“Let’s get ready to rumble

There were no signs of hot-tempered rappers with quick fists at last night’s 2007 BET Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Instead, there were  heavy-hitting performers to keep the music industry and Hollywood’s elite ringside for an evening of great performances. Setting the tone and spirit of the evening’s theme—“The Main Event”—was legendary boxing announcer Michael Buffer who introduced Mo’Nique, the three-time host for the star-studded event.

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From the opening performance, the mood was set for a night of memories and musical firsts. Above all, the show was all about the ladies — namely “Dreamgirls” Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson. Bee won two of her six awards nominations including Best Female R&B and the Video of the Year for her pop country smash “Irreplaceable” while J-Hud nabbed the titles of Best New Actress and Best New Female Artst.

Known for bridging the gap between old and new school artists, this year’s cermony kicked off with a performance by two vocal powerhouses — Jennifer Hudson and Jennifer Holliday. Holliday, who won a Tony Award for her role as Effie in the 1982 Broadway play, “Dreamgirls“, sang the classic torcher “And I’m Telling You, I’m Not Going” with Academy Award-winning actress and former “American Idol ” contestant Jennifer Hudson, who reprised the role of Effie in the screen adaptation. The perfect pair engaged in a soulful exchange of gutsy, vocal riffs that moved the crowd to a standing ovation.

The evening continued to gain momentum when Mo’Nique delivered a rump-shaking performance to the sounds of Beyoncé’s chart topper “Déjà Vu” accompanied by the F.A.T. Girl Dancers. As Beyoncé looked on and smiled approvingly, Mo’Nique complimented the songstress by saying: “You are truly the Queen of what you do. Keep giving it to us!” The married comedienne even joked that the Houston beauty’s rapper beau had flirted with her after her 2004 performance of  “Crazy in Love” saying,  “Can you please tell Jay-Z to stop calling me?”

Later, the voluptuous songstress held her own as she emerged from a bronzed, armored mummy case like a Robo Cop, clad in bronze metallic hip-huggers with a matching bra to deliver the extended version of her bass-heavy party starter “Get Me Bodied.” And Destiny Child’s member, Michelle Williams, and Beyoncé’s baby sis Solange, joined her on stage while a svelte Kelly Rowland shared the spotlight when she performed the bounce-heavy “Like This” dressed like a modern day Superwoman in a sexy, red-gold-blue ensemble, which included royal blue hot pants. Then Def Jam’s golden boy and in-demand songwriter, Ne-Yo, was a vision in white, sporting a wide-brim hat singing and dancing to his Michael Jackson-esque hit “Because of You” before he and Fabulous teamed up to sing their infectious duet “Make Me Better.” One of the evening’s biggest surprises was a cameo appearance by raptress Lil’ Kim who joined Diddy and Keyshia Cole for their rock-infused collabo “Last Night.”

The evening’s paced mellowed when soul siren Patti LaBelle, gospel great Yolanda Adams, and Eddie Levert took the stage. In memory of Levert’s late son, R&B crooner Gerald Levert, the trio payed tribute in song with a heartwrenching rendention of “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Nostalgia was revisited when Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Erykah Badu teamed to pay homage to the former member of The Supremes Diana Ross and later, her five children shared the spotlight with their mom. Ross seized the opportunity to address an audience of platinum-selling artists and fans who listen to their music about assuming the responsibility to respect one another and themselves through their art. “Fans have been with me since the beginning. Ever since I was a little girl back in Detroit, I wanted to keep the standards high. We don’t have to use the “N” Word. We do need to be classy, be ladies, be gents and have a long career.”[BR][BR]

Actor Don Cheadle who was accompanied by his wife, was also honored and received the 2007 BET Humanitarian Award. He graciously accepted the accolade with a humble speech about knowing when to simply express gratitude for the honors you receive for your life accomplishments.

But celebrating artists’ accomplishments wasn’t the only agenda some had for the ceremony. One souther rapper had remorse and forgiveness on his mind. Before accepting his award for Best Hip-Hop Artist, rapper and actor T.I. publicly acknowledged his violent behavior during a pre-awards brunch where he reportedly punched Ludacris’s manager Chaka Zulu. “I want to thank God, my family my colleagues at Grand Hustle and Atlanta. I know I refer to myself as the King of Atlanta, but I want to apologize…I acted a little unroyally. They say there is a fine line between brilliance and insanity…”



— Additional reporting by Cori Murray and Kristin Vaughan