Erykah Badu delivered the first tribute of the evening, belting out a sultry version of “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” while the Roots served funky back up duty. She looked every inch the neo-soul goddess in a floor-length white faux-fur coat and leather pants, topped off with a black beret.
Singer Bilal’s performance of “The Beautiful Ones,” from Prince’s immortal Purple Rain, was a sensual highlight as the 36-year-old soul maestro strutted in a sleeveless shirt. Fans were on their feet as he writhed on the stage like Prince doing his finest James Brown moves.
The most hyped performance of the night was easily Stevie Wonder’s, and he teamed with Tori Kelly for “Take Me with U” – originally performed by Prince and his pop protege, Apollonia, in 1984. The 23-year-old Kelly’s vocal roar matched her lion’s-mane of curls.
It was a difficult set to follow, but Jennifer Hudson took the audience to church with a soaring rendition of the immortal “Purple Rain.” She had performed an impromptu version of the song with her costars from Broadway’s The Color Purple, but J-Hud brought a whole new level of intensity on the BET stage.
Later, crooner Maxwell sang a few verses of his hit single “Lake By the Ocean,” before switching gears and launching into The Artist’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” complete with specially tailored lyrics. “Seven hours and 66 days since you took your music away,” he sang.
Prince’s genre-bending fearlessness and flamboyant sartorial choices were particularly present in Janelle Monée, who took to the stage in frilled-out Purple Rain-era shirt to sing verses from Prince’s “Delirious” before stripping down to a white crop-top and cheeky butt-bearing pants for “Kiss.” She rounded out the energetic medley with the one-two punch of “Pop Life” and “I Would Die 4 U.”
While all exuded musical excellence, Sheila E. provided the evening’s emotional climax. Prince’s longtime collaborator set the house on fire with a breakneck medley including “Housequake,” “Let’s Work,” and “America.” She was joined on the stage by another major woman in Prince’s life – his ex-wife, Mayte Garcia.
Eternal love. Thank you @sheilaedrummer for putting this together and asking me to be a part of it. There is nobody else I would of done this tribute with !! And the whole group. The love was so strong on stage. I'm overwhelmed with emotions!! #gratefulbutsad @therealshelbyj @nandymcclean @mayamcclean @livwarfield @elisafiorillo1 and the rest I don't have their IG names
The production follows a Prince tribute at the Billboard Music Awards on May 22, which featured a polarizing performance from Madonna. Shortly after airing, BET mocked the pop queen’s set in an unsubtle tweet.
“Yeah, we saw that,” read the message. “Don’t worry. We got you.” The tweet has since been removed from BET’s social media.
Prince was 57 when he was found dead at his Paisley Park compound in Chanhassen, Minnesota, on April 21. The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office released an official statement revealing the singer had died of an accidental opioid overdose after self-administering the painkiller fentanyl.
Months later, the world continues to mourn the loss of the icon. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton issued a proclamation declaring June 7 “Prince Day” in the legend’s home state, and Versace debuted unheard Prince music at their recent runway show. Visit PEOPLE’s Prince tribute for photos, performances videos, facts, and quotes about the one-of-a-kind legend.