Beyoncé and Kendrick Pretty Much Upstaged Everyone, Ever, at the BET Awards

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Firstly, yes, that is hyperbolic. But a performance between Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar merits hyperbole, especially when that performance is not only a show of their natural talents, but an explosive, incisive, politicized, top-of-their-game mega-spectacle from two people who, even on off-nights (if such a thing were to really exist), are at the top of their game as performers.

“Freedom” of course felt particularly charged at the BET awards, given the program’s focus on and celebration of blackness in contrast to other prominent other award ceremonies that so frequently erase the contributions of artists of color; Kendrick pointedly added a new line about “Revolution televised.” Though much of Lemonade is steeped in cultural pride and historical significance, this song is the most outwardly political, at least beyond the pre-released single “Formation.”

Their appearance was a surprise, and one that was announced with a segment of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, as tribal dancers marched down the audience aisle, and onto the stage — or, really, onto the pool. For, the stage was transformed into a shallow body of water (as on the Formation Tour), on which the dancers began to stomp and splash in divinely specific freneticism and furor, as Beyoncé managed to perfectly sing the entire song, despite the storm of stage-water flying around her. Then, in the second third of the track, Kendrick popped up from under the stage, and joined Beyoncé in the pool, where the two finished out the song, clearly mutually enjoying one another’s virtuosity to let loose and start splashing each other.

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