BIST chain
BIST chain
Graphic: The Root

Two—that’s the number of black people who have an EGOT, that is, at least one Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award. Whoopi Goldberg and John Legend are a part of that elite 15-member club. Cynthia Erivo, Billy Porter and Viola Davis are almost there.

Unfortunately, we can’t count on irregular trends that may arise when Hollywood feels like patting themselves on the back by simply acknowledging a few Negroes every few years, there’s one thing that’s consistently black: black-ass awards shows.

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As such, I present to you the BIST, an elite designation given to the select few who have won a BET Award, NAACP Image Award and a Soul Train Music Award. Similar to the EGOT, it highlights the classic and historic awards.

I see you over there, counting on your fingers and realizing I only named three awards instead of the four awards associated with the EGOT. But, since when do black folks color inside the lines? We do our own shit over here and will keep that same energy, are we clear? BARS. Also, unlike the mainstream (read: white) version, I am including honorary, non-competitive awards.

Allow me to give you a little background as to how this spectacular accomplishment came to be. It was Spring of 2018 and five writers—Darnell, Deonté, Taj, Rowin and I—decided to go on an impromptu writers’ retreat in Big Bear Lake, Calif.

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In the spirit of talking shit, we gathered around the cabin one night and decided that before we reach our personal writerly goals of copping that much-coveted EGOT, we’d more likely obtain a BIST, first. And we thought, shit, why isn’t that just as dope, if not doper?

Often, when an awarded black artist or creator steps onstage to present their acceptance speech at a black awards show, they express the feeling of just how extra special it is to be recognized by your own people. It’s family (albeit, a dysfunctional one, as we still have to rectify the erasure of our black-ass LGBTQIA members). It’s ours.

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Since it’s Black History Month and we’re about to embark on a black awards weekend—there’s the NAACP Image Awards and ABFF Honors—I figured this was a perfect time to highlight the extra-excellent folks who embody black excellence: the BISTs.

Writer’s Note: As this is a new designation, we don’t yet have the comprehensive list—and there are several more BISTs than EGOTs—so we are simply highlighting some great examples today. 

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1. LL Cool J

LL Cool J attends the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
LL Cool J attends the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo: Amy Sussman (Getty Images)
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2. John Legend

John Legend attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 09, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.
John Legend attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 09, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.
Photo: Frazer Harrison (Getty Images)
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3. Common

Common arrives for the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020, in Los Angeles.
Common arrives for the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020, in Los Angeles.
Photo: Valerie Macon (AFP via Getty Images)
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4. Yolanda Adams

Yolanda Adams performs ‘America the Beautiful’ prior to Super Bowl LIV on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Yolanda Adams performs ‘America the Beautiful’ prior to Super Bowl LIV on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Photo: Tom Pennington (Getty Images)
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5. Mary Mary

Mary Mary pose during the SiriusXM’s Praise Channel Broadcast from Essence Festival on July 07, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Mary Mary pose during the SiriusXM’s Praise Channel Broadcast from Essence Festival on July 07, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Photo: Jonathan Bachman (Getty Images for SiriusXM)
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6. Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston at the Songwriters Hall of Fame 32nd Annual Awards in New York City on June 14, 2001.
Whitney Houston at the Songwriters Hall of Fame 32nd Annual Awards in New York City on June 14, 2001.
Photo: Scott Gries (ImageDirect)
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7. Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson performs on stage during is “HIStory” world tour concert November 10, 1996 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Michael Jackson performs on stage during is “HIStory” world tour concert November 10, 1996 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Photo: Phil Walter (Getty Images)
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8. Prince

Prince performs onstage at the 36th Annual NAACP Image Awards on March 19, 2005 in Los Angeles, California.
Prince performs onstage at the 36th Annual NAACP Image Awards on March 19, 2005 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo: Kevin Winter (Getty Images)
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9. Mary J. Blige

Mary J. Blige attends Love Ball III on June 25, 2019 in New York City.
Mary J. Blige attends Love Ball III on June 25, 2019 in New York City.
Photo: Jamie McCarthy (Getty Images)
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10. Rihanna

Robyn Rihanna Fenty and Linda Fargo celebrate the launch of FENTY on February 07, 2020 in New York City.
Robyn Rihanna Fenty and Linda Fargo celebrate the launch of FENTY on February 07, 2020 in New York City.
Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris (Getty Images for Bergdorf Goodman)
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11. Earth, Wind & Fire

Earth Wind & Fire attend Universal Music Group’s 2019 After Party on February 9, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Earth Wind & Fire attend Universal Music Group’s 2019 After Party on February 9, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo: JC Olivera (Getty Images for for Universal Music Group)
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12. Anita Baker

Anita Baker attends Tyler Perry Studios grand opening gala on October 05, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Anita Baker attends Tyler Perry Studios grand opening gala on October 05, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo: Paras Griffin (Getty Images for Tyler Perry Studios)
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13. Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah speaks onstage during ESSENCE + New Voices Entrepreneur Summit And Target Holiday Market on December 14, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Queen Latifah speaks onstage during ESSENCE + New Voices Entrepreneur Summit And Target Holiday Market on December 14, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo: Paras Griffin (Getty Images for ESSENCE)
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14. Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu attends Black Girls Rock 2019 on August 25, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey.
Erykah Badu attends Black Girls Rock 2019 on August 25, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey.
Photo: Paras Griffin (Getty Images for BET)
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15. Outkast

Andre 3000 (R) and Big Boi of Outkast perform on stage on July 10, 2014 in Frauenfeld, Switzerland.
Andre 3000 (R) and Big Boi of Outkast perform on stage on July 10, 2014 in Frauenfeld, Switzerland.
Photo: Philipp Schmidli (Getty Images)
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16. Jamie Foxx

Jamie Foxx attends the Pre-GRAMMY Gala and GRAMMY Salute to Industry Icons Honoring Sean “Diddy” Combs on January 25, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.
Jamie Foxx attends the Pre-GRAMMY Gala and GRAMMY Salute to Industry Icons Honoring Sean “Diddy” Combs on January 25, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.
Photo: Gregg DeGuire (Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
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17. Destiny’s Child

Kelly Rowland, Beyonce Knowles and Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Kelly Rowland, Beyonce Knowles and Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Photo: Christopher Polk (Getty Images)
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As this entire foray is about giving flowers to those artists while they’re still here, there were several snubs that surprised me while researching for this piece: Cicely Tyson (missing: Soul Train, BET), Tyler Perry (missing: Soul Train), Angela Bassett (missing: BET), Viola Davis (missing: Soul Train), Big and Little Luther Vandross (missing: BET), Lauryn Hill (missing: BET; which, may be the origin story for her tendency to show up to concerts on CPT), Regina King (missing: Soul Train), Ava DuVernay (missing: Soul Train), Chaka Khan (missing: Image), Janet Jackson (missing: Image), Stevie Wonder (missing: BET; doesn’t he perform at every damn ceremony?!), Aretha Franklin (missing: Soul Train), Will Smith (missing: Soul Train), Denzel Washington (missing: Soul Train), Donald Glover (missing: Soul Train) and Beyoncé (as a solo artist; missing: Image)!

And of course, as acknowledged above, the Soul Train Music Awards don’t have an equivalent category to Grammy’s Spoken Word to make it easier for non-singing talent to cop one. So while this group may not be as exclusive as the EGOT, I’d argue it’s more difficult to get a BIST as a non-singer or non-songwriter.

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But, you never know, any of these things can change in 2020. Stay tuned...

Also, I’d like to give a special shoutout to G/O Media’s art department, who provided our cover graphic above, as a tribute to Tracy Morgan’s character, Tracy Jordan, in 30 Rock.

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Cheers to the best. Cheers to the BIST.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

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