July 04, 2013

By Nicole Williams

Contributing Writer


Where can you get concerts by Beyonce, R.Kelly, Kendrick Lamar and comedy shows like Mike Epps and Cedric the Entertainer, listen to seminars on issues like gun violence AND enjoy live music outside WHILE eating delicious local food? THE BET EXPERIENCE! The first ever BET Experience graced its presence in the historical LA Live in DTLA June 28-30th, all happening before the 2013 BET Awards. The extravagant event of limitless things to do was made possible by the partnerships it created.

It all started with the ribbon cutting at the open ceremony where BET’s CEO Debra Lee alongside our local politicians and partners got to welcome everyone to the first ever BET Experience stating that it would go down in history. The Fan Fest hosted the BET Pavilion, Centric Pavilion, Music Matters Stage, a Taste of a Taste of Soul, Health & Wellness, Dance 4 Hope, BET & Taste of Soul Community Stage, 106 & Park Stage and a Celebrity Basketball game.

The game featured celebs like Chris Brown, Marques Houston, Columbus Short and Busta Rhymes, Mike Epps, Tyga and Keke Palmer. Clipper’s player Matt Barnes was also there participating as a coach for one of the teams. Crowds gathered to the Sprite Basketball Court to watch the celebrity battle go down. They warmed up as the DJ spun some records and started balling out! The Sprite Court also hosted Youth Basketball Clinics, Girls Basketball Clinic featuring Lisa Leslie, Sprite All-Star Slam­Dunkers, Drumline Competi­tion judged by celebrity judges and Dance 4 Hope.

A Taste of a Taste of Soul brought in by Bakewell Media offered an appetizer to what LA’s largest annual street festival Taste of Soul is all about. It featured vendors such as Harold & Belle’s, Mel’s Fish Shack, Grandma’s House Catering, OMG Chicken and Waffles, Stone’s Jamaican Food, Big Ronnie’s BBQ, Fun Time Kettle Corn, and Big Tasty Legs just to name a few. The aroma of seasonings coming from several different types of food filled the air along with sounds of Bakewell Media’s StarQuest winners and local artists on the BET/Taste of Soul Community Stage.

Friday, the stage hosted a Taste of Soul Food Showcase, StarQuest winner Adrian Battle, Crenshaw Elite Choir, LAUSD “Spotlight” Winners, LAUSD Classical & Jazz Ensemble and Debbie Allen’s Dance Academy’s “Kids Crewe.”  Satur­day, the stage hosted Starquest winner Beau Williams, a Taste of Soul Food Showcase, LAUSD “Spot­light” Winners. LAUSD Classical & Jazz Ensemble, Marquise Brown & The Gifted and Lula Washington Dance Theatre’s Youth Dance Ensemble. There was no way you could resist not grabbing a plate if you were at the Fan Fest! And if you didn’t get to eat, you missed out, but no worries, the annual Taste of Soul is October 19, 2013. Chairman and CEO of Bakewell Media says that it was an honor to be apart of the BET Experience this year.

“The fact that they have established the BET Experience and have partnered with a Taste of Soul, it just makes it something that welcomes the community to downtown Los Angeles,” Bakewell said.   

He also says that a Taste of a Taste of Soul just hints at what’s to come!

“What’s important about Taste of Soul, different from this [a Taste of a Taste of Soul] is that it’s bigger, it’s better and it’s in our community. It’s in our house where everyone is welcome!

The Music Matters Stage hosted several talented artists and up-and-coming artists over the weekend. Day 1 of the Music Matters Stage brought artists such as Mali Music, Rap Pack, Kimberly Nichole, PJ Morton, BJ the Chicago Kid and Adrian Marcel. 

Day 2 brought artists: Curtis Fields, Marsha Ambrosius, Mateo, Elijah Blake, RaVaughn, Ab-Soul, K. Michelle, Austin Brown and Jessy Wilson.

The BET Experience also brought the BET Pavillion, which hosted movies, gourmet food, beauty/grooming lounges, health and wellness, celebrity basketball games and a relaxation lounge. The Beauty Lounge was the perfect place to get your make-up and hair touched up for free! The temperature was HOT that weekend, so touch-ups were a necessity as lots of women gathered to get groomed. Once your make-up and hair was done, you walked away with some beauty products provided by Covergirl and more!

What could be better than FREE Celebrity Panels apart of BET Revealed? Several panels were conducted over the weekend offering advice on love & relationships, money & finances and issues like gun violence. Panels featured were ‘Couples Uncovered,’ which featured couples Nicole Ari Parker & Boris Kodjoe and Mari Brock Akil & Salim Akil. Another panel featured was ‘Rich Forever: How to Make It, How to Keep It,’ which featured Janice Howroyd, Dennis P. Kimbro, Master P and moderated by Paula Madison. ‘Black Girls Rock! – Rebuilding the Village’ was another panel which featured Beverly Bond, MC Lyte, Lil Mama, Holly Robinson Peete, Tricia Rose and was moderated by Harriette Cole.  ‘Making Moves Outside the Game’ featured Laila Ali and Lisa Leslie and was moderated by William C. Rhoden. Speaking on issues of gun violence was the panel ‘NO GUNS ALLOWED: Disarming Violence in Our Community,’ which featured Snoop Lion aka Snoop Dogg, Ryan Coogler, Melvyn Hayward Jr., T.I. Congresswoman Maxine Waters and was co-moderated by Rob “Biko” Baker and Brandon T. Jones. Rapper, Snoop Lion aka Snoop Dogg says he has changed and hopes to help others change as well.

“You know we got to try to save the world in a better way, by making it a better place to live as far as ridding the world of gun violence and I’ve always been one to glamorize gun violence, so now I’m ready to change and do the right thing and say the right thing, so this is what it’s all about,” Snoop said.

BET Revealed also featured “Genius Talks” with Pharrell Williams in conversation with Bevy Smith and Nick Cannon in conversation with Bevy Smith.

We can’t forget the Film Festival! It featured “Imagine A Future,” “Mother of George,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Things Never Said,” “BET Premiere Cinema: Gun Hill,” “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete” and “Fruitvale Station.”

The JW Marriott Gold Ballroom hosted Spike Bellator MMA, which featured cage demonstrations and chances to meet & greet with talent all throughout the weekend. The demonstrations were enough to get your adrenaline rushing!

Several concerts and comedy shows were also apart of the BET Experience including Mike Epps who took to the Nokia Club stage Friday night with hilarious stories, some that made us cringe, but laugh until we cried. Erykah Badu whose sultry and soulful songs beamed throughout the Nokia Club following Mike Epps Friday night.  The beautiful Beyonce also kicked off her tour “Mrs. Carter Show” Friday night at the Staples Center. Singer Melanie Fiona opened up for Queen B’s kick-off tour concert. Saturday was also full of ear candy goodies including The Roots & Friends, which included Nelly, MC Lyte, Naughty By Nature and Too Short. They performed at the Nokia Club as well. The Staples Center hosted a huge gallery of hip hop/rap artists Saturday night including Schoolboy Q, Miguel, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Lion aka Snoop Dogg and a whole bunch of surprise guests. Those surprises included Dr. Dre, Problem, Future, Ace Hood, Wale, Warren G, Kurupt, Jay Rock, Trinidad James and Wiz Khalifa. Talk about a hip-hop head’s DREAM! Cedric The Entertainer and friends took up the Club Nokia stage Saturday night making us all enjoy some good laughs for the BET Experience. Sunday’s Best was held Sunday at Club Nokia and was hosted by Kirk Franklin. The concert featured Donnie McClurkin, Karen Clark-Sheard, Kierra ‘Kiki’ Sheard of The Sheards, Amber Bullock, Joshua Rogers and Le’Andria Johnson. Bullock, Rogers and Johnson were past gospel competition winners on BET’s Sunday Best TV show and recently released chart-topping albums.

All I can say is what an experience! If you were there, hope you enjoyed the FIRST EVER BET Experience and hope you make plans to participate again!









Photos by Robert Torrence & Troy Tieuel for LAWT

Category: Arts & Culture