Usher unmuted: Fans decry censorship of icon's BET Awards speech. Here's what he said

Usher’s confessions about the gratitude he feels for family, friends and fans fell victim to the mute button at the BET Awards on Sunday.

When the R&B icon received the BET Lifetime Achievement Award, he delivered a 13-minute speech that praised the people who helped him find and maintain success over the last 30 years. However, BET omitted large portions of the “Confessions” crooner’s acceptance speech, much to viewers’ and social media fans’ chagrin.

“Soooooo Usher’s entire speech is bleeped out,” one fan tweeted Sunday evening.

“It’s the silent acceptance speech for the viewers at home for me,” a second viewer tweeted. “Just go to commercial.”

Usher, who received his award from executives Babyface and L.A Reid, kicked off his speech honoring those who had been in his corner, joking about the timing of his award (“I’m still running and gunning”) and getting vulnerable with the audience at the Peacock Theater in downtown Los Angeles about his beginnings.

“I’m gonna take my glasses off because I want you to see my eyes,” he told his peers in attendance. “I want you to understand it’s real.”

The Grammy-winning singer, who took over the Super Bowl LVIII halftime show, talked how his father’s absence motivated him to seriously pursue his career in music and praised the father-like figures he turned to during his ascent. Then came his first censoring.

“Who have spoken to me, who have been solid no matter how [expletive] may have been,” he said of those father figures. “I’m sorry, I’m cursing to let you know how I really feel.”

Usher, full name Usher Raymond IV, continued his speech with a few more expletives, then BET kept the singer muted for several minutes during its broadcast, according to video shared on X (formerly Twitter.) Amid the silence and shots of attendees reacting to Usher’s speech, some words would break through seemingly at random. The silent broadcast inspired memes and annoyance on X.

“Usher is getting a Lifetime Achievement Award and we can’t even hear the speech?! BET is so trash!!!!,” reporter Mýa Melody said, also tweeting a gif of Katt Williams walking and holding a small blade in the movie “Friday After Next.”

In a statement Monday to The Times, a BET spokesperson attributed the silence to “an audio malfunction,” adding that portions of Usher’s speech “were inadvertently muted.”

“We extend our sincere apologies to Usher as we couldn’t be more grateful for his participation in Culture’s Biggest night,” the statement continued, before adding that fans could watch the uninterrupted speech “across BET Platforms” and via Monday’s encore showing of the BET Awards.

A representative for Usher did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment.

The 2024 BET Awards was a star-studded celebration of Black talent and culture that saw Taraji P. Henson return to host. Tyla, Victoria Monét, Kendrick Lamar and Regina King were among the night’s winners. Usher, in addition to his achievement award, won the ceremony’s male R&B/pop artist prize. His legacy also inspired an energetic tribute performance with Donald Glover, “Boyfriend” collaborator Keke Palmer, Teyana Taylor and more musicians performing his most popular hits.

BET published Usher’s full speech Monday, in a YouTube video titled “Usher is Unfiltered & Motivated While Accepting His Lifetime Achievement Award.”

The new video, and viral recording from inside the ceremony, provides a more complete look at Usher’s moment. Here’s a full transcript of the Grammy winner’s unfiltered speech:

“Getting here has definitely not been easy, but it has been worth it. I have a lot of people that I want to thank but before I get into any of that — by the way I should caution you that I like to talk and I have a way with words. But what I will say is I didn’t write anything because I wanted this moment to be exactly what it was: present. In this moment, how I am feeling and the appreciation that I have for each and every person that had anything to do this moment tonight as well as the 30-plus-year career that I celebrate.

This life achievement award, I don’t know, man — is it too early for me to receive it because I’m still running and gunning? I still love this s— like I did when I was 8 years old.

I want to thank each and every one of the performers tonight who paid tribute and each and every person who had anything to do with the production, the wardrobe. I’ve seen everything, every detail, every moment, every moment and everything. We was going back to moments that some of y’all might not even know when I was dropping my pants. So those moments that become legacy are all about expression and just having fun and finding the connection and really the spark.

You know, when I first started I had a different idea about what I thought life was going to be. I started off as an artist in a group in Chattanooga, Tenn., my name was Cha Cha and I really was searching for some identity and I was doing that specifically because I was trying to make sense of this name that was given to me that was not — I’m gonna take my glasses off because I want you to see my eyes. I want you to understand it’s real.

I was trying to make sense of this name that a man gave me that didn’t stick around because he didn’t love me. Or at least that was my perception of it, because I had to live long enough in order to understand that you have to have a forgiving heart, in order to understand the true pitfalls and hardships of a Black man in America. And my father, he was a product of that. He made a lot of decisions, he made a lot of choices and one that probably hurt and helped me at the same time was to stay away. But that’s part of the reason why I saw this is the year of the father, where all the fathers gotta stand up for their sons, their daughters and be the man that they need to be for them.

They say success has a million fathers. Well I start with these guys right here. This is my village, these are the men who motivated me, who speak to me. Who have spoken to me, who have been solid no matter how f— up it may have been. I’m sorry, I’m cursing to let you know how I really feel. ‘Cause at one point, it got really thick, when motherf— weren’t f— with me. And I get it, I understand. Sometimes you gotta go through some s— to get to some.

I’m gonna tell you, they solid. And it ain’t about a motherf— hit record. They solid, they gonna always gonna have my back and I’m gonna always have theirs. Now, somebody asked me a question about ego and this idea of having an ego. Could be so confident that you could come to L.A. Reid’s office at 12 or 13years old and say ,‘You meeting the next superstar and I’m gonna take that space on the wall right there and you’re gonna put my picture up there.’ No, that wasn’t ego speaking. I re-branded that word that day.

I expressed goals out loud … it makes sense and the reality is you have to express your goals outwardly no matter what people may see, no matter what they may feel, now matter how dark it may look, no matter how complicated it may be because that’s the only way it could ever become a reality. You have to see it first. You have to then move in action and decide, ‘This is what I’m gonna do. This is what I’m committed to.’ You’re gonna have a cast of people who are gonna be with you, you’re gonna have a cast of people who are gonna hate you.

So long as you stay connected to what you feel, what you’re committed to, something major will happen and God will show up. He always does. Now, I can proudly say I’m the bastion of Usher. Right? But I made something of it. I did that because my mother, she subbed in two ways. She was a mother and a father at the same time. This is the power of a Black woman in America, you know? So with everything that I’ve accomplished, I didn’t do it alone. I wanna thank the ones that are not here to be able to see this moment who I talked to, some of whom are fathers or were like fathers to me. Harry Belafonte is somebody who I always looked up to. Quincy Jones is somebody who always I looked up to and took me under his wing. Clarence Avant is another person I looked up to. Virgil Roberts is another person I looked up to and continued to push me and make certain that whatever I thought of I could absolutely achieve.

Evangelist Ernestine Carter, who I lost — and Kirk Franklin, he helped me usher her into this ascension and this place. And all of these wonderful things begin to happen. She was an Earth angel and she now is in heaven, making these moments happen. It is the hard work we put into this, but it is the belief in those who see something in us. A woman, a very important woman is at the very foundation to this — a man and a woman by the name of James Lackey and Nancy Lackey, who were at the foundation of who I am as a young, hopeful child who just wanted to do something and wanted to matter even though there wasn’t a dad to call, even though there was not nobody to pick up and say, ‘Yeah, you’re going to be all right. This is what you do. This is what is OK, what isn’t. You gonna like girls, you gonna go through s—. You gotta figure it out. But it led me to be the father that I am to my boys, Cinco and Naviyd, who are here today. And my little ones Sire and Sovereign who are home as well.

Thank you all for — why you lookin’ like that — you not happy today? OK? No. This one, he be in my DMs, you know, hitting [up] people and stuff. It’s all good. So I thank y’all for being patient with me. I forgive each and every person who had anything to say negative about me, because it only motivated me to be who I am. “Good Good” is more than just a song, I’m trying to turn a new leaf. We gotta be cool for the sake of the kids. I look at Swizz Beatz and his ex-wife and Alicia Keys and the fact that they’ve managed to pull things together. I’m trying, Tameka. First step, get it right.

So yeah, that’s a heavy one. But it’s all about y’all. It 100% all about my children and making certain that you understand your dreams can come true if you truly commit it — if you are truly committed, if you’re dedicated to something and you find passion and you stay committed to it. This could potentially be you. This could be your moment, not on this stage ‘cause I’m the only one that’s gonna have this one, but you could have a moment like this too.

I’m so happy for LeBron [James] and his son. This is the year of the father, man. To my team and each and every person that had to do with this moment that I’m having: Laffitte, Luke at my management company, Aakomon Jones. I said everybody on this stage, Johnta Austin who holds me down is my maverick, Chris Chambers who always has my back and always stays focused with me. Each and every person who has had a part in this moment, from the past going all the way back to AJ Alexander, that’s the guy who actually discovered me. And then, each and every friend who has encouraged and helped me in the moment, I celebrate this moment with you. This is not just my moment. This is our moment together.

My lovely wife, thank you so much for being my best friend. Thank you so much for supporting me and encouraging me. For each and every fan who has been a part of buying an album, or either coming to a show or either supporting me, I absolutely would not have been able to do this without you. L.A Reid, Babyface I just want to tell you, Face I love you. I thank you, man. I thank you so much for your encouragement as an artist, your encouragement as an executive, your encouragement as a part of the two, duo, that created LaFace records. Each and every person who is part of that organization set the tone in this time for what it is that it is to be entrepreneurial in music. I have you two to thank for that, and we want to thank y’all for that.

You gotta be willing to forgive, y’all. He who knows, knows sin, cast the first stone. We gotta be willing to forgive, we gotta be willing to be open. I’m telling you, you stand before a man who had to forgive a man who never showed up ever and look what I made with it. Look what I was able to usher in. That’s what’s real and that’s what makes us human. That’s what makes us men and women. I thank y’all, man.

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