The rapper appeared onstage during the ceremony on Sunday night to help present the lifetime achievement award to Sean “Diddy” Combs, after opening remarks from singer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds.
Dressed in a mask and sunglasses that completely obscured his face, Ye proceeded to praise Combs for inspiring artists like himself who have benefited from his groundbreaking legacy.
“How do we crown our kings? How do we appreciate our kings?” Ye said at the start of his somewhat meandering speech. “To think how far we could just make if off of inspiration, to hear the way somebody chopped a sample in.”
He went on to name Combs as his “favourite artist”, remarking on how the music mogul changed the game as a performer, businessman and an entrepreneur.
“He broke down so many doors of classism, taste, culture, swag,” Ye said between increasingly heavy breaths. “Puff, if I never told you, I love you. You’re my brother.”
“I go to him for advice til this day. He inspires so many of my choices. So many of my life choices — my wife choices,” he continued, presumably referencing that both he and Combs married women named Kim, before breaking out in laughter. “Thanks for that Puff.”
It’s unclear exactly what else Ye could be hinting at when it comes to Combs’ connection with the reality TV star. The former couple, who called it quits in February 2021 after seven years of marriage, attended Combs’ 50th birthday bash in 2019 as an item.
This year’s BET Awards was Ye’s first appearance at an awards show since the Grammy Awards barred him from performing at the ceremony in April due to “concerning online behaviour”.
Ye made a brief mention of his career break, sharing that he wanted to “declare myself legally dead for a year”, but that “Puff is pretty persistent”.
“Any of us in this room, if Puff ever need us, we need to jump and be there,” he said. “This man has been through and survived a lot of stuff. Broke down a lot of doors so we could be standing. I know for me, that I could be here today.”
While the Donda rapper’s presence at the ceremony was unexpected, it wasn’t entirely shocking given his multiple nominations.
Ye received nods in several categories, including Best Male Hip-Hop Artist, Album of the Year and the Dr. Bobby Jones Best Gospel/Inspirational Award, but failed to take home any wins.