R&B/hip-hop artists Ashanti and Nelly were the top honorees at the 2002 Billboard Music Awards, aired live tonight (Dec. 9) on Fox from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Ashanti took home eight awards,

R&B/hip-hop artists Ashanti and Nelly were the top honorees at the 2002 Billboard Music Awards, aired live tonight (Dec. 9) on Fox from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Ashanti took home eight awards, while Nelly walked away with six. Rock acts Nickelback, Creed, and Puddle Of Mudd picked up four honors apiece.

Ashanti won R&B/hip-hop artist of the year, R&B/hip-hop female artist of the year, R&B/hip-hop single of the year for "Foolish" (Murder Inc./Island Def Jam), R&B/hip-hop singles artist of the year, new R&B/hip-hop artist of the year, Hot 100 singles artist of the year, top new pop artist of the year, and female artist of the year.

Nelly, meanwhile, pocketed the artist of the year honor, as well as male artist of the year, R&B/hip-hop male artist of the year, Hot 100 singles male artist of the year, rap artist of the year, and rap track of the year for "Hot in Herre" (Fo' Reel/Universal).

Three of Nickelback's honors came for its single "How You Remind Me" (Roadrunner): Hot 100 single of the year, top 40 track of the year, and Hot 100 airplay single of the year. The group also won the Hot 100 singles group/duo of the year award.

Creed was honored as group/duo of the year, catalog artist of the year, and group/duo albums artist of the year, and the band's "Human Clay" (Wind-Up) album was named catalog album of the year. Puddle Of Mudd was named rock artist of the year and modern rock artist of the year, while its song "Blurry" (Flawless/Geffen/Interscope) took home rock track of the year and modern rock track of the year awards.

Rapper Eminem took home two awards for his album "The Eminem Show" (Aftermath/Interscope), which won for album of the year and R&B/Hip-hopalbum of the year. Electronica artist Moby also won two awards.

Toby Keith won country singles artist of the year, and B2K took home the award for R&B/hip-hop single (sales) of the year for its Epic single "Uh Huh."

Special honors were also given to Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox, who won Billboard's prestigious Century Award; Cher, who was presented with an artist achievement award; and Michael Jackson, who was given a special Billboard Award for his 1982 album "Thriller" (Epic), which spent more weeks at No. 1 (37) than any other album in the history of The Billboard 200.

Avril Lavigne kicked off the night's performances, opening the show with her hits "Sk8tr Boi" and "Complicated." The event also featured Nelly and his cohorts in the St. Lunatics performing "Hot in Herre," Creed from the top of Vegas' Stratosphere performing "Weathered," Justin Timberlake -- who remained seated for most of his performance due to a recently broken foot -- singing "Cry Me a River" backed by a string section and large choir, Puddle Of Mudd ripping through "She Hates Me," and Faith Hill belting out "Cry."

Cher slipped one past the censors when speaking about critics who for 40 years have been saying she's on her way out. "So f*** 'em," she said. "I still have a job and they don't." She also equated her lengthy career to a Martin Lawrence quote, saying "Life: You've got to ride it till the wheels fall off," before acknowledging her late husband Sonny Bono's importance to her life and career.

Actor/comedian Chris Tucker was on hand at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch to present the King of Pop with his award. "I'm very honored, very happy," Jackson said. "I thank my fans around the world. I couldn't be me without you."

The evening concluded on a high note, as Nelly, Busta Rhyes, Ja Rule Naughty By Nature, Queen Latifah, and Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry took the stage for a tribute to slain Run-D.M.C. DJ Jam Master Jay (real name: Jason Mizell). Running through a medley of such favorites as "Sucker MCs" and "Peter Piper," the artists joined forces for a triumphant run through "Walk This Way," Run-D.M.C.'s maiden crossover hit.

"Since Jay passed, it has been so hard, but I had fun just now," Jam Master Jay's widow, Terri Mizell, said after the tribute. "Thanks for your love and continuous support. If Jason was here, he'd be so happy." "America, you gotta love that!," Public Enemy frontman Chuck D said as the performance ended.

For a full list of winners, click here.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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