Mary J. Blige referred to herself as a “living legend” Sunday at the BET Awards and she proved why — by performing her own musical tribute.
Before bringing the audience to its feet with a mini-concert, the nine-time Grammy winner and two-time Oscar nominee was presented with BET’s Lifetime Achievement Award by Rihanna.
“Mary J. Blige you have set the bar for relatable, timeless, classic music,” Rihanna said. “You opened multiple doors for female artists in this industry. And on behalf of all the women that came after you like myself, thank you for being comfortable being you so we could be comfortable being ourselves.”
During her acceptance speech, Blige thanked longtime collaborator Sean “P Diddy” Combs for believing in her early in her career, and she told Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell she would never forget the fact that he helped lift her out of the projects. She also expressed gratitude to her family.
“Mommy, I love you and I want to thank you for your love and understanding,” Blige said to her mother, who was seated in the audience. She went on to thank her father, her siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends.
“Although I’m a leader, a queen, a living legend… Although I’m all these things, I’m a servant as well and I’m here to serve. Being a servant is not always glamorous or popular, but it’s the job and the assignment that I was given,” she said. “Because in order to become an authority, I had to come under authority. It’s because, when the glory is placed on me, I give it back to God.”
After her speech, The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul performed a medley of her hits including, “My Life,” “No More Drama,” “I’m Goin Down,” “Real Love,” “Be Happy,” “Reminisce,” and “Love No Limit.”
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Lil’ Kim also came on stage to help her perform “I Can Love You,” and Blige was later joined by Method Man for a performance of “You’re All I Need to Get By.”