LL Cool J rocked the bells to kick off the BET Experience Weekend at the Staples Center on Thursday, June 21.
The BET Experience always features concerts for R&B and Hip Hop, but this year they also brought us an old-school hip-hop concert that filled the crowd with different age groups, from people in their 20s to people in their 50s. Everyone was on their feet with performances by Ne-Yo, Nas, Ludacris and special guests. Big Tigger also hosted the night with jokes and memories of BET’s Rap City.
“It was a throwback, it was classic. It’s good to see some of the young people come out and support the legends too,” said Chris Kelly, 41. “And everyone still looks and sounds good, you know Black don’t crack. Everyone was keeping up and still had their energy.”
The night kicked off with Ne-Yo showing the crowd how to be grown and sexy with hits like “Sexy Love” and “Because of You.” Then he serenaded the ladies with ‘Miss Independent’ and talked to the fellas about being a “Good Man” with songs from his new album. Of course, throughout the entire performance, Ne-Yo was showing off his smooth dance moves and even brought two audience members on stage for a dance contest.
“Ne-yo got it started, everyone was singing and dancing, and you know Ne-yo be dancing with that hat [laughs]” said Sonia Usher, 52. “This is actually our first concert together. My daughter got the tickets and we’re just happy to be out, seeing Black performers. There’s so much community around.”
Ludacris came to the stage after with full force and had the crowd hype with hits like, “Get Back” and “Move B****.” He also had the ladies dancing, performing “My Chick Bad” and “How Low.” Just when you thought that the crowd was to their maximum energy, Ludacris brought out Monica and the cheers were louder than ever. Everyone was swaying side to side and singing every lyric as Monica’s angelic voice came through the speakers.
It was the perfect transition for hip-hop legend, Nas. He took the stage and performed a catalog of songs that had the crowd dancing, like “Oochie Wally,” but also mixed some deep cuts in like, “One Mic” and “I Can.” Along with his classic hits, Nas performed some music from his new album, Nasir.
“The crowd was live and everyone did all the throwbacks. Hopefully, they keep this,” said Kimberly Johns, 33, who was out on date night. “I know BET likes to switch it up but sometimes, going back and doing throw backs is a good thing. Hopefully they realize that.”
The headliner of the night, LL Cool J, hit the stage with fire. He commanded the stage coming out to “Mama Said Knock You Out” and continued with songs like, “I’m Bad” and “I Can’t Live Without My Radio.” He also was here for the ladies, of course, with songs like, “Around the Way Girl” and “Hush.” He even passed out roses after performing “I Need Love.” LL also brought out Slick Rick and Snoop Dogg, who both had the crowd lit. Dj Z-Trip had us rocking during the performance as well with music breaks for break dancers and free styles from LL. The night wouldn’t be complete without the final song, “Rock the Bells.” The crowd was singing every word as white confetti filled the air.
“I just want to thank BET and all of you. You are my heroes because you kept classic hip-hop alive. It’s not me, it’s not Ludacris, it’s not Nas, it’s you,” said LL Cool J to the audience before ending his performance. “We filled up the Staple Center!”
Whether it was date night, a night out with your teenage kids, or a night out with friends, everyone was jamming at this concert. BET got the party started right and showed downtown L.A. what classic hip-hop is all about.