Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Obama, T-Pain Rule the BET Awards

(LOS ANGELES) — T-Pain and Lil Wayne have owned the music scene over the past year: It seems as if T-Pain's voice has accented half the hits on urban radio, while Lil Wayne, another ubiquitous collaborator, has appeared on the rest.

So it was appropriate that both artists dominated Tuesday's BET Awards with not only their energetic performances but their presence, despite winning just one trophy each.

T-Pain, who led the nominees with five nods for his many collaborations — not his own hits — performed with his fellow nominees twice during the three-hour ceremony. He transformed the Shrine Auditorium into a circus with a multi-artist medley that showed his wide-ranging influence during his first appearance.

Wearing a spangled top hat, the rapper-singer shared the stage with fellow nominees Flo Rida, Rick Ross, Ludacris and Big Boi, along with a bevy of big-top freaks, including fire eaters and acrobats.

"This industry is my circus," said T-Pain. "Ride with the ringleader."

Then T-Pain gave a sample of his musical assists over the past year. Double nominee Flo Rida performed his hit with T-Pain, Low; a bare-chested Ross flaunted his gut while singing his song with T-Pain, Boss; and all joined in on the collaborative I'm So Hood.

He also joined Lil Wayne for the evening's final and much anticipated performance — a show-closing medley of Lil Wayne's hits.

Another name heard frequently throughout the night was that of Barack Obama. Diddy, Alicia Keys and other nominees used their time onstage to urge viewers to vote, and clearly showed their support for the Democratic presumptive presidential nominee, who could become the nation's first black president.

Other highlights from the three-hour ceremony included a girl group reunion; a stirring tribute to the Rev. (and soul legend) Al Green; and topless performance by ripped rapper Nelly.

The night's most memorable moments came in performance form. Keys, who was named best female R&B artist, invited SWV, En Vogue and TLC to join her onstage for a medley of their biggest hits. By the time they closed with TLC's Waterfalls, the crowd was on its feet.

After tributes by John Legend, Jill Scott and Maxwell, Lifetime Achievement Award winner Al Green delivered a smash performance of his own, hitting all the high notes on his hits Let's Stay Together and Love and Happiness, as Diddy, Ludacris and the rest of the awards-show audience sang along.

"I'm sorry I didn't sing as well as I could. I got scared," a modest Green, 62, confessed backstage.

Queen Latifah introduced Humanitarian Award recipient Quincy Jones, calling him "an international artist" and "a leader."

"He showed us black entertainment is more than just a hustle," she said. "It's more than just selling albums. It's about inspiration."

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