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Barack Obama Is Nominated For His Third GRAMMY For Best Spoken Word Album. For His Musical Legacy, It's The Tip Of The Iceberg.
Former U.S. president Barack Obama has won two GRAMMYs for Best Spoken Word Album — and with 'A Promised Land,' he's been nominated for a third. His GRAMMYs presence speaks to decades of public communion with music.
It's officially a time-honored tradition in the musical community: When Barack Obama puts you on his annual playlist, you have permission to go publicly ballistic.
When the former U.S. president put Lizzo's "Juice" on there: "I'm not OK!" the flutist and rapper hollered on Twitter, in all caps, with several exclamation marks. When he slotted in Jazmine Sullivan's "Pick Up Your Feelings," the singer posted an overcome-with-emotion emoji and a momentous, "Y'all."
Whether you love Obama's tastes — which lean toward R&B, soul, indie, and rap, often with a topical bent — or find them "cheugy," it's all part of the fun. Because no matter where your politics lie, it's not every day a president checks out your artistic creation and enjoys it enough to tell the world about it.
The music and audio industries have made Obama's support of the musical community a mutual interchange. The 44th president of the United States has won two GRAMMYs, both for Best Spoken Word Album — one for his reading of his first book, Dreams From My Father (1995), at the 48th GRAMMY Awards, and another for his second, The Audacity of Hope (2006), at the 50th GRAMMY Awards. At the 64th GRAMMY Awards, taking place Sunday, April 3, in Las Vegas, Obama is currently nominated in the Best Spoken Word Album category, his third nomination in the category, for the audiobook version of his 2020 memoir, A Promised Land.
Granted, the former president is not a professional musician — although he can sing a mean "Amazing Grace." But his GRAMMY wins put him in good company with GRAMMY-winning acts he's publicly supported, from Jay-Z to Stevie Wonder and Esperanza Spalding.
Plus, his GRAMMY wins serve as a reminder of his wildly diverse musical legacy — from his series of playlists to breaking into song during public addresses to his support of musicians while in the Oval Office.
Throughout his presidency and into his post-presidency, Obama has shared what he's been listening to — revealing some seriously eclectic tastes for a public servant. In 2015, when the White House joined Spotify, Obama displayed his love for the classics, including Howlin' Wolf ("Wang Dang Doodle"), Bob Dylan ("Tombstone Blues"), and Sly and the Family Stone ("Hot Fun in the Summertime").
But the playlist featured more than just well-worn selections from the mid-20th century: It contained the indie rock band Okkervil River ("Down Down the Deep River"), a glossy Coldplay hit ("Paradise"), and Philly rockers Low Cut Connie ("Boozophilia"). For a smaller or mid-tier band, one could hardly ask for a more high-profile endorsement; for a stadium act like Coldplay, it certainly didn't hurt.
During his time in the White House, Obama had a penchant for breaking out snippets of songs for effect. In 2012, he sang the opening line from Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
And three years later — during the eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckneu, who was killed in a shooting at a Charleston church that took the lives of nine members of a Bible study group — Obama took a risk.
"This whole week, I've been reflecting on this idea of grace," he said, before gliding into the timeless "Amazing Grace." The risk paid off, and added poignancy and power to the sorrowful occasion. It also made headlines and went viral.
"According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It's not something we deserve," Obama, a devout Christian himself, said during his speech. "Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God."
If you need more proof that Obama was among the most musical presidents, just look at his guests. From Beyoncé performing the National Anthem during his 2013 inauguration and Janelle Monae at his Fourth of July party to presenting Diana Ross with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016, he not only kept the lines of communication open with the musical community, he honored its leading lights whenever possible.
Most recently, Obama and his old pal Bruce Springsteen embarked on a multimedia project, Renegades. Encompassing a podcast and a book, it details their conversations about a more unified America. Now, with Obama's current GRAMMY nomination in the bag, it's anyone's guess how he will continue on this post-presidential path — but it'll most likely be with a story to tell and a song to sing.
Remembering Nipsey Hussle On The Anniversary Of His Death: "I Just Wanted To Be Really Intentional"
The Recording Academy celebrates the life of Nipsey Hussle, the late Los Angeles rapper, who earned two posthumous GRAMMY Awards this year
Since the tragic loss of Los Angeles rapper, entrepreneur and activist Nipsey Hussle on March 31, 2019, his motivational music and inspiring message of investing in your community are continued by the many lives he touched. Here in L.A, you see countless murals painted in his likeness, his inspirational words reminding us greatness and kindness are not mutually exclusive.
In 2018, after a decade of perfecting his storytelling and flow with hard-hitting mixtapes, Hussle released his victorious debut album Victory Lap. It earned him his first GRAMMY nomination, for Best Rap Album, at the 2019 GRAMMYs. The week following the show, he released his final single during his lifetime, "Racks in the Middle," featuring rising L.A. rapper Roddy Ricch and powerhouse producer Hit-Boy.
At the 62nd GRAMMY Awards this year, he posthumously earned three more nominations and took home two wins. "Racks in the Middle" won Best Rap Performance and "Higher," a track he was working on with DJ Khaled before he died, won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher." Khaled released the uplifting track, which also features John Legend, in Hussle's memory on May 17, 2019.
Hussle's family, including his grandmother and his partner Lauren London, took the GRAMMY stage to accept his awards in two tearful yet celebratory moments. Khaled, Legend, Ricch, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin and YG also celebrated the rap hero with a moving tribute performance during the show.
"The biggest thing that he left behind in his legacy is to go the extra mile for other people and be aware of your community," singer Tinashe said in a recent interview. "That spirit is really important. It's important to bring people together. I think that's part of his message. It's looking out for one another."
That message of hope and community is echoed in so many others' words about Hussle; his positive impact is immense and immeasurable. It is reflected in a message from none other than former President Barack Obama. Hussle's longtime friend and marketing manager Karen Civil read Obama's powerful words about him during his moving memorial service:
"While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope. He saw a community that, even through its flaws, taught him to always keep going. His choice to invest in that community rather than ignore it—to build a skills training center and coworking space in Crenshaw; to lift up the Eritrean-American community; to set an example for young people to follow—is a legacy worthy of celebration. I hope his memory inspires more good work in Crenshaw and communities like it."
The Marathon Continues.
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Ruth Bader Ginsburg Remembered By Barack Obama, Janet Mock, Jennifer Lopez, Elton John & More
Madonna, Mariah Carey, Dolly Parton, Christina Aguilera, Janet Jackson, Joan Jett, Brandi Carlile, Barbra Streisand, Stevie Nicks, Demi Lovato and Greta Thunberg also shared moving RGB quotes and tributes over the weekend
On Friday, Sept. 18, Supreme Court Justice and feminist hero Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at 87 from pancreatic cancer. Since the news broke, tributes honoring the Notorious RBG—along with reminders to vote—flooded social media feeds, including many from Former President Barack Obama, "POSE" director/producer/writer Janet Mock and pop stars Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, Madonna and Christina Aguilera.
Elton John, Dolly Parton, Janet Jackson, Joan Jett, Brandi Carlile, Barbra Streisand, Stevie Nicks, Demi Lovato and teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg also posted moving quotes and messages, all of which you can read below.
"I am heartbroken to hear of the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was a true champion of gender equality and was a strong woman for me and all the little girls of the world to look up to," Lopez tweeted, along with photos of her and fiancée/former New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez with Ginsburg.
"I will always remember what she said to us the day we met her: 'Be the best you.' It was simple yet profound. Thank you RBG for fighting all these years. We will honor you by continuing to fight for equality, empathy and justice for all."
Lauren London & Nipsey Hussle
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Nipsey Hussle's Memorial Service Had Powerful Statements From Barack Obama, Kendrick Lamar & More
"Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope…I hope his memory inspires more good work in Crenshaw and communities like it," former President Obama wrote
On April 11, the people of Los Angeles gathered to celebrate the late rapper and community activist Nipsey Hussle, with over 21,000 people joining his memorial service at Staples Center in downtown L.A. The memorial was livestreamed with countless Nipsey fans far and wide tuning in and sharing messages on social media with the hashtag #NipseyHussleForever.
Despite the huge space left behind by Hussle's death, which has shaken his community in South L.A., not to mention his family and closest friends, the messages during his service were deeply inspirational and hopeful.
Karen Civil, Hussle's longtime friend and marketing manager, held back tears while reading a touching letter from former President Barack Obama:
"While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope. He saw a community that, even through its flaws, taught him to always keep going. His choice to invest in that community rather than ignore it—to build a skills training center and a coworking space in Crenshaw; to lift up the Eritrean-American community; to set an example for young people to follow—is a legacy worthy of celebration. I hope his memory inspires more good work in Crenshaw and communities like it."
Many of Hussle's family and friends spoke during the memorial, including both his mother and father. "I'm very proud of my son," his mother Angelique Smith said. "My son, Ermias Joseph Asghedom, was a great man."
Lauren London, Hussle's longtime girlfriend and mother to their two-year-old son, Kross Asghedom, read a heartfelt text message she had sent to Hussle back in January.
"I want you to know I feel real joy in my heart when I'm around you…you have encouraged me and inspired me to reach higher," she read from the message. She added, "His soul was majestic, the strongest man I ever knew. He was completely self-taught, always seeking knowledge."
Fellow L.A. rapper Kendrick Lamar, who collaborated with the late rapper on "Dedication," from Hussle's debut LP Victory Lap, also shared a moving message that was included in the book. He recalled the first time the pair met, on tour in 2009.
"I watched a young, ambitious black male orchestrate fellowship amongst the men around him on that tour. Determined to execute one thing–and that was Greatness. Greatness in knowledge, greatness in wealth, and greatness in self," Lamar wrote.
Another L.A. hip-hop icon, Snoop Dogg, took to the stage at Staples to offer support for Hussle's family and to share words for his friend. "For those who knew Nipsey Hussle personally, he had nothing but love for every single gang member no matter the neighborhood," he said.
"It is a heartbreak to again lose a member of our family. It is a heartbreak because it’s so unnecessary," he said. "It is so painful to know that we don’t have enough people taking a position that says: Listen, we must have stronger gun laws. It is unacceptable. It is almost like the world is becoming blind."
Following the memorial, where Hussle's casket sat onstage during the event, a 25-mile funeral procession is set to take place through L.A., stopping at his business and place of death, The Marathon Clothing store.
Rest In Power, Nipsey Hussle.
Gladys Knight & Patti LaBelle in 2014
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Gladys Knight & Patti LaBelle's Verzuz Faceoff Was A Moment Of Pure Soul Sisterhood
"There's nothing I don't love that you might sing tonight. So, let's just get it clear, I'm ready for you honey," LaBelle said to her longtime friend and fellow R&B/soul icon
Last night (Sept. 13), GRAMMY-winning music icons Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight brought a big serving of soul and sisterhood to the latest Verzuz faceoff. During the livestream's joyful three hours, the powerhouse pair sang 35 songs (including two renditions of "Midnight Train To Georgia") selected from their gem-filled catalogues dating back 60 years. In between the music, the two R&B/soul greats showered each other with praise and offered nuggets of wisdom, humor and shout-outs to the star-studded virtual audience, which included the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama.
"I love that tune," LaBelle praised after Knight's first rendition of "Midnight Train To Georgia" and just about halfway into the faceoff. "There's nothing I don't love that you might sing tonight. So, let's just get it clear, I'm ready for you honey."
The evening's rich setlist included selections from their early acts—LaBelle's fabulous girl group Labelle and Knight's family affair Gladys Knight & the Pips—as well as their longtime solo acts. This included LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade," If You Don't Know Me By Now" and "Love, Need and Want You" and Knight's "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)," "Friendship Train" and "Love Overboard."
They both sang along to their songs—for the most part, joking about forgetting some of the lyrics to the older songs—with their warm voices and still-epic high notes offering comfort during these hectic times. They also sang along with each other, as this Verzuz was not a battle, but a moment for the musical powerhouses to show each other some love and appreciation. They also shared the love for their collaborators, children, viewers and the Verzuz and Apple Music team (who recently partnered with the Swizz Beatz- and Timbaland-created event). Swizzy got warm birthday wishes (he was born Sept. 13) and wow, what a great way to celebrate being alive.
After their seventh-round faceoff, where LaBelle sang "Love, Need and Want You" and Knight delivered "Someone to Watch Over Me," the pair began talking warmly about their children. Knight revealed she didn't know about Verzuz until her son Shanga called her up and encouraged her to try to get on in, which she did. "I hope you're proud of us, sons," she said. We also learned that LaBelle still has a flip phone. "I love my flip. I'm very low-key," she shared with a smile.
When they saw the Former First Lady pop up in the viewer list, or as LaBelle dubbed it "the virtual front row," they were both genuinely thrilled and sent love and praise her way. "I am so proud of her," Knight chimed in, adding, "She's a sweetheart and she's down to earth." "And she's married to the best man in the whole world," the both chimed in. "We miss you Michelle and Barack," LaBelle said.
In addition to the many notable virtual guests, there was a very special in-studio guest—Dionne Warwick, who helped close out the evening with an extra dose of sisterhood. The three musical heroes sang Warwick's "That's What Friends Are For" and their 1991 remake of Karyn White's female empowerment hit, "Superwoman."
If you missed the much-needed evening of wholesome, heartwarming and soul-stirring content, you can watch the last half or so in the YouTube video above.
The LaBelle and Knight Verzuz follows Brandy and Monica's also-amazing showdown on Aug. 31. In addition to the huge number of viewers who tune into the streams via IGTV and Apple TV, the much-buzzed-about episodes always lead to a boost in interest in the featured artists and their music. In the case of the '90s R&B queens, their episode was watched by over 60 million viewers and they collectively logged 21.9 million U.S. streams in just the two days following. Stay tuned to Verzuz' Instagram for the data behind the Knight and LaBelle love fest, as well as for info on upcoming T.B.A. pairings. Here's to the love being showered back onto the soul queens.