With a long-overdue national reckoning over police brutality against Black Americans dominating the national conversation, the 2020 BET Awards opened on Sunday (June 28) with a fiery, all-star 2020 remix of Public Enemy’s classic anthem of outrage and activism, “Fight the Power.”
First, 12-year-old Keedron Bryant appeared in a solemn, affecting cold open to sing his viral “I Just Wanna Live” song a cappella. Then, the opening salvo of Public Enemy’s iconic Fear of A Black Planet track kicked in. Appearing separately given the coronavirus pandemic, PE’s Chuck D and Flavor Flav rapped a smattering of iconic lines from “Fight the Power” in addition to opening it up for relevant, thought-provoking verses from Nas, Rapsody (rocking a camo jacket that shouted out Colin Kaepernick and Faith Evans), Black Thought, PE 2.0’s Jahi and YG. Footage from the national protests over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery among many others was woven into the video.
“How many Tulsas have been burned down?” Nas asked in his verse, referring to the 1921 Tulsa race massacre scrubbed from plenty of history books. “Once Central Park was a vibrant Black town,” he continued, referring to the fact that the Manhattan park was built upon what was once known as Seneca Village, the first community founded by free Black Americans in New York City.
“Fight for Breonna Taylor and the pain of her mother,” Rapsody demanded. “Racism is a cancer, black thought is the answer,” said the Roots’ MC Black Thought in his verse (Questlove was also ‘present,’ spinning records while socially distanced.)
Watch it below.