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
In celebration of her album’s 20th anniversary, “Songs in A Minor,” Alicia Keys performed a medley of three beloved tracks 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 performed “A Woman’s Worth,” “How Come You Don’t Call Me,” and her breakout hit “Fallin’,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for six weeks 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.
“I’m grateful for another day and another blessing,” he began. “I’ve always promised to be there for those in need if given the chance. I’m someone who represents the struggles of the less fortunate. This award holds great significance to me because it emphasizes the importance of change. Changing lives, changing perspectives, and changing systems that weren’t meant to benefit us. It’s time for us to rewrite the narrative and take control of our own story.”
Drake Honored As Artist of the Decade
Drake was named Artist of the Decade. joining Mariah Carey and Eminem as past winners. With his young son Adonis by his side, Drake graciously accepted the honor. In his speech, he dedicated the award to his friends, collaborators, and fellow artists who inspire him. He expressed gratitude to his family for their support and acknowledged the impact his peers’ music has on him, keeping him constantly thinking about his next moves.
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. “I want to express my gratitude to the fans for honoring the legacy and essence of my son, whose presence feels alive as if he were physically here,” she expressed. “His music was meant for those kids who sleep four in a room, those who strive to attend school every day to graduate and bring pride to their mothers.”
“He did this so that 14 year olds would not have to kill to prove they are somebody,” Jackson continued. “That’s the irony of it all, so I appreciate the Billboard Awards leadership for recognizing my brave and talented young artist.” Bashar Barakah Jackson, we call your name.”