Blige, Baker open BET Awards; Chris Brown wins

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Chris Brown made good on the first of his six nominations as the BET Awards ceremony got under way Sunday.

The night’s leading nominee accepted the best male R&B artist award in a white T-shirt and blue jean shorts, saying he “really didn’t prepare a speech.”

“My fans are everything to me. I do this only for them,” he said, accepting the award from actress Taraji P. Henson. “I appreciate all the support. I know it’s been a long road, so I appreciate every blessing in front of me.”

Brown was to perform later in the ceremony.

Nicki Minaj brought Drake and Lil Wayne on stage as she accepted the award for best female hip-hop artist.

“I can’t believe for the first time I get to share a moment like this with the person who saw me rapping on a staircase,” Minaj said of Wayne, who was incarcerated when she won the same prize last year. “Lil Wayne, I love you.”

Jaden Smith and Willow Smith were also early winners. The son and daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith tied as winners of the Young Stars award.

Mary J. Blige opened the show at the Shrine Auditorium, performing her hits “All Night Long” and “Real Love” before being joined by Anita Baker. The divas performed a duet of “Caught Up in the Rapture.”

Rick Ross, Lil Wayne and Ace Hood shared the stage for “Hustle Hard.”

Lil Wayne is nominated for five awards. Kanye West, Drake and Rihanna are up for four awards each. Nicki Minaj, Bruno Mars, Trey Songz, Cee Lo Green and B.o.B also received multiple nominations.

Patti LaBelle will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Steve Harvey will receive the Humanitarian Award.

More performances are planned, with Beyonce and Alicia Keys still set to take the stage.

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Sandy Cohen can be reached at www.twitter.com/APSandy.

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