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Luke James pictured after serenading the crowd with his hit Make Love to Me (Photo Credit: Brittany K. Jackson)

On Saturday, June 18, BET, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw and AEG and teamed up to kick off the 2016 BET Experience at L.A. Live Presented by Coca-Cola. The free outdoor community concert featured live performances by GRAMMY-winning and nominated artists Monica, Luke James and Bilal, Empire guest star V Bozeman, and New-York native Tish Hyman. The artists paid it forward singing fan favorites as hundreds gathered in the Crenshaw corridor just in time for the summer.

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 Grammy-Award winning artist Monica pays it forward, bring some of her greatest hits to crowd for BET Experience kick-off.(Photo Credit: Brittany K. Jackson)

Luke James kicked-off the concert with a soulful rendition of his hit single, Make Love to Me, serenating the audience into a musical heatwave. Artist Tish Hyman also hit the stage, performing her single, Subway Art, subsequently describing the joy she felt from being on a BET stage. “The struggle was real, it was long, it was a lot of hard work,” Hyman stated. “I haven’t triumphed yet, but I feel really good about what I’m doing right now,” she continued.

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Tish Hyman pictured on stage performing her song Subway Art.(Photo Credit: Brittany K. Jackson)

Melanin hued beauty V Bozeman also performed in studded jean on jean attire, singing her hit single Go, which she says is inspired by a true experience. “You know, when our swag is up, we’re smelling good, looking good, and we’re working hard and independent, some dudes just can’t handle your light,” Bozeman declared. “So, you need to just tell them to go,” she continued. V Bozeman exclusively announced to the Sentinel that she’s working on her newest EP, Off of 85th & Avalon, saying she’s looking to get “back to the basics”, to share her relatable journey with fans.

Neo-soul artist Bilal, whose vocal range speaks for itself, rocked the stage in an African dashiki, singing his personal tribute to African American women entitled Soul Sista. When asked about the character of his music, Bilal says that “music has always been the sound track for everybody’s lives,” and that it’s meant to have a “healing element,” particularly as a tool people use to view the world around them.

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Melanin hued beauty V Bozeman pictured after performing her song Go inspiring women to stay focus while on their grind. (Photo Credit: Brittany K. Jackson)

The Sentinel also caught up with BET’s President of Programming Stephen Hill, who spoke about the process of putting together the BET Awards every year. “It literally starts the day after the award show for the next year,” Hill stated. In the wake of the deaths of Prince Be of PM Dawn, Natalie Cole, Maurice White, Prince and Muhammed Ali, Hill says that BET has made a concerted effort to pay tribute to the fallen legends.

“Obviously, it’s been a taxing year when it comes to the deaths of icons. A lot of it is heavily around Prince, but obviously we’ll be taking in to account other’s we’ve lost this year,” Hill stated. When asked about how important it is to give back to the community, Hill says that “BET has been and will always be about the community.”

The lively concert capped off with a headlining performance from Monica, who captivated the crowd with legendary hits like So Gone and newer songs from her album Code Red.