The BET Awards were barely about the awards as wild performances stole the night and Don Cheadle dedicated the night to the ailing Nelson Mandela.
“We want to take a moment and send our prayers and thoughts to a man who literally changed the world,” he said. “This evening we would like to offer prayers and support and hope to the extraordinary Nelson Mandela and his family.”
Janelle Monae ended the event with a top-notch performance of “Q.U.E.E.N.” alongside Erykah Badu, who brought a white poodle onstage. It was one of the night’s best performances, which also featured a seductive Ciara, a slick Miguel, a random – but welcomed – reggae set and a playful Justin Timberlake with an even more playful Charlie Wilson.
Timberlake took a backseat to the soul singer, joining Wilson onstage for a medley of his solo and Gap Band hits.
Stevie Wonder, Jamie Foxx, Pharrell, Snoop Dogg and India.Arie were also part of the tribute to 60-year-old Wilson, who earned the lifetime achievement award.
“Charlie Wilson is soul music. His impact colors the work of many artists, which is basically my nice way of saying I and a lot of other artists have stolen from him,” Timberlake said when presenting Wilson the award.
Wilson’s lively stage presence was arguably the night’s top moment, though others were on fire.
Ciara echoed Janet Jackson when she danced and sang her R&B hit “Body Party,” while Dawn Penn, Chaka Pliers, Beenie Man and Elephant Man electrified the audience when they gave a colorful performance of reggae classics.
Badu sang with Monae and Kendrick Lamar, who also performed with 2 Chainz. Miguel sang alone, and with Mariah Carey and J. Cole, while Minaj performed with Ciara and Chris Brown. Pharrell helped out Wilson and Robin Thicke, who excitedly performed his current No. 1 hit, “Blurred Lines.”