Live from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, July 1st, BET AWARDS 12 kicked off with a bang when G.O.O.D. Music artists Kanye West, 2 Chainz, Big Sean, and Pusha T exploded onto the stage for a medley of their hits "Mercy" and "Cold" before a one-of-a-kind freestyle from Kanye West that officially jumpstarted this year's "Too Big To Miss" show. Box office superstar and BET AWARDS 12 host Samuel L. Jackson was joined on stage by award-winning director Spike Lee for a hilarious parody of "N***s in Paris" that had Jay-Z and Kanye West cracking up in the front row.
In honor of the untimely passing of music icon Whitney Houston, BET AWARDS 12 pulled together an unprecedented pairing of today's divas, family members, friends, and cast mates for an emotional tribute that even brought BET AWARDS 12 double-winner Beyonce to tears. The incomparable Mariah Carey opened the In Memoriam celebration with a trio of stories, speaking about meeting her friend at the Grammys, working together on their Oscar-winning duet, "When You Believe" from the Prince of Egypt soundtrack and the last time they saw each other—laughing together in Paris in the fall.
Paying tribute to Whitney Houston's undeniable gospel roots—both spiritually and vocally, Monica took to the stage to sing "I Love The Lord." Monica's "The Boy Is Mine" duet partner, Brandy, lifted the mood with up-tempo favorites "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and "I Want To Dance With Somebody." Gary Houston, Whitney's brother, sang "Where You Are," a touching prelude to their mother's performance of "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Cissy Houston dedicated her performance to her late daughter and brought the audience to tears with her emotional rendition of the song. Cissy Houston's performance was followed by a heartfelt and memory-filled account from Whitney's "Waiting to Exhale" co-stars Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon, and Loretta Devine. Chaka Khan helped the crowd—including Soulja Boy—dry their eyes with an upbeat performance of "I'm Every Woman" that got the already standing room only crowd dancing in celebration of the late singer's life.
Other moving In Memoriam tributes included Valerie Simpson's love-filled performance to her late husband, Nick Ashford, Chante Moore singing "Love to Love You Baby" and "Bad Girls" to tribute Donna Summer, and special moments spotlighting the entertainment industry and world's loss of Dick Clark, Hal Jackson, Heavy D, Etta James, Vesta, Robin Gibb, Don Cornelius, MCA, and Chuck Brown.
R&B crooner D'Angelo returned to the television stage for the first time in 12 years for a special medley of his sultry hit "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" and a new track, "Sugar Daddy." Actor, comedian and BET AWARDS 11 host, Kevin Hart, introduced a special performance from MMG featuring Rick Ross that showcased Wale, Rick Ross and DJ Sam's "Bag of Money" and "So Sophisticated" before being joined by Meek Mill on "Black Magic." Closing out the show were Tyga and Ca$h Out performing their hit "Rack City" and "Ca$hing Out."
Other notable performances included Usher's sensual single "Climax," Nicki Minaj's booty popping rendition of "Champion" and "Beez in the Trap" with 2 Chainz, Melanie Fiona's "Wrong Side of a Love Song," Chris Brown's zombie ballet medley of "Don't Wake Me Up" and "Turn Up The Music," and BET Music Matters newcomers Charles Perry and Jannah Bell. BET's SUNDAY BEST judge Yolanda Adams, Season 4 winner Amber Bullock, Season 2 winner Y'Anna Crawley, and Season 2 1st runner-up Jessica Reedy also took to the stage for a crowd-pleasing rendition of The Clark Sisters' hit, "You Brought the Sunshine."
After a special tribute performance of their classics "Can't Get Over You," "Joy and Pain," and "Happy Feelin's" by Joe, Tyrese, and Faith Evans, respectively, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly were honored with the Cadillac Lifetime Achievement Award by presenter Tyler Perry. Dr. Reverent Al Sharpton was honored by BET Networks Chairman/CEO Debra L. Leewith the Humanitarian Award presented by State Farm for his tireless work to bring justice to the underrepresented and marginalized. The BET AWARDS 12 Shine A Light recipients were David A. Boone and Vy Higginsen.