Each year the BET awards showcases some of the greatest talent from African Americans and other minorities. This year while, as always, each performance was inspiring, but one in particular stood out. Having recently been released from prison, Meek Mill’s return to the stage was certainly not understated. His performance centred around controversial issues which Mill has advocated for publically, which are both universally important and personally relevant for the rapper. Mill and Miguel, who features in the song, brought their audience face to face with issues including gun violence, mass incarceration, police brutality and criminal justice. The most striking part of the performance was undoubtedly the provocative depiction of a young innocent girl being shot and killed, with her mother clinging to her body and wailing.
Not only is this socially prominent, but more so due to the rapper’s release from prison as well as the recent shootings which took the lives of XXX-Tentacion and Jimmy Wopo. Mill not only paid tribute to himself and many other young people of colour, but directly to Tentacion and Wopo by wearing a jumper with their faces on. The performance received a standing ovation from many members of its audience, while also receiving heavy praise on social media. However, as with most public displays of social criticism, the performance was also met with disdain.
In the wake of XXX’s killing, many people have spoken out about his alleged abusive behaviour and condemned any celebration of his artistry or wishes of peace. I am more inclined to agree with the latter, although rather than being grateful for his death I hope to be grateful for his return to anonymity. As such, I don’t praise Mill for parading XXX’s face and memory in front of his audience. Nor do I praise Mill to an extent that his ongoing legal issues become overshadowed and unimportant. What I do commend, however, is the use of Mill’s celebrity as a platform for the criticism of society and expression of his beliefs in an effort to evoke change.
Much of his message I stand wholeheartedly behind but some if it I disagree with. However, this is completely irrelevant. In every controversy there are going to be many differing opinions, and just because another’s conflicts your own it should not be silenced. Many rappers have had huge importance in advocating primarily for the rights of minorities, pointing out flaws in their society and beyond. Recently, however, there has been a shift particularly in mainstream rap music to focusing music on money, fame, women and so on. I emphatically applaud Mill and Miguel for using their platform to inform, inspire and provoke their audience. The more artists there are using their prominence to start conversations and draw attention to important issues, the more likely we are to progress.