[artist id=”1198″]Queen Latifah[/artist], [artist id=”1242768″]Pharrell[/artist] and [artist id=”1244169″]Diddy[/artist] spearheaded BET’s “SOS Save Ourselves: Help for Haiti” telethon Friday night (February 5) at Miami’s American Airlines Arena, encouraging viewers to donate to the quake-ravaged island.
From the onset, the mood was upbeat, thanks to Wyclef Jean’s opening performance of “Hold On” with Mavado. ’Clef — who told the audience he wanted to teach them “Creole 101″ — also brought out Haitian MCs to rap along. Later, he celebrated his homeland’s culture in an energetic mini-set that started off with him and Akon performing “Sweetest Girl.” ’Clef then said since he was in Miami, he wanted to do a remix. Haitian singer Black Dada came out and started singing the hook to his single “I’mma Zoe.” Then, Wyclef’s artist Haitian Fresh came out. The performance ended with everyone waving Haitian flags.
The tone of the night’s performances ranged from inspirational, with powerhouse vocalists Mary J. Blige and Jazmine Sullivan singing “We Gonna Make It,” to fun, with Justin Bieber and Ludacris uniting for “Baby” (the Biebs gave a gracious salute to Haiti by singing parts of “One Less Lonely Girl” in French). Robin Thicke did a pitch-perfect rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me,” and Keri Hilson performed her Billboard smash “Knock You Down.”
Hilson delivered a message to the crowd after her song: “No one is paid to be here. We’re all here from the bottoms of our hearts. We’re all brothers and sisters in Christ. No one is exempt. We can all do something.”
Busta Rhymes brought a brand-new, Haiti-themed song to the telethon. Although the rap vet did not announce the title, he rapped with clarity and conviction. “While my heart is racing and I address the topic,” Rhymes rapped. “What’s the reason they facing something so catastrophic/ While I search for answers and balance my thoughts equal/ All I can come up with is God is testing the people/ It’s so incredible to witness the strength of the righteous/ And the clearest example of how we come together in crisis.”
Another powerful lyricist, Nas, also took to the stage. He performed “The Strong Will Continue” with Damian Marley, from their upcoming Distant Relatives LP. “This is for the strong,” Nas yelled. “This is for Haiti!”
Chris Brown was in top form , breaking out “Crawl” and “With You.” Kirk Franklin brought an all-star triumvirate of India.Arie, Jazmine Sullivan and Chrisette Michele to sing a special version of his Haiti relief song “Are You Listening.” The powerful songbirds brought an even more spiritual vibe to the song, breaking into “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” in the middle of the song.
The show ended with Diddy, Queen Latifah and Pharrell saying good night before starting a “Lean on Me” sing-along. Almost all the night’s other performers — which also included Monica, Robin Thicke and Pitbull — came out, as did stars such as Brian McKnight, Sean Kingston and Gloria Estefan.
Former President Bill Clinton also spoke during the event, driving home the message that our help for Haiti will have to be a sustained effort. “We’ve still got a lot to do to get the people of Haiti back so they don’t have to worry about day-to-day,” Clinton said. “Those people deserve our help. They can have a better future, and you can give it to them.”