Sunday, BET returned to L.A. Live’s Nokia Theatre for the 13th annual BET Awards. This year’s show kicked off with a performance by Pharrell Williams and his track “Come Get It Bae.” Off his latest album G.I.R.L., Pharrell came complete with cheerleaders and a special surprise guest performance from Missy Elliott. She hopped on stage to join him midway through the song, giving a brief performance of her single, “Pass That Dutch.” Williams went on to win two awards for his mega hit “Happy.”
First time BET Awards host Chris Rock received a standing ovation and round of applause as he entered the stage after Pharrell and Missy’s performance. Putting his comedic talents to work, Rock began firing off jokes about nominees, performers, and pretty much anything else related to black pop culture and Hollywood over the last year. “[Solange] hit Blueprint 3 Jay Z, not Reasonable Doubt Jay Z,” Rock joked in reference to the infamous altercation between Solange and Jay. He also took a dig at rapper Rick Ross and his recent weight loss joking, “Pass Rick Ross the salad…” he said, while spoofing Ellen’s pizza handout at the Oscars by instead giving the BET audience Rosco’s Chicken & Waffles. Ross responded to Rock on Twitter by tweeting, "Chris Rock washed up haaaa."
Lil Wayne was the second artist to hit the stage rocking “Believe Me.” He debuted “Krazy” from his upcoming album Tha Carter V. Other musical stage highlights included Chris Brown’s first live performance since his release from prison in which he performed “Loyal.” Spotlighting trademark dance moves, Brown was joined on stage by Travis Barker who pummeled the drums while Brown popped and logged in a dance solo.
In arguably the best performance of the night, Usher took things from little boy to grown man style by hitting the stage delivering a medley of hits from his career (“Nice & Slow,” “Confessions,” “Caught Up,” “You Remind Me,” “You Don’t Have To Call”), before playing the drums himself before performing his new track, "Good Kisser."
Newcomer August Alsina took home the Best New Artist award. He later performed his hit “I Luv This Shit,” joined by Chris Brown and Trey Songz.
Other interesting moments included Nicki Minaj’s strange performance. Sitting on the back of a motorcycle, she began with a verse from “Chi-Raq” before leading into “Pills n Potions.” The “Pills” performance was like Alice in Wonderland on angel dust, as someone in a giant rabbit suit sat on stage next to a ballerina twirling, oversized mushrooms, and American Idol contestant Burnell Taylor in a top hat.
Jennifer Hudson kept it sexy by debuting her upcoming single “It’s Your World” and “Walk It Out.” While Robin Thicke still begged for his wife through song, singing his heart out on “Forever Love.” John Legend, TI, Iggy Azalea, and Jhene Aiko all performed.
The more reverent moments came with tributes. Legend returned to the stage to perform for Lionel Richie who received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Ledisi also took part in the tribute performing “Brick House.” After accepting his award, Richie brought the crowd to its feet with his 1983 hit “All Night Long.”
BET President Debra Lee paid tribute to the civil rights movement, followed by actress Phylicia Rashad who made the audience stand as she stoically walked on stage to pay respects to Maya Angelo and Ruby Dee’s activism through artistry.
But the most memorable moment of the evening came with Nicki Minaj. Winning the Best Female Hip Hop Artist award, her speech goes down as one of the funniest. "This is my fifth year winning this award. I don't take it for granted. When you hear Nicki Minaj spit, Nicki Minaj wrote it. No shade… no shade," she said, popping shots at Iggy Azalea before transitioning to a bizarre personal confession. "The other day – I didn’t tell anybody this – I really thought I was going to die. I was saying my prayers to die. I didn't even want to call an ambulance, because I thought, ‘Well if I call the ambulance, it’s going to be on TMZ…' I would rather sit there and die," she said. "And it made me realize, I don’t care anymore what anybody got to say, I’ma do me."
Despite speculation that Jay Z and Beyoncé would hit the stage at the Nokia Theater, the couple closed out the show with a rather boring and predictable pre-recorded clip of them performing “Partition” where Beyoncé typically stripped and Jay Z watched during a recent stop from their current On the Run tour.
In the end, the BET Award winners were pretty much like Jay and Bey's clip – predictable. But thanks to Chris Rock, the speeches, and performances, this year’s show still managed to be entertaining to watch.
Other BET Award winners included:
Best Actress: Lupita Nyong'o
Best Male Hip-Hop Artist: Drake
Video of the Year: Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”
Best Male Pop Artist: Pharrell Williams
Best Group: Young Money
Viewer’s Choice Award: August Alsina