A Defender Special

These are the stories that captured our interests all year long.

Black artists continue to break barriers and create space for others who are underrepresented in television, film and music. At the same time, we’ve had a few disappointments, but nothing that the culture can’t bounce back from. 

From Beyoncé’s record-breaking streak in music to the return of “Black Panther,” let’s just say that we have a lot to be proud about. Here were the top 10 trending topics in Black entertainment in 2022.

Bun B makes history at Houston rodeo

Houston resident and Port Arthur native Bun B of the legendary rap duo UGK made history as the first Black man from Houston to headline a concert at the Livestock Show and Rodeo. He brought hip-hop in a way no one had ever seen before. The show introduced a star-studded lineup featuring H-Town’s finest — Geto Boys rap legend Willie D, Paul Wall, Slim Thug, H-Town, Baby Bash, Z Ro, Destiny’s Child original member LeToya Luckett, Frankie J, Chamillionaire, That Girl Lay Lay and Tobe Nwigwe.

Megan Thee Stallion graces the cover of Forbes

Megan Thee Stallion gave her fans “Real Hot Girl Sh*t” when she became the first Black woman to appear on Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 issue. The 27-year-old earned an estimated $13 million in 2022. Along with her lucrative deals with companies including Cash App, Popeyes, Revlon, Nike and Frito Lay, she has sold out concert arenas all over the country. Time Inc. will pay her $3 million to produce a documentary on her life. The “Her” rapper told Forbes that she has no plans to slow down.

Beyonce’s ‘Renaissance’ album breaks records

Beyoncé is always finding ways to raise the bar, including the debut of her album, “Renaissance,” which broke records in July. The album secured the first position on the Billboard 200, became Spotify’s most streamed album in a single day by a female artist in 2022 and set a record of 332,000 copies sold in the first week. “Renaissance” was Beyoncé’s first solo full-length release since 2016’s “Lemonade.” In November, Queen Bey set another record after leading with nine nominations for the 2023 Grammy Awards, tying with her husband Jay-Z for an all-time total of 88 nods.

‘The Woman King’ exceeds expectations

Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis starred in the box office hit “The Woman King,” and it produced positive numbers on the domestic box office charts. It earned $19 million during its opening weekend. The film tells the story of an all-female warrior unit called the Agojie, who were the protectors of the West African kingdom of Dahomey from the 17th to 19th centuries. “The Woman King” was a years-long fight for Black women yearning to see themselves on the big screen and shifting the narrative in storytelling in Hollywood.

Wynton Marsalis with Defender Associate Editor Aswad Walker. Photo by Councilmember Tiffany Thomas.

‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ rules box office

The success of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” made Ryan Coogler the first director in history to have two movies with a five-week run at No. 1. The original “Black Panther” movie released in 2018 had the same success at the time. It netted over $733 million at the global box office and became the highest-grossing film in the fall. The film paid tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who played the main character T’Challa in the original film. Boseman died from colon cancer in 2020.

Will Smith and the Oscar slap

In March, actor Will Smith went on the Oscar stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock after he joked about his wife Jada Pinkett Smith. Rock called her “G.I. Jane” and made fun of her closely cropped hair, which is due to the autoimmune disorder alopecia. Smith, who won an Oscar that night for “King Richard,” has since been on somewhat of an apology tour. Smith received a lot of criticism and Rock, though he hasn’t been as vocal as Smith about the incident, said he is not a victim. The Academy banned Smith from its events and programs for ten years. The actor resigned from the organization before the ban announcement.

Rihanna returns to music with Super Bowl

Rihanna hasn’t released new music for years and many of her fans weren’t sure when she would return after having her first child and flourishing in the makeup and fashion industry with Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty. But RiRi finally broke her silence on Instagram when the singer shared a simple photograph of herself holding a football. The NFL logo gave her fans a preview of her Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show performance. Fans anticipate an amazing experience at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. on Feb. 12, 2023 starring the nine-time Grammy Award-winning artist.

Solange 2nd Black woman to compose for NYC Ballet

Beyoncé isn’t the only person in the Knowles family raising the bar. Her sister Solange solidified her standing and became the second Black woman to debut an original composition for the New York City Ballet. The first was Lido Pimienta, the Afro-Colombian Canadian musician and songwriter in 2021. The NYC Ballet celebrated the 10th anniversary of its annual Fashion Gala. Her original score debuted on Sept. 28 and was performed by the City Ballet Orchestra.

Sheryl Lee Ralph steals the spotlight at Emmy Awards

Black Girl Magic was in full effect at the 2022 Emmy Awards when Sheryl Lee Ralph became the second Black woman to win Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Jackee Harry won for the show “227” in 1987. Ralph’s scene-stealing acceptance speech went viral when she burst out in song, singing a verse from jazz singer Diane Reeves’ 1993 tune “Endangered Species.” It was Ralph’s first Emmy nomination and first win in her three decades as a professional.

Kanye West has a year-long meltdown

2022 was a rough year for Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West. His controversial anti-Semitic comments resulted in Ye being dropped from his label and talent agency and losing deals with major collaborators like Gap and Adidas. With his “White Lives Matter” T-shirt designs hitting the runways during Paris Fashion Week, declaring his desire to go “Defcon 3” on adversaries who happened to be Jewish or his outbursts about his relationship with his ex-wife Kim Kardashian and their children, Ye’s reputation and billion-dollar status came crashing down.