meta-script2023 GRAMMYs: How The New Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award Inspires Positive Global Impact & Celebrates Message-Driven Music and How To Qualify | GRAMMY.com
Graphic for the Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award at the 2023 GRAMMYs
2023 GRAMMYs: Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award

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2023 GRAMMYs: How The New Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award Inspires Positive Global Impact & Celebrates Message-Driven Music and How To Qualify

In an in-depth roundtable discussion featuring some of the highest-ranking Recording Academy leaders, learn why the new Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award is a momentous development for the music industry at large.

GRAMMYs/Oct 14, 2022 - 01:00 am

The GRAMMYs' newly announced award for Best Song For Social Change differs significantly from the other GRAMMY Award categories announced earlier this year and debuting at the upcoming 2023 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 65th GRAMMY Awards.

Rather than a traditional GRAMMY Award, the Best Song For Social Change award is a Special Merit Award. This means the award will be determined by a Blue Ribbon Committee and ratified by the Recording Academy Board of Trustees.

Proposed by our Recording Academy members, the new Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award now represents one of the highest honors a socially conscious song can receive. It also recognizes the songwriters creating message-driven music that responds to and addresses the social issues of our time head-on while inspiring positive global impact.

The 2023 GRAMMY nominations are officially here. See the complete list of nominees across all 91 GRAMMY categories.

To qualify or qualifications for the Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award, which recognizes a song that has had profound social influence and impact, a submitted song should contain lyrical content that: addresses a timely social issue; explores a subject impacting a community of people in need; and promotes awareness, raises consciousness, and builds empathy.

Songwriters can submit songs that meet the eligibility criteria and qualifications here now through Friday, Oct. 14.

Indeed, the honoree of this inaugural Special Merit Award will both reflect the tumultuous times in which we currently live and celebrate the potential for a brighter, fairer and more equitable tomorrow.

In an in-depth round-table discussion with Recording Academy executives and leaders — including Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. — as well as music luminaries, GRAMMY.com celebrates the new Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award and explores all the reasons why its arrival is right on time. Learn how the award came to be and why the Recording Academy's work to honor socially conscious songs is only beginning.

Quotes from these interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Read More: Where, What Channel & How To Watch The Full 2023 GRAMMYs

What was the impetus to launch the Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award?

Harvey Mason jr. (CEO, the Recording Academy): As with all of our awards categories, most of our changes come from actual people who submit proposals; we felt like the proposal for this award made a lot of sense. The people in the Awards and Nominations [A&N] committee agreed with it and felt like it was an important change.

We felt it was a great opportunity to highlight music and songs that are trying to bring about change, awareness and social consciousness. I think it really shows what the Academy does, which is to shine a light on music, music people, and excellence in music. This particular award shines a light on something that's been really important throughout music history: music that's created to drive change, awareness or recognition.

Susan Stewart (Managing Director, the Recording Academy's Songwriters & Composers Wing): Songs matter. They always have. Songs help us make sense of our lives and the world, and provide an outlet for our emotions. The true social change songs — the ones that resonate so deeply as to galvanize a movement or intentional change in society — are very difficult to write. These types of songs require capturing the truth of the masses. The elected leaders that brought this proposal forward wanted to celebrate these exceptional songwriters and to encourage more of these incredible songs.

Wayna (Quiet Power Productions, GRAMMY nominee): Our Washington, D.C. Chapter tapped Maimouna Yousseff and me to lead a newly formed Social Impact Committee. Our first program was a songwriting workshop over Zoom, where we paired music veterans with GRAMMY U students and wrote original songs about social issues.

I think there comes a time in every creator's career when you have to reconnect with your "why" — whether you are trying to weather a global pandemic or the usual ups and downs of this industry. For all of us on that zoom, songs about social change were a huge part of our "why." So, we wanted to create a platform where that craft could be celebrated and preserved.

Photo Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy

*Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy | Photo Emma McIntyre by Getty Images©*

Maimouna Youssef a.k.a. Mumu Fresh (Former Governor, the Recording Academy's Washington, D.C. Chapter): The impetus behind launching the Best Song for Social Change Special Merit Award was to honor courageous artists who utilize their artistic genius to tell the stories of marginalized voices; bring awareness to systemic injustice and social, economic, political, and gender disparities; and to inspire radical empathy among their listeners. These artists often put their careers and even lives on the line for the greater good, and we salute them for their efforts. We also wrote the proposal for this award with young, aspiring artists in mind who often desire to speak truth to power, but fear the economic backlash that may come along with doing so. We want all artists to feel safe and celebrated, especially when their art aims to add value to humanity.

I have been doing social justice work my entire life, both through my music and philanthropic efforts. In my work activating young artists, I am often saddened by the reluctance they express in speaking their truth through their music due to their fear of poverty, financial backlash, or the lack of support they may face if they speak to social issues. My hope is that the very existence of this award gives every artist the inspiration, courage, support, and safe space they need to be true to themselves and their right to have a voice for positive social change. Artists who have had the courage and creative talent to write great songs that pushed our culture forward in a positive direction are heroes and deserve to be celebrated.

Music is a reflection of our present-day hardships and gives a voice to those who often go unheard. It is a unifier and builds community, belonging, hope, and justice. Music is the perfect ally to social change as it engages and encourages people to take action — and without action, there would be no change.

— Ryan Butler (Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, the Recording Academy)

The Best Song for Social Change Special Merit Award will be determined by a Blue Ribbon committee ratified by the Recording Academy Board of Trustees. Can you explain this a little bit for the layperson?

Ruby Marchand (Chief Awards & Industry Officer, the Recording Academy): The Special Merit Award has been around for a long time and has always been curated by what we call a Blue Ribbon Committee. The committee is populated by qualified voting members who work closely with the Recording Academy's 12 Chapters, and are suggested by the 12 Chapters to come together and make these unique, celebrated choices each year for the Lifetime Achievement Award or Trustees Award.

The committee itself goes through a very thoughtful process where there is a lot of listening, research and engagement. The committee is so diverse that people are able to contribute a unique context from a unique point of view and build a consensus that can be very powerful. The process is thoughtfully put together; it is never rushed. The legacy of what a Special Merit Award, like a Lifetime Achievement Award or a Trustees Award, signifies is unique. The Special Merit Award is separate and distinct from a GRAMMY Award. It's never to be confused with a GRAMMY category. It's a whole other process of acknowledging remarkable creators and leaders who've accomplished a lot.

In the case of Best Song For Social Change, this is the first time that a Special Merit Award is being created for a new honor that celebrates the songwriter or songwriters responsible for a song that can essentially change the world. That's really what we're talking about here. When we talk about social change, we're talking about a song that has the presence, the influence, the power to unify people — to provide that higher level of engagement and awareness.

Read More: Why The New Songwriter Of The Year GRAMMY Category Matters For The Music Industry And Creator Community

Photo of Maimouna Youssef a.k.a. Mumu Fresh

*Maimouna Youssef a.k.a. Mumu Fresh | Photo: Visyoual Media Photography*

The newly announced Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award comes during a time when significant social change is happening across the country and around the world. How is this award reflective of our times, when these themes are front and center?

PJ Morton (Recording Academy Trustee, four-time GRAMMY winner): Art has always reflected life. And I believe it's the artist's job to document the things that we go through and give voice to the voiceless.

Wayna: For many of us, these themes are always front and center, and songs about social change are how we've sustained ourselves when these issues aren't in the public eye. That's why supporting this proposal was a no-brainer for so many Recording Academy leaders and members. It's core to who we are and the stories we need to tell. What I hope is that these songs will be the soundtrack to all of us growing awareness and that they might bridge the gaps of understanding and empathy. If anything can, it's a great song.

Mason jr.: I think it's perfectly timed, and it's actually very apropos to what's happening in our society today. Throughout history, we've always seen music play an important role in bringing awareness to a problem or an issue or something that needs to be addressed. I think right now, especially in the last few years, we've seen a heightened awareness around social change and some of the inequities that are taking place, and you're hearing a lot of that through music.

I think it's a great time to be honoring this [award], and it's a great time to be encouraging more people to use music as a tool. It's a great time for music people to be able to have their voices heard. This is the power of music. This is why music is so important. This is why the Recording Academy is so important because we can make a difference with the things we say and the things that we create.

Youssef: This [award] directly reflects the current times and also salutes all times in history prior. There has never been a time when music didn't reflect or even influence the current state of its community.

Many times, social justice trends become popular for a moment and then people lose interest or momentum and go back to their regular distractions. We, the writers of this proposal, believe that songs that inspire and even demand that humans be the best versions of themselves are not just a passing trend, but should be the norm if we hope to see lasting change in our communities.

Music is not just a soundtrack, but a driving force that can stir our emotions and lift us up to glory or send us crashing down holding our tears in our hands. Now that's power! Music is a soul salve for the wounded, the discouraged and the disenfranchised. So yes, it is time that this powerful style of songwriting for social change, which is both a unique skill set and a courageous undertaking, be recognized, elevated, and celebrated in its own award for its historic feats.

Rico Love (Two-time GRAMMY nominee and Vice Chair of the Recording Academy Board of Trustees): I think it's important for the Recording Academy to be at the forefront of these things because we see it every day. And I think it's important for us to establish the fact that we are concerned, we want to be active, and we want to celebrate the people who shine a light on what's going on in our culture and in our world.

Body Text 2 - Best Song For Social Change Feature

*Wayna (Quiet Power Productions, GRAMMY nominee) | Photo: Mekbib Tadesse*

Why is it important for the Recording Academy to dedicate an entire Special Merit Award to songs reflective of social movements, social justice and equity?

Morton: I think as a leader in music, the Recording Academy sets the tone. I believe it's important for an institution as big as the Academy to show that this type of music is not only necessary, but is seen and appreciated. It's at the core of our mission and what we do.

Wayna: Music is an incredibly effective communicator. It cuts past all of our preconceived ideas and goes straight to the heart, and that's the inspiration behind any kind of change. As music creators, this is our superpower. More than whatever power we have individually, we have the potential, through music, to persuade others to use their power as well. That's how real change happens: not when one person does something big, but when a lot of people do something small.

JC Losada "MrSonic" (GRAMMY & Latin GRAMMY winner, New York Chapter Governor): Some of the biggest and most iconic songs in pop music history have either been the cause for social change or have been caused by social change. As our Recording Academy members and community ramp up efforts to amplify the message of inclusiveness, diversity and social awareness, this award couldn't come at a better time. From now on, releases of new music that have a message of social awareness will have an opportunity to be recognized by the Academy in their own award, regardless of the genre or music style.

Rico Love: We're just doing our part to make sure that we acknowledge those creatives who are passionate about this because so many are.

Common (Three-time GRAMMY-winning artist): It's important that the Trustees decided to come up with an award for music that is based around social justice and equality because it motivates the artists to actually do things that do have substance. Let's face it, as artists, we love to achieve. A GRAMMY is the highest achievement in music. To receive an award for something that has substance and to be motivated to create music that is from the heart, but also still gets recognized by the highest Academy in music, you win in so many ways.

It's a great time to be encouraging more people to use music as a tool. It's a great time for music people to be able to have their voices heard. This is the power of music. This is why music is so important. That's why the Recording Academy is so important, because we can make a difference with the things we say and the things that we create.

— Harvey Mason jr. (CEO, the Recording Academy)

Music has soundtracked the fights for freedom, equity and social change throughout the decades. How does music directly influence and impact social change?

Morton: Music has always been a unifier; it's the universal language. Sometimes a song can put collective thoughts into a three-minute song. Then there's something everybody can sing together in unity. That's the power of music.

Ryan Butler (Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, the Recording Academy): Music and social change go hand in hand, and music has directly influenced and impacted social change. Music can be a form of protest, a way to grieve, and has a universal healing capacity. Music influences and gives power to the people and is an expression of feelings, whether that's love, hate, anger, pleasure, sadness, or happiness. Music is a reflection of our present-day hardships and gives a voice to those who often go unheard. It is a unifier and builds community, belonging, hope, and justice. Music is the perfect ally to social change as it engages and encourages people to take action, — and without action, there would be no change.

Rico Love: Some of the biggest artists in the world have devoted their life to philanthropy. Historically, there have been songs that have supported such causes. Think about Bob Dylan. Think about John Lennon. Think about all of these creators who have devoted their lives to change.

Throughout the years, there have been many songs that have started a conversation and forced people to see themselves. I wouldn't have known about hungry, starving children in other third-world countries had it not been for Michael Jackson's "Heal the World" when I was a kid or "We Are the World" when I was growing up. Hearing those songs, understanding that these things exist. It's important for us to shine a light on people who don't know. Music does that and has historically done that.

Common: Music has directly impacted social change. Throughout the years, just being in Decades, getting to be a part of Selma really taught me how much music had been a part of the civil rights movement. Those songs they sang while they marched were not only fuel for them, but it was speaking to the people and getting the messages across to people who may not have been aware. They started hearing what the civil rights leaders and the community who were participating were singing about and understood it from another perspective. It also just gave them motivation as they dealt with all these ills that America was delivering to Black people during those times.

And we've seen it, obviously in hip-hop culture, become part of the social change as far as speaking up to police brutality and issues that we deal with within the inner city. Music has a direct impact on social change. So it's important that the artists feel that value and duty. And as Nina Simone says, [it's] "the duty of the artist to reflect the times."

Read More: Behind The GRAMMY: Why The New Best Spoken Word Poetry Album GRAMMY Category Is A Global Victory For Lovers Of Language

What does the addition of the new Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award say about the Recording Academy's recognition and support of the creativity and importance of social change and social justice in music?

Youssef: I think this new addition says that the Recording Academy is committed to the needs and concerns of its membership body. This award says that the Recording Academy is serious about equity and inclusion and understands the need for marginalized voices to have a platform to be heard through their music. The Academy continues to be a leader in championing the music community at large.

Photo of Ryan Butler, Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for the Recording Academy

*Ryan Butler, Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for the Recording Academy | Photo: Aaron Doggett for Visyoual Media*

How would you like to see the Recording Academy continue to champion social change through song and music in the years to come?

Youssef: I would love to see the Recording Academy continue to make and hold space for this type of music. It's important to preserve this legacy of songs for social change. We want to raise awareness that this award exists and let artists know how to submit their work for consideration.

We found that many artists have never written songs about social issues for a number of reasons, [like] the lack of support or fear of backlash. It's very difficult to balance the information of a complex concept with all the other creative nuances and stylistic decisions a writer has to make in order to actually have the song be great. Songs for social change are a unique art form that should be championed and supported for years to come both as a social movement and an artistic discipline. We would love to see more support for these types of programs in our [Chapters].

Butler: The Recording Academy will continue to champion social change through song and music. In the past two years, our DEI [Diversity, Equity & Inclusion] team has made major strides in the music community. We partnered with Color Of Change to identify key opportunities to drive and influence social change in the music industry and dedicated to building power for Black music creators and professionals. This work spanned several strategies: a membership campaign focusing on the Black music community to drive new voting members to the Academy; an industry-wide diversity and inclusion summit; partnership in advocacy and legislative efforts; as well as the first-ever inclusion rider implemented at this past 64th GRAMMY Awards show to ensure equity at every level, on and off the stage.

We also launched the Black Music Collective, an advisory group of music leaders, to identify emerging opportunities and ways to drive Black representation in the music industry. The DEI team announced a partnership with GLAAD in 2022 to further promote and advance LGBTQ+ inclusion and representation. We have also partnered with industry leaders including Amazon Music for the HBCU Love Tour and scholarship fund, #TheShowMustBePaused, and monthly sessions with Universal, Warner, and Sony Music groups. The work is ongoing and will continue, but social change through music is vital to a just, evolving world.

Wayna: Becoming a truly global organization is key to all these issues. I think the more the Recording Academy is able to empower creators from around the world — expand their access and remove the barriers preventing them from participating at the highest levels of this industry — the more those creators will advocate for their communities and serve as a template for their success.

Rico Love: I'm the Chair of the Black Music Collective. And as Chair, I've created many initiatives that are not just going to be about awards. It's not just going to be about putting on a nice suit and accepting something. No, it's about going out into the community and making a change. I think it's more than just an award, it's our job, it's our duty.

We are a non-profit organization. We are for the people. We're not here to just celebrate music creatives on one day. We are here, passionate about helping people and music creatives who need us … It's important for us to get out there and do the work as it comes to social injustice as well.

New Categories For The 2023 GRAMMYs Announced: Songwriter Of The Year, Best Video Game Soundtrack, Best Song For Social Change & More Changes

The 2023 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 65th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.

The eligibility period for the 65th GRAMMY Awards is Friday, Oct. 1, 2021 – Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. All eligible awards entries must be released within this timeframe.

The Recording Academy and GRAMMY.com do not endorse any particular artist, submission or nominee over another. The results of the GRAMMY Awards, including winners and nominees, are solely dependent on the Recording Academy’s Voting Membership.

Beyonce 2023 GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Beyoncé at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Beyoncé's Heartfelt Speech For Her Record-Breaking Win In 2023

Relive the night Beyoncé received a gramophone for Best Dance/Electronic Album for 'RENAISSANCE' at the 2023 GRAMMYS — the award that made her the most decorated musician in GRAMMY history.

GRAMMYs/Feb 2, 2024 - 05:12 pm

Six years after her last solo studio album, Beyoncé returned to the music industry with a bang thanks to RENAISSANCE. In homage to her late Uncle Johnny, she created a work of art inspired by the sounds of disco and house that wasn't just culturally impactful — it was history-making.

At the 2023 GRAMMYs, RENAISSANCE won Best Dance/Electronic Album. Marking Beyoncé's 32nd golden gramophone, the win gave the superstar the record for most gramophones won by an individual act.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, revisit the historic moment Queen Bey took the stage to accept her record-breaking GRAMMY at the 65th Annual GRAMMY Awards.

"Thank you so much. I'm trying not to be too emotional," Beyoncé said at the start of her acceptance speech. "I'm just trying to receive this night."

With a deep breath, she began to list her praises that included God, her family, and the Recording Academy for their continued support throughout her career. 

"I'd like to thank my Uncle Johnny, who is not here, but he's here in spirit," Beyoncé proclaimed. "I'd like to thank the queer community for your love and inventing this genre."

Watch the video above for Beyoncé's full speech for Best Dance/Electronic Album at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind. 

Tune into the 2024 GRAMMYs on Sunday, Feb. 4, airing live on the CBS Television Network (8-11:30 p.m. LIVE ET/5-8:30 p.m. LIVE PT) and streaming on Paramount+ (live and on-demand for Paramount+ with SHOWTIME subscribers, or on-demand for Paramount+ Essential subscribers the day after the special airs).

A Timeline Of Beyoncé's GRAMMY Moments, From Her First Win With Destiny's Child to Making History With 'Renaissance'

Lizzo GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Lizzo at the 2023 GRAMMYs

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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GRAMMY Rewind: Lizzo Thanks Prince For His Influence After "About Damn Time" Wins Record Of The Year In 2023

Watch Lizzo describe how Prince’s empowering sound led her to “dedicate my life to positive music” during her Record Of The Year acceptance speech for “About Damn Time” at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

GRAMMYs/Jan 19, 2024 - 06:00 pm

Since the start of her career, four-time GRAMMY winner Lizzo has been making music that radiates positive energy. Her Record Of The Year win for "About Damn Time" at the 2023 GRAMMYs proved that being true to yourself and kind to one another always wins.

Travel back to revisit the moment Lizzo won her award in the coveted category in this episode of GRAMMY Rewind. 

"Um, huh?" Lizzo exclaimed at the start of her acceptance speech. "Let me tell you something. Me and Adele are having a good time, just enjoying ourselves and rooting for our friends. So, this is an amazing night. This is so unexpected."

Lizzo kicked off her GRAMMY acceptance speech by acknowledging Prince's influence on her sound. "When we lost Prince, I decided to dedicate my life to making positive music," she said. "This was at a time when positive music and feel-good music wasn't mainstream at that point and I felt very misunderstood. I felt on the outside looking in. But I stayed true to myself because I wanted to make the world a better place so I had to be that change."

As tracks like "Good as Hell" and "Truth Hurts" scaled the charts, she noticed more body positivity and self-love anthems from other artists. "I'm just so proud to be a part of it," she cheered.

Most importantly, Lizzo credited staying true to herself despite the pushback for her win. "I promise that you will attract people in your life who believe in you and support you," she said in front of a tearful audience that included Beyoncé and Taylor Swift in standing ovation, before giving a shout-out to her team, family, partner and producers on the record, Blake Slatkin and Ricky Reed

Watch the video above for Lizzo's complete acceptance speech for Record Of The Year at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind, and be sure to tune into the 2024 GRAMMYs on Sunday, Feb. 4, airing live on the CBS Television Network (8-11:30 p.m. LIVE ET/5-8:30 p.m. LIVE PT) and streaming on Paramount+ (live and on-demand for Paramount+ with SHOWTIME subscribers, or on-demand for Paramount+ Essential subscribers the day after the special airs).

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Harry Styles AOTY GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Harry Styles at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Kevin Mazur

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GRAMMY Rewind: Harry Styles Celebrates His Fellow Nominees (And His Biggest Fan) After Album Of The Year Win In 2023

Revisit the moment Harry Styles accepted the most coveted award of the evening for 'Harry's House' and offered a heartfelt nod to his competitors — Beyoncé, Adele, Lizzo, Coldplay and more.

GRAMMYs/Jan 5, 2024 - 06:00 pm

After a wildly successful debut and sophomore record, you'd think it was impossible for Harry Styles to top himself. Yet, his third album, Harry's House, proved to be his most prolific yet.

The critically acclaimed project first birthed Styles' record-breaking, chart-topping single, "As It Was," then landed three more top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Late Night Talking," "Music for a Sushi Restaurant" and "Matilda." The album and "As It Was" scored Styles six nominations at the 2023 GRAMMYs — and helped the star top off his massive Harry's House era with an Album Of The Year win.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, revisit Styles' big moment from last year's ceremony, which was made even more special by his superfan, Reina Lafantaisie. Host Trevor Noah (who will return as emcee for the 2024 GRAMMYs) handed the mic to Lafantaisie to announce Styles as the winner, and the two shared a celebratory hug before Styles took the mic.

"I've been so, so inspired by every artist in this category," said Styles, who was up against other industry titans like Beyoncé, Adele, Lizzo and Coldplay. "On nights like tonight, it's important for us to remember that there is no such thing as 'best' in music. I don't think any of us sit in the studio, making decisions based on what will get us [an award]."

Watch the video above to see Harry Styles' complete acceptance speech alongside his collaborators Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson. Check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind, and be sure to tune into the 2024 GRAMMYs on Sunday, Feb. 4, airing live on the CBS Television Network (8 -11:30 p.m. LIVE ET/5-8:30 p.m. LIVE PT) and streaming on Paramount+ (live and on demand for Paramount+ with SHOWTIME subscribers, or on demand for Paramount+ Essential subscribers the day after the special airs).

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(From left) Harvey Mason Jr., Lady London, Jimmy Jam, and Linda Duncombe

Photo: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Inside Resonance: Celebrating 50 Years Of Hip-Hop At The GRAMMY Museum

"Nothing resonates more in our everyday lives than hip-hop," Jimmy Jam said during the celebratory event Resonance, which honored the legacy of hip-hop at the GRAMMY Museum.

GRAMMYs/Dec 8, 2023 - 11:46 pm

The Recording Academy is continuing to honor the legacy of hip-hop, to one of the most popular genres of music in America. Held on Dec. 4 at the GRAMMY Museum in downtown Los Angeles, Resonance: Celebrating 50 Years of Hip-Hop was presented by the Academy's Black Music Collective and sponsored by City National Bank.

The Resonance event took over the Museum's fourth floor, which is home to the recently unveiled "Hip Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit." There, members and leadership from the Academy and BMC, along with musicians and industry professionals, celebrated 50 years of music that has transcended boundaries, inspired advocacy and fostered impactful social change. 

Guests were welcomed into the space by an unparalleled collection of artifacts — an ode to the genre through memorabilia and interactive displays showcasing the evolution of hip-hop music and culture. Tupac’s all-white suit — worn in the last video he made — is displayed next to Notorious B.I.G.'s red leather pea jacket worn in the music video for Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s "Players Anthem." The impact of the museum’s intentionally curated collection evokes the extended struggle of the Black experience in America, while celebrating its culture, creativity, and endurance against all odds.

The power of connection and representation was emphasized by five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam, an R&B songwriter, music producer, and illustrious GRAMMY Museum Board Member. "The idea of 'resonance' struck a chord in me because the mission is unification, amplification and to celebrate Black music. Nothing resonates more in our everyday lives than hip-hop." 

A legendary figure who made his mark in the '80s by producing artists such as Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam and producing partner Terry Lewis, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022. 

"I'm proud to have known my partner Terry Lewis for 50 years. We were raised on hip-hop," he told the crowd. "Hip-hop inspires, it embodies transcendence. Hip-hop advocates and fosters social change, and the cultural significance is astounding."

Jimmy Jam highlighted the integral role of partnerships between the Black Music Collective and sponsor/supporters such as City National Bank and Amazon Music. Such relationships have enabled the third year of the Amazon Music-sponsored Your Future Is Now, a scholarship program.

"We have the opportunity to pour knowledge, resources and many opportunities into the young talent and the young creatives of the future. And that's what we're here to do," he continued.

GRAMMY Museum Board Member and Executive Vice President of City National Bank, Linda Duncombe, who was introduced by Jimmy Jam as "music’s best friend" spoke to the critical work of support. 

"We protect and celebrate those who have shared their gift as well as ensure their artistic contributions are accessible for people of all walks of life around the world and for future generations," she said, adding that as a Museum board member, "educating the next generation of artists and teachers is always top of mind. The 'Mixtape Exhibit' really will inspire students to pursue hip hop and the music industry."

Host Lady London, a rapper and songwriter from The Bronx summed up the power of hip-hop and its ability to transcend music. A hyped crowd enthusiastically received her words.

"It's beautiful to see what we have been able to cultivate in such a short amount of time. We are the culture, we have the power to shift the culture and we continue to move mountains," she said. "We are influences in fashion and design and the Black family education, economic empowerment, the arts. We're limitless.

"We have balanced everything and there is nothing that is quite parallel to that," Lady London continued. "I'm so proud to be a part of the culture."

As guests mingled among the exhibits many displays and highlights like original lyric sketches, mixtapes, and an interactive "sonic playground" where guests could interact with recording devices, make 808 beats and record tracks. Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. reflected on the culmination of a year celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. 

"Hip hop has been a defining force in our culture and it is so important to be able to honor it in this way" he said. "This is the end of a year that started with us celebrating at our GRAMMY Awards show last season."

Los Angeles' DJ Jadaboo — who has performed for Tommy Hilfiger at New York Fashion Week and a slew of celebrity parties and high profile events — set the vibe all night. Her mix spanned all five decades of the genre and beyond, from R&B to hip hop classics by Jay-Z and Drake, stacking much-sampled songs like Curtis Mayfield’s "Pusher Man" into the set. 

As the event carried on, Jimmy Jam’s earlier remarks echoed between the museum’s walls. "Look at what's been done in the last 50 years. You see it all around here," he said. "Now take a look at each other and know all that is happening right now… is because we are the people that are gonna continue to carry this on for another 50 years."

The GRAMMY Museum’s "Hip Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit" runs through Sept. 4, 2024. "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" will air Sunday, Dec. 10, from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. ET and 8 to 10 p.m. PT on the CBS Television Network, and stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

How To Watch "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop": Air Date, Performers Lineup, Streaming Channel & More