Aaliyah Leads BET Awards Nominees, Followed By Keys, B2K

Late singer up for Best Actress, Best Female R&B Artist, Video of the Year, Viewers' Choice Award.

HOLLYWOOD — Aaliyah leads nominees for next month’s second annual BET Awards, earning recognition for both her singing and acting.

The late “Queen of the Damned” star is nominated for Best Actress and Best Female R&B Artist, and her “Rock the Boat” clip is up for Video of the Year and the Viewers’ Choice Award, organizers announced at a press conference Tuesday. “Rock the Boat” was shot just hours before Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash last August (see “Aaliyah Killed In Plane Crash” ).

Aaliyah and TLC’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, who died in a car accident last month (see “Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes Killed In Car Accident” ), will be honored in a special tribute at the BET Awards, which will be held June 25 at the Kodak Theatre.

Other leading contenders include Alicia Keys and B2K with three nominees each. Ja Rule, Ashanti, Missy Elliott, P. Diddy, Usher, Craig David, Busta Rhymes, Ludacris and Trina garnered two nods apiece.

Ja Rule, who announced the nominees in the music categories, said he was honored to be nominated. “This is my home,” he said of BET. “All that other stuff (the Grammys, etc.) is crossover.”

He and Ashanti turned heads by announcing they have more collaborations on the way, though it was Bow Wow who stole the show. Giving sophisticated answers to questions thrown his way, he even fielded queries about Lifetime Achievement Award honorees Earth, Wind & Fire.

“We wouldn’t be here without them,” said Bow Wow, who wasn’t even born during the R&B group’s heyday.

Steve Harvey and Cedric the Entertainer, stars of “The Original Kings of Comedy” and returning hosts for the awards show, took the podium and mocked the teleprompter directions, opting instead to poke fun at Bow Wow, announcing that he needed to leave because lunch period was almost over.

Bow Wow’s “Take Ya Home” is nominated for the Viewers’ Choice Award along with “Rock the Boat,” B2K’s “Uh Huh,” Keys’ “Fallin’,” and Ja Rule and Ashanti’s “Always on Time.” Bow Wow (as Lil’ Bow Wow) won the award last year for “Bow Wow (That’s My Name).”

Ashanti will vie for Best New Artist with multiple-Grammy winner Keys, David, B2K and Elliott protégé Tweet.

“Rock the Boat”; Busta Rhymes and P. Diddy’s “Pass the Courvoisier”; Elliott, Ludacris and Trina’s “One Minute Man”; P. Diddy, Black Rob and Mark Curry’s “Bad Boy for Life”; and Usher’s “U Got It Bad” are nominated for Video of the Year.

This year’s BET Awards will mark the advent of their Humanitarian Award, to be presented to boxing legend Muhammad Ali.

Laila Ali, his daughter, is nominated for Best Female Athlete for her achievements as a boxer, facing tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams and others. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson and Derek Jeter will compete for Best Male Athlete.

Ja Rule, Ashanti, Bow Wow, Will Smith, Nelly, Keys, Best Female R&B Artist nominee Mary J. Blige, Yolanda Adams, Chaka Khan and actor Morris Chestnut will appear at the ceremony, though organizers could not confirm who will perform and who will present.

For a complete list of nominees, visit BET.com.