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Alicia Keys, Nicki Minaj early BET Award winners

The Associated Press, Sunday, June 27, 2010, 5:08pm (PDT)

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kanye West got Sunday's BET Awards off to a musical start, opening the show from atop a volcano on stage. In his first TV appearance since dissing Taylor Swift at last year's MTV Video Music Awards, West stood in a beam of light as he performed his new single, "Power."

Host Queen Latifah kept the vibe going as she took the stage, first singing to famous members of the audience, then returning to her rap roots and rhyming about the royalty in the audience: herself and Prince, who is to receive the lifetime achievement award at the ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium.

Alicia Keys, who was named best female R&B artist, and Nicki Minaj, who won for female hip-hop artist, accepted early awards, then the performances continued.

Usher was backed by a string section as he sang "There Goes My Baby." T.I., in his first televised performance since being released from prison in December, performed "Yeah Ya Know" backed by Travis Barker on drums.

John Legend will also receive a special honor Sunday. The Grammy winner will be presented with BET's humanitarian award for his work the Show Me campaign, which aims to eradicate poverty worldwide through education and health care. The artist currently known as Prince will be feted with musical tributes as the recipient of the network's lifetime achievement award.

The BET Awards honor the year's best in music, sports and film in 19 categories.

Jay-Z leads nominees with five nods, including best male hip-hop artist and two for video of the year, for "Empire State of Mind" and "Run This Town."

Beyonce, Keys, Trey Songz and Melanie Fiona have four nominations each.

Tween sensation Justin Bieber is up for best new artist, while fellow tween star, Selena Gomez, is nominated for the Young Stars award.

Winners are selected by a voting academy comprising industry insiders and executives, music journalists and a group of fans randomly selected by BET.com.

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Online:

http://betawards.bet.com/

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