Mem­o­rable in­deed

Los Angeles Times - - POP WEEKEND - ger­rick. kennedy @ latimes. com

with a thrilling, rock star­wor­thy spec­ta­cle ( a strict no- cell­phone pol­icy en­forced by a beefed- up se­cu­rity pres­ence kept the au­di­ence even more en­gaged).

Fol­low­ing Hart, Doug E. Fresh and Bell Biv Devoe turned Club Nokia into an old- school party, and the danc­ing con­tin­ued into early Fri­day.

Nicki Mi­naj’s Fri­day night show was sur­pris­ingly dis­ap­point­ing. Tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties pushed her start time back by nearly 40 min­utes, and Mi­naj never ap­peared to re­bound. Although Mi­naj is ca­pa­ble of mov­ing be­tween myr­iad per­sonas and sonic back­drops on record and in her provoca­tive videos, by the time she wound down the f irst quar­ter of her 18- song set, she seemed com­pletely un­in­ter­ested in per­form­ing.

“Usu­ally, af­ter this song, I go down in an el­e­va­tor, but BET couldn’t af­ford [ it],” she quipped, her ir­ri­ta­tion pal­pa­ble.

Be­fore Mi­naj took the stage, Ti­nashe warmed up the crowd with a sul­try set that pulled from her de­but, “Aquarius,” and Ne- Yo re­minded the crowd why he’s one of R& B’s great tal­ents.

Avant- soul crooner Miguel closed out Fri­day with a late- night gig over at Club Nokia, but those who sat through Mi­naj likely missed his set.

The Los An­ge­les Con­ven­tion Cen­ter again hosted the fes­ti­val’s free fan expo, which pro­vided a broad range of at­trac­tions. Satur­day af­ter­noon, the expo was packed with at­ten­dees hop­ing to rub shoul­ders with celebri­ties — a com­mon sight was singers, ac­tors and re­al­ity stars stop­ping to take pic­tures with ad­mir­ers — or take in the nu­mer­ous sights and sounds.

While hun­dreds f locked to free con­certs, a sneaker con­ven­tion, fash­ion shows and a star- stud­ded celebrity bas­ket­ball game ( Chris Brown, Meek Mill, Omar­ion and Snoop Dogg all played), oth­ers at­tended Satur­day’s Ge­nius Talks, the fes­ti­val’s cu­rated dis­cus­sions with celebri­ties and lu­mi­nar­ies.

Among Satur­day’s con­ver­sa­tions were one- on- one talks with Kobe Bryant and Floyd May­weather, and pan­els that tack­led the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment and be­ing young in Hol­ly­wood.

Janelle Monáe pre­sented a show­case for her Won­der­land col­lec­tive. West Coast tal­ents like Vince Sta­ples, Cy­press Hill and Too Short an­chored the LA to the Bay show­case. The Flava Zone show­case put a spotlight on ris­ing tal­ent, in­clud­ing popR& B singer Jas­mine V, singer- song­writer Eli­jah Blake, funky pow­er­house An­dra Day, rap­per- singer Luke Christo­pher and R& B singer Trea­sure Davis, and the BETX New Fire show­case fo­cused on emerg­ing rap­pers, in­clud­ing Tim­ba­land pro­tégé Tink, Detroit em­cee Dej Loaf and Fetty Wap, who has one of the big­gest rap records of the year.

The week­end’s high­lights came on its f inal night of con­certs.

Top Dawg En­ter­tain- ment rap­pers Ab- Soul, Jay Rock and School­boy Q opened Satur­day night’s Sta­ples Cen­ter show, fol­lowed by crowd- pleas­ing sets from Ken­drick La­mar and Snoop Dogg. Then Ice Cube took the stage for a set that in­cluded the highly an­tic­i­pated N. W. A re­union.

The partly re­united group — as ex­pected, Dr. Dre did not per­form — opened with 1999’ s “Chin Check,” the f irst sin­gle the group recorded af­ter the death of N. W. A founder Eazy- E in 1995 and the first col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ice Cube af­ter he fa­mously left the act in 1989.

“These three men ain’t per­formed to­gether on­stage in 26 years,” Ice Cube glee­fully shouted be­fore he went back to trad­ing verses with MC Ren as DJ Yella spun at the turnta­bles.

The crowd’s ex­cite­ment ig­nited when the open­ing bars of “Straight Outta Comp­ton” rang out, with many shout­ing the lyrics right back to the group. They stopped to pay trib­ute to Eazy, with Yella spin­ning a num­ber of his solo records as pic­tures of both Eazy and the group were shown.

“It’s only right to give re­spect to the God­fa­ther,” Ice Cube an­nounced. “With­out his vi­sion, you wouldn’t see a lot of what you see to­day.”

N. W. A’s re­union con­cluded with the group’s most in­cen­di­ary and in­fa­mous tune, “… Tha Po­lice.” Ar­riv­ing in a po­lice car — yes, a cop car was wheeled on­stage — Ice Cube jumped out ( from the front seat, of course) and launched into the con­tro­ver­sial song as old footage of po­lice bru­tal­ity in­ci­dents f lashed on the video screen along­side re­cent cases and scenes of protest.

BET’s slate of head­lin­ers closed with the Roots and Erykah Badu pay­ing trib­ute to the late inf lu­en­tial pro­ducer and rap­per J Dilla.

Badu, who pre­vi­ously played the 2013 BET Ex­pe­ri­ence, joined the band and served as some­what of a co­cap­tain. She moved through her own cuts, sang back­ground vo­cals on oth­ers’, and helped con­nect the night’s many guests.

Slum Vil­lage, Bi­lal, Busta Rhymes and the Phar­cyde were among the acts that moved through mini- sets, backed by the Roots.

But the big­gest sur­prise was Lau­ryn Hill.

Ar­riv­ing with a trio of back­ing vo­cal­ists, the hiphop- soul singer stunned the crowd with a tight, pow­er­ful set that quickly dis­pelled mem­o­ries of hours- late waits and un­fo­cused shows.

Hill tore through a swing­ing ver­sion of “Lost Ones,” and a guitar- driven ver­sion of her wrench­ing “Ex Fac­tor” trans­formed the tune from a slow- burn­ing torch song to an up­lift­ing foot stom­per. She didn’t, how­ever, veer far out­side the lines of her clas­sic “Doo Wop ( That Thing),” much to the thrill of the crowd.

So much ac­tion, and the awards show was still hours away.

Luis Sinco Los An­ge­les Times

SCHOOL­BOY Q warms up the crowd at Sta­ples Cen­ter on Satur­day night as part of the BET Ex­pe­ri­ence.

Rich Fury I nvision / As­so­ci­ated Press

I CE CUBE takes the stage at Sta­ples Cen­ter on Satur­day for a set that in­cluded a re­union of N. W. A.

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