Lil Nas X's BET Awards Snub Is the Latest Example of Our Failure to Recognize Black Excellence

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 Lil Nas X performs onstage during the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards on April 03, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Lil Nas X performs onstage during the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards on April 03, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The 2022 BET Award nominees were revealed on Wednesday and to the surprise of many, hip-hop’s “Industry Baby,” a.k.a. Lil Nas X, didn’t make the list.

Now, while some online users didn’t see the issue with that, others were quick to notice and took to social media to raise the issue and call out the legacy platform for its arguable oversight two years in a row—especially given the fact that: 1) the “That’s What I Want” artist had three songs in the Top 10 Billboard charts at the same time and 2) his 2021 album Montero went platinum and earned him five Grammy nominations earlier this year.

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Lil Nas X himself eventually took to Twitter to express his grievances, writing in a series of since-deleted tweets: “Thank you, BET Awards. An outstanding zero nominations again. Black excellence! I will be selling fish plates outside of the BET Awards this year.”

When questioned by a user online asking what music he put out, Lil Nas responded, “IDK maybe 3 of the biggest songs of last year and a critically acclaimed album. I feel like that should’ve helped me a bit.”

He later added, “I just feel like Black gay ppl have to fight to be seen in this world and even when we make it to the top, mfs try to pretend we are invisible.”

And you know what?? He’s absolutely right. While the plight for recognition of Black queer folks’ humanity and contributions have long been documented, and continues to play out even in the year of / our Lord/ Blue Ivy, let’s zoom out and take the BET Awards—and Lil Nas X specifically—out of it for one second. In fact, let’s just replace them both with a very prominent and culturally significant award show for the Black community and a Black, non-gay, rapper who amassed the exact same accolades, respectively. In WHAT world would that rapper not be recognized? Specifically at that award show?

I can’t speak to any one platform’s intent, and I won’t speculate as to its reasonings why it wouldn’t recognize that rapper’s success. What I will say is that at a time where discourse about Black artists not supporting Black platforms or showing up for Black awards regularly abounds (with merit, mind you), it doesn’t look good when said platforms and award shows that are supposed to be for us, by us don’t recognize Black artists who are at the top of their game.

And this isn’t exclusive to hip-hop/rap. I’m thinking of Black country artists like Jimmie Allen, Mickey Guyton and Kane Brown who are all at the top of their fields—and who all made history last year as the first Black artist to win New Male Artist at the Academy of Country Music Awards; the first Black woman to ever host the ACM Awards; and the first Black solo artist to ever receive Video of the Year at the ACA, respectively. I’m also thinking of wildly talented artists like Jon Batiste who earned a record 11 Grammy nominations earlier this year and walked away with six wins, but also rarely gets recognition from Black platforms on a regular basis.

If these institutions, and ones like them, want to continue being held in high regard and looked upon as pillars and go-tos of the culture, it may be advantageous for them to start by redefining, reimagining and/or expanding what and who we deem worthy of recognition and accolades when it comes to Black entertainment. It’s one thing to know and understand that Blackness isn’t monolithic on a conceptual level, but it’s a whole other thing to acknowledge it, accept it, and walk it out through tangible actions. Let’s hope we can all do better at doing the latter as we move forward.