HOLLYWOOD — The reunited Fugees gave a surprise performance, Destiny’s Child gave surprise lap dances and BET gave some, well, not-so-surprising awards on Tuesday at the fifth-annual BET Awards.
As has become an awards-show ritual over the past 12 months, Kanye West was the top winner, taking home Best Male Hip-Hop Artist and Video of the Year for “Jesus Walks.”
West, like Best Male R&B Artist winner Usher, Best Actor winner Jamie Foxx and six other victors, was not in attendance at the Kodak Theatre, shifting the focus off the awards and on to the show’s performances.
The once-feuding Fugees kicked off the show with an unannounced medley of “Ready or Not,” “Fu-Gee-La” and “Killing Me Softly.” “We’ve been in the studio,” Pras said before the show. “We’re trying to figure out how we gonna do it.”
Perhaps even more memorable were Destiny’s Child, who ended their rendition of “Cater 2 U” by randomly pulling Terrence Howard (“Crash,” “Ray,” “Hustle & Flow”), Nelly and Magic Johnson onstage for steamy lap dances. While Nelly and Johnson simply sat stunned, Howard played along, fanning himself and staring deeply into Beyoncé’s eyes.
“She touched me!” an excited Howard said backstage. “She touched my face! She touched my hair. I’m thrilled. My wife can’t be too happy, but baby, she came and got me. … I tried to say no.”
Along with performing, Destiny’s Child also won Best Group. Other winners included Alicia Keys for Best Female R&B Artist, Remy Martin for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist and John Legend for Best New Artist. Legend also marked the evening by performing with his musical hero Stevie Wonder.
“I’ve never won an award before, and so this was it for me,” said Legend, who performed “My Cherie Amour” with Wonder after singing “Ordinary People” solo. “I was nervous, man; you could tell.”
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Although Legend beat out Ciara for Best New Artist, the young singer did not leave empty-handed. She and Missy Elliott won Best Collaboration for “1, 2 Step” just minutes after Ciara performed another hot collaboration, “Oh,” with Ludacris.
“Just to be a part of this event really means a lot to me,” the humble singer said backstage. “I had some jitters, I must say. I usually don’t say those words, ’nervous’ and ’pressure’ and stuff like that, but I can say that today. Earlier, I don’t know what was wrong with me but I couldn’t stand still. I was all over the place.”
Omarion pulled off a feat similar to Ciara’s, winning the Viewer’s Choice Award minutes after his choreography-heavy performance.
“All of my wonderful fans, they’re sick; they always come through for me,” Omarion said. “And this was my first time performing solo in front of all my peers and was something I always dreamt about.”
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith hosted the show, taking the stage in a horse-drawn carriage with spinning custom rims and a list of rules for the acceptance speeches.
“There is a three homeboy limit tonight, period,” Pinkett Smith joked. “And do not thank God if you can’t perform your work in church.”
While Fugees were certainly the biggest surprise reunion, Will Smith had a little something up his sleeve as well, bringing out the entire cast of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” later in the show. “It’s all about family,” Smith said.
The Game apparently agreed, as he held his young son while he performed “Hate It or Love It” as part of a medley that also featured Mary J. Blige.
Other performers included Mariah Carey, Missy Elliott, T.I. and Tye Tribbett with Fantasia. Toni Braxton and Faith Evans also appeared, singing songs from Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Gladys Knight.
Rick James, who performed at last year’s show (see “Usher, Outkast, Jay-Z, Beyonce Clean Up At BET Awards” ), Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Johnnie Cochran were also honored with special tributes.
The night was not without the ubiquitous Tom Cruise, who called Foxx on his cell phone to present him with his award.
“I’m jumping up and down on the couch right now in my room,” Foxx responded, mocking Cruise’s now-infamous “Oprah” appearance.