple one — Janelle Monae, Sheila E., Erykah Badu, Bilal, Maxwell, Stevie Wonder, Tori Kelly, Jennifer Hudson and more stars took part in the celebration of Prince's legacy. From "Take Me With U" to "Nothing Compares 2U," the tribute was a moving moment in BET history.
Beyonce surprised celebrities and fans alike when she unexpectedly opened the 2016 BET Awards with Kendrick Lamar in an unannounced performance. The superstar singer stepped away from her "Formation" world tour to perform "Freedom" on stage and killed it.
There wasn't a dry eye in the house when a visibly emotional Janet Jackson appeared at the 2009 BET Awards just three days after the death of brother Michael Jackson so that she could thank fans for their support. "My entire family wanted to be here tonight, but it was just too painful. So they elected me to speak with all of you," Janet said. "To you, Michael is an icon. To us, Michael is family. And he will forever live in all of our hearts."
Mo'Nique showed she could keep up with Queen Bey when she flawlessly performed Beyonce's hit single "Crazy In Love" while hosting the 2004 BET Awards. As the show's opening act, the comedian definitely set the standard for the night!
Our favorite "woke bae," Jesse Williams, captivated the crowd with a powerful speech while accepting a humanitarian award at the 2016 BET Awards. The "Grey's Anatomy" star referenced police brutality, civil rights and protecting black womanhood during his speech and received a standing ovation. "The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander," he said. "If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression."
Whitney Houston's mother, Cissy Houston, somehow found the strength to perform a tribute to her daughter at the 2012 BET Awards just a few months after Whitney's tragic death. Cissy's soulful rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," with images of Whitney and her family in the background, left everyone in tears.
Remember back when Beyonce and JAY-Z were just rumored to be dating? Well, by the time the duo finished a steamy performance of "Deja Vu" together on stage at the 2006 BET Awards — their first time together on the awards show — it was clear there was more to it. One thing's for sure — there was no denying their chemistry.
Prince proved he was the king of shade at the 2010 BET Awards, where he accepted a lifetime achievement award. The legendary artist gave quite a few the side eye during the tribute performances — images that now live eternally on the internet in meme and gif form — but ultimately was very gracious during his speech.
R&B fans went wild when D'Angelo gave his first televised performance in 10 years at the 2012 BET Awards. The neo-soul singer performed his hit "Sugar Daddy," but it was his performance of the 2000 classic "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" that sent fans into a frenzy.
Fresh off the heels of their super-successful TV movie "The New Edition Story," the cast and original members of New Edition joined together on stage to perform a medley of hits at the 2017 BET Awards. The group rocked the house in all-white looks and had the audience dancing in the aisles.
Alicia Keys was all about girl power when she brought out the original members of TLC, SWV and En Vogue to perform with her at the 2008 BET Awards. The ladies delivered all of their '90s hits including "Weak," "Hold On" and "Waterfalls." Love!
Diddy brought the house down, as only he can, by reuniting all the major acts of Bad Boy Records at the 2015 BET Awards. The music mogul, Lil' Kim, 112, Mase, Faith Evans and more all performed a medley of their biggest hits and we lived for all of it!