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Jennifer Hudson, Janelle Monae, Sheila E. and Other Stars Pay Tribute to Prince at the BET Awards

by Zach Seemayer 11:32 PM PDT, June 26, 2016
Playing Jennifer Hudson, Janelle Monae, Sheila E. and Other Stars Pay Tribute to Prince at the BET Awards

Back in May, the BET Awards promised to pay tribute to Prince in a big way, and on Sunday night, the show delivered, with a number of rousing performances dedicated to the music icon.

The first tribute came during the first hour of the awards show, when Dave Chappelle -- rocking a purple pocket square in honor of the late artist -- came out to introduce The Roots, Erykah Badu and Bilal.

“On April 21, we got that news, and literally our hearts were broken," Chappelle shared with the audience at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday. "We miss him dearly. And tonight we celebrate the rich legacy of this remarkable genius, who we are all so proud of."

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Badu kicked off the tribute with her rendition of Prince's 1987 track "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker," off his universally acclaimed album, Sign o' the Times.

During the performance, Questlove rocked Prince's iconic symbol on his suit. The Roots' drummer and bandleader has long been an devoted Prince fan, and even introduced Madonna's divisive tribute at the Billboard Music Awards in May.

Bilal hit the stage next with a performance of Prince's “The Beautiful Ones," off his iconic 1984 album, Purple Rain. The singer even ended the impressive number by imitating how Prince performed the song in the 1984 film, Purple Rain, named after the album.

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Later in the show, Tori Kelly and Stevie Wonder teamed up for the duet "Take Me With U," which was originally performed by Prince and protégé Apollonia in Purple Rain. Both artists wore purple articles of clothing, with Wonder sporting a violet jacket and Kelly rocking some lilac pants.

Afterward, Wonder moved to a synthesizer to accompany Jennifer Hudson, who absolutely crushed her cover of the song "Purple Rain," singing her heart out and belting out the beloved lyrics while hitting all the highest notes with virtuoso skill.

Photo: Getty Images

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After a few more awards were handed out, Maxwell took the stage. The singer started things off with a performance of his own single "Lake by the Ocean," but then segued into Prince's beautiful song, "Nothing Compares 2U," and delivered a soulful rendition of the track that earned him a standing ovation.

Legendary R&B Producer Jimmy Jam told ET on the silver carpet that Maxwell's performance was the Prince tribute that he was most looking forward to, saying "I think you will understand the greatness of the man tonight. Not only from the songs you will hear, but also the people performing the songs who have all obviously been touched by him."

Janelle Monae then kicked things with an epic medley of beloved Prince hits, including "Delirious," "Kiss," "Pop Life" and "I Would Die 4 U," spanning four of Prince's albums from the early 80s. It was an energetic and passionate display that really pumped life into the theatre. Monae ended her tribute with a message to the celebrated artist: "I love you, Prince."

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Monae's performance was a wonderful primer for Sheila E.'s unbelievable 10-minute medley that really brought down the house. The longtime Prince collaborator, close friend and former fiancée delivered a tribute that couldn't likely be topped.

The singer and percussionist kicked things off with "Housequake," from Sign O' the Times, which she played innumerable times while touring with Prince from 1987-'89. The medley also included "Erotic City," "Let's Work," "U Got the Look" and "A Love Bizarre," which she and Prince penned together.

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The performance continued with "The Glamourous Life," which Prince wrote and Sheila recorded on her 1984 album of the same name. She concluded the emotional performance with "Baby I'm a Star," off Purple Rain.

Sheila finished the performance with tears in her eyes, holding one of the musician's iconic guitars. There wasn't a dry eye in the house as Prince's ex-wife, Mayte Garcia, joined Sheila E. on stage, and purple flower petals rained down on the stage. The audience took to their feet for a standing ovation that seemed to go on for minutes.

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In a night filled with amazing musical numbers and impassioned political messages, Prince was still the artist who was at the forefront of everyone's minds, and it was clear from the multitude of epic tributes that the entire show was really a memorial to the beloved singer.

Jam, a longtime friend of Prince, spoke with ET before the show about the evening's tributes and how the Purple Rain star impacted so many other singers. Check out the video below to hear more.

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