Night’s highlights included performances by Brown, Wayne, Bey and Alicia Keys.
By Rob Markman
Music and Hollywood’s biggest and brightest stars all came out to the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles for the 2011 BET Awards Sunday (June 26) night. Lil Wayne, Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Trey Songz, host Kevin Hart, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith were all in attendance as BET celebrated the year in music.
The ceremony kicked off in royal fashion as the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, Mary J. Blige, took the stage wearing an all-white jumpsuit performing “Mary Jane (All Night Long)” and “You Bring Me Joy” from her 1994 My Life album. MJB didn’t stop there, bringing out Anita Baker so the two could sing Baker’s 1986 classic “Caught Up in the Rapture.”
Chris Brown came up big, winning the first award of the night, for Best Male R&B Artist, beating out the likes of Bruno Mars, Usher, Trey Songz and Cee Lo Green. The ever-controversial CB also took home an award for Best Collaboration for his Lil Wayne, Busta Rhymes-assisted track “Look at Me Now.” It didn’t end there for Brown. After a snafu that had Rihanna and Drake being announced as the winners of BET’s Viewers’ Choice Award, it was later learned that Breezy was the intended recipient, making that his third win of the night. Brown also lit up the stage performing a string of his own hits and then again alongside Big Sean, who rapped his #1 rap single “My Last.”
Nicki Minaj was a shoo-in for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist, and as expected she beat out Diamond, Lola Monroe and Master P’s daughter Cymphonique. Still, Minaj, who took the stage with her Young Money family, started her speech with, “Wow, I can’t believe I won.” The crowd laughed before she clarified her point and thanked Lil Wayne.
Alicia Keys shined as well, treating fans to a piano-laced set as she sang new single “Typewriter,” “A Woman’s Worth” with Bruno Mars and “Fallin’.”
Throughout the night, a number of BET-related trending topics popped up on Twitter. #betawards, Wiz & Amber and Mary Mary made the rounds on the social networking site during the night as well as #kelly after Kelly Rowland performed her single “Motivation” with Trey Songz. The ex-Destiny’s Child member received one of the loudest ovations of the night.
Duo Mary Mary won for Best Gospel Album, and Patti LaBelle received the Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented by Gladys Knight. A potty-mouthed Cee Lo Green, Marsha Ambrosius and gospel’s Shirley Caesar all honored the soul singer by performing a medley of her hits before LaBelle took the stage herself.
Cali Swag District came out with Doug E. Fresh and memorialized slain CSD member M-Bone, while fallen artists like Clarence Clemons, Nate Dogg, Gil Scott-Heron and Teena Marie were honored with tribute performances by Snoop Dogg, Warren G, Queen Latifah and others.
As the show drew near a close, DJ Khaled, Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne took the stage to perform Khaled’s “I’m on One.” Rozay and Weezy had appeared earlier in the show alongside Ace Hood to rock Hood’s “Hustle Hard (Remix)” and returned, this time with Drizzy in tow.
Beyoncé closed things out with a performance from the Glastonbury festival in the U.K. Wearing a gold glittered top, with her legs on full display, B started things off with “Best Thing I Never Had” and then turned it up for a lively version of “End of Time,” both from her upcoming album, 4.
In the end, the 2011 BET Awards celebrated this year’s best in hip-hop, R&B and gospel as well as honoring living legends. It was definitely a night to remember.