BET Awards: 4 major moments you missed, including Cardi B opener and Nipsey Hussle tribute

Bill Keveney

Missed the BET Awards? Don't worry. We've got some of the top highlights.

Actress and comedian Regina Hall hosted an upbeat show, tempered with some serious moments, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday night, although she made an extraordinary effort to pay homage to her hometown, Washington, D.C., throughout the show. 

Mary J. Blige showed her stuff in a rousing performance after receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus entertained the crowd with "Old Town Road" performed on a saloon-styled set. They even rode in on horses in a pre-taped piece.

Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X entertained the BET Awards crowd with "Old Town Road."

On a more somber note, the ceremony honored rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was killed in March, with the Humanitarian Award and actors Morris Chestnut and Damson Idris paid tribute to director John Singleton, who died in April.

Chestnut starred in Singleton's groundbreaking directorial debut, 1991's "Boyz n the Hood," and Idris plays the lead character in the Singleton-produced FX series, "Snowfall."

Here are more highlights from the show: 

Star couple opener: Cardi B and Offset

The Microsoft Theater crowd was on its feet at the start with a starry opening number featuring Cardi B and her husband, Offset, accompanied by a stage-filling dance ensemble.

After Offset opened with "Clout," he disappeared behind the dancers. When they split to the sides, he was seated in a chair with Cardi B dancing on his lap. The music then segued into "Press," a hit for Cardi B, the most-nominated performer of the night and the winner for best album.

Cardi B and a stage full of dancers opened the BET Awards June 23.

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Beyoncé, D.C. and 'Da Butt' 

The ceremony was held in Los Angeles, but Hall kicked off her hosting gig paying tribute to Beyoncé's Netflix doc "Homecoming" and her own hometown of Washington.

In a taped piece mirroring Beyoncé's behind-the-scenes orchestrations, Hall tested dance and music performers on their Washington legitimacy, rejecting one man who didn't know what Hains Point is (a park area) and a baton twirler. ("Why's she got a baton? This ain't D.C. Only people who have batons in D.C. are the police.")  

The live performance that followed had a heavy D.C. influence, with Rare Essence and Sugar Bear of Unlimited Experience onstage performing the 1988 go-go hit "Da Butt." Hall enthusiastically danced along, her backside to the audience, before being joined by another Capital City native, Taraji P. Henson.

Taraji P. Henson, left, and host Regina Hall rock their D.C. roots at the start of the BET Awards.

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Nipsey Hussle gets 'Higher' tribute from DJ Khaled, John Legend

Less than three months after Hussle was memorialized just across the street at Staples Center, the rapper, who was killed March 31, received a tribute at the awards show. 

T.I. opened the segment, which followed an In Memoriam piece, by celebrating more than Hussle's acclaimed musical career.

Calling him by his real name, T.I. said, "Ermias Asghedom was more than a rapper, a teacher, an activist and philanthropist – he was a revolutionary."

He pointed to Hussle's commitment to empowering black artists and their communities.

"His emphasis on the power of equity and ownership of our art led the charge of independence and created a blueprint for up-and-coming artists today to follow," he said of Hussle, renowned for supporting his Los Angeles neighborhood.

DJ Khaled, John Legend and Cobby Supreme were part of the all-star tribute to Nipsey Hussle at the 2019 BET Awards on Sunday.

After a film tribute that featured such luminaries as musician Snoop Dogg and director Ava DuVernay, Hussle's family, including his fiancée, Lauren London, accepted the 2019 Humanitarian Award in his honor.

"I just want to thank you guys for all the love and support. And the marathon continues again," London said.

A musical tribute followed, which featured Marsha Ambrosius. It was capped by an appearance by DJ Khaled and Legend, who performed "Higher," a track that features all three of them. DJ Khaled has said all the proceeds from the song will go to Hussle's children.

Nipsey Hussle's family, including fiancee Lauren London, accept the Humanitarian Award in honor of the slain rapper at the 2019 BET Awards.

Rihanna, Lil' Kim, Method Man salute Mary J. Blige

How do you honor a huge star? Bring out another one to make the award presentation.

Rihanna took the stage Sunday to sing the praises of Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Blige, lauding her groundbreaking effort to introduce "a brand new vibe: hip-hop and R&B." 

She praised Blige's style-setting ways, including backwards cap, baggy jerseys and thigh-high boots, but she emphasized her importance in blazing a path for performers who followed.   

"On behalf of all the women who came after you, like myself, thank you for being you so we could feel comfortable being ourselves," Rihanna said of the nine-time Grammy winner.

Rihanna presents the Lifetime Achievement Award to Mary J. Blige during the 2019 BET awards at Microsoft Theater Sunday.

Blige opened her speech with what appeared to be a written but strongly heartfelt offer of thanks to family – "Mommy, I love you and I want to thank you for your love and understanding" and "Daddy … I'm so happy that our relationship has healed" – and friends. 

That led into a filmed introduction by Sean "Diddy" Combs, who Blige thanked in her speech, and a rousing performance by the accomplished singer, clad in white, that included "No More Drama" and "I'm Going Down."

As the happy crowd sang along, Blige was joined by a couple of other longtime performers, Lil' Kim and Method Man.