Lauryn Hill, TLC Top Lady Of Soul Awards

Deborah Cox wins Song of Year at Santa Monica, Calif., ceremony.

LOS ANGELES — Lauryn Hill and TLC were the top winners at the fifth annual Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards on Friday night, nabbing three awards each.

Both won for Album of the Year and Best Single in the solo and group categories respectively, while TLC also were honored as Entertainer of the Year and Deborah Cox won Song of the Year for "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here."

Though Hill was a no-show at the Santa Monica ceremony, the members of TLC joyfully accepted their three awards and opened the event with a performance of their new single, "Unpretty."

"I want to thank two people who mean a lot to me," Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes said, as the group accepted the 1999 Aretha Franklin Award for Entertainer of the Year. Turning to her bandmates, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, Lopes pointed and proclaimed: "T-Boz and Chilli!" TLC then embraced in a group hug.

Since debuting in 1992, TLC have released three hugely successful albums, including CrazySexyCool, which became the top-selling female group album of all time. On Friday, they won Best R&B/Soul Album of the Year for a group, for their triple-platinum LP Fanmail; they won Best R&B/Soul Single for a group, for the album's song "No Scrubs" (RealAudio excerpt).

Hill won Album of the Year for a solo artist, for her solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which also won Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards in February, at the Soul Train Awards in March and at last month's Source Hip-Hop Music Awards. The Fugees singer also took home the award for Best Music Video for her clip to "Doo Wop (That Thing)" and Best Solo Single for "Ex-Factor."

Telecast live from the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards recognizes the achievements of female artists in R&B, soul, rap, gospel and jazz. Monica, Busta Rhymes, Deborah Cox and Shemar Moore hosted the show, with Cox and Monica also performing, along with rap group Naughty by Nature and Natalie Cole. A tape of Whitney Houston singing "My Love Is Your Love" with her daughter, Bobbie Christina, in Germany, also was shown.

Cole, the daughter of jazz and pop legend Nat "King" Cole, was honored with the 1999 Lena Horne Award for Outstanding Career Achievements. Cox and Rachelle Ferrell paid tribute to the veteran R&B songstress with a medley of her songs, including "I've Got Love on My Mind" and "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)."

Cole seemed moved by the tribute and said backstage, "It's just different when you get it from your own. A lot of people in the audience probably didn't even know who Natalie Cole was," she said. "Some of us are lucky enough not to slip through the cracks."

Some may have left the event feeling as though they had, however. Though Monica was up for the greatest number of nominations next to Hill, the R&B/pop star left the event she helped host empty-handed.

French hip-hop/soul duo Les Nubians, who won Best New Artist, said receiving a Lady of Soul award reaffirmed to them a promising start. "We just feel blessed," singer Helene Faussart said as she stood backstage with her sister and partner in the duo, Celia. "I think it's a very good introduction to a beautiful career."

Cox crisply performed her hostess duties, but rapper Busta Rhymes tried to hype up the crowd each time he took the spotlight. At one point during the ceremony, he took the opportunity to plug the upcoming solo release of his Flipmode Squad bandmate Rah Digga, calling her "my own lady of soul, the first lady of the Flipmode Squad." He later echoed that sentiment in the press room after the show, with Rah Digga — whose Dirty Harriet is due Nov. 2 — on his arm.

Of his host post, Rhymes (born Trevor Smith) said, "I just felt like I wanted, for once, to play a major part in salutin' women, not just because of their role in entertainment but for playing a significant role in life."

5th Annual Soul Train Lady of Soul Award Winners:

R&B/Soul Album of the Year, Solo:

Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

Best R&B/Soul Album of the Year, Group or Duo:

TLC, Fanmail

R&B/Soul Song of the Year:

Deborah Cox, "Nobody's Supposed to Be Here"

Best R&B/Soul Single, Solo:

Lauryn Hill, "Ex-Factor"

Best R&B/Soul Single, Group or Duo:

TLC, "No Scrubs"

Best R&B/Soul or Rap New Artist:

Les Nubians

Best Jazz Album:

Cassandra Wilson, Traveling Miles

Best Gospel Album:

CeCe Winans, His Gift

Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video:

Lauryn Hill, "Doo Wop (That Thing)"

1999 Aretha Franklin Award for Entertainer of the Year:

TLC

1999 Lena Horne Award for Outstanding Career Achievements:

Natalie Cole