Soul Train Awards: 5 best performances

Silk Sonic, Ari Lennox, Fred Hammond, and Maxwell were among the list of performers at the 2021 Soul Train Awards

Sunday evening’s Soul Train Awards marked some monumental watershed moments. Aside from it being held at the world-famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, NY, for the first time, it coincided with the 50th anniversary of the long-running syndicated music show from which it gets its name.

The night was full of unforgettable moments — gracious award acceptance speeches from the night’s lucky winners, and the comic antics of co-hosts Tisha Campbell and Tichina Arnold. However, the truly transcending moments of the evening came from the live performances.

Tisha Campbell and Tichina Arnold
“2021 Soul Train Awards” hosts Tichina Arnold (left) and Tisha Campbell (right) speak onstage at the Apollo Theater during the show’s recent taping in New York City. (Photo: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)

Whether it was Ari Lennox joining Summer Walker for their duet “Unloyal,” El DeBarge singing “Rhythm of the Night” during the show’s opening, the delightful Soul Cypher, in which singers like Musiq Soulchild and Elle Varner sang over Aaliyah’s “Rock The Boat,” or PJ Morton lending his wonderful vocals during an impromptu “Showtime at the Apollo” segment with Campbell and Arnold hilariously imitating Steve Harvey and Kiki Shepard respectively, viewers were treated some amazing live music.

Here are theGrio‘s top five performances from the 2021 Soul Train Awards:

Fred Hammond’s “Soul Train Tabernacle”

One of the best things about the Soul Train Awards is that it offers a platform for all manners of Black music, particularly Gospel music. So, it’s no surprise that one of the best moments of this year’s ceremony was Fred Hammond bringing the Apollo audience some musical ministry. The Grammy-winning singer/songwriter emerged on stage with a contingent of young singers performing an energetic performance of “Yahweh.” Then Hammond cried out, “I need to take it back to the nineteen hundreds,” before kicking into “Let The Praise Begin.”

Lucky Daye Bares His Soul…and His Abs

Fresh off his collaboration with the legendary funk band Earth, Wind and Fire over the summer, Lucky Daye delivered his latest single to the Soul Train Awards crowd, “Over.” Emerging from backstage, Daye began with the refrain from Musiq Soudchild’s “Halfcrazy,” the hit song that is sampled on “Over.” Daye came out with an all Black top, diamond necklace and earrings, showcasing his smooth vocals while flanked by two female background dancers.

Things steamed up when the dancers removed part of his top, revealing his bare chest and abs to the audience. Moving in sync with the dancers, Daye ended his song with a sexy side of himself that will certainly be piquing the interests of female fans as more music comes.

Silk Sonic Gets “Fly” On Soul Train Set

With 2021 marking the 50th anniversary of Soul Train, the Award show kicked off Campbell and Arnold introducing Silk Sonic on the set of a pitch-perfect recreation of the Soul Train set. Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak were dressed in their best, offering the funky “Fly As Me,” an album cut from their debut, An Evening With Silk Sonic.

The sight of Paak’s ultra-confident rapping over some crunchy brass, bass, and guitars as Mars, the band, and background singers stepped with some slick choreography as the Soul Train Gang danced to the music seemed like it was plucked right from Don Cornelius’ vault from 1971.

Maxwell Performs a Medley Fit For a “Legend”

Fun Fact: When Maxwell walked the red carpet earlier that evening, he was donning cornrows and a beard. However, when he took the Apollo stage to receive his Legend Award, he was freshly shaven and rocking his signature afro from this early days as one of Neo-Soul’s biggest superstars. After receiving his honor, he launched into a medley of his classic soul cuts.

The three-time Grammy-winner kicked his set off with his very first single, “Til the Cops Come Knockin'” before smoothly moving to his 2009 cut, “Bad Habits.” As he started singing his 2001 hit “Lifetime,” video projections of Soul Train host/founder Don Cornelius materialized behind him; a fitting nod to the man who started at all. After running through the funky “Sumthin’ Sumthin’,” moving and dancing with the energy and flexibility of his youth, Maxwell unleashed his brand new single, “Off” before coming to a climax with his signature song, “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder).”

Ashanti Shows Why She’s a “Lady of Soul”

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 20 years since Ashanti dropped her first album, especially considering how graceful time has treated both her physique and her vocals. Nineteen years to the day from winning the Aretha Franklin Entertainer of the Year Award at the Soul Train Awards, Ashanti was honored with the Lady of Soul Award. She thanked fans by performing a run-through of her most famous songs.

Starting things off with “Happy,” Ashanti, armed in a sexy Black corset dress and flanked by four female background dancers in white, sounded just as fresh as the original record. She sang heartfelt, poignant anthems “Rain On Me” and “The Way That I Love You,” prompting the audience to sing back. After singing the sensual 2002 single “Baby,” she brought on guests Fat Joe and Ja Rule to do their raps for “What’s Luv” and “Always on Time” respectively. This sent the crowd into a frenzy before she closed the 10-minute performance out with her iconic debut single, “Foolish.”

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