It was Cuba-born artist Camila Cabello who beat the likes of Beyonce to take home the big award of the night while Madonna, fresh from her 60th birthday celebrations, led tributes to Aretha Franklin.
While Lopez's speech went for the heart, Cardi B aimed for jokes.
Cardi B was the top contender of the night with 10 nominations.
Jennifer Lopez will receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award and is set to perform some of her greatest hits during the ceremony. "I'm going to be with you until the very end!" "Because I thought you playing 'On the Floor, ' and you were playing 'El Anillo.' I can not recognize my own songs".
Cardi B, who gave birth last month, won three awards and said people told her she was "gambling your career" when she chose to become a mother.
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There was one posthumous victor : Avicii, who died in April, won for best dance for "Lonely Together" alongside Rita Ora. Exhibit A: Camila Cabello beat out Drake, Mars, Cardi B , Ariana Grande and Post Malone for artist of the year .
Cardi said she's been blessed with fans "that you can't buy", looking into the camera and shouting an expletive.
Nicki Minaj won the first televised award - best hip-hop - and checked comedian Tiffany Haddish for dissing girl group Fifth Harmony, now on hiatus.
Rapper Logic was joined onstage by dozens of immigrant children and their families wearing white t-shirts saying "We are all human beings", for a performance of his song "One Day".
Sure, "This Is America" won for best choreography, best direction and best video with a message, while "APES***" took home prizes for cinematography and art direction. Cabello's song was a No. 1 hit and of the video of the year nominees, "Havana" was the second-most viewed clip behind Drake's "God's Plan".
Neither Mars, Drake, Gambino, Beyonce nor Jay-Z attended the awards show in New York City, which featured performances by Ariana Grande - who won best pop video for "No Tears Left to Cry", - Nicki Minaj, Aerosmith, Shawn Mendes and Travis Scott.