Described as the hottest party of the year, the 2021 Soul Train Awards, presented by BET, showcased an even bigger lineup of performances, special moments, and appearances by some of the biggest stars in R&B, Gospel, Urban Adult Contemporary and Soul. Hosted by long-time besties Tichina Arnold and Tisha Campbell for the first time from the World Famous Apollo in Harlem, NYC, the annual tribute to the best of Black music will also celebrate 50 years of the Soul Train legacy.
The lineup of performers for the evening included Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak as Silk Sonic, Ari Lennox, Leon Bridges, Lucky Daye, Summer Walker, Fred Hammond, and BET Amplified artists Elhae and Marzz. Ciara and Russell Wilson, and Marley Dias received Souls of Justice Award. Rap legends Fat Joe and Ja Rule, R&B icon El Debarge appeared as special guests.
As a highlight to the evening, Soul Cypher include D-Nice on the wheels of steel along with Musiq Soulchild, Jac Ross, Koryn Hawthorne, Elle Varner, and Tone Stith.
Jonelle Procope, President and CEO of the Apollo Theatre expressed her excitement about hosting the ceremony at the historic venue.
“Soul Train’s legacy as a celebratory hub of music, joy, and African American culture resonates deeply with the Apollo,” Procope said. “It has been an honor to partner with Soul Train and BET—two other iconic and historic organizations— to celebrate 50 years of Soul Train and commemorate some of the most influential artists of our current moment across R&B, hip hop, jazz, and soul. We hope our audiences will rejoice with us in this moment of empowerment and excellence.”
On the eve of tits 50th anniversary celebration, EBONY caught up with some of your fave celebrities and spoke to them about the impact and influence of the legacy of the show.
“I was born and raised in Queens so hosting this iconic 50th Anniversary of Soul Trainis beyond what I was even dreaming of back then as a little girl," shared cohost Tichina Arnold. "Even though this is exactly why I was attending a Performing Arts school, studying singing and dancing and acting all of those years. I am still deeply humbled to be performing in the historic Apollo theater surrounded by my first true fans—my family and my hometown friends— who have supported me my entire career.
Hosting the show at the Apollo is such a big deal,” added Tisha Campbell. “Home is different from anything else and it's the most exciting thing being on the East Coast and being near your city."
Ashanti, who received the “Lady of Soul Award,” spoke about the significance of her accomplishment.
“Soul Train is a staple in our culture,“ Ashanti said. “Just growing up watching Soul Train with my mom—it's a different kind of honor. We all wanted be Soul Train dancers"
“I mean, this for me is a combination of a time that has birthed this whole crop of R&B that I listened to. It's a testament to the tradition of soul music, that it could reinvent itself, and evolve. I'm so grateful to be part of that evolution,” added Maxwell, who was honored with the “Legend Award."
Out on the red carpet, some of our favorite celebrities were immaculately dressed in bespoke tuxedos, gorgeous gowns, and were filled with anticipation before they entered the theatre.
R&B legend El DeBarge shared a story about being put on the spot by Soul Train's creator Don Cornelius while performing with his family's band DeBarge
“Don made us sing “Time Will Reveal” live,” El recalled. ”I thought that it was a studio trick because nobody sang live but he made us do it that day.”
R&B sensation Lucky Daye brought all vibes and energy.
“I’m really excited to perform tonight at the Soul Train Awards,” Lucky Daye shared before the show. “I can’t wait to hit the stage and give the people a great performance.
50 years later, Soul Train remains one of the most renowned brands in Black culture. The vision of Don Conerlius brought the joy and beauty of Blackness to homes across the country and around the world.