Cissy Houston (photo: Christopher Polk, Getty Images)
The star-studded Whitney Houston tribute Sunday at the BET Awards moved those in attendance to tears.
Mariah Carey broke down during her opening remarks as she recalled the first time she met Whitney, getting to know her during the promotion of their "Prince of Egypt" collaboration, and spending time with her in London last year.
"I was a tiny bit scared," Carey said about their first meeting. "There were a couple rumors that we had a rivalry … Whitney was not to be toyed with."
But Carey made it clear that she and Houston had a real bond. "I miss my friend," she said, taking a pause to weep. "But we will always have the music."
Mariah Carey (photo: Michael Buckner, Getty Images)Beyonce, Soulja Boy and other members of the audience cried while watching Monica, Brandy, Gary Houston, Cissy Houston and Chaka Khan pay their respects.
Monica's powerful and controlled performance of "I Love The Lord" was reminiscent of Houston's version for The Preacher's Wife soundtrack.
Brandy picked up the tempo with a high energy delivery of Houston's dance hits, "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody."
Houston's brother, Gary, offered a touching selection before calling his mother, Cissy, to the stage.
Cissy sang an emotional gospel rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" that would move any mother who has lost a child. She sang, "When evening falls so hard, I'll comfort you. I'll take your part when darkness comes."
Chaka Khan wrapped the music segment with her song "I'm Every Woman" that Houston covered in 1993.
Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon and Loretta Devine, Houston's co-stars from the film Waiting To Exhale, even paid homage, sharing memories after the performances.
Houston was one of the many late icons remembered in segments scattered throughout the show. Chante Moore, donning big hair and voice, belted Donna Summer, and Valerie Simpson honored her songwriting husband Nick Ashford, who died last year, with a piano version of "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing," a hit they wrote for Marvin Gaye and Tami Terrell. Etta James, Vesta, Dick Clark, Don Cornelius, Heavy D, MCA and others, were also acknowledged.
The awards show was packed with highlights.
Kanye West, Jay-Z (photo: Michael Buckner, Getty Images)A usually serious Jay-Z showed a comedic side as he and Kanye West accepted the Video of the Year award for their Watch The Throne collaboration, "Otis," which beat out two of Beyonce's nominated clips, "Love on Top" and "Countdown."
After Kanye admitted to his past award show faux pas, Jay-Z interjected, "Excuse me, Kanye, I'mma let you continue," mimicking Kanye's controversial 2009 MTV VMA incident with Taylor Swift. The audience and Kanye erupted in laughter. Kanye quipped, "I was trying to defend your girl."
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Nineties Neo-Soul singer D'Angelo, who has been embarking on a comeback, wowed the crowd with an excerpt of "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" and his funk-driven new song "Sugar Daddy." He played piano and sang at the mic while taking cues from James Brown and Prince.
Melanie Fiona impressed with her passionate and guttural "Wrong Side Of A Love Song." Chris Brown, who often lip syncs to offset his exhaustive dance routines, actually sang live during a brief two-song performance that featured body paint costuming and lasers. He ended his set with a back flip.
Best female rapper winner Nicki Minaj kept the theatrics to a minimum for the BET Awards, unlike her over-the-top Exorcist-themed Grammy show, performing "Champion" and "Beez in the Trap" with 2 Chainz. Usher kept things unusually mellow, singing his ballad "Climax."
One of the night's favorite moments was the Cadillac Lifetime Achievement segment on Frankie Beverly & Maze that included their songs "Joy & Pain," "Before I Let Go" and "Happy Feeling."
In an odd lineup order, "Rack City" rapper Tyga was the night's closing performance.
Samuel L. Jackson was an entertaining host with animated introductions and hilarious skits with comedians Kevin Hart, Anthony Anderson and Faizon Love.