Then, to the shrieks of the crowd, Jay-Z came and joined him, clad in a dapper gray suit. Together, they smiled and hugged like the bros they appear to be, while Jay-Z promised the crowd they will keep making “the best” — pause — “stuff ever.”
When the duo accepted the award for video of the year, Jay-Z mocked West’s infamous MTV Video Music Awards interruption of Taylor Swift. The move brought large rounds of applause and laughter from West, who said he was only trying to acknowledge Beyonce, also a contender for video of the year Sunday night. Together, the three stars had the most nominations of the night.
Hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, the BET Awards this year were largely a homage to past and present black titans of the entertainment industry, including Donna Summer and Nick Ashford, with few surprises in any of the major categories. Nicki Minaj won best female hip-hop artist for the third year in a row, while tabloid regular Chris Brown was named best male R&B artist for a second time and Beyonce won her third award for best female R&B artist.
The much-ballyhooed return of R&B crooner D’Angelo, making his first televised appearance in 12 years, was arguably the buzziest performance of the night. D’Angelo was in good form, singing “How Does It Feel” in the versatile falsetto that first made him famous and stepping behind the piano for the new, funky “Sugar Daddy.”
But Whitney Houston was the recurring theme of the night. She earned mentions from West and Beyonce and was the subject of an extended tribute.
Mariah Carey kicked off the tribute. “The first time I heard Whitney Houston’s voice,” Carey began in silhouette, a large, black-and-white photo of Houston hanging behind her, “I was in awe.” Singer Monica then launched into “I Love the Lord,” while Brandy, who starred with Houston in the 1998 remake of “Cinderella,” sang “I Want to Dance With Somebody.” Houston’s half-brother Gary also sang and introduced Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston, who belted “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with passion. Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon from “Waiting to Exhale” also paid tribute, as did R&B legend Chaka Khan.
BET avoided a replay of the technology-fueled gaffe last year that led viewers at home and in the audience to believe that Rihanna, not Brown, had won the viewer’s choice award. There was no such trouble this year. Boy band Mindless Behavior took home the prize.