A guide to BET Experience shows that are worth catching

Kendrick Lamar will play Staples Center on Saturday as part of the BET Experience festival.
(Scott Roth / Invision / AP)

The BET Experience has never lacked for ambition. There are headlining concerts, late-night shows, seminars, celebrity panels, fashion shows and more sights and sounds revolving around the network’s annual awards show telecast Sunday night. Organizers expect more than 110,000 fans this weekend, and this year’s festival opens Thursday with a performance from comedian Kevin Hart and extends through four days across multiple venues in the L.A. Live complex downtown. Here’s a look at what’s worth checking out over the weekend.


BET Experience: In the June 25 Calendar section, an article about this weekend’s BET Experience listed a discussion on black women in Hollywood moderated by Larry Wilmore and featuring Gina Prince-Bythewood, Mara Brock-Akil, Mona Scott Young and Nicole Beharie, scheduled for Saturday. This panel has been canceled, according to a spokesperson for the festival. In its place will be a panel on young Hollywood, featuring Brandon T. Jackson, Quincy Brown, Karrueche Tran and additional names to be announced.
Six acts worth their ticket prices

Nicki Minaj. Capable of moving between myriad personas and sonic backdrops that cut through hard-core rap, pop fluff and sticky dance floor bangers, the always provocative Nicki Minaj makes us stop and pay attention. Her last album, “The Pinkprint,” was the closest she’s come yet to capturing her variety of skills on record, and this is her first arena tour. If nothing else, her booming ode to voluptuous rumps, “Anaconda,” will deliver the weekend’s sweatiest dance moment. Friday, 7 p.m., Staples Center

Ice Cube. Long before carving out a thriving film career producing and starring in comedies such as the “Barbershop” series, “Friday” and “Ride Along” as well as family fare like “Are We There Yet?” — Ice Cube helped define West Coast hip-hop. For the first time in two decades, he and a few surviving members of the hip-hop group N.W.A will reunite to perform some of the records that put gangsta rap on the map. The partial reunion comes ahead of the group’s forthcoming biopic, “Straight Outta Compton,” which Ice Cube co-produced. Saturday, 7 p.m., Staples Center


Tinashe. After years of crafting sensual, trippy mixtapes in her bedroom, Tinashe emerged with 2014’s “Aquarius,” an album that was hailed as one of the strongest R&B debuts in years. Built around spacey interludes, flickering synths and slinky, future-R&B productions, Tinashe moves through minimalist down-tempo beats and hushed, breathy rhythms that glide with the same effortless lilt that made Aaliyah and Janet Jackson stars. She’s one to watch. Friday, 7 p.m., Staples Center

Kendrick Lamar. One of the most vital wordsmiths in contemporary hip-hop, the Compton-raised emcee followed his lauded major label debut, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” — a concept record about navigating the gang-infested streets of his city as a teen — with “To Pimp a Butterfly,” a fiery exploration of race, politics, depression and celebrity that merged funk, spoken word, jazz and hip-hop. Times pop critic Randall Roberts wrote: “This record is so expansive that it’s tough to wrestle into shape, even as it overflows with wit, smarts and a masterful skill of the language and phrasing.” Saturday, 7 p.m., Staples Center

The Roots. At last year’s BET Experience, the subversive hip-hop and soul band focused its late-night set on time traveling through the glory days of rap with guests that included Warren G, Doug E. Fresh, Talib Kweli, Method Man and Redman. The jam session was a standout of last year’s festival, and this year the band looks to delight hip-hop purists as they pay tribute to the late influential producer and rapper J Dilla. Soul singer Erykah Badu, who played the 2013 BET Experience, will join the band. Saturday, 11 p.m., Club Nokia

Miguel. The San Pedro native helped usher in a movement in R&B that signaled the most significant stylistic change in the genre since “neo-soul” in the 1990s. His 2012 breakout album, “Kaleidoscope Dream,” was a shimmering, psychedelic trip that pushed the avant-soul singer into the mainstream, and here he’ll preview his new record, “Wildheart,” a sexy mix of soul, rock and pop due next week that, like his breakout, ignores boundaries. Friday, 11 p.m., Club Nokia


Free offerings

The Los Angeles Convention Center will again host the festival’s free fan expo. Set for Saturday and Sunday, the network has curated a broad range of attractions.

On Saturday, Brandon T. Jackson, Quincy Brown, Karrueche Tran and others will discuss what it’s like to be a part of young Hollywood. [Updated at 11:58 a.m. June 25: This discussion replaces a talk on black women in Hollywood that was canceled, according to a festival spokesperson.] ESPN’s Jemele Hill will have a one-on-one chat with Kobe Bryant, Floyd Mayweather will discuss his latest triumph over Manny Pacquiao, and Marc Lamont Hill will lead a discussion on Black Lives Matter.

Also on Saturday, Chris Brown, Meek Mill, Omarion, Terrell Owens, Soulja Boy, the Game and Snoop Dogg are among those who will face off in the celebrity basketball game. There’s also a sneaker convention, dance competition and fashion shows planned for Saturday and Sunday.


But music remains the true pulse of the Fan Fest. And this year’s lineup is action packed.

On Saturday, Janelle Monáe will perform a showcase with her Wonderland collective. On the same day, West Coast talents such as Vince Staples, Cypress Hill and Too Short will anchor the “LA to the Bay” showcase. The Flava Zone showcase will spotlight rising talents such as pop-R&B singer Jasmine V, singer-songwriter Elijah Blake, funky powerhouse Andra Day, rapper-singer Luke Christopher and R&B singer Treasure Davis.

Saturday also features BETX New Fire, which will focus on the buzziest emerging rappers of the moment. Mini-sets will be performed by Timbaland protégé Tink, Detroit rapper Dej Loaf and Fetty Wap, who currently has one of the biggest rap records of the year.

BET’s Music Matters — which offers rising artists exposure through a number of platforms on the network — will have its showcase on Sunday. Lecrae, whose masterful “Anomaly” became the first album by a Christian rapper to hit No. 1, will anchor the showcase. Andy Mineo, Audio Push and Dee-1 are also on the bill. Showcases focused on Latin and Caribbean music are also planned for Sunday.



This year’s ceremony marks the 15th anniversary of the awards show, which honors television, film, music, social media, digital marketing, sports journalism, public relations and the creative arts.

Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj lead the pack with six nominations each. Beyoncé and Lil Wayne follow with four nominations and breakout British singer Sam Smith is up for two. Brown, Kendrick Lamar, Minaj, Meek Mill and more are slated to perform.

One can’t-miss moment looks to be the return of Janet Jackson, who will be honored with the inaugural Ultimate Icon: Music Dance Visual award during Sunday’s telecast. As part of the presentation, Jackson will be feted with a special dance tribute from Ciara, Jason Derulo and Tinashe — artists who pull deeply from Jackson’s pedigree. The BET Awards will be broadcast from the Microsoft Theater on Sunday at 8 p.m. Pacific time.