The 2021 Billboard Music Awards aired on Sunday evening (May 23), and the ceremony recognized trailblazers in music. Drake and rapper-activist Trae tha Truth were among the big honorees last night with the latter receiving the esteemed Change Maker award. Here are the top three moments from this year’s show below:
Alicia Keys Celebrates 20th Anniversary of “Songs in A Minor” with Medley
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of her debut album, “Songs in A Minor,” Alicia Keys graced the stage with a three-song medley of hits from the album. The 15-time Grammy winner was introduced by a pre-taped video of the former first lady, Michelle Obama, who described Keys as a “shining light and singular force.” Keys then took to the stage to perform “A Woman’s Worth,” “How Come You Don’t Call Me,” and her breakout hit, “Fallin,” which spent six weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2001. The singer-songwriter even brought back her signature braids and recreated the back cover of Songs in A Minor in a custom Balmain denim coat and pants.
Trae The Truth Accepts Change Maker Award
Trae tha Truth accepted the second-ever Change Maker Award, as he was honored for his philanthropic work and social justice advocacy. Tina Knowles-Lawson presented the award to the Houston rapper, whom she said has a “a heart as big as Texas.” A video montage showed Trae’s natural disaster relief work during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and a protest he organized for the justice of his dear friend George Floyd that was attended by more than 60,000 people.
“Another day, another blessing,” he began his speech. “I said if I ever had a position, I’d be there for those in need. … I’m one of those who represent the struggle of the less fortunate. And what I will say when it comes to change is it’s important, that’s why this award is so important to me. It’s important to change people’s lives, it’s important to change the thoughts of those who give up at times, and it’s important to change things that wasn’t designed for our best interest…. It’s time for us to change the narrative and control our own story.”
Drake Honored As Artist of the Decade
Drake was honored with the Artist of the Decade accolade. The Canadian rapper joined past recipients Mariah Carey (1990s) and Eminem (2000s), as the third-ever winner. With his 3-year-old son Adonis by his side, Drake graciously accepted his award. “I want to dedicate this award to my friends, I want to dedicate this award to my longtime collaborators,” he said during his speech. “I want to dedicate this award to all my peers, all your decisions, and the music you make really does have me tossing and turning at night trying to figure out what I should do next. Thank you to my beautiful family.”
Honorable Mention: Pop Smoke’s Mother Emotionally Accepts His 5 Posthumous Awards
Pop Smoke is still being honored over a year after his death. He earned five awards at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards: top new artist, top rap artist, top rap male artist, top Billboard 200 album and top rap album. The late rapper’s mother, Audrey Jackson, took the stage to accept the award for the top Billboard 200 album, which he received for his posthumous debut album, Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon. “Thank you to the fans for honoring the life and spirit of my son, so much that he continues to manifest as if he were still here in flesh,” she said. “He created music for the kid who has to sleep four in a room, the kid who has to figure out how to get to school each day so he can graduate and make his mom proud.”
“He did this so that 14 year olds would not have to kill to prove they are somebody,” Jackson continued. “That is the irony in this, so thank you to the Billboard Awards leadership for honoring my young warrior. Bashar Barakah Jackson, we call your name.”