The 2016 BET Awards just might have been the most epic in the network’s history. What other event can boast a surprise appearance from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar – as the opener! The energy level just skyrocketed from there, with incendiary musical tributes to Prince, Jesse Williams’ powerful speech on racial injustice, and hilarious sketches from hosts Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross.
But what you saw on TV is just half the story. Read on for some great moments PEOPLE caught while roaming backstage at the Microsoft Theater on Sunday night.
1. Anthony Anderson joined the cast of Hamilton – sort of.
After opening the show with a hilarious parody of the runaway Broadway smash, Anderson got up close and personal with what appeared to be actual cast mates from Hamilton. The comedian was spotted posing for photos backstage with some of the performers while dressed in his colonial chic military garb.
2. Beyoncé got support from Blue Ivy backstage.
Beyoncé arrived at the Microsoft Theater just moments before the telecast began. She kept her golden locks and fierce stage attire under wraps in a black robe and matching black slippers, stripping them off only seconds before she took to the stage.
Four-year-old Blue Ivy was backstage supporting her mom. She walked with two handlers all the way to the wings, before being led to Beyoncé’s dressing room while the actual performance took place.
Bey’s backstage team were ecstatic as she launched into “Freedom” for the BET Awards’ fiery opening. “Oh my God, it’s happening!” one of them was heard to scream while watching her performance. “Oh my God, this is really happening! It’s really happening, people!” shrieked another.
3. Birdman and Toni Braxton got cozy backstage.
New couple alert! Cash Money Records rapper Birdman and R&B songstress Toni Braxton were inseparable backstage. They held hands and posed for photos before leaving the venue together. They seemed deeply smitten, but Birdman played it cool when asked about their relationship. “We’re just chillin’,” he told PEOPLE.
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4. Jennifer Hudson was relieved after her emotional Prince tribute.
Jennifer Hudson took the BET audience to church with her soulful version of the Prince classic, “Purple Rain.” The performance clearly took a lot out of her, but J-Hud looked elated as she stepped off the stage and high-fived a friend. Her famous smile was luminous. When asked how she felt about the performance, she simply grinned, took a deep breath, and gestured with her hands as a sign of relief.
5. Bobby Brown proudly showed off his family.
The one-time New Edition member took the stage with his sons, Cassius and Bobby Brown Jr. When his presenting duties were complete, Brown exited with his arms proudly around his brood as they headed to their dressing rooms. “These are my boys. My family right here,” Brown was quick to say when photographers called out for poses.
6. Laila Ali gave her thoughts on BET’s tribute to her father.
The 38-year-old was all smiles as she walked backstage after paying tribute to her father, Muhammad Ali. She and her husband posed for photos with BET CEO, Debra L. Lee before stopping to chat.
“BET has shown my father lots of love over the years,” she told PEOPLE. “When I heard they were doing a tribute to my dad and they asked me to be here, I wasn’t going to say no I feel good. It’s nice to see all the love everyone has for my father.”
•Reporting by RAHA LEWIS