will.i.am, Lil Wayne Honored at BMI Urban Music Awards

BMI saluted the songwriters, producers, and music publishers of the most-performed R&B and hip-hop songs at its annual Urban Music Awards at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood on Friday (Sept. 10). The evening kicked off with a cocktail reception emceed by La La Vazquez with performances by Jay Sean and Cali Swag District, before giving way to the main ceremony hosted by Ray J and BMI executive Catherine Brewton.

B.o.B opened the show with his chart-topping singles, Pleasure P performed his award-winning song “Boyfriend #2,” Rick Ross brought the hood to Hollywood with “MC Hammer” and “B.M.F.,” and a shirtless Flo Rida made his way throughout the aisles.

BMI Urban Producer of the Year went to Polow Da Don, who brought his parents onstage, and Lil Wayne picked up Urban Songwriter of the Year for the second consecutive year. Accepting on the incarcerated rapper’s behalf were his Cash Money-Young Money cohorts Birdman, Mack Maine, and Tyga.

Following videotaped messages from Berry Gordy, Quincy Jones, and Bono, will.i.am was recognized with the President’s Award for his work as an artist, producer, and humanitarian. The Black Eyed Peas frontman fought back tears while thanking his mother and grandmother, who were seated in the front row. “All I can do is think of when I was in the projects and it was hard, but we were happy,” said will. “I’m happy now, but I’m just as happy now as I was in the projects. Ain’t nothin’ changed.”

A surprise performance from Usher, who got a hand from honoree will.i.am on their collaboration “OMG,” put a fitting end to the celebratory night.

Photo credit: Maury Phillips and Arnold Turner