The stigma attributed to New Yorkers, especially when we’re out of town, is that we can be a little vociferous. Although it’s not always true, under the right circumstances the potential to get lit is always there.
“Soul Train Weekend 2016” was one of those occasions. With the city, whose motto is what happens here stays here, BET put together a weekend of events designed to make the host city of Las Vegas a mere backdrop to the power of Black entertainment. With the plethora of happenings, the highlights were difficult to condense, but I’ll have at it.
Setting the stage was the Toyota sponsored “Acoustically Speaking,” featuring Yuna, Monica and Tank, appearing for the absent Jazmine Sullivan at the House of Blues Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay. With international acclaim, two EPs and three full-length albums, Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna is poised to make a run as an artist to be reckoned with here in the states. Her single, a surefire hit that everyone sings along to, is often referred as “the new Usher joint with that girl.” The song, called “Crush,” retains its soulful potency when she performs it alone.
Looking forward to hearing what she grows into, much like we did the headliner, Monica. Standing onstage was a doting mother and wife. Far different from the spirited, feisty teen “Miss Thang” that we introduced to in 1995, yet still much the same. As she ran through her list of bangers, we still marvel at her talent, still feel her best hasn’t reached us yet. It won’t be out of the realm of thought to see Monica take home a prestigious piece of hardware a colleague and duet partner was bestowed at the 2016 Soul Train Awards—the crown jewel of the weekend.
Brandy Norwood, aka Brandy, was presented with the Lady of Soul Award, one of the two top awards of the ceremony. After a heartfelt speech from 2015 honoree Jill Scott and a tribute video depicting her climb and impact, from the industry’s top executives and artists such as Kenny “BabyFace” Edmonds, Jazmine Sullivan, Jhene Aiko and others, Brandy reminded us why she’s held in such esteem, with a full dance and stunning vocal performance of a number of her beloved hits, including “Almost Doesn’t Count,” “Full Moon,” “Talk About Our Love” and “Sitting On Top of the World,” joined by MA$E.
That MA$E appearance takes us back to the premise in the opening chapter, about how New Yorkers do. If you were from the crib, especially if you have any affiliation to the Bronx or Harlem, going into the show your energy level on a scale of 1 to 10 was approximately an 8. By the end of the night, the energy was all the way up! We took home trophies (Tatiana Taylor/Fat Joe & Remy Ma stand up!) for contemporary music, but we also took down the biggest award of the show. Multi-platinum and three-time Grammy Award-winning producer, singer-songwriter, artist and musician Edward Theodore “Teddy” Riley, Mr. New Jack Swing, received the coveted Legend Award. His tribute performance served notice that he was a game changer and key contributor to the evolution of Black music.
The 2016 Soul Train Awards, set to air on Centric and BET networks Sunday, Nov. 27, at 8 p.m., ET, was burdened with having to compete with the stellar production of 2015, but the key principles were up to the challenge of meeting or exceeding that bar. Returning to her chores as hostess was Erykah Badu, who proved that her mix of humor and love of what soul train embodies is perfect for this endeavor. Along with her flavor, she bought back the “Soul Cypher.” This year, as Badu manned the turntables, Tyrese, Ne-Yo, Angie Stone and Gladys Knight held down the vocal chores. Tune in fo’ sho.
Before we go, have a festive holiday and give a prayer to the family of Sharon Jones. She was one of a kind.
Over and out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.