Additional reporting by Wendy Geller
Way to hit a sensitive spot right off the bat! The BET Awards wasted no time in making a mildly un-PC joke at the start of the program. "I'm gonna tell you what's not gonna happen — it ain't gonna be no jumpin' in no crowd during performances," comedian/host Chris Tucker quipped. "Miguel! You know BET ain't got no insurance like that!" To Miguel's credit — he's currently still in shaky legal limbo regarding an unfortunate incident where he allegedly jumped on a fan's head at the Billboard Music Awards in May — the R&B singer appeared to find this hysterical, heartily guffawing at the slam. We're not sure this was wholeheartedly funny (after all, the fan in question could possibly be suffering from brain damage, and Miguel could be facing a whopping lawsuit), but when there's nothing to do but laugh…well, what can you do, right? (Later when Miguel performed, it looked like he was about to attempt another daredevil jump…but he opted to just do a knee-slide instead. Phew!)
All fun and games aside, the BET Awards deserved props for their quick and ample recognition of yet another sensitive subject, and a non-musical one at that. Iron Man 3's Don Cheadle took care of serious business early on — not even 20 minutes into the three-and-a-half-hour program — by somberly paying tribute to ailing anti-apartheid figurehead Nelson Mandela, who at 94 is currently hospitalized in critical condition. Cheadle not only asked for prayers for Mandela, he called out the entire nation of South Africa as well. He then offered up the award for Best Male R&B Pop Artist to the above-mentioned Miguel, prompting one viewer to tweet, "There's no clean way to segue from a tribute to Nelson Mandela into anything at the BET awards." But it was a nice (and necessary) gesture, regardless.
7. Kendrick Lamar's Vibe Got Killed
Kendrick Lamar was fully expected to win the Best New Artist award of the evening, and he did. No surprise — except, apparently, to the show's organizers, who had him performing mere minutes after this category was announced. The result was an inadvertent no-show by Kendrick, when his name was called by actresses Angela Bassett and Gabrielle Union and he was somewhere backstage. To their credit, Angela and Gabrielle managed to gloss over the awkward moment. A very short while later, Kendrick took the stage for a blazing performance accompanied by Erykah Badu. He later accepted an award for Best Male Hip-Hop Artist and finally got a chance to deliver a (very passionate and moving) speech, but he made no mention of his previous absence.
6. Curtis Fields Phoned in His Performance (In a Good Way)
The 25-year-old rising star, who first generated buzz for himself by playing music on an iPhone guitar app, made his phone gently weep as he graced the BETs' stage and strummed the phone's screen. It was pretty awesome to behold. So why did the show cut to commercial in the middle of his performance (which they also gallingly did during a song by Michael Jackson's talented nephew, Austin Brown)? The BETs literally left viewers hanging on the line.
The sultry songstress worked, werked, and twerked the stage during her incredibly sexy number…with a little assistance from the most bodacious lady in the game, Her Minajesty, Nicki Minaj. Damn. Just damn. (WATCH PERFORMANCE HERE)
Anyone who recently saw R. Kelly at the Bonnaroo Festival knows that, well, his performances are kind of...weird. Fascinatingly so. And his six-minute hodgepodge of hits at the BETs was no exception. The performance started with a coed choir singing hip-hopera versions of his bawdiest songs, then he finally came out wearing more spikes than Adam Lambert and attempted to croon bits of what seemed like every single one of his hits from the past 12 or so years...before he announced his time was up and excused himself. We still would have preferred "Trapped in the Closet," Chapters 1-22, but we had to admit, this was wildly, bafflingly entertaining. ( WATCH PERFORMANCE HERE)
Janelle, easily THE coolest woman at the BET Awards (or on the planet, maybe), closed the show in striped style. The Electric Lady diva electrified the stage with her "Q.U.E.E.N." tour de force, and we certainly weren't going to complain about a chance to see another Erykah Badu duet. Bow down! (WATCH PERFORMANCE HERE)
Towards the end of the broadcast, the BETs went to Islands with an incredible, high-energy Caribbean music tribute starring Beenie Man, Elephant Man, and Dawn Penn. Everyone in the audience was getting their groove on to this funky reggae party, but the star who got the most attention was Nicki, who hopped out of her seat and busted some serious moves. Maybe Nicki should have judged "So You Think You Can Dance" instead. (WATCH PERFORMANCE HERE)
When Charlie Wilson, former lead vocalist for legendary R&B outfit the Gap Band and a Grammy-nominated solo artist in his own right, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award, things got a little crazy — really fast. Not only did Charlie command an extraordinary amount of the broadcast's time parameters (he gave a long, rambling, highly amusing speech with no apparent concern for limits), he also got the crowd screaming to a medley of some of his greatest hits, including "You Are," "Outstanding," and "Early in the Morning." The latter was performed by none other than Stevie Wonder, sans Charlie's help, which was enough to blow a few minds alone. However, that wasn't all. Justin Timberlake (who presented the award), Snoop Dogg/Lion, India.Arie, and Pharrell all joined the 60-year-legend onstage. Talk about dropping a bomb! Timberlake later enthused on Twitter that he was thrilled to see "Charlie Wilson" trending on social media. So were we. (WATCH PERFORMANCE HERE)
Here's the full list of 2013 BET Awards winners...
Lifetime Achievement Award: Charlie Wilson
Viewers' Choice Award: Drake, "Started From the Bottom"
Fandemonium Award: Chris Brown
Best Collaboration: A$AP Rocky, "Problems" featuring Drake, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar
Best Male Hip-Hop Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Best Female Hip-Hop Artist: Nicki Minaj
Best Gospel Artist: Mary Mary
Best New Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Best Male R&B Pop Artist: Miguel
Young Stars Award: Gabrielle Douglas
Best Movie: 'Think Like a Man'
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx
Subway Sportswoman of the Year: Gabrielle Douglas
Subway Sportsman of the Year: LeBron James
Humanitarian Award: Dwayne Wade
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