BET Awards Performances: D’Angelo, Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, MMG

In addition to the trophies that were handed out on Sunday night (July 1) at the BET Awards, there were also a few memorable performances. Nicki Minaj took the stage, with an appearance from 2 Chainz, while Rick Ross brought out his MMG crew including Wale and Meek Mill, and Chris Brown kept it turnt up. Oh, and D’Angelo gave his first live, televised performance in years. Check out the performance recaps after the jump.

2 Chainz Joins Nicki Minaj For ‘Beez in the Trap’

After her exorcism-based Grammy performance, which caused the Catholic League to lash out against her persona and music, Minaj had fans expecting hell. Instead, she subverted expectations with violins and cellos. After being introduced by the evening’s host, Samuel L. Jackson, Minaj, dressed in all black, performed “Champion” from her Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded album, a dedication to women of all kinds with a steady, battle-ready march.

The performance quickly flipped, though. Switching to her club anthem “Beez in the Trap,” Minaj had Beyoncé rapping along in the audience and Jay-Z nodding to the hit’s massive, clicky beat. A series of dancers swung in a routine around fires and strobe lights while the strings took on a menacing tone.

2 Chainz, who had already appeared as part of the show-opening G.O.O.D. Music performance on “Mercy,” also joined in on the fun. He dropped in just in time to rap his guest verse on the track while Minaj danced gleefully, clutching her trademark pink microphone.

D’Angelo Makes A Triumphant Return

D’Angelo, the iconic R&B artist who has largely stayed out of the public eye for over a decade, returned to television with a performance at the BET Awards.

Upon appearing, the entire crowd at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium rose for a standing ovation as the opening notes of his classic “How Does It Feel” filled the room. Twitter users quickly commented that, despite an aged appearance, his silky, soulful voice and talented musicianship had hardly changed over the years.

After the classic, D’Angelo switched to a funky new track that landed somewhere between Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone and a J Dilla-based production from the late ’90s. Leading the way on piano with a wicked chord vamp. D showed-off his instrumental chops, merging rap-tinged R&B with fierce piano soloing.

Many in the crowd remained on their feet, dancing throughout the performance. Even Nicki Minaj, who had performed a few minutes earlier, was shown bopping her head in the front row seated near Kim Kardashian.

For D’Angelo, the return to television followed earlier 2012 dates in Europe and a surprise performance at the Bonnaroo Music Festival. Fans are still anxiously awaiting his follow-up to the 2000 classic Voodoo.

Rick Ross And MMG Perform Self Made Vol. 2 Cuts

Rick Ross and his Maybach Music Group crew dropped their latest compilation album Self Made Vol 2. on June 26, and when they took the stage at the BET Awards on Sunday night, they treated the audience to more than a few of their hits.

First, it was Wale with all his D.C. swagger hopping out of the vehicle to “Bag of Money,” MMG’s T-Pain-assisted single. Wale, who won with “Lotus Flower Bomb” earlier in the evening for Best Collaboration, proved he had more than enough star power to command the stage on his own.

When his verse ended, Ross emerged in a black leather vest, black glasses and full grizzly beard, spitting, “My chick bad looking like a bag of money,” then prompting the rest of the crew to join. The wild and unpredictable Gunplay mean-mugged in front of the Maybach, and French Montana pranced around in the background while Ross and Wale held center stage with their pyro show in the background.

Rozay transitioned from “Bag of Money” into the much grittier “So Sophisticated” from his upcoming God Forgives, I Don’t LP. After a short rendition, Meek Mill jumped out to the tune of “Black Magic” from the crew’s Self Made Vol. 2 LP. “Could you knock that ho, could you blame that bitch/ ‘Cause she wanna roll with a real n—a like me that’s gonna slang that di–,” the Philadelphia MC spit unapologetically, leaving the censors to clean up the mess.

Chris Brown Turns It Up

Chris Brown took over the BET Awards stage at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium for an energetic performance of “Don’t Wake Me Up” and his hit “Turn Up The Music.” “Dearly beloved, if this love only exists in my dreams, don’t wake me up,” prefaced a voiceover before Chris emerged atop a large pyramid of neon green lights. Outfitted in metallic body paint on one-half of his shirtless torso, Breezy performed a high-energy set that included thumping dancing, flashing laser lights and ballerina dancers.

Chris snagged several accolades at the annual award show—other stars in attendance included Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kanye West, Rick Ross and Maybach Music Group and Mariah Carey who gave a touching speech about late singer Whitney Houston—including the Fandemonium award and Best Male R&B Artist honor.