And yes, the omnipresent DJ Khaled closed out the show with a group rendition of "All I Do Is Win." But the real 305 star of the evening was Rick Ross, who wasn't nominated for anything but still stole the show as part of Diddy's Dirty Money Crew. The group's ensemble performance was sometimes almost-invisible thanks to the dizzying strobe lights and smoke machines, and still, the Boss managed to stand out.
He was all over the after-show broadcast, too, thanks to Diddy's patronage -- and he even joked he would be working on a new track with unexpected comeback star El DeBarge. Or was it a joke? We hope not!
Most Random But Unexpected Comeback: El DeBarge
After the award was handed to Trey Songz for Best Male R&B Artist, soon came the opening strains of the R&B classic "All This Love." Wait ... was that freaking DeBarge?! No, it wasn't the whole group, just lead singer El DeBarge, looking suave with carefully glossed and combed hair and a pencil mustache.
His trademark falsetto was fully intact as he ran through a medley of his group's classics, reminding everyone of his mastery and almost wiping away memories of his personal problems, which included prison time. We're now anxiously awaiting his comeback album, due out later this year.
Worst Squandered Attempt at Highlighting New, Unusual Artists: The "Music Matters" Segments of the Show
BET is trying to do something good with tis "Music Matters" series, which plans again to highlight new, upcoming artists as it did in the '90s. They decided to include some of these artists in the broadcast. Great. Unfortunately, they decided to squeeze them in, in approximately 20-second segments before commercial breaks. Not so great.
In case you were wondering, because they weren't even always clearly announced, the talented female singer/guitarist was Elle Varner, and the rapper accompanied by a live band was J. Cole. (El DeBarge also appeared in one of these segments, but he already had gotten his time to shine.)
Most Alarming Commercial: A Promo Spot for BET's Upcoming Series Keith Sweat's Platinum House
News that Keith Sweat has a new solo album: Great. News that Dru Hill is getting back together and releasing a reunion record: Even better. Clips of certain Dru Hill members discussing their need for celebrity fat camp: Somewhat depressing.
Best Performance Aimed Directly at the Ladies: Tyrese Singing Teddy Pendergrass
When Tyrese took the stage to sing a tribute to Teddy Pendergrass, it didn't even really matter how he sounded, did it? When he lost his white satin jacket during "Turn Off the Lights," the temperature instantly rose 10 degrees. Um, wait, maybe that was just us.
Best Jump-Cut to The Worst Side-Eye Ever: Prince's Pissed-Off Face During Trey Songz' Rendition of "Purple Rain"
Trey Songz' solo performance -- which, confusingly, came a while after his win for Best Male R&B Artist -- was strong. Backed by a full band, he sounded way more mature than he has on past throwaway pop hits like "LOL :-)." Still, in the middle of his own song "Your Side of the Bed," he unexpectedly segued into a cover of "Purple Rain" -- almost an hour before the scheduled tribute to Prince.
A quick jump-cut to the Purple One showed Prince looking pissed. He may have actually rolled his eyes! Luckily, Trey didn't notice, and didn't commit seppuku -- which is what we would probably do if we angered Prince.
Best Pregnant Performance in An Awards Show to Date: Alicia Keys, During the Prince Tribute
Sure, M.I.A. got all the shine for looking as though she would pop during her 2009 Grammys performance of "Swagger Like Us." But did she play the piano, suddenly go barefoot, and then write atop the instrument while emoting her guts out? No, that goes to Swizz Beatz' wifey Alicia Keys, whose performance at 110 percent scored a standing ovation from Prince himself. No easy feat, considering he spent the first half of his tribute looking cranky.
Most Alarming Trend in Rapping: Lip Syncing
When a Crossfade reviewer attended the recent Best of the Best concert here in Miami over Memorial Day Weekend, she noted that Nicki Minaj's performance consisted mostly of the hip-hop Barbie lip-syncing over a mixtape of her own hits. That could be forgiven, as Best of the Best has a million artists' hits to get through.
Unfortunately, it seems like lip-syncing might now be Nicki's thing. She clearly was only miming the words on the BET Awards last night. That goes for both her performance with Dirty Money (which was still a show-stopper, thanks to a hot costume and choreography), and her show-ending spot with Ludacris and DJ Khaled. We adore Nicki in general but this leaves us with low hopes for her future "live" performances.
What's worse, Ludacris did almost the same thing on his performance of "My Chick Bad." Yes, he rapped some live -- but it was along to a backing track of his own vocals.
We long ago gave up thinking that pop stars should sing live. We get that. But rappers? Aren't they supposed to, you know, rap?
Best Actual Live Rapping Performance: Drake
Eminem's comeback performance -- yes, this was the theme of the evening -- was well worthy. But it was Drizzy Drake who stole the show as one of the most impressive new performers in the game. Not only did he (thankfully) actually rap live, unlike some of his fellow pop stars, but he did so with impressive stage presence and breath control. He never yelled, never strained, and barely broke a sweat while getting everyone on their feet during his summer anthem "Over."
Best Comeback Performance in a Night of Comeback Performances: Chris Brown's Tear-Stained Tribute to Michael Jackson
We held on to a general disgust for Chris Brown for a long time after he beat Rihanna. After last night's performance, though, we may be ready to grudgingly give him a second chance, as long as he doesn't go all fist-to-face again.
This was clearly angled to be his big comeback performance, with Brown the solo star of a multi-song tribute to Michael Jackson. After a brief introduction, a huge screen lit up, showing a silhouetted figure posing behind it, clearly emulating late-'80s-era MJ. Frankly, we were expecting Usher, and were surprised when the screen dropped to reveal Breezy instead.
He then powered through several songs' worth of jaw-dropping choreography, including a particularly impressive segment in total darkness, with dancers' limbs highlighted with light-up suits.
What really had the world all a-Twitter, though, was the final moment in the number, in which a sweaty, red-faced Brown strolled across a catwalk while attempting to sing "Man in the Mirror." It was just an attempt, though, as he couldn't finish, managing to only belt out a few words of the chorus before sinking to his knees and actually crying. ("Chris Brown Crying" soon became a trending topic on Twitter.)
Was it a powerful moment of self-reflection? We hope so, and he hinted at it again when he later picked up his Viewers Choice Award, saying, "I let you all down before, but I won't do it again." We would like to take his word for it.
Interestingly, Rihanna did not appear to pick up her own Viewers Choice award for "Hard," leaving collaborator Jeezy to collect it and shout her out.