Arnold Turner/Invision for BMI/AP Images
The event, which featured surprise performances by Nas and Future, was hosted by BMI President Del Bryant, VP Catherine Brewton and Ray J. Attendees included everyone from Randy Jackson and Jermaine Dupri to Birdman, Mac Miller and Big Sean.
The star of the evening, however, was Carey, who was honored for her songwriting achievements, and referred to as "the greatest singer in history" by the BMI chief.
"I consider her a national treasure. She's got one of those rare, once-in-a-lifetime Whitney, Aretha, just amazing, unique talents," Eric Benet told The BoomBox, before serenading Carey with her song "One Sweet Day" during a tribute which also featured contributions from Dupri, Fantasia and Joe.
"I think it's gonna be something that should happen every year because she's given so much to the industry," Joe told us of the celebration. "I have that much respect for her because she reached out to me -- a young R&B singer who really needed that support from a major icon like herself. I appreciate her on that behalf, so I'm definitely celebrating her life tonight."
Also on hand for the event was singer Marsha Ambrosius, who praised Carey for her talents as well as her longevity.
"She's managed to be everything every decade. Everything," she exclaimed. "To do that is honorable."
Following the tribute, Carey took the stage to accept her award, appearing deeply moved.
"I'm sweating and crying ... I don't know which way I'm going. But I'm happy to be here," she said. "I can't thank you enough for doing something beautiful with the songs I wrote. I'm so humbled by this moment. A lot of people still don't know I write my music. Singing material so close to my heart tonight ... it has helped change my life."
Several other artists received awards for their songwriting, including Nicki Minaj for Song of the Year ("Super Bass"), Lil Wayne and Drake for Songwriters of the Year (Drake's second year in a row), and Mac Miller, who took home BMI's first-ever Social Star Award.
Watch "Mariah Carey To Be Honored With BMI Icon Award"
See R&B's Worst Jobs
- Ne- Yo's Hat Selector
- Chaka Khan's Stylist
- D'Angelo's Band Director
- Beyonce's Fan Controller
- Chris Brown's Handler
- Trey Songz' Bodyguard
- Mariah Carey's Dietician
- Maxwell's A&R
- Most Expensive Hip-Hop Album Covers
- Nas' 'Stillmatic' Album
- Fat Joe's 'J.O.S.E. (Jealous Ones Still Envy)' Album
- 50 Cent's 'Get Rich or Die Tryin'' Album
- Lil' Kim's 'La Belle Mafia' Album
- Cam'ron's 'Killa Season' Album
- LL Cool J's 'Mama Said Knock You Out' Album
- Eric B. & Rakim's 'Paid in Full' Album
- Master P's 'Da Last Don' Album
- E-40's 'In a Major Way' Album
- Tupac's 'All Eyez on Me' Album
- Outrageous & Extravagant Hip-Hop and R&B Weddings
- Timbaland & Monique Idlett: Prominent Producer & Wife Wed on Private Island
- Black Eyed Peas' Taboo & Jaymie Dizon: Boyz II Men Sings for Bride & Groom's First Dance
- Eric Benet & Manuela: Bride Breaks Pregnancy News During Wedding Reception
- Whitney Houston & Bobby Brown: A Concert-Sized Ceremony for a Pop Queen & Her R&B King
- Treach & Pepa: Hip-Hop's First Power Couple Tie the Knot
- Kelis & Nas: Bride Dons Bright Green Wedding Dress
- Alicia Keys & Swizz Beatz: Married on the Mediterranean Sea
- T.I. & Tiny: Royal-Style Arrival in a Horse-Drawn Carriage
- Monica & Shannon Brown: Bride Rocks $1 Million in Jewels & Has 40-Piece Gospel Choir
- Mariah Carey & Nick Cannon: Renew Vows in Front of the Eiffel Tower