The nominees have been revealed for the annual BET Awards, set to take place at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, USA on Sunday 26 June.
Recognising the growing international appeal of African contemporary artists, eight African artists have been honoured ahead of this year's BET Awards. Leading the charge in the category Best International Act: Africa are South African hip-hop rivals AKA and Cassper Nyovest and house kingpin Black Coffee. Nigeria is represented by Wizkid (winner of the award in 2012) and Afro-pop diva Yemi Alade. Also in the running are Tanzanian sensation Diamond Platnumz and Ghana’s dancehall/R&B queen MzVee, while Cote d’Ivoire’s coupé decalé star Serge Beynaud is the only Francophone artist nominated.
The other categories focus largely on leading North American stars. Canadian artist Drake (who recently collaborated with Wizkid on ‘One Dance’) leads with nine nominations. Beyoncé and Rihanna follow with five nods each, followed by newcomer Bryson Tiller, Chris Brown and Future with four apiece.
Created in 2001, the BET Awards recognizes artists, entertainers, athletes and philanthropists across over 20 categories. “Now in its 16th year, the BET Awards continues to honour some of today’s biggest names in music and entertainment along with legends in the industry,” said Stephen Hill, BET’s President of Programming. “The nominees this year represent an incredible array of artists and exceptional athletes who inspire their fans around the globe."
Last year’s BET Awards were mired in controversy, as far as many African artists were concerned. After Ghanaian hitmaker Stonebwoy was named Best International Act, accusations swirled that African participants were treated unfairly. Nigerian musician and promoter Ade Bantu labelled the awards “nothing but a farce”, while Nigerian nominee Yemi Alade called for the African category to be cancelled because it lacked "credibility". The organisers hit back strongly at the accusations, denying that the Africa artists were awarded backstage or made to perform to an empty venue.
While last year’s controversy casts a shadow over this year’s BET Awards, others might argue that any opportunity for African musicians to showcase their work on a global stage should not be ignored. Awards on the continent are also not without their own problems. For example in Ghana recently as well as the ill-fated Kora Awards that failed to take place as planned in Namibia.