Words by Tai Saint-Louis
Another edition of the Soul Train Awards has come and gone, and we have to say, overall, we weren’t mad at it. When Erykah Badu was announced as this year’s host, we knew we’d be in for a treat. And Ms. Badu and the good folks at Centric definitely came with it. That doesn’t mean that we weren’t left with more than a few questions, i.e. who won the other six awards that weren’t presented during last night’s taping? Or how come Tyrese can’t be as amazing and undeniable on Twitter as he is on stage? Here are a few of the deepest thoughts we pondered while watching the 2015 Soul Train Awards.
1. How is Erykah Badu So Perfect?
This is obviously not something we found out last night, but to have Erykah on full display for almost three hours made it worth asking once again. From the time she came out performing “Danger” on a hoverboard, she had us all wrapped around her finger. We can think of a few people who might have made performing their own music as part of their hosting duties super corny. But not Ms. Badu. We were here for every single note sung. And the majority of her jokes too. We walked away with a sense that Erykah was heavily involved with the planning, writing and execution of the Awards and skits this year and we can only hope to see this happen again.
2. Who Licensed The Unhindered Shade That Was Thrown Iggy Azalea’s Way?
Bruh. Iggy Azalea is somewhere in America, planning her wedding, debating whether or not she still wants her career in Hip-Hop, maybe putting that full-court press on Nick Young becase Iman Shumpert and Teyana Taylor are gonna have a Music and Basketball Baby before them. Wherever she is, she seems to have left Hip-Hop alone. But that doesn’t mean the favor is being returned. Granted, roasting celebrities during awards show openers is par for the course, but poor Iggy Azalea was the only person to catch it that badly at the Soul Train Awards. This may also be the very first time a moment from the Soul Train Awards made it to the mainstream media. Don’t believe us, do the Googles.
3. Why is Jill Scott Even More Perfect Than Erykah?
If Erykah is the Super Cool, Slightly Out Of Reach, Enchantress we watch from afar, always kind of wanting to bask in the glow of her presence, but wondering what after effects might come from it; Jill Scott is the Amazing Girl Next Door who doesn’t seem to know how dope she is, but simultaneously walks boldly in that dopeness. There could not have been a more perfect choice for the Soul Train Awards’ inaugural “Lady Of Soul” Award and having no one but Jilly From Philly perform her music following her tribute and super real acceptance speech was spot on.
How is it even possible for Jill Scott and Erykah Badu to share the same space at the same time? Didn’t Lauryn Hill tell us that was against the laws of physics?
4. Who Fell Asleep During The Planning Of The Soul Cypher?
It was a great idea in theory. And some of you even think you loved the Soul Cypher because Eddie Levert was there. But let’s keep it funky: it could have been SO much better. Instead, the Soul Cypher felt half baked and left us wondering: how was this particular group of artists selected? Why did they all perform music we’ve heard them sing before, changing nothing more than the tempo to have it match the “Shook Ones Pt. II” beat, which is now OFFICIALLY the best freestyle beat ever. Could we not find a single current male R&B singer to partake? Or did Erykah Badu’s earlier ban on all things rap disqualify today’s generation of crooners? What was Jeremih doing during the Cypher taping? He couldn’t have jumped up there? Where is JoJo? Let’s not turn in the rough draft of the Soul Cypher next year, okay?
5. Was The Same Person In Charge Of The Centric Certified Performances?
This is a two part gripe. First, despite some pretty concise intros of the Centric Certified Award – presented to Tyrese – or the two Centric Certified performances, we’re still not sure that “Centric Certified” is a thing. Is it a show? A section on the Centric website? A Spotify Playlist? What does it truly mean to be Centric Certified? Secondly, while it was great to give V. Bozeman and Lion Babe a chance to perform in front of the Soul Train Awards audience, it would have been even better to let them have a chance to perform a full song. This would have also been a great opportunity to drive viewers to the artists’ respective iTunes pages. Or maybe that Centric Certified page or playlist we’d like to believe exists. Maybe if we would have aimed higher than Metro PCS as a sponsor…
6. Why Won’t R&B Fans (And After 7) Let Jazmine Sullivan Be Great?
When Tyrese hit the stage to perform his single “Shame,” all of Black Twitter exploded with praise for how he’s bringing R&B back. That was pretty much the same reaction fans had when Tyrese dropped his latest album, Black Rose, in July… Seven months after Jazmine Sullivan delivered one of the most perfect R&B albums of her generation. Hell, almost a full year later, we can safely say that Reality Show should be on everybody’s R&B Albums Of The Year list. So why isn’t Jazmine Sullivan as relevant as, say, a K. Michelle? And that’s in no way meant as K. Michelle shade. But did you see Jazmine Sullivan’s performance of “Let It Burn”?! Her pure joy at being on stage with After 7 and the way she owned that moment while still letting them get their well deserved shine?
Which reminds us, After 7: why didn’t you guys teach Jazmine the background dance moves y’all were doing during your portion of the set? Had that poor baby up there looking super awkward after she and her backup singers had done such a great job of paying homage to old school R&B performances!
7. Did Larry Blackmon Know Cameo Had A Show Last Night?
There were quite a few great throwback moments on stage at the Soul Train Awards last night. And while Cameo’s seemed to have been the one with the most thought behind it – they were the only old school act to get their own set – Larry Blackmon was very noticeably off. If you pay attention, one of the other members of the group, performing to Blackmon’s right, even looked annoyed, like all these years he’s been waiting for a reason to go for Larry’s spot as frontman and last night was his chance. As far as we know, Larry Blackmon is in good health. He even spoke on a forthcoming new Cameo album as recently as this summer. But he looked like he wanted no part of the spotlight last night. And after that brilliant “Cod Piece” skit, which was, hands down, the best part of the show, the actual Cameo performance was so anticlimactic.
8. Did Anyone Actually Expect Mark Ronson or Bruno Mars To Show Up To Pick Up That “Song Of The Year” Award That Really Should Have Gone To Jidenna?
Look man: Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars are probably going to receive more career nominations and awards than Jidenna. This is, by no means, meant to downplay Jidenna’s talent or potential. But Bruno Mars broke the Super Bowl HalfTime Show’s all-time viewership records. And Jidenna’s name is Jidenna. Which mainstream America will forever struggle with. If they’ve even learned it by now. Can’t no amount of Janelle Monae “Cover Girl” ads change that. So at this award show, that’s for us and by us, could we not just have let “Classic Man” win over “Uptwon Funk”? We knew Mark Ronson and ‘em weren’t showing up. Logically. Unlike Omarion and/or Jhene Aiko who probably coulda made the four-hour drive to Vegas to pick up “Best Collaboration” award.
We’re still happy that we not only got to see Jidenna win “Best New Artist,” but also proclaim his true Nigerian-ness for all to see. African and West Indian kids all over the country celebrated that win with him.
9. Are Babyface and Usher Beefin’? Because Even PEBBLES Made It In Babyface’s Tribute Video…
We know from John Singleton and Benny Medina’s multiple appearances during last night’s show that Centric had no stipulations that stopped any one individual to appear in more than one tribute video. Yet, somehow, one of LaFace Records’ shining accomplishments was there to speak to Jill Scott’s greatness, but not Babyface’s? What’s up with that? Pebbles made the video! Usher couldn’t say or sing a single word? Did we miss something?
Of course, none of that takes away from how epic that Babyface tribute was. That man is a genius.
*BONUS: Let’s Agree Not To Ever Let Anyone Else Do Whitney Houston Songs In Tributes Unless They’re Actually Able To Do Whitney Justice*
No shade to Fantasia. She’s obviously got more things poppin’ than we probably realize right now: she was the only person who performed other people’s songs on the Babyface tribute, despite never having actually recorded a song written by Babyface to date. But “Shoop” was not her song. Many a note was left on the cutting room floor.
10. R. Kelly… Yes, That Is A Question In An Of Itself
If R. Kelly wasn’t R. Kelly, the closing performance of the 2015 Soul Train Awards would have been one of the greatest things on T.V. And the only questions we would have had would have been: Who in his camp sanctioned the young bul’/Philly beard he’s insisting on wearing now, looking like the cool Uncle who thinks he’s going to the club with you and your crew after Thanksgiving dinner? Or, how exactly did that Bedazzled Admiral’s Jacket x Basketball Shorts outfit get a greenlight? Or how much of a G do you have to be to get on stage and just perform ad libs from one of your greatest hits? Or how has NO ONE realized that “Backyard Party” = “Step In The Name Of Love” x “Happy People”?
But R. Kelly is R. Kelly. And at some point, we have to stop acting like it’s okay for him to be celebrated like this. Because, don’t be fooled: that was absolutely as much of a tribute performance as Babyface and Jill Scott got. And we just simply can’t let bygones be bygones when the man still claims that his well documented sexual improprieties are “rumors that come from the earth.” Yes, R. Kelly has given us hit after hit. But what message are we sending to his victims, our sons and our daughters, and all the people who seem not to find value in Black lives and the bodies of Black women, when we continue to celebrate R. Kelly and call him “our brother” because “we’re all family.” Now he’s even tainted Erykah Badu’s perfection a little bit. And that’s damn hard to do.