Maxwell honored with Legend Award
This year, the 2021 Soul Train Awards presented by BET, commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Soul Train television show legacy, marking the milestone with a star-studded event showcasing today’s reigning R&B/soul artists. For the very first time, the Soul Train Awards took place at the World Famous Apollo in Harlem, NYC and dynamic best-friend duo Tisha Campbell and Tichina Arnold returned as co-hosts of this year’s awards, which premiered on Sunday, November 28th on BET, BET Her, MTV2 and VH1.
R&B/Soul super duo Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic’s stirring rendition of “Fly As Me” kicked off the evening and took us back in time to an exact replica of the iconic Soul Train set. Ciara and Russell Wilson, and Marley Dias received Souls of Justice Award in moving video tribute. Next was a dazzling performance by songstress Ari Lennox who beautifully sang “Pressure” while commanding the stage in a gorgeous ensemble embellished with white feathers. Singer/songwriter Lucky Daye had the audience swooning with a sultry performance of his hit song “Over,” which samples Musiq Soulchild’s “Halfcrazy.” Gospel singer Fred Hammond who proclaimed he was turning the show into the “Soul Train Tabernacle Awards,” delivered an empowering rendition of “Yahweh.” Adding to the impressive lineup, BET Amplified artists Marzz and Elhae also gave memorable performances sponsored by Ford. Following separate introductions from Mack Wilds and Tone Stith (the latter of which reflected on his own experience performing on the BET Amplified stage), Marzz and Elhae wowed the audience with captivating renditions of “Countless Times” and “FOMO,” respectively.
This year’s highly anticipated Soul Cypher, presented by AT&T, was hosted by the prolific DJ D-Nice and featured the stunning vocal talents of Tone Stith, Koryn Hawthorne, Jac Ross, Elle Varner and Musiq Soulchild. As a nod to the 20th Anniversary of her self-titled album Aaliyah, the late R&B great’s hit single “Rock the Boat” provided both the theme and instrumental for the thrilling cypher.
R&B/Soul singer Ashanti was crowned “Lady of Soul” at this year’s awards, an honor sponsored by Walmart and presented to her by Normani, who spoke about emulating her famous style growing up. Ashanti embodied elegance while accepting the award to the backdrop of a cheering audience. The songstress later returned to the stage for an electrifying performance of some of her biggest hits including “Happy,” “Rain On Me,” “Baby,” and fan-favorite “What’s Luv” with surprise guest Fat Joe, which prompted the audience to sing along. Ja Rule then joined Ashanti, reuniting the famous 2000’s duo for a crowd-pleasing performance of “Always On Time.” Ashanti ended her performance with her No. 1 hit, “Foolish.”
Singer/songwriter and producer Leon Bridges gifted the audience with a particularly soulful rendition of “Details.” R&B/Soul sensation Summer Walker gracefully sang fan favorite “Unloyal,” joined by Ari Lennox and saxophonist Casey Benjamin.
In what proved to be one of the evening’s most special moments, honoree Maxwell was presented with the Ford-sponsored Legend Award by Jazmine Sullivan. As Sullivan presented the award, she reflected on Maxwell’s influence both on the industry and in her own life, commenting how he was one of the only people who gave her a chance. After her touching speech about his humble beginnings and rise to success, Maxwell, who transformed his look to resemble his first album cover, accepted the award and expressed gratitude, visibly moved by the emotional moment. The singer then brought endless soul to the stage, performing a medley of his classics including “Til the Cops Come Knockin’,” “Bad Habits,” “Sumthin’ Sumthin’” new song “Off” and closing out with crowd favorite “Ascension,” as he walked through the crowd, serenading attendees.
Silk Sonic returned to cap the evening off with an energetic 70’s era classic Soul Train-inspired performance of new song, “Smokin’ Out The Window.” Additional presenters for the evening included Parker McKenna Posey from BET series Games People Play, Paula Patton from BET+ original series Sacrifice, Hosea Chanchez and Wendy Raquel Robinson from The Game, Devale Ellis and Crystal Hayslett from Tyler Perry’s Sistas on BET.
BET also held the first-ever Soul Train Awards Weekend, a three-day multi-platform experience that celebrated the best in commerce, music and entertainment. The weekend kicked off with the “Leading With Soul” Luncheon, honoring executives known for meaningful work and leadership. Sponsored by Dove and hosted by media personality Tai Beauchamp, the luncheon honored Esi Egleston Bracey of Unilever North America with the ‘Corporate Champion Award,’ Louis Carr, a veteran of BET and leader in sales for global brands with the Legacy Award, Cheryl McKissack Daniel & Deryl McKissack of McKissack & McKissack, with the Black Business Icon Award for their professional design and construction firm, and Jonelle Procope, President and Chief Executive Officer of the World Famous Apollo with the Community Hero Award.
Another activation during Soul Train Awards Weekend, known as Soul Surprises consisted of a Soul Train Awards-branded Sprinter van rolling between Harlem, Brooklyn and Queens, delivered cool prizes and experiences, via a prize wheel, which included BET and Soul Train Awards swag, the famous Soul Train Scramble Board, gift cards to Black-owned restaurants with special celeb appearances.
In a stunning feat, BET also invited New York City to gather and form the longest Soul Train Line in history, with the goal of breaking the current Guinness World Record. Never one to disappoint, NYC locals showed out in full force in Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem for what became a successful attempt and new Guinness World Record.
To recognize BET and the legendary Apollo Theater for investing in New York City’s recovery, the 50th anniversary of the iconic Soul Train Show, the 2021 “Soul Train Awards,” honorees, Maxwell and Ashanti, who both hail from New York City, and to highlight the next generation of artists. The Mayor of the City of New York, Bill de Blasio, along with First Lady Chirlane McCray presented the 2021 “Soul Train Awards” with an official proclamation that Sunday, November 28, 2021, will be known as “Soul Train Music Awards Day” in the City of New York.
BET also launched microgrant program in partnership with The Apollo and the 125th Street Business Improvement District (BID) and expansion of their Harlem Microgrant program launched in 2020 that will provide ten local Harlem businesses and non-profits with $10,000 grants each to support their continued recovery from COVID-19 and to honor the entrepreneurial spirit of Soul Train’s path-breaking innovator and creator, Don Cornelius. BET also partnered with the United Way to help feed the Harlem community at two local community-based organizations, Harlem Wellness Center in Central Harlem and West Harlem Group Assistance. BET provided $10,000 grants to each organization, helping to put food on the table for hundreds of Harlem families this November. Each organization hosted live, in-person and COVID-safe food distribution events.
The complete list of 2021 Soul Train Awards winners are:
BEST NEW ARTIST
CERTIFIED SOUL AWARD
BEST R&B/SOUL FEMALE ARTIST
BEST R&B/SOUL MALE ARTIST
BEST GOSPEL/INSPIRATIONAL AWARD
SONG OF THE YEAR
Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars/Anderson .Paak) – “Leave the Door Open”
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Jazmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales
THE ASHFORD AND SIMPSON SONGWRITER’S AWARD
“Leave the Door Open” written by Bruno Mars, Brandon Anderson, Dernst Emile II, Christopher Brody Brown
BEST DANCE PERFORMANCE
Normani featuring Cardi B – “Wild Side”
Wizkid featuring Tems – “Essence”
VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars/Anderson .Paak) – “Leave the Door Open”