As the countdown officially begins to the most legendary night in Black entertainment, it's the legendary superstars who will be heard from loud and clear. Hip-Hop giants Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott, R&B diva Mary J. Blige and Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx -- all legends in their own right -- earned a phenomenal four nominations each for the 2006 BET AWARDS, which televise live on Tuesday, June 27 from its new location at the Shrine Auditorium at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT (tape delayed to the Pacific and Mountain Time Zones). Nominations were announced today in Hollywood.

BET's annual salute to superlative performance in music, television, film and sports promises 15 intensely competitive categories, including a brand new category recognizing innovation and originality in R&B music. This year's crowning recognitions will go to individuals whose names are synonymous with greatness as R&B icon Chaka Khan receives the BET Lifetime Achievement Award and actor/singer/activist Harry Belafonte is honored with the BET Humanitarian Award.

Actor and comedian Damon Wayans, multi-talented member of the famed Wayans family of Hollywood achievers, steps forward to host his first-ever BET AWARDS show. Add performers like Mary J. Blige, T.I., Mariah Carey and Kanye West, and the stage is set for an explosive night under the Western sky.

"BET Awards is the best awards show on television, period. No qualifier. And here are three great reasons why: Number One, our host is Damon Wayans. He's been making people laugh for 20 years," said Reginald Hudlin, BET President of Entertainment. "Number Two is Lifetime Achievement honoree Chaka Khan. Her voice sounds like she swallowed Jimmy Hendrix's guitar. Third is Humanitarian Award recipient Harry Belafonte, an award I'm very proud to be associated with. Harry is the first music artist to receive a platinum record. Harry popularized the concept of world music before there was even the phrase. And most importantly, his efforts on behalf of human rights and civil rights are unmatched by any other artist. People forget that Dr. King's famous letter from the Birmingham jail was addressed to Harry Belafonte."

Even as a first-time host, Wayans still promises to keep the show flowing with his special brand of brash, irreverent, "Hell No, Homey Don't Play That" humor first unveiled in the ground-breaking sketch comedy series In Living Color. Now the star, creator and executive producer of the hit ABC sitcom My Wife and Kids, earned his stripes and is ready to stake his claim on the awards show circuit.

"Damon is a fierce stand-up comedian with a biting sense of humor that will keep everyone in the audience on their toes," said Stephen Hill, BET Executive Vice President for Music and Entertainment Programming. "The BET Awards is known for bringing the heat. And with the performers we have lined up and the left-of-center elements planned, the heat shall be 'broughten' again. You know how we do."

Busta Rhymes, who was one of the artists announcing the nominations along with Ne-Yo, 3-6 Mafia and Keyshia Cole, earned nods for Best Male Hip-Hop Artist, Best Duet and Video of the Year and is up for the Viewer's Choice Award. Jamie Foxx, whose recent solo album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's R&B charts, is up for Best Male R&B Artist, Best Duet/collaboration (with Kanye West), Best Actor and Video of the Year (with Kanye West).

And as for the ladies, Mary J. Blige's nominations include: Best Female R&B Artist, Best Duet/Collaboration (with Busta Rhymes) and two nods for Video of the Year. Missy Elliott, also received two nominations for Video of the Year to go along with her nods for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist and Best Duet/Collaboration (with Busta Rhymes).

Other artists receiving multiple nominations included: Kanye West, Ne-Yo and Chris Brown each with three; Anthony Hamilton, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Ciara, Keyshia Cole, Lloyd Banks, Mariah Carey, Mary Mary, Papoose, Rah Digga, Slim Thug and T.I. each scored two apiece.

Last year's BET AWARDS was the most-watched program in the network's 26- year history with an amazing 6.6 million viewers tuning in to catch the excitement. BET has again teamed with Cossette Productions, famed producers of the GRAMMY Awards® and the five previous record-setting BET AWARDS shows, to handle production of the telecast.

To heat things up and cool things down, BET will be all over the pre- and post-award show happenings with a special edition of 106 & PARK: LIVE FROM THE RED CARPET, beginning at 6 p.m. ET/5 p.m. CT. Hosts Tigger and Julissa Bermudez will no doubt capture all the excitement from fashion to who's escorting whom at the summer's most anticipated awards show. The energy will continue post the awards when BET News brings you THE BLACK CARPET LOUNGE live and hosted by Toure' beginning at 11 p.m. ET/10 p.m. CT. There will be a non- stop parade of celebrity interviews and featured highlights from the show.

BET online audience will have the opportunity to really be a part of the show as virtual members of the BET AWARDS 06 voting academy by logging onto http://www.bet.com to vote for their favorite performer in the Viewers' Choice poll. The actual voting takes place real time during the telecast. Fans can also select the BET Ultimate Fan by casting votes for 10 previously selected video entries for the individual who best shows off their enthusiasm for the BET AWARDS 06. The lucky winner receives an all-expense trip for two to this year's show plus $2,500 in spending money and an opportunity to co-present the Viewers' Choice Award.

Encore telecasts of the 2006 BET AWARDS are set for:

Friday, June 30th @ 7:30 p.m. ET/PT

Tuesday, July 4th @ 7:30 p.m. ET/PT

Sunday, July 9th @ 7:30 p.m. ET/PT

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