Burna Boy, Libianca & Tems lead a stellar night for Afropop at the 2023 BET Awards

Sunday night's festivities also included an electric performance from Davido

Every year the BET awards is attended by huge fanfare from the global Black community. This year’s event was no different, as several celebrities from different walks of life were present, contributing to Sunday night’s glitzy appeal. As always, the red carpet looks were endearing moments but by and large the main focus was on the events which happened on-stage, those performances and award wins that has got many people still talking hours after the event.

For Afropop, the biggest news was Burna Boy winning his fourth Best International Artist award in five years. With the exception of Tems, who won it last year, the self-proclaimed African Giant has been on a memorable award run. This time he faced competition from notable superstars such as Ayra Starr, who was the only other Nigerian on the list; France’s Aya Nakamura and Tiakola; Uncle Waffles and K.O, from Swaziland and South Africa respectively; United Kingdom’s Stormzy, Ella Mai and Central Cee, and Brazil’s L7nnon. 

Native Now! cover star Davido also courted headlines for his performance. The ‘Timeless’ artist continues to give an excellent post-release account of his imminent classic, performing an electrifying medley of summer breakaway hit song “UNAVAILABLE” and “FEEL”.

Tems continues to stack her already-glittering set of awards, winning the Best Collaboration category for her role in Future and Drake’s “WAIT FOR U”—the same collab that earned her a Grammy award. The Nigerian artist is no newcomer to such awards, although the biggest conversation from last night’s awards however featured another female artist.

Having announced herself with the emotive smash  “People,” Libianca won the Best New International Act. The category was keenly-contested as it included other budding acts like uNder alum Pabi Cooper, Camidoh and Raye. Of them all, Asake was however the strongest competitor, given the shift he’s brought to the music scene and the larger culture since his 2022 breakthrough.

A section of social media (which is unarguably populated by Nigerians) have registered disbelief at Libianca winning the category, although their opinions, like any other person’s, have a subjective merit to them. With her history at the American Idol and how purposefully “People” was marketed outside the continent, it’s not entirely surprising that an ‘International’ category would recognise her.

After that breakout single, she’s also given a good account of herself. Her Ayra Starr and Omah Lay-helmed remix of the record further endeared her to African audiences, while her sterling appearance on Jae 5’s “I Wish” alongside Lojay also furthered her reach. Her first single of the year “Jah” takes account of divine blessings, while reiterating Libianca’s vision to rise to the top.

If the BET awards means anything (and it does, a whole lot), there’s a number of narratives that are still being written. Regardless where one pitched their tent, we can agree that for an awards show that represents Black excellence across continents, this year was particularly good for Africa. We’re still on the rise.

See the full list of nominees and winners HERE.