LOS ANGELES — It wasn’t quite as scandalous as Madonna and Britney — or Madonna and Christina for that matter — but Tuesday’s BET Awards will likely be remembered for one of the steamiest smooches in award-shows history.
Midway through an already salty call-and-response performance of “DJ Play a Love Song,” Jamie Foxx and surprise guest Fantasia went in for a surprisingly long-lasting lip-lock that involved plenty of tongue, according to Foxx.
“I didn’t expect it to be that intense, but I didn’t mind it either,” Foxx joked backstage.
The kiss was a fitting symbol for a night that seemed all about the love, which isn’t usually what the BET Awards is known for — remember the Snoop Dogg/ Suge Knight feud from a few years ago, for instance (see “Ja Rule, Missy, B2K Win, Suge And Snoop Exchange Words At BET Awards” ).
Beyoncé opened the show by debuting her new single, “Deja Vu,” and bringing her beau, Jay-Z, onstage to perform his featured spot on the track. Busta Rhymes brought along all his homies, including a surprise appearance by Eminem — alongside Missy Elliott, Lloyd Banks and Rah Digga, among others — for a truly show-stopping rendition of the “Touch It” remix. And the night’s top honor, Video of the Year, was shared between Mary J. Blige (for “Be Without You”) and Kanye West and Jamie Foxx (for “Gold Digger”).
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And then there was Chris Brown, who literally went to great heights (via a crane) to pick a young lady from the Shrine Auditorium crowd to serenade, and brought up his manager and mother to help him collect his first trophy and Ne-Yo for the second. Now that’s love.
“A lot of people try to make us compete, but we were friends [since] before we were signed,” Brown explained backstage. “I was like, ‘Man, this is both of our awards, ’cause we both doing our thing.’ ”
Along with Brown, who won Best New Artist and the Viewer’s Choice Award, Blige, West and Foxx were the night’s only other double winners: Blige for Best Female R&B Artist and West and Foxx for Best Collaboration. And thankfully West was awarded, because after losing Best Male Hip-Hop Artist to T. I., reporters backstage were wondering if there might be a repeat of the 2004 American Music Awards, when West came backstage fuming that he lost Best New Artist (see “Usher, Outkast Clean Up; Kanye Strikes Out At American Music Awards” ).
“Me and Kanye are good friends. I ain’t tripping on that,” T.I. said backstage, smiling. “We support each other. He beat me for the Grammy, and I didn’t get mad.”
In the Best Female Hip-Hop Artist category, Missy Elliott took the trophy once again (she’s only lost it once), while Prince won Best Male R&B Artist — his first BET Award — and Black Eyed Peas won Best Group. The latter’s Will.I.Am appreciated the award but was more in awe backstage about his two performances, with Busta Rhymes and Kelis on “I Love My Bitch” and his show-closing freestyle with Prince.
“It felt really good, ’cause I’m black but BET don’t play a lot of Black Eyed Peas,” Will said. “So to be up there amongst my peers and culture — Busta, Missy, DMX, Rah Digga, and here comes Eminem out on the floor — that just made my heart. It’s been a battle getting recognition. And then being in the audience sitting down, and Prince throws the mic at me. I’m rocking with Prince. You don’t understand what that feels like.”
Prince also hit the stage twice, appearing earlier to honor Chaka Khan alongside Stevie Wonder, Yolanda Adams and India.Arie. “Talk about star power,” Fonzworth Bentley said as he watched backstage. “That’s huge.” Chaka, who won the BET Lifetime Achievement Award, performed a medley that included “I’m Every Woman” with the all-star backing band.
“I’m a little upset I had to come and do press,” Ne-Yo said backstage. “Not that I don’t love you all, but Prince is onstage right now!”
Ne-Yo left empty-handed but proved worthy of his upcoming co-headlining slot with Chris Brown with his classy, straightforward take on “So Sick” (see “Chris Brown To Join Ne-Yo, Dem Franchize Boyz On The Road” ). Other memorable performers included Blige, Keyshia Cole and T.I., who was introduced by Don King and dedicated his show to his late assistant, who was killed last month (see “Deadly Shooting Causes T.I. To Re-Evaluate His Life” ). “Big Phil, rest in peace. I love you, partner,” Tip said.
In a similar move, Busta dedicated his show to his recently slain bodyguard as well as Eminem’s best friend, Proof (see “Busta Rhymes Issues Statement On Bodyguard Shooting” and “D12′s Proof Shot And Killed At Detroit Club” ).
Damon Wayans hosted the show but kept the jokes to a minimum, save one skit featuring his “Men on Film” character from “In Living Color.” Other winners included Anthony Hamilton for the BET J’s Cool Like That Award, Kirk Franklin for Best Gospel Artist, Terrence Howard for Best Actor, Taraji P. Henson for Best Actress, LeBron James for Male Athlete of the Year, and Venus Williams for Female Athlete of the Year.