Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
How Vice President Kamala Harris And The Recording Academy Celebrated The 50th Anniversary Of Hip-Hop: "Hip-Hop Culture Is America's Culture"
Presented by Live Nation Urban, the Recording Academy's Black Music Collective, and the U.S. Vice President's office, the once-in-a-lifetime event celebrated 50 years of hip-hop with multiple performances from Lil Wayne, Common and more hip-hop luminaries
"Welcome to the first-ever hip-hop house party at the home of the Vice President of the United States," U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said excitedly from a lively stage propped up in her backyard. Her words reminded folks of the Notorious B.I.G.'s eternal lyrics: "You never thought that hip-hop would take it this far."
Indeed, as guests gathered at Vice President Harris' residence in Washington, D.C., on Saturday for a private, intimate event celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, a palpable sense of wonder and awe, mixed with waves of laughter and bliss, overtook the energized crowd. Here we were, honoring hip-hop in the home of the Vice President, with rap classics blasting from the stage as the unrelenting D.C. sun kept attendees beaming and alive.
The celebration, co-presented by Live Nation Urban and the Recording Academy's Black Music Collective, recognized hip-hop's global influence, evolution and long-lasting impact and brought together music industry professionals, U.S. Senators and Governors, politicians, and celebrated rappers — all true fans of and believers in the power of hip-hop.
Among them, Vice President Harris was perhaps the most vocal hip-hop supporter of them all. In an impassioned, heartfelt speech, she boasted of the immeasurable impact hip-hop has made on American culture.
"Hip-hop is the ultimate American art form … Hip-hop now shapes nearly every aspect of America's popular culture," she said. "And it reflects the incredible diversity and ingenuity of the American people.
"Hip-hop culture is America's culture," she continued. "It is a genre. It is music, melody and rhyme. And hip-hop is also an ethos of strength and self-determination, of ambition and aspiration, of pride, power, and purpose."
Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, who confirmed with the audience that his home with Vice President Harris is, as a matter of fact, a "hip-hop household," echoed the sentiment in his opening remarks, emphasizing that the event aimed to "celebrate the legends who pioneered the music we love, the next generations who will carry on their legacy, and the artists and producers who use the power of music to create change."
For the Recording Academy, the celebration was a historic milestone in the evolution of hip-hop music and culture as a whole and the latest installment in the organization's year-long celebration of 50 years of hip-hop. In February, hip-hop took over the 2023 GRAMMYs with a special, star-studded tribute to hip-hop's 50th anniversary featuring performances from rap pioneers (Grandmaster Flash, Run-D.M.C., Chuck D, Flavor Flav), modern legends (Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, Lil Wayne), and next-gen stars (GloRilla, Lil Baby). Now, from the GRAMMYs stage to the Vice President's backyard, hip-hop is everywhere, and the genre's impact has touched virtually every aspect of global pop culture.
"Now, fifty years later, there's not a single genre of music that hasn't absorbed something essential from hip-hop," Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. said in a speech as he introduced "the first Vice President of the hip-hop generation."
"Our Vice President was rooted in hip-hop. It is essential to who she is. And — as today shows — she has brought hip-hop with her to the White House," he continued.
The multifaceted event featured a variety of performances and speeches celebrating the five core pillars of hip-hop: MCing, DJing, breakdancing, graffiti and beatboxing. As performers like legendary beatboxer Doug E. Fresh, DJ Dom and DJ D-Nice commanded the stage, Bboy Gravity and his breakdance crew wowed the audience with their neck-breaking moves; throughout the event, a graffiti artist completed a live graffiti mural wall painting from beginning to end.
"This event perfectly embodied everything that we at the Black Music Collective are about, and it's been the honor of a lifetime to work alongside other industry leaders and Vice President Kamala Harris to curate this historic celebration," Ryan Butler, the Recording Academy's Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, said in a statement. "We chose to focus on five key pillars of hip-hop — MC, DJ, breakdance, graffiti and beatbox — which allowed us to celebrate all of the distinct elements of such a culturally significant movement."
A powerful lineup of artists further framed the five elements of hip-hop. Remy Ma, MC Lyte and Roxanne Shanté showcased some of the many ways women have influenced hip-hop culture, while Bay Area rapper Too $hort represented the West Coast with his performance of his classic hits "Life is Too $hort" and "Blow the Whistle." Common's freestyle-fueled performance exemplified the higher-learning, conscious-expression aspect of hip-hop, while fellow Chicago rapper Saba held it down for the fresh faces of hip-hop. The event also featured performances by legendary rappers Fat Joe, Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, D.C.'s own Wale, Jeezy, who performed his fitting hit "My President," and Lil Wayne, who delivered a show-stopping, career-spanning closing set.
As the event ended, an ominous thunderstorm loomed up in the clouds, but that didn't stop attendees from basking in the afterglow, snapping their final selfies and videos of what was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Too $hort best summed up that sense of unbelievable astonishment.
"The journey of hip-hop was not projected to be this," Too $hort said during an on-site interview. "It's a beautiful thing that the image of the culture has changed enough to be used as a tool … Every aspect of life is influenced by hip-hop. Nobody expected that … But at the same time, we were relentless enough to keep doing our craft, and now we're here — we're here! I can't believe I'm here."
*— With additional reporting from John Ochoa*
Image courtesy of the Recording Academy
How The Recording Academy Is Joining The Biden-Harris Administration's First-Ever U.S. National Strategy To Counter Antisemitism
According to the White House's website, "[the] administration announces over 100 new actions and over 100 calls to action to combat antisemitism." Here's a closer look at what's within, including a listening session hosted by the Recording Academy.
Joe Biden decided to run for president after the appalling, deadly Neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 — and six years later, antisemitic hatred is still trending upward. According to the FBI, American Jews account for 2.4% of the U.S. population, but they are the victims of 63% of reported religiously motivated hate crimes.
As the White House's website puts it, "While antisemitic incidents most directly and intensely affect the Jewish community, antisemitism threatens all of us. Antisemitic conspiracy theories fuel other forms of hatred, discrimination, and bias — including discrimination against other religious minorities, racism, sexism, and anti-LGBTQI+ hate.
"Antisemitism seeks to divide Americans from one another, erodes trust in government and nongovernmental institutions, and undermines our democracy," it continues.
That's why the Biden-Harris administration is taking a stand. In December 2022, President Biden initiated the Interagency Policy Committee on Antisemitism, Islamophobia and Related Forms of Bias and Discrimination, which is led by the White House Domestic Policy Council and National Security Council.
Their first order of business? To conceive — and put into action — the first-ever U.S. national strategy in opposition of antisemitism in the United States.
With the help of 1,000 stakeholders from all walks of life and spheres of American society, the plan details more than 100 new actions that Executive Branch agencies are taking to counter this scourge — all to be completed within a year of the overall launch.
As the plan gets underway, the Recording Academy is joining the fight. In July 2023, the world's leading society of music people will host a listening session with Recording Academy leadership that is specifically curated for creators in Jewish music. The objective of this event is to foster a welcoming, inclusive environment, where leaders in Jewish music can work together to engender a sense of community and trust.
Additionally, the Recording Academy will collaborate with the Black Jewish Entertainment Alliance to present a panel discussion commemorating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. The panel discussion aims to honor and celebrate hip-hop while acknowledging the fruitful, world-shifting cultural collaborations between Black and Jewish leaders within the music industry.
For more information on the various moving parts of this plan, visit the White House's website. Join the Recording Academy, and all involved in this righteous strategy, in countering hate, bigotry and discrimination wherever you see it — including the Jewish community worldwide.
Photo: Dave Arnold
How The Recording Academy And United Nations Human Rights Are Tackling Climate Change: 5 Takeaways From The Right Here, Right Now Mini Global Climate Concert Series
The first activation of the Recording Academy's collaboration with United Nations Human Rights featured impassioned speeches about climate change and unforgettable performances from the Lumineers frontman Wesley Schultz and special guest Yola.
For centuries, music has soundtracked the fight for societal change and revolutions around the world. From the protest anthems of the Civil Rights Movement to the powerful songs fueling the protests in Iran, music has remained an essential ingredient in the ongoing battle for progress and universal equality. Now, the Recording Academy, in partnership with United Nations Human Rights, continues this long tradition of championing progress via music.
This month, the Recording Academy announced a partnership with several United Nations Human Rights-supported global initiatives that aims to promote global social justice via the power of music. The multifaceted campaign will invite leading artists to use their talents and platforms to advocate for United Nations Human Rights goals, including advocating for the rights of women and the LGBTQ+ community as well as a host of other human rights issues, including gender equality and climate justice.
The Right Here, Right Now Music initiative — a partnership between the Recording Academy and the Right Here, Right Now Global Climate Alliance (Right Here, Right Now) — aims to combat the human rights crisis resulting from climate change, a timely issue impacting vurnerable communities around the world.
The Right Here, Right Now Mini Global Climate Concert Series, the first activation in this newly announced partnership, addressed this important issue head-on. The concert, held in Colorado's iconic Boulder Theater on Thursday, April 13, enlisted major artists, including the Lumineerslead singer and co-founder Wesley Schultz and special guestYola, as well as leaders in the music and intergovernmental industries to call attention to the human rights implications of climate change.
The powerful performances from Yola and Schultz — combined with speeches addressing the importance of utilizing music as a tool to combat climate change — created an atmosphere of longing with an undercurrent of hope for the future.
"I wanted to show our support for these hosts, the Recording Academy and the United Nations [Human Rights], at this forum that addressed the interconnectedness of human rights and climate change," Schultz told the Recording Academy via email about his involvement in the Right Here, Right Now Mini Global Climate Concert Series. "As touring musicians, we can raise awareness about sustainable goals and inspire dialogue about the global climate crisis. As touring musicians, we can raise awareness and amplify calls to action for governments, education, businesses, and individuals to fight the global climate crisis.
"It is everyone's responsibility to help battle climate change," he continued. "But as touring musicians, we must work to seek out real solutions to the sizable carbon footprint that being on the road causes. That's why I'm working with an organization like Sound Future, who are working on finding systemic fixes to help touring become more carbon neutral."
The Recording Academy attended the inaugural Right Here, Right Now Mini Global Climate Concert Series in person. Below are five key takeaways from the collaborative launch event.
The Event's Location Was Chosen Deliberately
*Outdoor marquee sign at the Boulder Theater in Colorado for the Right Here, Right Now Mini Global Climate Concert Series on April 13, 2023 | Photo: David Rose*
David Clark, founder and CEO of Right Here, Right Now Global Climate Alliance, explained that launching the Mini Global Climate Concert Series in Boulder, Colorado, an area he described as a "hotbed" for climate justice, was a very conscious choice.
"We've got amazing national labs that are coming up with cutting-edge technology, cutting-edge data, research that's shaping the climate dialogue around the world," he said at the concert.
Boulder was also the home of last year's Right Here, Right Now Global Climate Summit, which hosted experts from over 100 nations, including Mary Robinson, the former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the President of Ireland.
The Climate Crisis Is A Human Crisis
The climate crisis already disproportionately impacts socially vulnerable groups: women, children, low-income families, and other historically marginalized communities.
"Human-caused climate change has already caused substantial and irreversible damage to ecosystems and livelihoods with disproportionate impacts on people in ongoing situations," Benjamin Schachter, UN Human Rights Team Leader for Environment and Climate Change, explained from the stage.
Music Creates Powerful Connections
*(L-R) David Clark, Harvey Mason jr., Chantel Sausedo, Benjamin Schachter | Photo: David Rose*
The Recording Academy has a long history of championing change through the power of music — a point highlighted throughout the Right Here, Right Now Mini Global Climate Concert Series.
"Music is a crucial means of [catalyzing transformative action]," Schachter said. "It constitutes a common language, a means of expression."
"Music has some special abilities," Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, explained in an impassioned speech from the stage. "It has the ability to give a voice to those that have none, to shine a light on injustices that exist in our world, and to inspire us all to take action."
Mason jr. also amplified an impactful message that reflected the theme of the night: Music is not just a means for entertainment, but a "powerful tool to galvanize social movements to speak the truth, the power to create community and to bring disparate people together for a common cause."
The World Must Band Together
*Yola performing at the Right Here, Right Now Mini Global Climate Concert Series at the Boulder Theater in Colorado on April 13, 2023 | Photo: David Rose*
Internationally acclaimed and GRAMMY-nominated guest artist Yola performed a no-frills set of raw, vocally driven songs intertwined with the mellow strum of her acoustic guitar. Many of Yola's songs spoke to her newfound strength to stand up for herself, a concept she explored on her 2021 album, Stand For Myself, and clap back at those in power — an appropriate theme that resonated throughout the environmental justice concert.
"This next one might be a little on the nose," Yola chuckled on stage as she introduced her aptly named, GRAMMY-nominated song, "Diamond Studded Shoes," and described the diamond-studded heels of a politician who was "slapping the meals out of kids' hands." The song's moving lyrics — "For the life and soul of the world we know/Fight, 'cause the promise is never gonna be enough" — and theme fully captured the message of the night: Even if things might be bad, resistance is possible and "it'll be fine if we just band together," she said.
Small Actions Lead To Impactful Change
*Wesley Schultz of the Lumineers performing at the Right Here, Right Now Mini Global Climate Concert Series at the Boulder Theater in Colorado on April 13, 2023 | Photo: Dave Arnold*
Wesley Schultz of the Lumineers took the stage to thunderous applause. Like Yola, Schultz's performance was an unedited glimpse at his raw talent: a 45-minute set composed of just his voice and an acoustic guitar.
Between songs – some of which were covers, others originals – Schultz shared stirring glimpses into his personal life, from his dad's death to a psychedelic-infused trip he had with his wife.
Schultz also shared that his wife, Brandy, is a co-founder of Sound Future, a nonprofit focused on "accelerating climate innovation for the live event industry," according to the organization's website. He explained how Sound Future used flexible solar panels and the heat of the Texas sun to power the stage at Willie Nelson's concert in Luck, Texas.
"It's a very simple idea, right? That we can turn certain things that seem really daunting into something that's very doable," Schultz reflected on the stage. "I think we can all make these little steps here and there, [combined] with the brilliant minds that people have out there, to make some innovation, to make [live shows] a little more friendly on the environment."
Learn more about the Recording Academy's and United Nations Human Rights' partnership, and stay tuned for future news and developments.
Photo courtesy of the Recording Academy
The Recording Academy Congratulates All Of The Winners & Nominees At The 2023 GRAMMYs: "Keep Shaking Up The World With Your Music"
As the 2023 GRAMMYs season comes to a close, Recording Academy executives sign off on a historic GRAMMY season with messages of gratitude to all of the winners and nominees at this year's GRAMMY Awards.
Every GRAMMY ceremony is a history-making event. But the 2023 GRAMMYs did so for very specific reasons — ones that had an indelible impact on the music industry and cultural landscape worldwide.
Among the most talked-about milestones for the GRAMMYs' big return to Los Angeles as an in-person ceremony: Beyoncé became the person with the most GRAMMYs of all time. Kim Petras scored a big win for the transgender community with her GRAMMY win for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance alongside Sam Smith; she's the first transgender woman to win in that category. Dr. Dre was the inaugural recipient of his namesake Dr. Dre Global Impact Award.
Equally significant were the five new GRAMMY Awards categories debuted and awarded at the 2023 GRAMMYs, making those five recipients the first to receive their respective honors. These inaugural winners, who were awarded at the Premiere Ceremony, included: Tobias Jesso Jr. (Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical); Stephanie Economou (Best Score Soundtrack For Video Games And Other Interactive Media for "Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn Of Ragnarok"); Wet Leg (Best Alternative Music Performance for "Chaise Longue"); Bonnie Raitt (Best Americana Performance for "Made Up Mind"); and J. Ivy (Best Spoken Word Poetry Album for The Poet Who Sat By The Door). On top of that, 57% of this year’s Grammy winners were Black artists or from other underrepresented communities, and 48% were women.
For Recording Academy executives, the 2023 GRAMMYs marked a banner year for Music's Biggest Night — and the music community writ large.
"I'm most proud of the range and diversity of our 91 awards, which continue to evolve and to inspire," Ruby Marchand, Chief Awards & Industry Officer for the Recording Academy, says. "Music as a powerful force for change within our culture and our lives was what struck me as the show unfolded."
Kelley Purcell, the Recording Academy's Vice President of Membership & Industry Relations, echoes the sentiment: "It was inspiring to see a diverse array of artists grace the GRAMMY stage, showing off the beautiful depth and breadth of our industry."
As one of the organization's leaders bridging the inner workings of GRAMMY voting with the wider music industry, Purcell is also inspired by the Recording Academy's esteemed voting membership, who make their voices heard when voting for the nominees and ultimate winners each year during GRAMMY season.
"From submitting eligible recordings to voting and tuning in to watch the GRAMMYs, Recording Academy members know that the GRAMMY process is strongest when every member is involved," she says. "It is always inspiring to witness Recording Academy members take their participation in the GRAMMY process seriously."
"I was inspired to see our members dedicate themselves to every step of the Awards process and celebrate musical excellence as peers," Marchand adds.
As the 2023 GRAMMYs season comes to a close, the Recording Academy is extending a mighty, heartfelt congratulations to all of this year's GRAMMY winners and nominees. Your well-earned achievements, along with the full-fledged commitment of the Academy's wider membership, brought this year's GRAMMY ceremony to life. The Recording Academy will continue to celebrate all GRAMMY winners and nominees this year and beyond.
"To my wonderful colleagues: Your dedication, professionalism, and heart for our GRAMMY Awards and our amazing musical community is at the heart of what makes our Academy such a special home," Marchand reflects.
"Keep shaking up the world with your music," Purcell adds. "The world needs it."