Kanye West

AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

T-Pain has a knack for showing up in the right place at the right time.

"I'd like to thank T-Pain for gettin' on the record with me," said Kanye West, a two-time winner Tuesday at the 2008 BET Awards, upon accepting their award for Best Collaboration on the Graduation tune "Good Life." "This man's a genius. What he does, what he writes...we're blessed to be in this man's presence."

The 22-year-old rapper-producer, a featured artist on no less than 18 singles (so far) in 2007 and 2008, entered the evening with a leading five nominations, although his shared win with West was it for now.

West was also named Best Male Hip-Hop Artist for the second time, his first win in that category coming in 2005, when Late Registration was still a new album.

Alicia Keys, the only female winner who was in the house tonight, was named Best Female R&B Artist, and took the opportunity to let the moment sink in.

"I just wanna say that we are so incredible, we are such an incredible people," the platinum-selling songstress said coyly. "We are so beautiful and fly, and everybody wants to be like us...I mostly want to thank all of you that are watching and standing here right now. Without you...I really really appreciate you very much.

"I want to dedicate this to all the other nominees, because we put so much heart and soul into everything."

The three-hour ceremony at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium was about as straightforward as it gets (albeit a great deal more inspirational than your standard kudosfest).

Effects-heavy performances by Usher (on his suggestive single "Love in This Club") and Best Male R&B Artist Chris Brown (a "With You"-"Take You Down" medley) and a frenzied hootenanny featuring T-Pain, Flo Rida, Rick Ross, Ludacris and Big Boi provided the evening's liveliest moments.

(And it may just be us, but it sure seemed as if a lot of tonight's presenters, especially Sean "Diddy" Combs, were all hyped up about someone named Barack Obama.)

Alicia Keys

AP Photo/Matt Sayles

"I want to dedicate this award to the end of the word can't. That word is dead, we don't know that word. Obama, y'all," Keys reminded the crowd at the end of her acceptance speech.

But while the ceremony didn't lack for schtick, nor did it lack for touching moments.

"This is hard for me to accept tonight. We did an incredible job, I feel, but it's hard to do this with my brother not being here," Bun B, the surviving half of Houston rap duo UGK, said in tribute to his departed longtime partner Pimp C, who unexpectedly passed away in December.

UGK's "International Player's Anthem (I Choose You)", featuring Outkast, was named Video of the Year. During the untelevised portion of the festivities, UGK was deemed Best Group, as well.

Well-deserved honors were also handed out to prolific producer Quincy Jones and Motown icon Al Green, whose most recent album, Lay It Down, earned the renowned soul singer his first Top 10 slot on the Billboard 200 since 1973.

"The Al Green sound is Saturday night and Sunday morning—and it is forever," John Legend said in feting this year's recipient of the BET Lifetime Achievement Award.

"I'm so honored and humbled by the academy of BET Awards—what y'all laughin' at?" Green began, acknowledging that he wasn't exactly sure who decides on the winners, either.

"I want to thank all the people that stood by me when I put out the wrong record, when I put out the right record and all of you who've been so faithful. I've been doing this 30 years. You've been so faithful, I should at least let you see my eyes."

And with that, he whipped off his sunglasses, to much applause, and said, "Thank you so much, bye-bye!" before easing into his biggest hit, "Let's Stay Together."

Jones, one of the founders of the Institute for Black American Music, received the Humanitarian Award for his philanthropic efforts over the years, including his continued work with his Listen Up Foundation, which has teamed with the Nelson Mandela Foundation to build more than 100 homes in South Africa.

"It is a brilliant honor for me to be here tonight," the dapper 75-year-old said." I just want to say that I understand what it feels like to be on the bottom—I come from the south side of Chicago, so don't nobody tell me about ghet-to."

"Somehow that never leaves you...Always ask why, because you cannot separate your life" from others. And, quoting Tolstoy, he continued, "Nobody has to starve while I eat."

And to the youngsters in the crowd: "When it rains, get wet. Live your life, baby, and live it real...They say you can't get an A if you're afraid of getting an F...I promise I hope to always live up to this honor..."

The evening was further highlighted by performances from Rihanna; Best Gospel Artist Marvin Sapp; Keys, who led a '90s revival with appearances by TLC's T-Boz and Chilli, En Vogue and SWV; Ne-Yo; Keyshia Cole; Young Jeezy; Nelly, Ciara and Jermaine Dupri; and hip-hop's current savior, the million-record-selling Lil Wayne.

Here's the complete list of winners from the 2008 BET Awards:

  • Video of the Year: UGK featuring Outkast, "International Player's Anthem (I Choose You)"
  • Best Male R&B Artist: Chris Brown
  • Best Female R&B Artist: Alicia Keys
  • Best Male Hip-Hop Artist: Kanye West
  • Best Female Hip-Hop Artist: Missy Elliott
  • Best Gospel Artist: Marvin Sapp
  • Best New Artist: The-Dream
  • Best Group: UGK
  • Best Collaboration: Kanye West featuring T-Pain, "Good Life"
  • Best Video Director: Erykah Badu and Mr. Roboto
  • Viewers' Choice Award: Lil Wayne featuring Static, "Lollipop"
  • BET J Award: Raheem DeVaughn
  • Best Actor: Denzel Washington
  • Best Actress: Halle Berry
  • Female Athlete of the Year: Candace Parker
  • Male Athlete of the Year: Kobe Bryant
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