June 25, 2008

BET Awards Showcase Hit Performances


By Sandy Cohen

The Associated Press


T-Pain transformed the BET Awards into a circus Tuesday with a multi-artist medley that showed the rapper and singer's wide- ranging influence on urban music.

Wearing a spangled top hat, T-Pain - nominated for a leading five BET Awards - shared the stage with fellow nominees Flo Rida, Rick Ross, Ludacris and Big Boi, along with a bevy of circus acts , including fire eaters and acrobats.

"This industry is my circus," T-Pain said. "Ride with the ringleader."

Then T-Pain - whose nominations came not for his own hits but for his collaborations with others, and whose vocoder- assisted voice is among the most ubiquitous in urban music - gave a sample of his musical assists over the past year.

Double nominee Flo Rida performed his hit "Low" with T-Pain ; a bare-chested Ross flaunted his gut while singing his song "Boss" with T-Pain ; and all joined in on the collaborative "I'm So Hood."

Not to be outdone, the ladies offered a showstopping performance of their own, led by double nominee Alicia Keys. Rocking a sleek bob and skintight jeans, Keys invited vintage girl groups SWV, En Vogue and TLC to join her onstage for a medley of their biggest hits. By the time they closed with TLC's "Waterfalls," the crowd at the Shrine Auditorium was on its feet. Even Kanye West was singing along.

"This performance was surreal," SWV's Leanne Lyons said backstage. "When we got the call that Alicia Keys was one of our biggest fans and that she wanted one of her favorite groups from the '90s to perform with her, it humbled us. She shared the stage. She's not ego-tripping."

Kanye West won two awards: best male hip-hop artist and best collaboration for "Good Life," his song with T-Pain. Unlike past award shows, he didn't use his appearance to boost himself - at least that much. Instead, he praised T-Pain, calling him "a genius."

"We're blessed to be in this man's presence," West said. "I'll let y'all know because I'm one of the kings of this game. My opinion counts."

The rapper also paid homage to fellow nominee Lil Wayne when he won best male hip-hop artist. West called him "my fiercest competition." The New Orleans-based rapper last week sold 1 million copies of "Tha Carter III" for the year's best sales debut.

Originally published by BY SANDY COHEN.

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