HOLLYWOOD — Tuesday's third annual BET Awards proved an accurate reflection of what's truly hot in urban culture lately — 50 Cent, 50 Cent and 50 Cent.
The red-hot rapper not only won two of the ceremony's most coveted trophies — Best Male Hip-Hop Artist and Best New Artist — he opened the show with a sizzling medley featuring guest appearances by Missy Elliott and Nate Dogg.
It's no wonder all anyone could talk about on the red carpet leading into the Kodak Theatre was Mr. "P.I.M.P." himself. (Click for photos from the red carpet.)
Not many of the headliners (Jay-Z, P. Diddy, Ashanti, et al) visited the 100 or so reporters lined up along Hollywood Boulevard, but those who did, including Snoop Dogg, Rakim and Kelly Rowland, sang praises of 50 Cent for bringing a new level of excitement to hip-hop.
"50 Cent, like Eminem and Nelly before him, is exposing hip-hop to a wider audience than ever before," St. Lunatics' Murphy Lee said. "By selling so many albums, he's opening the door for guys like me to come in and get recognized."
With his two BET Awards, 50 Cent tied B2K, who won Best Group and, for the second year in a row, the Viewer's Choice Award (beating out 50 Cent and the producer behind the group's latest single, R. Kelly).
Other winners included Elliott for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist, India.Arie for Best Female R&B Artist, Snoop and Pharrell Williams for Best Collaboration, Erykah Badu and Common for Video of the Year for "Love of My Life," and R. Kelly and Jaheim, who tied for Best Male R&B Artist.
Kelly, Arie, and Snoop and Williams performed during the show, along with Beyoncé Knowles, Ashanti and Lil' Kim. Darryl "DMC" McDaniels introduced the turntablist quartet of DJ Premier, Kid Capri, Grandmaster Flash and DJ Jazzy Jeff, who cut and scratched a variety of Run-DMC classics in a tribute to the late Jam Master Jay.
James Brown was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented by surprise guest Michael Jackson, who showed how the Godfather of Soul influenced his dancing with a short routine reflective of Brown's moves.
Jackson called Brown the greatest influence on his career and even broke into tears during his short presentation, which included several pauses to acknowledge screaming fans (for him, not Brown).
Earlier, Bone Crusher got the party started right on the red carpet by stripping his shirt off for a performance of "Never Scared" on BET's "106 & Park" stage.
The only ones to upstage the rap giant didn't exactly do it fairly, considering they weren't officially a part of the festivities. Alien Ant Farm interrupted the red carpet flow by playing their new single on a rooftop across from the Kodak Theatre almost three times in row before cops shut them down. The performance was filmed for the band's new fish-out-of-water-themed video. (Click here for photos from the video shoot).
AAF left many on the carpet speechless, but not Killer Mike. "This is amazing," he said, pumping his fist to the tune. "Tell these guys I want to tour with them!
"First they stole Michael Jackson's single ['Smooth Criminal'], now they're stealing LaToya Jackson's final moment in the spotlight," Mike added, joking about the Jackson sister who curiously made media rounds at the show.
Other eye-catchers on the red carpet were Lil' Kim, who wore the kind of revealing outfit she has become famous for; 3LW, who, dressed in all white, sang an impromptu sampling from their new album; and Tyrese, who was escorted by 11 ladies, all wearing shirts decorated with different astrology signs.
"I figured instead of bringing a posse of dudes, I would bring beautiful women," remarked the "2 Fast 2 Furious" star, whose upcoming single is about horoscope signs. "This is my protection."
To hear Ashanti's new album before anyone else, check out "The Leak: Ashanti Chapter II."