The 20th annual BET Awards on Sunday was completely virtual due to concerns about the coronavirus, but the slogan for the awards this year was “our culture cannot be canceled.” Fittingly, the remote show kicked off with a fierce update to an 80s hip-hop classic, Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” featuring Chuck D and Flavor Flav plus Nas, Rapsody, JAHI, YG, and The Roots. Black Thought and Questlove, plus an introduction by Keedron Bryant and new verses about George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. PE’s performance set the tone for the night, and it was hard to imagine such an explosive set being outplayed during the two-hour broadcast.
But then … DaBaby and Roddy Ricch performed “Rockstar”, during the most talked about, and certainly the most controversial, moment of the night.
The prerecorded clip opened with DaBaby facedown on the blacktop, his left cheek pressed to the ground as he peered through the lens. As the camera zoomed out, a white cop could be seen pressing his knee against the rapper’s neck, a shocking image referencing Floyd’s murder on May 25.
The screen darkened and the scene was cut with a performance by DaBaby and Ricch in front of burning police cars surrounded by protesters and masked Black Lives Matter police officers. The powerful number ended with a girl holding a “More Love” sign, while listening to a tearful viral speech by 9-year-old Zianna Oliphant at a 2016 Charlotte City Council meeting on police brutality. “We are black people, and we shouldn’t have to feel that way,” Oliphant’s voice echoed. “We should not have to protest because everyone is treating us badly. We do this because we need to do it. It is a shame that our fathers and mothers are killed and that we cannot even see them again. ”
Many viewers found DaBaby’s performance moving, praising the rapper, who also hails from Charlotte, North Carolina, for using his platform to make such a bold statement.
DaBaby is killing this Rockstar performance. The images of a cop on his neck like George Floyd’s killers broke my heart. 💔 #BETAwards
– ✊🏾 ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER ✊🏾 (@flywithkamala) June 29, 2020
Da Baby and Roddy Ricch really showed up with their “Rockstar” performance. Seeing them highlights not only George Floyd but also Breonna Taylor. And to end with a Protestant black girl + a black girl who expresses her feelings about police violence. I felt that. #BETAwards pic.twitter.com/AuiYqehJv6
– Mar-kw-ASIA (@MarquaysaBattle) June 29, 2020
However, others on Twitter were horrified that DaBaby recreated Floyd’s gruesome death, especially because, according to claims by detractors, he had been slow to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement. The rapper was accused of being “tasteless”, “triggering” and “dull in tone”, and of “commodifying” the Floyd tragedy for his own benefit.
I can’t believe Daby said to let me reenact George Floyd’s death after tweeting that he had nothing to say about the whole thing and was waiting until the “hype” calmed down.
– syd (@oldballads) June 29, 2020
DABABY was silent during BLM and used that man DEATH FOR AESTHETIC! That is not right! Black suffering should not be TELEVISED so that people can realize that we are important. We import ALIVE ALSO! https://t.co/DiRYTLKXX2
– Gubler1DNicki (@PresidentOnika) June 29, 2020
Dababy was just talking about the police not being that bad and he just marketed George Flyod’s death for his celebrity moment
– diaper by nature 🌱 (@sailorfemme) June 29, 2020
DaBaby is disgusting. That was causing asf and you knew who your target audience was …
– Mali Quarantino🍒 (@ howdidY0Ufindme) June 29, 2020
Dababy and Roddy Rich’s performance was so deaf, he cut the cameras with nothing #BETAwards
– CRY ME A RIVER (@karmaismybxtch) June 29, 2020
For what it’s worth, DaBaby, who has voiced her personal experiences with police violence, had already explained last month why she took the time to talk about Floyd. “I always sit back and let the publicity overflow before giving my opinion so that my perspective is not confused with all the people who only speak for likes and comments, or to save face, or maybe because their relations department public, label, or management told them that they should make a statement to preserve their integrity and not lose admirers, business, support from the black community, etc. “he wrote on Twitter.
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