Brandy is a woman of her word. The singer took the BET Awards stage on Sunday night for the debut live performance of her effortless “First Class” freestyle alongside Jack Harlow – a full circle clean-up after she promised last month to “murk this dude in rap at 43 on his own beats and then sing his ass to sleep.”
The Kentucky rapper made his debut performance at the awards ceremony with the live debut of the Lil Wayne-assisted “Poison” from his sophomore record Come Home the Kids Miss You before Brandy took the stage to out-rap the both of them and polish it off with some vocal gymnastic harmonies on the Fergie-sampling “First Class” hook.
“This black excellence at its finest/ Don’t call me, “Brandy,” no more, call me, “Your highness”/ Built up, filling my brother Ray J glasses/ This is passion/ You woke up a beast, now it’s madness/ Singer slash rapper, rapper slash actress,” she rapped with fervor.
Backstage at the ceremony, Brandy told ET Online: “I’m so thankful to Jack because he gave me this great opportunity to be a rapper. I’ve been wanting to rap for forever and everybody was like, ‘Mm, everybody just wants to hear you sing, don’t do rap.’ But I love rap, I love hip-hop, I love all of that.”
For as much as he’s hit with claims of pandering to his black audience, Harlow spent most of his night sharing his platform with black artists. Apart from tapping Lil Wayne and Brandy for his performance, the rapper hit the red carpet sporting a Lil Nas X shirt after the pop-rap star’s highly-publicized dispute with BET.
“Wow I really love this man,” Lil Nas X wrote on Twitter ahead of the ceremony. From the beginning of his beef with the network, it was about much more than being shut out of the nominations despite having two of the biggest hits of 2021. In a since-deleted tweet, he wrote, “I just feel like black gay ppl have to fight to be seen in this world and even when we make it to the top mfs try to pretend we are invisible.”
The clash with BET stretches back to Lil Nas X’s debut performance at the awards ceremony last year where he performed “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and rounded off his set by sharing a kiss with his backup dancer. In their response to Nas’s criticisms this year, the network claimed that “no one cheered louder that night than BET” after the performance. But Lil Nas X and his team told Rolling Stone that the opposite was true.
“They say that ‘no one cheered louder’ for me than them that night,” Lil Nas X said, “but the BET Awards team was actually very upset that I kissed my dancer onstage and vocalized their discontent with multiple members of my team immediately following the performance.”
Another member of his team added: “At some point after [Nas] got offstage, one of the BET producers came up to me and before I could even open my mouth, he looked at me and said, ‘That was really fucked up.’”
“Industry Baby” didn’t have a chance to make it onto the BET Awards stage, and Nas sat the ceremony out for obvious reasons, but Harlow made sure his solidarity was known.