Cardi B and British star Ella Mai were among those to pick up gongs at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards.
The annual ceremony celebrates black and minority entertainers in music, film, TV and sport and took place in Los Angeles.
A star-studded audience including Rihanna, John Legend and Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs watched as Cardi B took home the first big prize of the night, scooping album of the year.
The 26-year-old won for her Grammy-winning major label debut, Invasion Of Privacy.
Taking to the stage, she said the “numbers don’t lie” about the record, which has been certified triple platinum in the US.
She added: “I’m glad I made an album that your sister, your mother, your grandmother, like it.”
Cardi B, 26, won album of the year ahead of Travis Scott’s Astroworld, Meek Mill’s Championships, The Carters’ Everything Is Love and Mai’s self-titled effort.
Disappointment did not last long for London-born Mai, who enjoyed a breakout year in the US thanks to her huge single Boo’d Up.
The 24-year-old won the viewers’ choice award for her song Trip, seeing off heavyweight competition in the form of Drake, Childish Gambino and Scott.
Accepting the prize, Mai thanked BET, saying she was a “little girl from London, England” and “this is proof that you let the music do the talking”.
Performers at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles included Lizzo, DJ Khalid, Migos and H.E.R.
Rapper Lil Nas X and country singer Billy Ray Cyrus treated the audience to their number one hit, the genre-bending Old Town Road.
The so-called Central Park Five, who were wrongly convicted of rape in a case dramatised by Netflix drama When They See Us, were given a standing ovation as they took to the stage to introduce singer-songwriter H.E.R.
The men, all black or Hispanic, spent between five and 15 years in prison for a crime they did not commit, with Donald Trump, then a Manhattan real estate mogul, calling for them to be executed before they had stood trial.
Rihanna, recently named the richest female musician in the world, introduced lifetime achievement award honouree Mary J Blige, thanking her for opening “multiple doors for female artists in this industry”.
Blige, who started her career in 1989 and has since sold more than 80 million records around the world, is often dubbed the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.
She said: “This journey has always been bigger than me and my mission is not only just to survive, right now it’s to thrive and continue to make history while I do it.”
Blige, 48, then performed a medley of her biggest hits, including No More Drama and Just Fine.
Two other honorary awards were handed out at the ceremony. Late rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was shot dead earlier this year, was honoured with the humanitarian award.
Snoop Dogg and filmmaker Ava DuVernay were among those paying tribute, while John Legend and DJ Khaled performed Higher, their single with Hussle.
Filmmaker Tyler Perry, best known for creating the character of Madea, a tough, elderly black woman, won the icon award.
Elsewhere, If Beale Street Could Talk star Regina King won best actress while international act went to Nigeria’s Burna Boy, who won ahead of British acts Dave and Giggs.
The BET Awards were established in 2001 and the first prize at the inaugural ceremony went to hip-hop duo Outkast.