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8 Jazz Artists Honoring Black Geniuses
8 Jazz Artists Honoring Black Geniuses

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Let Me Play The Answers: 8 Jazz Artists Honoring Black Geniuses

By revering their forebears on record, Bruce Harris, James Brandon Lewis, Dara Tucker, The Baylor Project, Allan Harris, Samara Joy, Charnett Moffett and the late Ralph Peterson, Jr. show that Black music is a self-sustaining universe.

GRAMMYs/Jul 1, 2021 - 01:12 am

Many nights, when the trumpeter Bruce Harris performs live, the audience's ears prick up at an unfamiliar melody—one that should be far more known.

"People are always like, 'I love the tunes you pick!' and it'd be 'Miss Hazel' by Tina Brooks or 'Take Twelve' by Elmo Hope," Harris tells GRAMMY.com. He and his colleagues may revere these compositions, but outside of insular jazz circles, few discuss them much at all. While they’re simply engaging tunes to many strangers, to Harris, they’re bona fide standards.

Unlike some of the writers of more well-known fare, those two composers are Black. "It's amazing how sometimes the standards are not the standards written by the Black composers," Harris continues. "Standards have become the entry: If you want to play this music, you've got to play 'Cherokee.' There are so many great artists who haven't gotten their flowers, as they say."

To this end, Harris tries to tip the scales by covering architects of Black music. These days, he's far from the only jazz artist doing it—and the revered figures aren't limited to musicians. Seven other musicians—saxophonist James Brandon Lewis; vocalists Dara Tucker, Allan Harris and Samara Joy; drummer and singer Marcus and Jean Baylor; and the late drummer Ralph Peterson, Jr.—have recently made records singing the praises of Black geniuses throughout history, from Art Blakey to George Washington Carver.

Together, they reinforce not only that there's room for the American Songbook to grow—but that Black American artists throughout history have formed an ever-nourishing, self-sustaining universe where anyone can step inside. 

Here are the stories of how these eight artists' inspirations have thrilled, inspired and galvanized them.

A Tributary To Rough-And-Tumble New York Royalty: Bruce Harris

Bruce Harris. Photo courtesy of Cellar Music Group.

Beyond the color of their skin, why did Bruce Harris draw from the wells of Gigi Gryce, Hank Mobley and Duke Ellington for his new album?

 "They're all East Coast city people!" Harris replies with a chuckle. "That's who I am. When I lived in Harlem, I lived a block away from where Bud Powell used to live, in the same neighborhood as Jackie McLean, Walter Davis and Arthur Taylor—obviously not at the same time. I didn't realize this until recently, but I'm just listening to the music of my community, culture and where I'm from."

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That new offering, Soundview, which arrived June 4, is catnip for fans of straight-ahead jazz. Therein, he constellates tunes by his influences—Mobley's "Hank's Pranks," Barry Harris' "The Bird of Red and Gold," and a suite of Duke Ellington compositions—while asserting himself as a fresh voice on the New York scene.

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"It's not about replacement; it's about bringing things to the forefront," Harris says about his decision to emphasize Black composers. "All of it is valid because all of these people played standards. They acknowledged that music, so we should acknowledge their music. It should be a give-and-take."

A Multifarious Saxophonist Wading Deep Into Science: James Brandon Lewis

James Brandon Lewis. Photo: Diane Alford

James Brandon Lewis recently made waves in the press for Jesup Wagon, his 2021 album paying tribute to agricultural scientist and inventor George Washington Carver. Seeing as we're dealing with instrumental music, how did he evoke the man beyond mere song titles?

"I could easily come up with a song and call it 'The Peanut'; I don't know if that would be that interesting," he told GRAMMY.com in 2021. "I'm trying, I'm trying, I'm trying my best to evoke a deeper thing." With the help of Thelonious Monk biographer Robin D. G. Kelley, he used the titles as goalposts for what he wanted to say.

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As for how Carver's thoughts, feelings and ambitions translated into abstract sound? Lewis doesn't see that as any different from what music has done for millennia. "It's no different than if I was writing a piece and I wanted to evoke, maybe, what love feels like," he continued. "That's just knowing the characteristics of how to paint emotion with particular sounds."

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Lewis is one of the most compelling voices in modern jazz, and he's not resting at Jesup Wagon nor its PR-ready subject matter. He's already finished his next album, Code of Being, which releases in October 2021. But, no matter where his muse goes, Lewis is not only a vessel for his forebears but an impactful voice all his own.

A Fighter For Social Justice Wielding Music As A Balm: Dara Tucker

 Dara Tucker. Photo: Green Hill Music

When global protests ignited in response to George Floyd's murder, Dara Tucker observed the fallout with anything but impassivity. "I'm Black, so it's not a news story to me," she tells GRAMMY.com. "It's very personal, the upheaval that's going on around race and this new understanding and reckoning that mainstream America is having with the issue of police brutality."

Tucker plays her role in this fight through her social-justice-oriented TikTok account, which commands more than 300,000 followers. But, through music, she also understands that people may be more receptive to perspective-altering concepts through lyrics and melodies.

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On her latest album, Dreams of Waking: Music For a Better World, which arrived May 28, Tucker embraces the urgent, topical works of songwriters both Black and white—from Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder to Paul Simon and James Taylor—as vessels for instruction and healing. "Music can provide a salve for those difficult conversations we have to have," she explains.

As for the former two songwriting luminaries, "[They're] part of the bedrock of my musical foundation," she explains. "You can't really talk about R&B or modern soul music without talking about Stevie and Donny and Marvin Gaye—that trifecta. It's an incredible group of songs that I'm just honored to have been given the opportunity to interpret."

Two Storytellers Illumining The Enormity Of Black Expression: The Baylor Project

Marcus and Jean Baylor. Photo: Deneka Peniston

Singer Jean and drummer Marcus Baylor are in a lofty position to promote Black music: From within the GRAMMYs themselves. Not only has the couple been nominated for three GRAMMYs, but they're both part of the Philadelphia chapter, where Marcus serves as a trustee and Jean as a governor.

For the Baylor Project's recent album, Generations, which was released June 18, the concept preceded the material. While at their then-manager's house for breakfast with another couple, "There were a couple of other generations in this group," Jean recalls to GRAMMY.com. "They were telling great stories about things we never experienced growing up in the '70s and '80s that they experienced in decades before."

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Such was the germ of the Generations idea. Still, it didn't take flower until the Baylors thought of the word through the lens of the Black experience. "After that, songs and ideas came," Jean says of the original compositions on the album, like "Strivin'," "Becoming" and "Walk On By." (Covers of the R&B hit "Love Makes Me Sing" and Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes" round out the program.)

Generations was timed to release during Black Music Month and in anticipation of Juneteenth. The magnetic center of the album is "2020," which they actually wrote in 2019 but foreshadows that traumatic year's racial upheaval. "I [initially] titled it 'Trauma,'" Jean says. "Marcus was like, 'You can't title a song 'Trauma!' And I was like, 'But we are kind of traumatized.'"

A Commuter Between Cleaved Halves Of History: Allan Harris

Allan Harris. Photo: Hollis King

In Allan Harris's new song, "I Grew Up," the singer describes a train route he typically took from Brooklyn to Harlem as a boy. So what did he see and experience while headed north on the rails, as the 1960s bled into the '70s and classic rock bled into soul, blues, funk and R&B?

"A lot of love, a lot of confusion, being a little boy of color at the time," Harris tells GRAMMY.com over Zoom in an impressive button-down festooned with guitars. "Civil rights just came underway. The Black Panther Party was just down the street. Motown was happening. It was really a wonderful time to go to the Apollo because I was immersed in all the radical thinking of folks."

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In "I Grew Up," Harris shouts out everyone from Aretha Franklin to Marvin Gaye to Smokey Robinson, citing them as formative to his personality and value system. And on the rest of the album it belongs to, Kate's Soulfood—which dropped last January—Harris paints a picture of that specific time and place, which fostered a veritable cornucopia of Black culture.

"I hope people feel that it's part of Americana," Harris says of the historical world-building he does on Kate's Soulfood. "It's not just the rantings and soul-searching of a young boy of color growing up in Harlem. This is a story about a slice of America that is a residue of the Harlem Renaissance."

A Gifted Young Vocalist On The Shoulders Of Giants: Samara Joy 

Samara Joy. Photo: Shervin Lainez

Samara Joy may have only been a jazz singer for four years, starting when she enrolled at Purchase College. But by the sound of her debut self-titled album, which is due out July 7, she's more than gotten her bearings, having carved out her own space as a swinging traditionalist.

Joy's beyond-her-years approach to standards like "Everything Happen to Me," "Let's Dream in the Moonlight" and "Lover Man" was inspired by her favorite singers: Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. "This music is my foundation for sure," she tells GRAMMY.com. "When I want to learn a song and learn how to tell a story, they're who I go to for perspective."

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During her time at Purchase, Joy picked up the music naturally "through repertoire class, through my friends listening to music, calling in jam sessions and calling songs I didn't know." Almost immediately, she was hooked.

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"The emotion Sarah expressed was like nothing I'd ever heard," Joy says. "Ella, too, in the way that she sings and scats. Obviously, they're different people, so they have different stories to tell through their music, but both affect how I am and how I sing."

With her debut album on the way, is it intimidating to tackle material these two brilliant vocalists made their calling cards? "I couldn't think about it like that," she replies. "I couldn't think about living up to their standard because I can't. But it's important to do what you love."

An Undiscriminating Bassist In The Service Of Freedom: Charnett Moffett

Charnett Moffett. Photo: Rebecca Meek

Charnett Moffett is so spiritually tied to Ornette Coleman that the composer hero is literally in his name. "My dad and Ornette were friends," he tells GRAMMY.com, citing his drummer father, Charles. "On the day I was born, my dad was working with Ornette, so he named me Charnett!"

The innovative bassist's latest release, New Love, which dropped on June 11, counts several people as its chief inspirations—including his romantic partner, Jana Herzen, whose label Motéma Music released the album. However, the elder Moffett, who played with everyone from Archie Shepp to Eric Dolphy to Pharoah Sanders, is the North Star of his work.

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"Growing up with my dad, it was the freedom to play, but with discipline," Moffett recalls. "My dad brought a bass home one day and said, 'These are the low notes, and these are the high notes. Find out all the different ways you can make music.' So you're totally painting with sound. You're not thinking about a chord or a key or whatever."

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And as far as his father's famous friend and collaborator? "One thing I learned from Ornette Coleman is not to discriminate against someone else's sound," Moffett says. "To discriminate against a sound because it may be from the East or West or North or South—really, it's about the vibration. The energy and sound and quality of the music that makes it beautiful."

A Mighty Man Of The Trumpet & Drums With An Effervescent Soul: Ralph Peterson, Jr. 

 Ralph Peterson, Jr. Photo: Dave Green

Back in 2020, the drummer, trumpeter and composer Ralph Peterson, Jr. appeared over Zoom to discuss Hank Mobley's mellow 1960 masterpiece Soul Station with GRAMMY.com. Boisterous, colorful and full of metaphors, he didn't disappoint.

"On [Soul Station], he's in the blue part of the flame," Peterson said of his old mentor, Art Blakey, who laid down some of his subtlest playing on the Mobley album. "The thing is: if you know anything about fire, the blue part of the flame might be the lowest part of the flame, but it's also the hottest part of the flame. Art was a master of those kinds of subtleties."

Peterson joined Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers as the second drummer in 1983, working under the brilliant, hot-headed Buhaina's tutelage. From then on, he made a slew of brilliant solo records, like 2001's The Art of War. Tragically, not long after the GRAMMY.com interview, he succumbed to a years-long battle with cancer and died on March 1, 2021.

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Is it possible to crystallize just what Blakey meant to Peterson? GRAMMY.com gave Brian Lynch, the final trumpeter in the Messengers, a ring to ask just that question.

"He very much felt Art passed the baton to him," he replied. "Ralph channeled Buhaina completely, and also, he was, in a way, the least imitative of Art. It's almost like he took Art's thing and wasn't afraid to put his own stamp on it because he had such authority and understanding down to the spiritual root of it all."

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Peterson's final album, Raise Up Off Me, which came out May 21, is not a direct tribute to Blakey. But in another sense, everything he made was an offering to his mentor. Alongside pianist and bassist Zaccai and Luques Curtis, he shows that the Messengers' education lineage is infinite.

One time, one of Lynch's students took a lesson with Peterson, who offered him a slice of wisdom. "You sound good, but you're playing both the questions and the answers!" Lynch remembers him roaring. "Let me play the answers!" That's what these musicians mastered: Hearing the messages of those who came before and confidently responding.

Virtuosos, Voyagers & Visionaries: 5 Artists Pushing Jazz Into The Future

Crowd dancing at GRAMMY Museum's Hip-Hop Block Party
Attendees dance on the Ray Charles Terrace at the GRAMMY Museum

Photo: Randy Shropshire

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7 Ways The GRAMMY Museum’s Hip-Hop Block Party Celebrated Culture & Community

On June 6, the GRAMMY Museum honored Black Music Month with a vibrant, museum-wide soirée featuring dancers, musicians, and a fashion show.

GRAMMYs/Jun 11, 2024 - 01:32 pm

Most days of the week, the GRAMMY Museum closes at 6 p.m. But on Thursday, June 6, its doors were open well into the night. As some people filtered through them, others clustered around two rollerskate-clad dancers who synchronized to Aaliyah’s "Try Again" on the sidewalk outside the museum at L.A. Live. 

This was Richard "Swoop" Whitebear, the professional who choreographed the mononymous singer’s "Try Again" music video, and Alicia Reason, a skate coach and performing artist operating at the intersection of professional dance and roller skating. Their fluid movements drew a crowd outside the GRAMMY Museum’s inaugural Hip-Hop Block Party. 

The after-hours soiree, which ran to 11:30 p.m., is one of the larger events that the five-story archive of GRAMMY Award history and winners has ever hosted. Although the Hip-Hop Block Party honored Black Music Month, observed each June, its concept can be traced back to October 2023, when the museum launched "Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit" in celebration of the genre’s 50th anniversary. 

"The idea for [the party] came from the energy of the exhibit, which celebrates five decades of hip-hop. I was lucky to be a part of curating the exhibit and hosting its opening night, and that experience fueled my passion for continuing to share the story of hip-hop and its journey across cultures," says Schyler O’Neal, the Museum’s Manager of Education & Community Engagement. 

A grant from L.A.’s Department of Cultural Affairs enabled O’Neal and colleagues to coordinate the one-night-only affair, billed as an opportunity to "experience the pulse of hip-hop culture like never before." Across nine interdisciplinary art demos, activations, and pop-ups encompassing mediums ranging from photography to live music and dance, the GRAMMY Museum made good on this promise while providing a platform to compelling California-grown creatives. 

"Our goal was to shine a spotlight on local talent across the hip-hop spectrum: DJs, MCs, dancers, fashionistas, and photographers. We brought together an awesome lineup to represent the culture," O’Neal tells GRAMMY.com.  

Many spirited, community-building moments colored the evening. Read on for a snapshot of some of its most memorable.  

Uraelb Pays Homage To Hip-Hop’s Past, Celebrates Its Present & Embodies Its Future 

"I’m setting the tone at 8 pm," Uraelb proclaimed in an Instagram post ahead of the Hip-Hop Block Party. That’s precisely what the L.A. native did when he took the stage at the Clive Davis Theater for the evening’s first vocal performance. Flanked by a drummer, bassist, pianist and two supporting vocalists, UrealB opened with a performance of his original song, "Brace Face."  

He created a culture of artist participation by encouraging the crowd to smile and later, to sing along to his buttery-smooth rendition of OutKast’s "So Fresh, So Clean." From there, UraelB’s "homage to hip-hop" crossed coasts and generations, culminating in a pumped-up cover of Kendrick Lamar’s "King Kunta."  

"If I leave you with anything, I want to leave you with a deep appreciation for hip-hop," he said before closing with another one of his own productions, "Groovy." 

Uraelb first performed at the GRAMMY Museum as part of its educational program INDUSTRY SESSIONS. "[Uraelb] made such an impression during that class that we said, ‘we’ve gotta have him come perform at one of our events,’" O’Neal said just before the activation started.

Over the years, INDUSTRY SESSIONS — open to creatives 18 years and older — and the GRAMMY Museum’s other music education programs, have attracted a host of talent, including Giveon and Billie Eilish.  

Larry "Ruin" Combs Krumps to MJ’s "They Don’t Care About Us" 

To celebrate hip-hop’s history and culture is to appreciate dance’s inextricability from the music — and vice versa. On the Ray Charles Terrace, professional krumper Larry "Ruin" Combs nodded to South Central L.A., where krumping was born, in an impassioned performance to Michael Jackson’s "They Don’t Care About Us." 

A powerful medium of self-expression, krumping is a street dance that evolved from clowning, another style of dance with roots in African and Caribbean culture. Krumping is characterized by sharp, quick, and vigorous movements, like chest pops, stomps, and arm swings, used to convey emotion. Krumpers have historically turned to the art form to release negative or charged emotions and to navigate difficult experiences and circumstances.

Hence the title of the dance special that Combs is crafting, "The ‘e’ in ‘Krump’ is silent." 

"A lot of what Krump presents is very emotional; you see it, you don’t hear it," a nearly breathless Combs told the event co-host Leslie "Big Lez" Segar. "That’s what the format of the show is going to be like — various types of music that tug at your emotions, from good to bad."

While additional details about the forthcoming special are limited, those interested can follow Combs — who has notably performed on "America’s Got Talent" and the season finale of "So You Think You Can Dance." 

Cross Colours & Black Design Collective Dress For Success 

The GRAMMY Museum's attention to curating an event that celebrated the whole of hip-hop culture was especially apparent in the block party’s inclusion of a fashion show.

Cross Colours — a clothing brand launched in 1989 by Carl Jones, who studied fashion at the Otis Parson School of Design and Trade Technical College in L.A. — dressed local models from the Black Design Collective, a group of accomplished fashion industry professionals of color. The collective's goals include amplifying the influence of and creating opportunities for a global community of Black apparel, accessory and costume designers. 

Their partnership paved the way to a striking fashion show, during which more than five models circled the museum’s third floor, donning a variety of garments ranging from T-shirts with brightly-hued graphic designs to overalls.

NANA Shows Off His Lyrical Muscle — And A Different Strain Of Hip-Hop 

Crenshaw resident NANA contrasted the polished, funk-soul of Uraelb’s activation with a squeaky-clean spitting session. And while the storyteller’s quick tongue and lyrical muscle translated to a well-practiced performance that would have made anyone in attendance think he rehearsed for days pre-show, NANA had only 24 hours’ notice.  

As host O’Neal told it during a brief Q&A at the event, his request for NANA to take the stage at the block party ("I need your energy there!" he recalled telling NANA) came while the rapper was in the middle of a studio session. About a day later, NANA was holding a microphone in the Clive Davis Theater. 

NANA, who credited Nas, Jay-Z, Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, and Snoop Dogg among those on his "long list" of inspirations, is notably featured in the "Rap City Experience" section of the GRAMMY Museum’s "Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit," to which he contributed freestyles. 

Five Decades Of Hip-Hop Are On Display  

What’s better than a birthday cake? Try a 5,000-square-foot exhibit that traces hip-hop from its humble beginnings in the Bronx and New York City to the GRAMMY stage. On Oct. 7, 2023, the GRAMMY Museum opened "Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit," in honor of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary. Offering a focused, expansive (and tactile) look at the genre’s history and profound influence, the exhibit features a "sonic playground" complete with five interactive stations for DJing, rapping, and sampling.  

A retrospective educational journey, "Hip-Hop America" canvasses hip-hop scenes, sounds, and fashion across generations. Take, for example, the Notorious B.I.G.’s iconic red leather pea jacket, displayed in the same showcase as Migos’ embroidered blazers. The must-see exhibit exploring hip-hop’s long, rich, and still evolving history runs through Sept. 4. 

Learn more: Inside The GRAMMY Museum’s New Exhibit, "Hip-Hop America": From Dapper Dan To Tupac’s Notes

Hip-Hop Universal Provides A Formidable Finale 

Segar and Swoop, who worked with O’Neal to curate the evening’s dance performances, assembled what can only be described as a mic drop of a finale to the block party’s activations: Hip Hop Universal. The ensemble of five professional dancers and choreographers included Swoop, Robert "Rautu" Harris, Leon "No Realer" Spann, Marlyn Ortiz, and Ronnie "Futuristic Astaire" Willis.  

Some of their individual choreography and dance credits include an array of megastars, from Madonna, Taylor Swift, and Usher, to Britney Spears, Dr. Dre, and the Backstreet Boys. Over the course of their collaborative performance, which alternated between group dances and solos, Hip-Hop Universal made minutes feel like seconds — a testament to their rapturous synergy and individual expertise. 

Unity On The Dancefloor

At the heart of hip-hop — a genre in which artists pride themselves on representing their cities, perhaps more so than in any other genre of music — is community. That sense of community was apparent even through the schedule of programming. Activations occurred one at a time, in succession. This structure created a sense of togetherness; attendees collectively enjoyed a given activation and made their way to the next one together.  

The spirit of community imbued both the block party’s schedule and the content of its activations, but it was perhaps most visible on The Ray Charles Terrace. There, near the end of the evening, as the crowd awaited the final activation (and even afterwards), nearly all in attendance could be found dancing in the crisp, open air to beats spun by DJ R-Tistic. 

"This is our first time doing this, and I think we gotta keep doing this," O’Neal remarked on the mic. The crowd’s response — a resounding cacophony of affirmative cheers and applause — was answer enough.

"Everyone, from the talent to the staff to the hundreds of guests, [were] getting down together with the electric slide. That's what it was all about: bringing folks together for a good time," he concluded.

Inside The GRAMMY Museum’s New Exhibit, "Hip-Hop America": From Dapper Dan To Tupac’s Notes 

(L-R) Sabrina Carpenter, Ice Spice, Lana Del Rey and Jack Antonoff attend the 2024 Pre-GRAMMY Gala, presented by the Recording Academy and Clive Davis.
(L-R) Sabrina Carpenter, Ice Spice, Lana Del Rey and Jack Antonoff attend the 2024 Pre-GRAMMY Gala, presented by the Recording Academy and Clive Davis.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Inside The Recording Academy And Clive Davis' 2024 Pre-GRAMMY Gala: New Artists, Lasting Legends and Iconic Performances

Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, stars including Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Megan Thee Stallion, Chloe x Halle, and more flocked to the annual Pre-GRAMMY Gala co-presented by the Recording Academy.

GRAMMYs/Feb 6, 2024 - 10:20 pm

Who better than Tom Hanks to say it best?

"Clive Davis has provided us with the soundtrack of our lives, our emotions and our inspirations," the legendary actor said of the night's premiement host; the legendary music executive, passionate advocate for the power of song and noted discoverer of artists. 

"Music is the food [of the soul], give us excess of it," said Hanks in his passionate opening soliloquy packed with approbation. "And tonight is a night of excess."

It's the stuff of legend, a topic of lore and an evening that regularly rockets itself in the pages of music history. For nearly 50 years, the annual Pre-GRAMMY Gala, presented by the Recording Academy and Clive Davis, has been a star-making opportunity for the music industry to celebrate their past monumental year, highlighting both veteran acts and tomorrow's superstars. For the 2024 Pre-GRAMMY Galasponsored by Hilton, IBM and Mastercard and held on a rainy night at its regular home at the equally iconic Beverly Hilton Hotel the night before the 2024 GRAMMYs, its usual slot on the calendar — the grand master of music's party continued to provide a beacon of light for jaw-dropping performances and starry shoulder-rubbing. 

But before the party is the cocktail hour; a curious affair where music past and present collides. In one corner finds Producer Of The Year nominee Dan Nigro, the pop whisperer behind acclaimed acts ranging from Chappell Roan, Conan Gray and the multiple-Grammy nominated Olivia Rodrigo. A couple people away was Frankie Valli, last year's Pre-GRAMMY Gala opener who is currently in the midst of what he bills as a farewell tour. Looking around the room, the star power is abundant: Dianne Warren, the aforementioned Hanks with wife Rita Wilson, MusiCares' 2024 Person Of The Year Jon Bon Jovi, longtime Gala guest Nancy Pelosi alongside husband Paul. 

Just beyond the cocktail hour lies the red carpet, which boasts a head-snapping array of personalities. Megan Thee Stallion strutted in flaunting a gold-colored dress, while last year's Best New Artist winner Samara Joy sauntered in an equally dazzling gown. The list of guests includes an eclectic array of who's who in music: pop star Ellie Goulding, the dance-pop-country artist and producer Diplo, country-pop icon Shania Twain, recent Black Music Collective honorees Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz, the producer David Foster with wife Katherine McPhee, eventual three-time GRAMMY winners Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers (the trio otherwise known as Boygenius), and the following night's GRAMMY opener Dua Lipa, among countless others.

As the esteemed guests (which also included Kenneth "Babyface" EdmundsJanelle Monáe, Troye Sivan, Motown founder Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson, the members of Earth, Wind and Fire and Charli XCX) settled into their seats in a ballroom with a stage outfitted with the bash's signature twinkle lights sparkling on the stage, a countdown on the monitors appeared. 3, 2, 1…

"We're going to play a game of word association," said Hanks, who was bestowed the honor of introducing Davis and to mark the occasion, he managed to recite a massive list of artists Davis had a hand or hands in making superstars, from Janis Joplin to Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, right up to Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys. "The only reason why Mozart, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky weren't mentioned is because they all died before Clive Davis had a chance to introduce them," he joked.

"I've gotta tell you, the emotions run high," said Davis. "I look out among you and I see so many familiar faces. The whole thing began as long ago as 1976 and I really have to pinch myself that it's going so, so strong. I'm happy to say that music is alive and well."

Tennis great Serena Williams introduced the night's opening act, Green Day. "In 2022, Clive Davis and I were honored together when we were inducted into the National Portrait Gallery," she recalled. "I said to him, 'You've got to remember to invite me to your gala. I'm so thrilled to be back here to introduce my favorite band. To know me is to know my love for them."

The punk gods are currently making a comeback with their 14th studio album, Saviors, and celebrating the 30th anniversary of their breakout album Dookie and 20th anniversary of their massively successful LP American Idiot. The group honored both anniversaries with a song from each, "American Idiot" and "Basket Case."

In years past, the night's performers ranged a wide gamut; but to prove Davis's point and regenerative effects of the industry, this year a large portion of the roster of surprise performers were plucked from the 2024's crop of Best New Artist nominees. There was the singer-songwriter Noah Kahan, who busted out a rousing rendition of his own breakout "Stick Season," while Ice Spice hit the stage to deliver her 2023 solo hit, "Deli." 

Rising country star Jelly Roll was also bequeathed a coveted slot, proclaiming his excitement by saying he had "only read about the party in books and magazines." With that, he delivered rousing versions of his candid single "Need a Favor" backed by a choir, as well as his equally affecting "Save Me," on which he brought out duet partner and eventual GRAMMY winner Lainey Wilson.

In fact, it was Wilson who provided one of the most surprising moments of the night when she appeared to perform a special version of Barbie's "I'm Just Ken" accompanied by songwriter Andrew Watt on piano and Mark Ronson on guitar. Of course, Davis was the architect of the moment, an idea he said came to him last week; Ronson suggested Wilson after the song's original performer, the actor Ryan Gosling, was unavailable. 

"To look astound and to see some of the greatest musicians and record-makers, it's really an honor to be here," Ronson said. "This is a song we wrote for the movie Barbie about the beauty of being the runner-up sometimes, which is a lesson I know very well," he said to laughter. "It's pretty cool to be second sometimes."

2024 GRAMMYs: Explore More & Meet The Nominees

Fresh off his starring role on Broadway's Sweeney Todd, Josh Groban delivered a subtle tribute to the legend behind the Broadway musical by performing "Children Will Listen," before paying tribute to Davis himself with a gospel-tinged performance of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," which Davis had a hand in releasing. Joining him was another Best New Artist nominee, The War and Treaty frontman Michael Trotter Jr., and the pair's joint vocal power brought the audience to its feet. 

Musical whiplash ensued with additional performances courtesy Maluma and Isley Brothers, the latter of which performed their instantly-recognizable "Shout" as a tribute to Chairman and CEO of SONY Music Publishing Jon Platt, the evening's Icon honoree. An award which in years past has gone to heavyweights including David Geffen, Mo Ostin, Ahmet Ertgun and Jerry Moss to name a few, Platt was touched by the honor and delivered a 40-minute speech chock full of stories and reflections. Not even a beeping fire alarm, which at one point blared and flashed through his speech, tripped up Platt.

"It's funny because Harvey called me and I thought he needed help with something," said Platt, recalling the moment the Recording Academy's CEO Harvey Mason jr. informed him of the honor. "But he said I was selected as this year's industry icon and I was like, 'Wow, man.'" 

Noting he needed convincing to accept the honor ("I'm [just] seeing so many other people doing great things," he relented), Platt's contributions to music, from his work with everyone from Isley Brothers to Beyonce to Jay-Z, and even Oliva Rodrigo, makes him both a genre and decade-spanning force. 

"You'll see a consistent thing with me is that I'm a music nerd-fanboy," Platt said, noting how a kind word from the composer Gerald Busby made this evening a full circle moment for him. "[One day in 1998] I saw him and we were making small talk and he said, 'Someone was asking me who I see in the industry today that can achieve the things that I can achieve. I told them that Big Jon's gonna run the whole thing one day.' For someone to share the belief they have in you is incredibly powerful. From that day, I changed the course of my focus. Everything had a purpose after that."

Another one of the artists Platt fostered performed in his honor as well: Public Enemy. "We're here for you and here for all of our heroes and hero-ettes," Chuck D declared before the group dove into an energetic medley of "Can't Truss It," "Bring the Noise" and "Fight the Power." 

It wouldn't be a Clive Davis bash without one final surprise. As 1 a.m. neared, Gladys Knight and Dionne Warwick hit the stage, with the former belting out a passionate version of "(The Way We Were) Memories" and the duo joining together for Warwick's endearing staple, "That's What Friends are For" alongside Andra Day. 

But from the electrified crowd, guest Stevie Wonder just couldn't help himself, getting up on stage to assist on harmonica. "This has been such a wonderful blessing to meet all of these people in my life; to meet Dionne, to meet Gladys," Wonder said, cueing up an unrehearsed and on-the-fly version of "What the World Needs Now Is Love" with the entire group. 

"I know this is what we need in the world," he continued. "There are many people that for so many years have been dividing people, not understanding the purpose that God has given us to come together."

It was a moving way to wrap up the night — and a fitting one at that, bringing together stars young and old to offer an inspiring message, and remind just how powerful music can be.

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(Clockwise, L-R) Christina Aguilera, Lenny Kravitz, Lionel Richie, Mark Ronson, Maluma, Kacey Musgraves, Taylor Tomlinson, Samara Joy, Oprah Winfrey, and Meryl Streep will be presenters at the 2024 GRAMMYs
(Clockwise, L-R) Christina Aguilera, Lenny Kravitz, Lionel Richie, Mark Ronson, Maluma, Kacey Musgraves, Taylor Tomlinson, Samara Joy, Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep

Photos courtesy of the artists

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2024 GRAMMYs Presenters Announced: Christina Aguilera, Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep, Kacey Musgraves, Maluma, Taylor Tomlinson & More

Additional presenters for the 2024 GRAMMYs include Lenny Kravitz, Lionel Richie, Mark Ronson, and Samara Joy. The 2024 GRAMMYs will broadcast live from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 4.

GRAMMYs/Jan 31, 2024 - 03:00 pm

Updated Friday, Feb. 2, to add Kacey Musgraves as a presenter.

Presenters for the 2024 GRAMMYs have been announced: Christina Aguilera, Lenny Kravitz, Lionel Richie, Mark Ronson, Maluma, Kacey Musgraves, Meryl Streep, Samara Joy, Taylor Tomlinson, and Oprah Winfrey are all confirmed to take the GRAMMY stage on Music's Biggest Night this weekend, Sunday, Feb. 4. Of course, it wouldn't be a proper GRAMMY night without a few surprise guests, so make sure to tune in to find out who you'll see on GRAMMY Sunday.

In addition to the star-studded presenter lineup, the 2024 GRAMMYs will feature breathtaking performances from the leading artists in music today. Performers at the 2024 GRAMMYs include Billie Eilish, Billy Joel, Burna Boy, Dua Lipa, Joni Mitchell, Luke Combs, Olivia Rodrigo, SZA, Travis Scott, and U2. Several confirmed GRAMMY performers will make GRAMMY history at the 2024 GRAMMYs this weekend: Mitchell will make her GRAMMY performance debut, while U2 will deliver the first-ever broadcast performance from Sphere in Las Vegas. Additional performers will be announced in the coming days. See the full list of performers, presenters and host at the 2024 GRAMMYs to date.

Learn More: 2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

2024 GRAMMYs: Explore More & Meet The Nominees

The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, will broadcast live from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 4, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on the CBS Television Network and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.^ Prior to the Telecast, the 2024 GRAMMYs Premiere Ceremony will broadcast live from the Peacock Theater at 12:30 p.m. PT/3:30 p.m. ET and will be streamed live on live.GRAMMY.com. On GRAMMY Sunday, fans can access exclusive behind-the-scenes GRAMMY Awards content, including performances, acceptance speeches, interviews from the GRAMMY Live red-carpet special, and more via the Recording Academy's digital experience on live.GRAMMY.com.

Trevor Noah, the two-time GRAMMY-nominated comedian, actor, author, podcast host, and former "The Daily Show" host, returns to host the 2024 GRAMMYs for the fourth consecutive year; he is currently nominated at the 2024 GRAMMYs in the Best Comedy Album Category for his 2022 Netflix comedy special, I Wish You Would.

The 66th GRAMMY Awards are produced by Fulwell 73 Productions for the Recording Academy for the fourth consecutive year. Ben Winston, Raj Kapoor and Jesse Collins are executive producers.

^Paramount+ with SHOWTIME subscribers will have access to stream live via the live feed of their local CBS affiliate on the service, as well as on demand in the United States. Paramount+ Essential subscribers will not have the option to stream live but will have access to on-demand the day after the special airs in the U.S. only.

Stay tuned for more updates as we approach Music's Biggest Night!

How To Watch The 2024 GRAMMYs Live: GRAMMY Nominations Announcement, Air Date, Red Carpet, Streaming Channel & More

Samara Joy GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Samara Joy at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Amy Sussman

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GRAMMY Rewind: Samara Joy Has A Full-Circle Moment During Best New Artist Win In 2023

Samara Joy took a moment to praise the artists she watched on television as a little girl during her acceptance speech for Best New Artist at the 65th Annual GRAMMY Awards ceremony.

GRAMMYs/Jan 12, 2024 - 05:30 pm

Just last year, Samara Joy joined Esperanza Spalding and Norah Jones as the few jazz musicians to win Best New Artist in the 21st century. As pianist Geoffrey Keezer noted, Joy's win is a reminder that the genre "is still a part of [music], and it's important, and it's where it all came from."

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, revisit the moment Joy accepted her golden gramophone at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

"I've been singing my whole life," she said. "Thank you so much for this honor. Thank you to everyone who listened to me or supported me."

"I've been watching y'all on TV for so long," Joy tearfully cooed to the audience. "To be here because of who I am — all of you have inspired me because of who you are. You express yourself, exactly who you are, authentically."

Before exiting the stage, Joy praised her record label, Verve, management, and other members of her team. Joy was a two-time winner that night, also taking home the golden gramophone for Best Jazz Vocal Album for her second studio album, 'Linger Awhile.' She earned her third nomination at the 2024 GRAMMYs, a Best Jazz Performance nod for her self-produced track "Tight."

Watch the video above to see Samara Joy's complete acceptance speech for Best New Artist at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind, and tune into this year's show 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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