"Care For The Culture"
“Care For The Culture” Livestream Panel Offers New Solutions For Wellness + Community in Rap, R&B and Reggae
Amidst the current pandemic and the fight against racial injustice, creative communities and their key stakeholders are largely and directly affected. Artists are faced not only with the daunting news cycle of world events and an industry on pause, but also the subsequent impacts on their financial hardship and mental health.
Considering, on Thursday, June 25, the Recording Academy Los Angeles Chapter’s Rap, R&B and Reggae Leadership Collective hosted its “Care For The Culture” Facebook live conversation, bringing leaders and advocates within the Academy’s membership and beyond together to center national calls-to-action for labels, publishers, managers and the wider industry in addressing these issues. The event featured musicians, wellness experts, politicians and executives for a discussion on cultivating music cultures and communities through advocacy for the mental health and wellness of music creators and professionals within the genres.
Panelists included in the virtual conversation were California State Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, Author, Lifestylist and Branding Coach Harriette Cole and Licensed MFT and healer Thea Monyeé alongside GRAMMY-nominees and winners John Legend, MAJOR., Ledisi, Melanie Fiona, Ivan Barias and KOSINE. Rounding out the guests were "Rhythm & Flow" winner, artist and songwriter D Smoke industry executives Tunde Balogun, Co-Founder of Atlanta based label LVRN and Priority Records/Capital Music Group General Manager William “Fuzzy” West. The panel was moderated by Los Angeles Chapter Executive Director Qiana Conley and Washington D.C. Chapter Executive Director Jeriel Johnson.
According to the panel’s consensus, future equity means employing new and tangible wellness practices for creators that sustain personal health and careers. There is an urgent demand for this standard as a top priority across the industry in order to curve the music community’s repeated loss to suicide and addiction. The discussion allowed viewers and panelists to consider tools that can be used to help care for the health and craft of musicians and the greater industry.
“The most creative beings are often the ones who can be emotionally fragile, because it takes accessing that core space in order to bring forth their art,” said Cole, pointing out that after three months sequestered at home, people everywhere are going through a lot both mentally and spiritually. She continued, explaining that figuring out what’s important to us and how to pivot following COVID-19 can cause unsettled emotion when remaining centered and grounded is already a difficult task. For our own sake, she says we have to be willing to reevaluate and improve mindfulness and habits of self care altogether in order to have the capacity to offer support in implementing change.
“There probably will be a whole lot created during this time, but we will also probably lose people," she added. "Our job is to support, protect and nurture people in one way or another at this time.”
With this fact in mind, the group was able to offer material solutions for support including therapy and healthcare afforded by labels, practices in mindful breathing and meditation for artists, or even simpler gestures like finding the time to workout or cook as a form of respite within social distancing and quarantining measures.
For labelhead Balogun, caring for his artists in this way is not just lip service, but further a commitment to the wellbeing of his roster and a necessity in its overarching success. After R&B star Summer Walker’s public struggle with mental health and social anxiety following her ascension last year, Balogun and his label quickly began making changes in order to fully support the artist, including hiring a dedicated stone reader for her tour and launching a mental health division within the company. Additionally, Balogun added that his label will soon launch a pilot program for artists that helps them to begin building retirement and emergency funds.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint… by no means do we know everything but as leaders we have to push through. The best way to learn is to try it out and fail,” he said.
GRAMMY-winner Fiona spoke of her own battles with mental health as an artist and how the stress of the industry has nearly jeopardized her career and wellbeing before. She explained that it wasn’t until she was lead to alternative healing methods like acupuncture and therapy that she was able to clear her strained vocal cords and get back to creating.
“I had to really realize that the suppressed trauma, the anxiety, the disappointment, expectations, demands, stress; I was holding it all in,” she said. “That’s why this conversation of wellness is so important. My gift being traumatized directly affects my ability to live and make a living. It’s all interconnected, the legislation, the contracts, the emotional effects and the psyche.”
Further, Sen. Mitchell fielded questions on supporting legislation and representatives as it pertains to artistry and creative ownership. While historically Black and brown artists have contributed by leaps and bounds to the social and cultural infrastructure of music, the return of recognition and fair pay is often compromised, especially within rap, R&B and reggae. Similarly, Mitchell was also able to gauge how government can more successfully connect with the music industry to implement equitable policy.
“As I listen to you all, it resonates with what we’re experiencing. Recognizing that the status quo will never be the same again if we don’t want it to be. This is an opportunity to take the kind of culture, business environments and the kinds of policy and law that we know meets the needs of our community. It’s on us,” said Sen. Mitchell.
“What will we do with that going forward and permanently? From the policy perspective, I see that we are doing that. I see the crack in the door and I am running full steam ahead,” she added, noting movement on the Senate floor related to new bills for education, police accountability and reparations.
Drawing back to her conversations with Prince from her year-long stint traveling the country on the legendary artist's Welcome 2 America Tour beginning in 2010, Cole offered her insight and implored everyone to continue the dialogue started within “Care For The Culture,” and to always be intentional about the ways that we can foster music and community. “What I think we all can do is to find what brings us together, and then be willing to stand up for what it is because [Prince] did it again and again and again,” she said.
Addressing creators and executives on the event and their power and responsibility to lead change in shaping the current moment, she continued saying, “You are in the room when many of us are not, and when you’re in the room you cannot be a bystander. You have to stand up and share the vision and be willing to hold their feet to the fire… when you’re fighting the fight, you know you’re not alone. That’s something that I learned from him.”
Watch the full discussion in the video above, and be sure to follow the Recording Academy and keep up with GRAMMY.com for information about future live events and panels, including this week’s upcoming Stay In, Come Out, Let’s Talk Facebook Live conversation on Tuesday, June 30 at 4 PM PT. The discussion will focus on navigating the music industry as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.