Mzansi stars set for BET Awards showdown

24 June 2023 - 16:31 By JEN SU
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BET nominee Pabi Cooper at the International Nominees Celebration ahead of Sunday’s main awards show.
BET nominee Pabi Cooper at the International Nominees Celebration ahead of Sunday’s main awards show.
Image: Greg Kriek

South African stars Pabi Cooper, K.O, and Uncle Waffles are pinning their hopes on a win at Saturday night's 23rd annual BET (Black Entertainment Television) Awards at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, California.

The prestigious ceremony celebrates the 50th anniversary of hip hop music, honouring black and minority entertainers around the world in music, film, sports, and philanthropy.

Born in Soshanguve north of Pretoria, Pabi Cooper (born Paballo Basetsana Mothapo) — is nominated for the Best International Act Viewer’s Choice Award — and is one of the hot favourites to win in her category.

“This is my first time to attend the BET Awards and I’m looking forward to meeting artists and creatives from all walks of life,” Cooper told TimesLIVE. “My dream collaboration list is very long, but for now, I would say it would be Burna Boy, Cardi B, and Wizkid to name but a few.”

The amapiano artist with over 2 million followers on Instagram, credits her musical family for inspiring her to follow her dreams. “I started performing professionally at age 20 and launched my own record label at 21,” she explained. “And when I see a potential new artist, the main denominator is passion, drive, and resilience despite things designed to discourage you.”

Soweto-born rapper and producer K.O (born Ntokozo Mdluli) is nominated in the category of Best New International Act. Originally from the group Teargas, K.O went solo in 2014 and his most recent afrobeats track, SETE, topped the South African music charts for 20 consecutive weeks with a remix that went multi-platinum.

This year is the second time K.O will be attending the BET Awards — the first being in 2011 with Teargas. “For me, it’s being able to network and mingle with artists and managers as I’m now in the height of launching internationally,” explained K.O to TimesLIVE.

K.O at the BET International Nominees Celebration.
K.O at the BET International Nominees Celebration.
Image: Greg Kriek

“I’m looking forward to meeting the artists nominated in the same category, such as Burna Boy, Ayra Starr, and Central Cee. I feel like there’s so much for me outside South Africa and that’s why the music I’m making now is speaking into that journey — of being a global citizen and following my work around the world.” Monde Twala, senior vice-president and general manager of Paramount Africa and lead spokesperson for BET International — expressed excitement at the record number of African nominees.

“This year’s BET Awards have showcased a remarkable increase in the number of African nominees, signalling a growing recognition and appreciation for the talent and contributions emerging from the continent,” he said.

Twala added: “It is encouraging to witness the increased representation of South African artists on the international stage, as it not only elevates their careers but also serves as an inspiration for aspiring talents within the country and the wider African continent.”

South African-based amapiano DJ Uncle Waffles, born Lungelihle Zwane, is nominated in the category of Best International Act — but representing her birthplace of Swaziland. She has been on tour over the last three months through Europe and the US — including a debut performance at Coachella.

Twala praised the nominees. “We would like to congratulate Ayra Starr, Burna Boy, KO, Uncle Waffles, Pabi Cooper, Asake, Camidoh, Wizkid and Tems, all of whom are flying the pan-African flag high.”

He added: “Paramount Africa remains deeply committed to fostering local African talent and providing them with the recognition and support they deserve. Through our initiatives, partnerships, and collaborations, we aim to amplify their voices, celebrate their achievements, and contribute to a thriving and inclusive entertainment industry across the continent.”

K.O advises local artists to stay original. “Amapiano is very compelling and unique to South Africa, so we just need our artists to be more authentic as well,” he said. “Beyond just rapping, versatility and creating your own niche these days is a key factor. For instance, take the same audience as Adele — in afrobeats.”

On the BET Awards red carpet, 22 year-old Cooper will be wearing a bespoke creation from local label Willet Designs Couture. “I’m keeping my outfit a surprise, so be sure to stay tuned to the Cooper Daily Diary for more,” she laughed.

Drake, GloRilla, and Lizzo lead with the most nominations.

The BET Awards will be broadcast live on Monday 2am (SA Time) on BET, with a repeat broadcast the same day at 8pm. 

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