BET Awards: Prince tribute features Sheila E., the Roots, D'Angelo | EW.com

Music

BET Awards pay tribute to Prince

Erykah Badu, the Roots, and Sheila E. performed the Purple One's best songs

(Kevin Winter/BET/Getty Images)

A stacked lineup paid tribute to Prince at Sunday night’s BET Awards. The performances – which took place throughout the broadcast – honored the legendary musician, who died in April at 57, and included the Roots, Janelle Monae, Erykah Badu, Bilal, and Sheila E.

The performances were spread out during the show, and the Roots took the stage first with Erykah Badu to sing “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” from 1987’s Sign o’ the Times.” Bilal then joined them for “The Beautiful Ones” from 1984’s Purple Rain, which he sang while writhing on the stage floor. Dave Chappelle introduced the segment and spoke of the night the world learned of Prince’s death. “Everyone felt the loss that we all feel tonight.”

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Stevie Wonder and Tori Kelly then took on Prince’s “Take Me With U,” also from Purple Rain. Wonder rocked a purple suit and Kelly, who Prince picked as one of his favorite new artists last year, wore sparkly purple pants in the late star’s honor, while massive images of Prince and purple visualizers projected behind them.

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They then ceded the mic to Jennifer Hudson who belted out an emotional rendition of “Purple Rain.” The crowd waved their hands back and forth while the Roots’ Captain Kirk Douglas took over the track’s guitar solo. (Wonder and Kelly both stayed on stage to play backup for Hudson.)

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Maxwell also made a surprise tribute to Prince when he segued from his song “Lake by the Ocean” to Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” in the second half of the awards show.

Janelle Monae, who considers Prince one of her mentors and friends, then took on a medley of tunes – the 1999 song “Delirious,” Parade’s “Kiss,” 1985’s “Pop Life,” and Purple Rain’s “I Would Die 4 U” – sung with back-up from a full chorus and high-energy coordinated dance choreography.

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Drummer and longtime collaborator Sheila E. closed out the show with a phenomenal rendition of “The Purple Medley,” including snippets from songs like “Let’s Work,” “U Got the Look,” “America,” “Baby I’m a Star,” and more. She danced across the stage barefoot with a dozen backup dancers and held up a bright blue guitar in the final moments as confetti dropped from the sky.

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After Prince’s death, Sheila E. spoke to EW about his legacy. “He recorded differently than any other artist I have ever recorded with,” she said. “It was just amazing — I had never seen anyone do that before.” Following the Purple One’s passing, D’Angelo and the Roots’ Questlove also paid high-profile tributes to the iconic musician.