50 Cent Wins Big — And Shows Up — At Vibe Awards

Rapper was a no-show at AMAs and Source Awards.

SANTA MONICA, California — Give him enough awards and he just might show up.

50 Cent was the big winner at Thursday’s inaugural Vibe Awards, and though he skipped the recent American Music Awards and The Source Awards, he was on hand to collect his trophies.

The indisputable breakout artist of 2003 won three awards — one more than he earned at the AMAs and The Source Awards — in the categories of Artist of the Year, Dopest Album (Get Rich or Die Tryin’) and Hottest Hook (“In Da Club”).

“Thanks, everyone, for coming out and making this a special night,” 50 told the Santa Monica Civic Center audience, which included such hip-hop heavy hitters as Jay-Z, P. Diddy and Snoop Dogg.

Really, though, it was the organizers of the show — including Vibe founder Quincy Jones and host Queen Latifah — who were thanking 50 and his peers.

“It’s our first year, so a lot of people weren’t sure … but I think by everybody coming out tonight and seeing what kind of show we put on, I think they’ll be back next year,” Latifah said after the show, which airs Friday (November 21) on UPN.

The Vibe Awards show declared its legitimacy in the opening minutes, which featured Andre 3000 and Big Boi performing their respective singles, “Hey Ya!” and “The Way You Move.” Dre went with a football theme for his performance, opening the song in a huddle with cheerleaders, quarterbacking, ” ‘Hey Ya!’ on three.” The highlight, though, was when his dancers picked up Polaroid pictures and shook them along to the song’s famous line.

Big Boi went with an army motif, minus special guest dancer Farnsworth Bentley, who looked his usual fancy self, complete with umbrella.

Other performance highlights included Mary J. Blige and Eve’s inspired duet “Not Today,” Chingy and Ludacris sharing the stage for “Holidae In” (although Snoop stayed in his seat) and “Stand Up,” and R. Kelly’s show-closing “Step in the Name of Love.” 50 Cent and G-Unit, Alicia Keys, Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz and Loon also performed.

Kelly was one of four recipients of special honors, taking home the R&B Vanguard Award, after which he thanked his fans for supporting him through tough times. Jay-Z received the TuBig Award, named after Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. and honoring hip-hop achievement; P. Diddy won the Style Maverick Award; and LL Cool J presented Russell Simmons with the one-time-only VX Award for his humanitarian work.

Along with the TuBig Award, Jay also won Coolest Collabo for “Crazy in Love” with Beyoncé, who was a double winner herself, also winning Most Stylish. “I wanna take this time and thank my stylist first, Tina Knowles, my mother,” she said before sneaking out to perform at the VH1 Big 2003 Awards in nearby Universal City (see “Andre 3000 Goes Pepto, Hilary Eats Trophy Nachos, Nicky Covers For Paris At VH1 Awards” ).

Other winners included Missy Elliott for Reelest Video with “Work It,” N.E.R.D./the Neptunes for Tightest Team Players, and for Enterprising Entrepreneur the winner was Damon Dash, who celebrated his victory over J. Lo and P. Diddy by handing out mix CDs and promoting his Armadale vodka to reporters in the press room.

In the only award voted on by fans (the others were determined by music journalists and entertainment executives), Joe Budden won the Next Award, named after the section in Vibe reserved for up-and-coming artists.

In less conventional categories, Jeannette Chaves from Jay-Z’s “Excuse Me Miss” video won Sexiest Video Vixen, and New York beat out Atlanta for Most Influential Region, a decision that had Lil Jon and his posse fuming backstage.

“We wanted to do something that was different,” Vibe‘s Emil Wilbekin explained of the categories. “We didn’t want to do just Best Male R&B, Best Female R&B. We wanted to do something that was more below the surface and really true to what urban music and hip-hop is about.”

Also different from other awards events, Vibe included fashion shows spotlighting designs by Enyce, Ecko, Phat Farm and Sean Jean.

“We wanted to have something that was classy for hip-hop,” said Latifah, who also produced the show. “I think people relate hip-hop too much to grimy street activities and act as if all we do is fight and tear things up, and that’s not who we are. A lot of us are grown-ass men and women and we like to come to something sexy and have a good time and enjoy the fruits of our labor.”

Before the awards, several performers, presenters and nominees walked the red carpet, where conversations centered around Michael Jackson (see “Alicia Keys, LL Cool J, Ludacris Denounce Treatment Of Jackson” ) — except when P. Diddy strolled down in a shiny tuxedo.

(Click for exclusive photos from the red carpet. )

“Ask about me!” he told a reporter. “My name is P. Diddy and I came to talk about me.”