Beyonce arrives at VMAs with Black Lives Matters supporters
Rihanna shares her success with her country and family as Drake gets stuck in traffic
The star-studded show at Madison Square Garden saw Beyonce take home video of the year for Formation and best female video for Hold Up, as well as deliver a 16-minute performance of tracks from her hit album Lemonade.
The singer arrived at the event with her four-year-old daughter Blue Ivy and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement, including Sybrina Fulton, the mother of murdered teenager Trayvon Martin.
After winning video of the year, Beyonce thanked her daughter and “incredible” husband Jay Z for their support.
“I dedicate this award to the people of New Orleans,” she said.
Rihanna performed four separate medleys of her biggest hits throughout the show after she was named the receipt of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, MTV’s equivalent of a lifetime achievement honour.
The Barbadian singer (28) was presented with her Moonman trophy by Drake, her long-time collaborator and rumoured love interest.
Drake told the crowd: “She’s someone I’ve been in love with since I was 22 years old. She’s one of my best friends in the world. All of my adult life I’ve looked up to her even though she’s younger than me.”
Rihanna thanked her family, friends and hometown of Saint Michael, Barbados, for helping her succeed in her 11-year-career.
“My success started as my dream, but now my success is not my own. It’s my family, my fans, my country ... it’s women, it’s black women,” she said.
Kanye West took to the stage for a six-minute speech before introducing the video to his new song Fade, where he compared himself to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Walt Disney.
He also addressed his recent war of words with Taylor Swift, insisting he informed the pop singer about the lyrics to his single Famous in which he raps: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that bitch famous.”
West told the VMA crowd: “I love all y’all. That’s why I called her.”
He went on: “I know at times for me, I sit down and talk to older, rich people, AKA white, and they tell me don’t compare yourself to Steve Jobs and don’t compare yourself to Walt Disney.
“My role models are artists, merchants. There’s less than 10 I can name in history: Truman, Ford, Hughes, Disney, Jobs, West.”
West also pointed out his ex-girlfriend Amber Rose in the crowd after he included a waxwork of her in his controversial video for Famous. The video also features nude waxworks of Swift, Donald Trump, West himself and his wife Kim Kardashian West.
Britney Spears returned to the VMA stage but faced accusations she lip-synced her performance of Make Me from her new album Glory.
Drake won best hip hop video, for Hotline Bling, but did not collect his trophy on stage because he was stuck in traffic, presenter Sean “Diddy” Combs told the crowd.
Calvin Harris picked up best male video for This Is What You Came For, featuring Rihanna. The Scottish producer sent a video message thanking MTV for the honour after missing the ceremony because he was performing in the UK.
Alicia Keys announced the winner of the award after giving a passionate A Capella performance of a poem on the 53rd anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech.
Presenters on the night included recent Olympic gold medallists, swimmer Michael Phelps and US gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian. Fellow gymnast Gabby Douglas missed the show after she was admitted to hospital with a mouth infection.