The 2012 BET Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles brought out the cream of black entertainment and culture to celebrate the best in music, movies and TV. With the long-awaited return of '90s soul sensation D'Angelo and a stirring tribute to Whitney Houston, it was a night of unforgettable performances and relentless glamour. Before the show kicked off, The Root caught up with a few rising and established stars who shared how glad they were to be part of the festivities.
The Root: If you could perform with any artist at next year's awards, who would it be?
Driicky Graham: People tell me I'm crazy, but if I could work with any artist in the world, it would be Vanilla Ice. I would love to bring that "Ice Ice Baby" vibe back. He was a dope artist!
The Root: What have you been working on lately?
Astro: I'm working with Timbaland and Pharrell on an album right now, and it's coming out great. I've got a lot going on right now. Pharrell is real humble, especially for a millionaire! I really want to put out my own clothing line next.
The Root: You've come up quickly in the production ranks over the past year — what do you think has made your music so popular with rappers like 50 Cent and A$AP Rocky?
AraabMuzik: I'm a musician, so being able to write and read music makes a difference. I'm a drummer and a pianist, so all of that combined together makes my sound unorthodox and unique. I'm really happy to be here for my first BET Awards with my family A$AP Rocky and Swizz Beatz.
The Root: What can fans expect from your upcoming show, R&B Divas?
Faith Evans: R&B Divas isn't going to be one of those shows with all of the drama and fighting. We all love working and singing together. We'll be working on a special charity album on the show, so watch out for that.
The Root: What do you like to listen to in your car these days?
La La Anthony: I'm listening to a lot of Big Sean, Nicki Minaj and Kanye West. I'm all about hip-hop right now!
The Root: A lot has happened in your career over the last year. How does it feel?
2 Chainz: It feels good to be here. It's starting to feel like it's my time. I've got an album coming out in August. Working with Kanye West and GOOD Music has been great. He would guide me in different directions, but he let me do my thing. It's cool to collaborate and mix street with backpack. Next I want to collaborate with Jay-Z and Erykah Badu.
The Root: I heard you recently gave Justin Bieber a really nice piece of jewelry. What's the story behind that?
Big Sean: The first ring I got made was a Rolex ring, the kind that Tupac and them used to wear. When I went to the studio with Justin Bieber for the first time, he was admiring it. When we performed on the Today show, he told me my new ring was cool, but he was still all about my Rolex ring. So I just took it out of my bag and gave it to him as a surprise gift.
The Root: What's it like coming back to the BET Awards as a network veteran?
Free: It's always great to come back to the BET Awards. It's a lot like a homecoming where the whole family gets together again to see how each other is doing. [Outgoing 106 & Park hosts] Terrence and Rocsi don't need any advice from me. They're both great people who will continue to have much success.
The Root: You recently shouted out Diggy on Twitter. What do you like about him?
Young Jeezy: Diggy Simmons is the force of the youth. He's the new guy that the kids love. He's what the youth is about: hustling and making your own way.
The Root: Who would you most want to collaborate with?
YJ: There are two people in the world I would want to collaborate with. One of them is not here, Tupac Shakur. But the other one is Sade. She's got to give me a chance!
The Root: How was it playing JFK in the new Lana Del Rey video for "National Anthem"?
A$AP Rocky: Playing JFK in the new Lana Del Rey video was just a lot of fun, man! I got to experience that presidential feeling, you know?
The Root: How does it feel to be at the BET Awards this year?
AR: I'm here with my people Swizz Beatz and AraabMuzik. Designer Jeremy Scott is also here with me. He's incredible at what he does, and he can rap, too! He's got some bars in him.
The Root: Which artist would you most want to collaborate with?
Miguel: The artist I would most want to collaborate with is Björk. With her musical range and dynamics, I just think I would learn a lot in the studio from her. As a musician, the most important thing we can do is learn from each other. I really respect and admire her creativity.