Rapper DaBaby debuted a controversial prerecorded performance of "Rockstar" at the 20th annual BET Awards on Sunday representing the death of George Floyd.
The show went completely virtual for the first time due to concerns about the coronavirus, which shuttered major film, television and music productions and forced the awards to reevaluate how and when they will air. In the midst of a night of impressive prerecorded performances, DaBaby and Roddy Ricch presented a version of "Rockstar" that drew praise and negative reactions from viewers.
The music video begins with DaBaby lying on the floor with what appears to be a white police officer kneeling on his neck. The image was an obvious reference to Floyd, who died in police custody on May 25 in Minneapolis. A video of the incident sparked protests across the country against police brutality, specifically within the black community, after it showed Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes when Floyd yelled "I can't breathe" and "don't kill me" before Losing consciousness. He was later declared dead.
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The rest of the DaBaby video shows the artist performing on a burning police car surrounded by masked protesters wearing shirts that read "Black Lives Matter", "I Am George Floyd" and more. Other parts of the video show police with riot gear colliding with protesters as DaBaby and Ricch act amid the chaos.
The powerful images culminate with a girl walking towards the camera while holding a sign that says "More love." While walking, audio from a viral Speech 2016 made by then-9-year-old Zianna Oliphant at a Charlotte City Council meeting on police brutality begins to play.
"We are black people, and we shouldn't have to feel that way," Oliphant says in the video. "We should not have to protest because everyone is treating us badly. We do this because we need to do it. It's a shame that our fathers and mothers are killed and we can't even see them anymore. "
Many were quick to praise the performance for its powerful, albeit controversial, images.
"Daby really did something here" a user wrote.
"DaBaby is killing this Rockstar performance. The images of a cop on his neck like George Floyd's killers broke my heart." another user wrote.
"Dababy killed him completely. Whoever says otherwise, go do a drug test." a third user tweeted.
"DaBaby with the images * clicks and applause * has not come to play" another user wrote.
However, others made sure to note that DaBaby previously caught a backlash from his response to criticism who remained silent after Floyd's death, while other artists were making bold public statements against police brutality and systemic racism.
“I always sit back and let the publicity overflow before giving my opinion so that my perspective is not confused with all the people who only speak for likes and comments, or to save face, or maybe because their relations department public, label, or management told them they should make a statement … ”DaBaby tweeted at the time.
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Many turned to Twitter to accuse the rapper of capitalizing on the tragedy.
"Didn't DaBaby write that he had nothing to say about the protests?" a detractor wrote.
"DaBaby was silent all this time, said nothing about BLM, and then had the audacity to recreate the death of George Floyd on live television." another user wrote.
"I know DaBaby has no common sense, but I want to know who at BET thought it was great to allow a" re-enactment "of George Floyd's death." wrote a third user.
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"I can't believe Diyeby told me to recreate George Floyd's death after tweeting that he had nothing to say about the whole thing and was waiting until the 'hype' died down." a fourth user echoed.