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D’Angelo Returns to TV, Throne Dominate at 2012 BET Awards

D'Angelo at the BET Awards

Last night’s three-and-a-half hour BET Awards marathon was evenly divided between honoring the past and promoting the future. The ceremony, held at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, was bookended with performances spotlighting what’s happening in the hip-hop world right now — opening with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music crew previewing their upcoming comp and wrapping with Tyga and Ca$h Out’s big radio hits — but there was a nostalgic air to the proceedings, too, which featured an extended Lifetime Achievement Award presentation to Maze featuring Frankie Beverly and tributes to Donna Summer, Nick Ashford, and Whitney Houston. The latter two were family affairs, with performances by Ashford’s widow Valerie and Houston’s brother Gary and mother Cissy, whose “Bridge Over Troubled Water” left men and women in the audience in tears. Mariah Carey spoke about her friend Houston, but didn’t sing.

The Throne (Kanye West and Jay-Z) picked up two trophies, for Best Group and Video of the Year (“Otis”), and Beyoncé earned the same number for Best Female R&B Artist and Video Director of the Year, which she shared with her sister Solange’s boyfriend Alan Ferguson. Chris Brown also earned two honors, though one was a fan-voted award. Big Sean (Best New Artist) and Nicki Minaj (Best Female Hip-Hop Artist) both gave memorable acceptance speeches, Sean’s for his heartfelt awe and Minaj for her brevity and obscenity. Jay-Z attempted to jokingly “interrupt” Kanye’s acceptance speech, but botched the now three-year-old “Imma let you finish” gag.

Nicki Minaj, Usher, and Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group performed, but the biggest story of the night was D’Angelo’s return to television following his recent successful live comeback appearances. The R&B star hadn’t appeared on U.S. TV in a dozen years, but turned out a poised performance of “Untitled (How Does it Feel)” and new track “Sugar Daddy,” showing off some impressive piano work and James Brown-esque showmanship. See his set and the rest of the highlights here, and we’ll have more on Kanye West’s a cappella “New God Flow” in No Trivia later today: