The 2018 BET Awards barely handed out any trophies with big stars like Cardi B, Drake and Kendrick Lamar absent, but the show included superior performances by rising singer H.E.R, rapper Meek Mill and gospel artist Yolanda Adams, who paid tribute to Anita Baker and nearly brought her to tears.
Baker, an eight-time Grammy winner who dominated the R&B charts from the early '80s to mid-90s, earned the Lifetime Achievement Award on Sunday at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
The 60-year-old used her speech to encourage the artists in the room to keep music alive.
"I would ask that the music be allowed to play, that singers are allowed to sing, and rappers are allowed to rap, and poets are allowed to rhyme," said Baker, who was also honored by host Jamie Foxx, Ledisi and Marsha Ambrosius.
H.E.R., whose real name is Gabi Wilson, was impressive as she sang the R&B hit "Focus," played the electric guitar like a rock star and sang softly during the sweet love song "Best Part," where she was joined by Daniel Caesar.
Meek Mill, who was released from prison in April, rapped the song "Stay Woke" on a stage transformed into a street corner, featuring hustlers, children and police officers. A mother screams as her child is shot during the powerful performance, and an officer lays an American flag over the body.
Meek Mill also made a statement by wearing a hoodie featuring the face of XXXTentacion, the 20-year-old rapper-singer who died after being shot last week.
"We can't get used to these types of things. We're too used to young people getting killed," Foxx said when speaking about XXXTentacion later in the show.
The Oscar winner told the audience to "try to sneak a message in" their music.
"We got to figure something out," he said.
Snoop Dogg celebrated 25 years in music, performing the classic songs "What's My Name" and "Next Episode." The rapper also performed songs from his recently released gospel album, wearing a choir robe on a stage that looked like a church.