LOS ANGELES — The late rapper Nipsey Hussle was honored Sunday night at the 2019 BET Awards in a show that also paid tribute to singer Mary J. Blige and filmmaker Tyler Perry.
Hussle, a respected and beloved community activist in South Los Angeles who was shot to death on March 31, posthumously earned the Humanitarian Award on Sunday night. His family, including his mother, father, grandmother, children and fiancée, actress Lauren London, accepted the honor on his behalf.
"I just want to thank you guys for all the love and support, and the marathon continues again," London said onstage at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
John Legend, DJ Khaled, YG and Marsha Ambrosius celebrated Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, with a performance.
Blige, who earned the Lifetime Achievement Award, ran through her hits during a lengthy performance, which featured Lil Kim and Method Man. The R&B star went from "My Life" to "No More Drama" to "Just Fine," when audience members turned the aisles into "Soul Train" lines as they showed their best dance moves while the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul sang onstage.
Rihanna presented Blige with the award, who earned a standing ovation as she walked to the stage.
"Yeah, I know, a lot of hair," she said in her curly blonde-do. "It's a big day."
"Mommy, I love you and I want to thank you for your love and understanding," Blige said as her mom teared up in the audience.
The nine-time Grammy winner and two-time Oscar nominee went on to thank her father, saying she was happy their "relationship is healed." She also thanked her siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends, including longtime collaborator Diddy.
Another standing ovation during the nearly four-hour show came when The Exonerated Five — whose profiles were recently raised with the release of a Netflix series based on their lives — introduced a performance by R&B singer H.E.R. and rapper YBN Cordae.
Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Antron McCray spoke onstage as audience members got out of their seats to cheer them on. Directed by Ava DuVernay, "When They See Us" tells of the wrongful conviction of five black and Latino teenagers for the 1989 assault on a white female jogger in Central Park.
The audience also erupted in cheers for media mogul Tyler Perry, who earned the Ultimate Icon Award, presented to him by Taraji P. Henson.
"When I built my studio, I built it in a neighborhood that is one of the poorest black neighborhoods in Atlanta so that young black kids could see that a black man did that, and they could do it too," Perry said. "The studio was once a Confederate army base ... which meant that there were Confederate soldiers on that base plotting and planning on how to keep 3.9 million negroes enslaved. Now that land is owned by one negro."