FEARLESSRiOT FORECAST: 2017 BET Awards

It’s been referred to as the “Black Twitter Family Reunion” in recent years, and for good reason. Since the start of the decade, the BET Awards has been one of those ceremonies that inspire some of the funniest Twitter action among primarily-black viewers. Whether it’s to discuss Nicki Minaj‘s latest tossing of shade in her acceptance speech or to grill Desiigner for performing like he’s on some wacky substances even Smokey hasn’t taken yet, it’s can be guaranteed that there is fun to be had when we all gather to catch the BET Awards. Originally beginning in 2001 to honor the biggest and brightest in black entertainment, the award show became a yearly institution and continues to be just that even after BET joined MTV and VH1 in phasing out music videos. Yet their music categories continue to be where most of the attention is, hence why I’m not covering the acting and sports fields in the Forecast; just the music fields. Who Will leave the Leslie Jones-hosting show with a shiny new trophy? Let’s get lit and let’s predict.

BEST FEMALE R&B/POP ARTISTScreenshot (1160)

In a field where Beyoncé is an easy pick to head to the winner’s circle, she finds herself facing off against both her own flesh-and-blood in Solange and the woman that fans have been pitting her against since she asked the DJ to turn the music up in 2005, that being Rihanna. And don’t get it twisted; Beyoncé’s Lemonade album was a hodgepodge of genres so groundbreaking that the Grammys reportedly thought it was TOO ambitious for Album of the Year, which is like saying that a person is too intelligent to win a Spelling Bee. However, both the other Knowles and the Barbadian beauty released albums that received just as much praise, with fans actively frustrated that Anti didn’t receive a single Grammy while A Seat At the Table won Solange her very first golden gramophone. Another Grammy and BET Award winner in this category is the incomparable Mary J. Blige; the queen of hip-hop soul released an album that kind of went under the radar this year, led by the single “Thick of It” where she decided to give trap a try, because hey, everyone else is doing it. And that kind of includes the new kid on the block, Kehlani. The R&B stunner with the hip-hop swagger released an album titled SweetSexySavage and reception has deservedly been highly favorable. But is that mountain of praise big enough for her to topple the heavyweights she’s going up against?
Who I Want to Win: Rihanna, because I’m kind of a biased fanboy like that.
Who Will Win: One of the Knowles sisters, most likely Beyoncé since she’s the biggest name of the two. However, don’t be surprised if Solange is rewarded for her effort.

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Absolutely bananas that Usher is still around; so many R&B singers from the early-2000s have fell out of the mainstream conscious, from Joe to Jaheim to Donell Jones to Musiq Soulchild to Maxwell (yes, I remember he performed at the BET Awards last year), but Usher has managed to stick around, mainly by hitching his chrome wagon to trends driven by cats younger than him while occasionally taking the route into what your parents call “grown folks music™”. (Really why did we let “Good Kisser” flop?) That said, he collaborated with Chris Brown a couple of years ago, and Mr. CB is probably less of a risk-taker. While his Fortune video series was surely ambitious, it doesn’t change the fact that he kind of makes the same song numerous times. By comparison Bruno Mars and The Weeknd, despite both having the most mainstream play of anyone else in the category, both have taken the niches of retro sounds in Mars’ case and dark moodiness in The Weeknd’s case and managed to both stand out and be successful as a result. The inescapability of “That’s What I Like” and “Starboy” are proof of that. Then there’s Trey Songz, still playing the role of modern R&B’s sex symbol to the ladies. I’d be lying if I said he’s an irreplaceable talent, but he’s no slouch and his most recent album, while being the sensual R&B he’s always been known for, wasn’t terrible. However, he’s been nominated in this field time and again with only one win to his name. Can he double that this year?
Who I Want to Win: Bruno Mars; that retro-soul vibe of his hasn’t gotten played out in the slightest.
Who Will Win: Bruno Mars; the voters can’t deny his commitment to paying homage to the golden age of soul.

BEST MALE HIP-HOP ARTISTScreenshot (1165)

Look at that, an entire male hip-hop category in 2017 and only one person in the category can fall under the umbrella of “mumble rap”! It is a miracle! Mumble rap may be the in-thing right now, with everyone from Young Thug to Lil Uzi Vert keeping the trend a success, but if there is one definitive face of the style, it has to be Future. His copycat Desiigner may have reached the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100, but Future has been holding it down in the streets before even before Shaq made his WrestleMania entrance to “Panda”. Like him or not, he’s been influential of the current hip-hop sound. That is aside from the influence of Drake, who this year released what he refers to as a playlist entitled More Life because albums are so old school, amirite, y’all? Drake is a divisive rapper, seeming more and more like an R&B singer by the year, but he’s huge in the mainstream and the streets. The same can be said for Kendrick Lamar, who’s “HUMBLE.” Is still in the Top 10 on Billboard and who’s album DAMN. went platinum in a hurry. This is a guy who can collaborate with Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, and Sia and not lose an ounce of street cred. But who else do we have here? There’s Grammy-winner Chance the Rapper, who has also changed everything we knew about successful music distribution; he’s still an indy artist and doesn’t put his music up for purchase, but fans flock to him cause he’s so good. J. Cole is just as divisive as Drake; you either like him for his wordplay and storytelling or you find him boring for…those exact same reasons. And even Big Sean splits people down the middle, believe it or not. But all six of these men are running the game right now. But only one of them can get a nice, shiny BET Award.
Who I Want to Win: Kendrick Lamar; he and Chance are the two rappers here I can listen to consistently nowadays, but Kendrick packs more of a punch with me.
Who Will Win: I’m going with Drake; wouldn’t be the first time he’s won over technically better rappers considering he’s won this award four times now.

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It is really disappointing what has become of this award. Last year, Nicki Minaj set the record for most wins in this category, an accomplishment that would be really impressive if not for the fact that everyone from fans to the industry have tried everything in their power to keep her from having any kind of competition. As mentioned in the 2001 BET Awards Retro Review, there was once a time when there were several women running the rap game, from Missy Elliott to Lil Kim to Foxy Brown to Da Brat to Trina to Eve. However, for one reason of another – be it acting, personal reasons, jail time, or waning interest from the public – those aforementioned femcees and several others who achieved even a shred of success disappeared from the spotlight with Missy being able to return and net a nomination here due to the release of a single or two with no official album in sight. Even Lil Mama and Iggy Azalea couldn’t hold on to their cred as they both descended into being jokes to most people. And Azealia Banks just keeps shooting herself in the foot and then putting it in her mouth. But what does her competition look like this year? Cardi B is a reality star of many talents, from rapping to hosting to comedy, but she and fellow newcomer Young M.A might have some work to do before reaching the level of even being a threat to Nicki here. Probably the biggest threat to Nicki in this field is Remy Ma, whose beef with Nicki this year came to a head with the release of the epic “Shether” diss track. The beef faded from memory quickly after, however, and Nicki just went back to business as usual, being the single most famous female rapper in the game. If you ask Nicki if she feels intimidated at all in this moment in time, her reaction would probably resemble this Seth Rollins compilation.
Who I Want to Win: Doesn’t really matter, because…
Who Will Win: Nicki Minaj. Again. Let’s face it, the only reason this award is still around is just so she can win it over and over.

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At the 2001 BET Awards, there were enough relevant and well-known R&B and hip-hop music groups to split the field into two gender-based categories. Sure, “Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg & Nate Dogg” being in the male field is a bit suspect since that was a collaboration and not an actual group, but the other four were legitimate groups and as were the five Female Group nominees. In 2017, however, we apparently barely have enough relevant R&B and hip-hop groups of either gender to fill out one Best Group awards because two nominees in the category technically don’t even qualify as legitimate groups. Actually, that might not be completely fair; Fat Joe & Remy Ma did release a joint album in 2016 and are pretty much tied at the hip. And from what I read, 2 Chainz’s latest album ColleGrove is supposed to be a joint album with Lil Wayne with legal issues supposedly preventing that from being official. Still, it feels like cheating and I don’t really consider either to be actual groups; they’re collaborative efforts. How does that count? The three actual groups in this field all represent the rap game; two separate eras, in fact. A Tribe Called Quest, they of “Scenario” fame, were one of the biggest hip-hop acts of the 90’s, and when they performed tracks from their final album on the Dave Chappelle-hosted SNL following the 2016 election, they let the world know that they still got it. However, they’re not topping the charts and getting the airplay that Rae Sremmurd and Migos are getting. “Black Beatles” and “Bad and Boujee” have inspired memes aplenty and earned their creators #1 songs. Make no mistake, if anyone is winning in this category, it’s going to be one of these two.
Who I Want to Win: A Tribe Called Quest, proving that my “old-head” sensibilities for hip-hop are alive and well.
Who Will Win: Migos, just by way of pure domination. It’s hard to name a track that either the whole group or one of their individual members is not on now.

BEST COLLABORATIONScreenshot (1163)

The key to a perfect collaboration is being able to play to the strengths of every performer on the record, and in the case of “Freedom” by Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar, the mission was accomplished. Combining Lamar’s social conscious and Beyoncé’s ability to be larger-than-life, they came up with one fiery track. Meanwhile, Beyoncé gets to be much looser on the flexing party track “Shining” alongside DJ Khaled and husband Jay Z. She’s the only female nominated; every other track here highlights the hip-hop men’s club. “Party” features Chris Brown once again pairing up with Usher for a hip-hop dance track topped off with a Gucci Mane verse. Chance the Rapper officially arrived as a huge deal with the gospel-laced “No Problem”, where collaborating with heavy hitters Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz surely placed him among hip-hop’s elite even without a record deal. And based on the lyrics, he’s probably not shopping around for one anytime soon. But the two biggest hits here are easily “Bad and Boujee” and “Black Beatles”, two songs that rode meme culture all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. I would argue neither verse was particularly enhanced by their guest verses; Gucci was probably the least memorable part of “Black Beatles” and the opinion that Uzi’s verse on “Bad and Boujee” was terrible seems to be almost unanimous. But they were both there and the songs were massive smashes, so here we are.
Who I Want to Win: Either “No Problem” or “Freedom”; I don’t recall many people citing “Freedom” as a favorite from Lemonade, but it was one of my favorites personally. And “No Problem” was one of the most infectious rap hits of the year.
Who Will Win: Either “Bad and Boujee” or “No Problem”, the former for being so massive or the latter for being something everyone could jam to.

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I want to be as fair as possible, but in the case of 21 Savage, I haven’t exactly pinned down why he became so popular. Most of the 2016 XXL Freshman cyphers were pretty underwhelming, but his cypher in-particular was very tragic. Also, it would probably help for him to invoke more energy or emotion into his delivery on songs. But he has earned fans doing what he’s doing, so who am I to say he needs to change? I will say that he’s one of four rappers in this category, and he’s the least impressive of the lineup. Dominican and Trinidadian rapper Cardi B may have broken out on reality television and social media, but based on what I’ve heard, I wouldn’t feel right completely counting her out of the rap game. Same for Young M.A, who is about as street as it gets, but comes with that energy and roughness that I’d love to see more of in the rap game these days. It’s that appeal that likely caused “OOOUUU” to become a massive smash despite so little radio play. Chance the Rapper is one of those rappers with an unorthodox sound, having an almost cartoony sound in his vocals and buckets of humble charisma, who is actually a lot of fun to listen to and has been since his days of having the juice. Then there’s Khalid, the R&B singer with the big hair. The best way I can describe him is Bryson Tiller, but with more of an actual familiar R&B groove to him.
Who I Want to Win: This should probably go without saying, but Chance the Rapper.
Who Will Win: Chance the Rapper; after winning the Grammy for Best New Artist, he definitely has the BET Award on-lock.

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Honestly, the best bets in this category right off top are the songs that went on to become memes. If anything can stamp a song’s popularity in modern day, it’s Twitter’s ability to meme the hell out of it. “Black Beatles” may not have sounded anything like The Beatles, but it sounded cool enough to make it cool to play “Freeze” again, and to share it online for the world to see. “Bad and Boujee” actually had a text-based meme, spreading ‘Rain drop, drop top’ around the internet like a virus and even recieved an extra boost from Donald Glover in front of a bunch of confused actors at the Golden Globes. Two artists in-particular who could be locks on name alone are Drake and Beyoncé. “Fake Love” was so popular that Drake didn’t even need to film a music video to get it to the Top 10. In fact, does he even still make music videos for songs on his album/mixtape/playlists? Meanwhile, “Sorry” was the big hit from the critically acclaimed Lemonade album, the track with the infamous “Becky With The Good Hair” lyric. Beyoncé is so beloved, the Becky in-question would probably even vote for her. The Weeknd and Bruno Mars, as big of stars as they are, could potentially be wildcards. “24K Magic” wasn’t an “Uptown Funk”-level smash, but it was still a pretty big hit. As was “Starboy”, which is a groovy enough introduction to the new era of the Weeknd. But is it enough to land him the award?
Who I Want to Win: I actually voted for this award and my votes went to Bruno Mars.
Who Will Win: Migos & Lil’ Uzi Vert
; people hyped the song up so much I find it hard to see it losing.

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This year’s Video of the Year field seems like such a downgrade from last year. 2016 had Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar getting political and Drake dad-dancing before hitting the club with Rihanna. Beyoncé’s back with another potion of her visual album; less political than “Formation” but attention-grabbing all the same with Serena Williams twerking, a bus full of hyped women, and Beyoncé‘s African garb. Bruno Mars is nominated for bringing the retro-vibe of his song completely to life with a golden-plated Vegas visual complete with dancing, champagne, jet-skiing, beautiful ladies, and some very fancy cars. Big Sean‘s video for “Bounce Back” also has a ton of color, but in a different context; his video is kind of trippy with it’s imagery. The colors in Solange‘s video are pretty saturated, but that’s because they compliment that fashion and focus of culture on display, making the video seem like a beautiful, artsy piece of work. Solange has always been artfully ambitious, and this might be her magnum opus video. What does Migos have to offer? Riding around on ATV’s right after treating women who are dressed fancy to a nice dinner at KFC, complete with champagne bottles. Such an odd mix, but I think that’s supposed to be the point. Oh, and Lil Uzi Vert is wearing a Marilyn Manson shirt for some reason. Trying to earn rock cred, I guess?
Who I Want to Win: I’ll be honest: Solange. Her video is a work of art and if she’s gonna win any award this year, let it be this one.
Who Will Win: Probably Beyoncé, because she’s Beyoncé and this was most people’s favorite part of Lemonade.

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Part of me feels like the only reason this category exists is through the power of Lemonade. But that’s not to dismiss the point that every album here is outstanding in its own right and juggles the weight of artists who don’t play by conventional modern rules. Ever since Unorthodox Jukebox, Bruno Mars has become the go-to man for modern songs with throwback flavor, fully realized in the collection that is 24K Magic. Solange‘s album went for an almost surreal vibe as she took her seat at the table of recognized R&B superstars. Before this, her most famous song was the theme to a Disney Channel cartoon (a great Disney Channel cartoon, might I add), but this album earned her more serious recognition. Chance The Rapper is nominated for what is technically not even an album, but it didn’t stop the highly successful mixtape from snagging the Best Rap Album Grammy and sending him into a whole other level of fame. Critical reception for J. Cole‘s album has been mixed with some praising his lyrical depth and others condemning the record for being too “boring”. Apparently, that’s not just a running joke on Twitter anymore; some people really seem to feel that way. But enough people bought it that it proved J. Cole does still have an audience.
Who I Want to Win: Lemonade, because it’s brilliant.
Who Will Win: Lemonade, partly because it’s brilliant and partly to stick it to the Grammys for status quo-ing their biggest award of the night this year.

What do you think of these predictions? Hit me up on Twitter @FearlessRiOT with your predictions and tune into the BET Awards this Sunday night on BET!

 

 

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