Ben Rose, WireImage
Host Cedric the Entertainer made his entrance to the stage via a Soul Train line (of course!), moving through at full speed, jerking, popping and locking vigorously to Montell Jordan's 'This Is How We Do It' and T.I.'s 'Big Things Poppin'.' When he was finished, the heavyset comedian doubled over, took a gulp of air and quipped, "I'm outta breath. My leg hurt, and that was this morning when I was just making a sandwich."
Cedric remained witty all night, cracking jokes current enough for young folks and charming enough for older ones.
Other performers included Lloyd, Miguel, Cee-Lo, Common and Marsha Ambrosius. Cee-Lo had one of the better sets. As he warbled the emotion-filled lyrics to his latest single, 'Fool for You,' the eclectic rapper-turned-singer donned a white suit fitted to his rotund stomach and detailed with long fringe at the sleeves. As he sang, women in fur-trimmed mini dresses twirled about, and big, fluffy snowflakes descended from the ceiling. It was a very nice touch.
Common turned in a fiery performance of 'Blue Sky,' the first single from his upcoming album, 'The Dreamer, The Believer.' He rapped the lyrics to the inspirational song with the renewed energy he's been displaying on wax as of late. Each step across the stage was purposeful, and each line was filled with urgency. Common's performance was confident, assertive and satisfying to the hip-hop heads in attendance. Ambrosius brought a touch of class, adding her honeyed voice on the hook.
Ambrosius took the stage several times during the evening. She performed in a tribute to Gladys Knight and gave a moving speech as she accepted the newly minted Ashford & Simpson Songwriter and Record of the Year award for 'Far Away.' The teary-eyed singer stammered over her words and shook her head, finally saying, "I'm just a girl from Liverpool ... I moved to Atlanta first, so it seems crazy to receive this here."
Accepting his award for the Best Male R&B/Soul, Cee-Lo also said he was grateful to be recognized in Atlanta, his hometown. Philadelphia's Jill Scott accepted her accolade for Best Female R&B/Soul with her signature grin and self-assured poise -- both of which have come with being in the business for 11 years. She thanked industry associates, fans and the rough North Philly neighborhood where she grew up.
The most touching part of the night was the Heavy D tribute that came midway through the ceremony. The big screen over the stage ran a clip of the late rapper accepting a Soul Train award for 1990's 'Big Tyme.' An eerie silence fell in the theater as attendees recalled that only a month ago, he appeared up the street at Atlanta's Civic Center, looking healthy, strong and light on his feet at the BET Hip Hop Awards.
The cheerful Heavy tribute included Big Daddy Kane, Naughty By Nature, Kurtis Blow and Goodie Mob performing some of the Overweight Lover's bounciest hits. The medley ended on a bittersweet note, as after 'Nuttin' But Love,' Heavy's final tweet was displayed in the background: "Be Inspired."
The Soul Train Awards air Nov. 27 at 9PM on BET and Centric.
Watch Heavy D's 'Nuttin' But Love'