BET Awards 2015: Toronto's The Weeknd comes up a winner
Drake loses out to Kendrick Lamar for best male hip-hop artist
Canadian crooner The Weeknd had a smashing BET Awards debut, winning an award and receiving some musical assistance from one of music's biggest stars.
The 25-year-old Toronto native of Ethiopian descent had the audience rapt with The Hills, which was followed by the surprise appearance of Alicia Keys on piano and vocals to help usher in their duet of Earned It, his song from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack.
Earned It, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard charts, was the winner in the Centric Award category, named after a BET sister channel.
The same song was also up for the viewers' choice trophy but lost out to Only, Nicki Minaj's offering featuring Toronto's Drake, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown.
The Weeknd, born Abel Tesfaye, lost out to Brown in the best male R&B/pop artist category.
Brown also won the fandemonium award among his six nominations.
"A lot has changed in my life, a lot of mistakes, a lot of lessons learned," he said. "The best thing I'm most thankful for is my daughter," he said onstage. "I'm so thankful and happy to have the loyal fans ... and everybody here that knows me, to know me is to love me."
Drake was up for one award, but Kendrick Lamar took the best male hip-hop artist award.
"This is for Compton, this is for Watts," the Los Angeles-born rapper said.
One of the night's highlights was the celebration of Bad Boy Records' 20th year anniversary. Lil Kim, Mase, Faith Evans, 112 and The Lox joined Diddy as they performed a medley of past hits. A video montage of rap king Notorious B.I.G. played in the background as his verse from Mo Money Mo Problems played.
Showing the love for Sam Smith
Show co-host Anthony Anderson brought on the laughs when he dressed as singer Sam Smith, who won best new artist but didn't attend the awards show.
Anderson sported a suit similar to Smith's taste and rocked a wig that mirrored the British singer's hairstyle.
"Sam Smith isn't here tonight because he's white and he didn't think he would win at the BET Awards," Anderson said as the audience at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles burst into laughter. "He didn't think he could win. But we showed him that we love him, too."
"This award is going to stay with me for you not showing up to BET," Anderson sang, referencing Smith's ubiquitous hit, "Stay With Me."
The show Sunday brought a mix of funny and serious moments. Rapping on top of a police car with a large American flag waving behind him, Lamar kicked off the BET Awards with a dose of seriousness, but also brought a fiery energy thanks to his charisma and his song's beat.
Members in the audience rapped along to Alright, while background dancers danced in the aisles and others onstage wore black and waved the American flag behind Lamar.
Janelle Monae and Jidenna also brought a serious vibe to the stage when they performed Classic Man: The singers and their background dancers wore large "I'm a Classic Man" signs around their necks, a reference to the historic "I Am a Man" civil rights era protest signs.
Anderson and fellow Black-ish actor Tracee Ellis Ross followed Lamar's performance with a hilarious song poking fun at pop culture, including Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines case, Pharrell's signature hat and Rachel Dolezal, the former president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP.
"Is white really the new black," Anderson sang as two photos of Dolezal — one old, the other recent — appeared on screen.
Rihanna sings along as Brown performs
Rihanna was among the A-listers who sat in the audience, and she sang along during Omarion and Chris Brown's performance of the pop hit, Post to Be.
Smokey Robinson received the Lifetime Achievement Award, performed a medley of his hits and earned a standing ovation from the audience when he spoke about Hollywood and humility. Ne-Yo, Robin Thicke and rising singer Tori Kelly paid tribute to the icon.
Nicki Minaj won her sixth consecutive best female hip-hop artist award, brought her mom onstage.
"Momma, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you've done for me. I love you so much," she said.
Terrence Howard, star of the hit Fox series Empire, won the first award for best actor.
"To the Empire!" he yelled three times. "I got to thank [co-star] Taraji P. Henson because she stood up for a brother."
Brown screamed loudly, Minaj whipped out her phone to record the moment and Laverne Cox was teary-eyed as Janet Jackson entered the stage at the BET Awards.
The pop star was honored Sunday with the Ultimate Icon: Music Dance Visual Award as she made one of her first public performances in sometime as she readies a new album and tour this fall.
"It's been a very long moment to this journey ... my heart is so full," Jackson said onstage, where her mother and father sat next to one another. "To my beautiful mother, to my beautiful father, and to my entire family, your love is unbreakable."
With files from CBC News