The BET Awards gathered some of the biggest stars in music on one stage. But Cissy Houston’s emotional tribute to her late daughter, Whitney, moved the awards show audience to a realm that transcended music. 

The show kicked off with a charging performance of “Mercy” by Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music crew (Pusha T, 2 Chainz, and Big Sean) followed by a two-fisted a capella rhyme by the superstar Chicago hip-hop visionary, on which he touched on everything from the Miami Heat winning the NBA championship to the death of Whitney Houston.

West and Jay-Z were the night’s biggest award winners as The Throne won the trophy for Best Group and Video of the Year for “N****s In Paris.” Jigga joined Kanye onstage. “Excuse me, Kanye,” he interrupted, “I’m a let you continue, but … “

He joke was a reference to West’s infamous stage bumrush of Taylor Swift in defense of Beyonce at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Kanye shot back, “I was trying to defend your girl.”

Of course Beyonce did not leave empty handed. The multi-talented singer picked up awards for Best Female R&B Artist and Video Director of the Year, which she shared with Alan Ferguson.

Other winners included Chris Brown (Best Male R&B Artist), Drake (Best Males Hip Hop Artist), Nicki Minaj (Best Female Hip Hop Artist) and Best Actor (Kevin Hart). Wale won Best Collaboration for “Lotus Flower Bomb” ft. Miguel

There were a lots of standout moments during Sunday night’s 2012 BET Awards: Samuel Jackson’s and legendary director Spike Lee’s hilarious send-up of “N****s In Paris”; the triumphant return of D’Angelo; a rousing sing-along led by R&B icons Frankie Beverly & Maze. But the night belonged to the late Whitney Houston.

One-time rival Mariah Carey opened up the tribute, her voice quivering with emotion. She told stories about her time out on the road with Houston in the late ’90s during promotion for their duet for The Prince of Egypt film.

“I miss my friend,” Carey said. “I miss hearing her voice and laughter.”

R&B vocalist Monica delivered a heartfelt version of “I Love The Lord,” a gospel song sang by Houston. Brandy tackled Houston’s more upbeat material on spirited renditions of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “I’m Your Baby Tonight.” And Chaka Khan performed her mammoth hit “I’m Every Woman,” a song that was brilliantly covered by Houston for The Bodyguard soundtrack.

But it was Cissy Houston’s heartbreaking performance that brought the audience to its feet following an introduction by Whitney’s brother Gary Houston. Cissy’s heartfelt performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” left many in the audience in tears, including Soulja Boy and Beyonce. 

“This is for you, Nip,” Cissy said, referring to Whitney’s family nickname. Judging by the emotional audience response, it was also for many who felt the loss.  —Keith Murphy, CBS Local


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