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Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé Make a Splash at 2011 BET Awards

The  2011 BET Awards show was packed with a slew of memorable highlights that saw triumphs from the likes of Chris Brown, Beyoncé, Lil Wayne and Kelly Rowland and hilarious follies from Kevin Hart and Nicki Minaj.

The show started off with a bang as Mary J. Blige performed the classic tracks “Mary Jane (All Night Long)” and “You Bring Me Joy.” The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul sweetened the performance with guest appearances from rapper Jadakiss and soul legend Anita Baker, who aided Blige in singing her classic ballad “Caught Up in the Rapture.”

Other high points came from host Kevin Hart who won audiences over with his comical jabs at celebrity audience members such as Ne-Yo and Jamie Foxx and hit comedic goal with a video parody mocking Fox Reality Channel’s Housewives franchise called “Househusbands of Hollywood.”

The most notable winner of the night was ever-controversial artist Chris Brown who took home five awards including Best Male R&B Artist, the FANdemonium Award, the Coca-Cola Viewers’ Choice Award (After it was mistakenly given to Drake and Rihanna), and the awards for Video of the Year and Best Collaboration for his “Look At Me Now” hit with Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes, which he performed with the two during the show.

Other notable winners included Willow and Jaden Smith (YoungStars Award), Mary Mary (Best Gospel Album) Steve Harvey (Humanitarian Award) and Wiz Khalifa, who was awarded Best New Artist after a performance of “Saturday Love” by Alexander O’Neal and Cherrelle.

However, the most talked about win was left for Nicki Minaj, who beat out rappers Diamond, Lola Munroe and Master P’s daughter Cymphonique to (unsurprisingly) win BET’s Female Hip-Hop artist. Upon receiving the award, Nicki blurted out “Wow, I can’t believe I won,” causing a massive roar of laughter from the audience before the pint-sized Young Money queen clarified her comment and thanked Wayne for her success.

Several artists took the stage to provide standout performances. Alicia Keys treated fans with a slew of songs including “A Woman’s Worth,” “Fallin” with Bruno Mars and a new single, “Typewriter.” Jill Scott performed a new song “Rolling Hills” with the help of actor Idris Elba. Hip-hop was also represented on stage when Rick Ross, Lil Wayne and Ace Hood performed “Hustle Hard (Remix)” followed by a performance of “I’m One One” by DJ Khaled, Drake, Rick Ross and Wayne.

One performance that definitely stood out was Kelly Rowland’s performance of her current hit “Motivation.” Channeling Janet Jackson and bringing in some assistance from crooner Trey Songz (who also performed during the night), Rowland delivered a stunning show that garnered one of the loudest reactions from the audience of the night.

Taking a break from handing out awards, BET took time out to honor the artists who passed away over the past year including Cali Swag District’s M-Bone, who was honored by his group members and Doug E. Fresh. Clarence Clemons, Nate Dogg and Teena Marie and Gil Scott-Heron were honored by Snoop Dogg, Warren G, Queen Latifah and others.

During the ceremony iconic singer, Patti LaBelle was also presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award and was honored with performances by Cee Lo Green who sang  “Somebody Loves You Baby (You Know Who It Is)” complete with Patti’s signature hairstyle, Marsha Ambrosius who sang “If Only You Knew” and Shirley Ceasar who performed “You Are My Friend.” LaBelle herself performed “Love, Need and Want You” before being given the award by fellow legend Gladys Knight, who shared an emotional hug with the singer.

The night was closed out with a satellite video performance from Beyoncé, who was performing at the Glastonbury Festival in the U.K. For the performance, Beyoncé hit fans with a double dose of songs from her upcoming album 4, performing “The Best Thing I Never Had” and ending with “End of Time.”

nicholas robinson