The 2012 BET Awards were black people on their best behavior. Rappers bragging about their God flow. Gospel singers praising Jesus. Comedians joking about getting their sermons from rappers. Honorees urging the audience to wait on God. BET took its audiences to the church and the club last night.
And both visits were business as usual. The BET Awards celebrate black culture. Black culture has always embraced the sacred along with the secular. That’s not news. In fact, I wrote a book about it.
Rap and Religion: Understanding the Gangsta’s God explains why rappers incorporate religious themes. Let me break down the top four reasons. The rest you’ll have to get the book to read.
Reason #1: Genuine Belief. Rappers need a higher power to guide (and forgive) them just as much as preachers do.
Reason #2: Habit. We live in a religious society. Our pop culture and our politics are peppered with religious themes. Rap is no exception.
Reason #3: Communal Connection. Big Mama, Mama and nem need to know that even though a rapper might be engaging in morally questionable activities, he or she has not forgotten his or her church roots.
Reason #4: Profit Incentive. When performances of church whether in a rap video, an actual sanctuary, or a BET award show pay the bills, both rappers and preachers will readily praise God for His abundant blessings.
Whether we agree with the reasons or not, BET never fails to offer us a broad snapshot of African American life. Peering at the audience pairings showed us preachers next to politicians, veteran performers next to upstarts, and of course, Kim Kardashian next to Kanye. Which brings me to the next section of this post:
Dr. Utley’s Top Five BET Awards Observations
- Despite her history, Kim Kardashian looked insanely uncomfortable around all those black people.
- Black performers must be wildly underachieving. BET nominates the same folks over and over and over.
- D’Angelo might not look like the sex symbol he used to be, but he sounded damn good.
- I’m mad the producers gave up on accurate censoring. There was more silence than rapping.
- The tributes were awesome and well-deserved. That is all.