Cardi B, the most nominated artist of the night with seven nods, kicked off the event with a performance with Offset and then picked up the Album of the Year award for Invasion of Privacy.
Lil Baby beat out Queen Naija, City Girls, Blueface and Juice Wrld for Best New Artist and Snoop Dogg earned the Dr. Bobby Jones Best Gospel/Inspiration Award for "Blessing me Again."
Blige had the audience at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on their feet when she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Rihanna, who called her the "undeniable queen of hip hop and R&B."
The 48-year old singer said she has lots of people to thank for the award "because when you have a lifetime of achievements, there's no way you could have done it alone."
She thanked her family, friends and fans for being there for her while giving a special shout out to Puff Daddy.
"Thank you for believing in me more than I ever believed in myself and pushing me further and further," she said. "You continue to be one of my biggest inspirations."
Hussle, who was killed in March, was posthumously honored with the Humanitarian Award.
"Ermias 'Nipsey Hussle' Asghedom was more than a rapper, teacher, actor and philanthropist -- he was a revolutionary," said rapper T.I., who presented the award to Hussle's family. "His emphasis on the power of equity and ownership of our art led the charge of independence and created a blueprint for up-and-coming artists today to follow."
He said in the three months since his death, people are still learning about him for the first time and he is still causing change because he wasn't after fame, he wasn't a "social media activist."
"He was a real one, a true king, simply concerned with promoting human welfare, uplifting those around him," he said. "As a prolific artist, his lyrics, interviews are immensely powerful, but his actions spoke even louder."
Other big winners at the 19th annual event that honors accomplishments in the black entertainment industry include Regina King, who took home Best Actress for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk over Issa Rae, Regina Hall and Viola Davis; 14-year-old Marsai Martin (Little, Black-ish), who won the coveted Young Stars Award; and The BlacKkKlansman, which won Best Movie.