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Kamasi Washington Underground Museum 2018 
Kamasi Washington performing The Underground Museum in 2018

Photo: Rochelle Brodin/Getty Images for ProjectArt 

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Black-Owned Music Venues To Support Now

The Recording Academy's Los Angeles Chapter continues to celebrate Black music and, as the support for independent Black-owned venues is essential, has partnered with GRAMMY.com to highlight a few

Membership/Jul 2, 2021 - 03:27 am

Black Music Month has come and gone, but the legacy of Black music continues to thread the fabric of the industry as a whole. As Black artists, producers, songwriters, and executives continue to champion the music, the need for places that center and celebrate it is more important now than ever — especially those that are Black-owned. But on the heels of a pandemic, remaining independent and Black-owned or -operated is a feat. Thanks to the work of organizations like the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) lobbying on behalf of indie venues, many places will be able to keep their doors open and continue celebrating both the history and future of Black music. 

The Recording Academy's Los Angeles Chapter continues to celebrate Black music and, as the support for independent Black-owned venues is essential, has partnered with GRAMMY.com to highlight a few of them.

"With the re-opening of live music venues and performance spaces this June in Los Angeles during Black Music Month, it was important for us to highlight a number of Black-owned music venues that we are looking forward to supporting once again in our markets of Southern California, Southern Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and beyond! May it be a bit of jazz or Afrofunk, or a star-studded album release party, these venues have always put Black music creators first and have created a family and community home for them to return to and us all to enjoy," said Qiana Conley, Executive Director, Los Angeles Chapter. 

Be sure to seek out and support venues in your local area as live music makes its anticipated comeback. Here are a few Black-owned venues within Los Angeles and beyond. 

California 

The Underground Museum 

The Underground Museum is a cultural hub for Black art, film and music situated in Los Angeles’ Mid City neighborhood. Late painter Noah Davis founded the space in 2012 with his wife, sculptor Karon Davis. Although Noah passed in 2015, the Underground Museum’s legacy of providing fine art to a community not often privy to it, continues to live on. As a staple in the community, it offers a bookstore and in the past has featured  yoga classes and exhibitions from fine artists. Steeped in Black excellence and creativity, it didn’t take long for it to garner the attention of both renowned figures in the art community and celebrities, including  John Legend and Solange Knowles who have launched albums there. The museum’s inviting garden has hosted film screenings, including Oscar-award winning director Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight.

3508 W Washington Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90018 

https://theunderground-museum.org/ 

Pip’s On La Brea 

Opened in the summer of 2010 by Derrick Pipkin, Pip’s on La Brea fuses the Italian cuisine of Master Chef Luis Carrizo Salvat and live jazz on the weekends — including Avant Garde Trio, Barbara Morrison, and more. Its newly renovated patio space offers a cozy atmosphere for patrons to enjoy especially for their Sunday brunch. 

1356 S La Brea Ave 

Los Angeles, CA 90019 

https://www.pipsonlabrea.com/index.html 

Nevada 

Afro Caribbean Nights Vegas 

For a night of Afrobeat, Reggae, Reggaeton, Dancehall, Hip-hop, SOCA, Lovers Rock, and R&B in Vegas, this is the place to be. A lounge atmosphere, they have a roster of house DJs whose job it is to make you move. 

1079 E Tropicana Ave 

Las Vegas, NV 89119 

https://afrocaribbeannights.com/ 

Arizona 

The Nash

Established in 2012, The Nash houses great Jazz music and educational programming. The venue was named after renowned drummer Lewis Nash who was born and raised in Phoenix. Nash both performs and participates in the programming for students. The venue is also the headquarters for Jazz in Arizona, a nonprofit that supports and honors the history of Jazz as an original American art form founded in 1977. 

110 E Roosevelt St 

Phoenix, AZ 85004 

https://thenash.org/ 

Detroit 

Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre

Brandishing the namesake of the Queen of Soul herself, the Aretha Franklin Amphitheater is one of the only venues of its kind. Located in Detroit, it is operated and managed by entertainment programming professional Shahida Mausi’s company, the Right Productions. The 6,000 capacity venue is a City of Detroit Recreation Department Facility and has hosted the likes of Chaka Kahn, Mint Condition, Kendrick Lamar, and too many more to name. 

2600 Atwater Street.
Detroit, MI 48207
https://thearetha.com/ 

Maryland 


Bethesda Blues & Jazz Super Club 

Run by Earl Ciccel’s company, the historic, Black-operated venue seats 500 and remains an integral tour stop for both emerging and legacy acts. At the start of the pandemic, it was uncertain whether they would be able to continue operating, but with new shows on the bill for August, they’ve thankfully pulled through. 

7719 Wisconsin Ave
Bethesda, MD 20842
https://www.bethesdabluesjazz.com/ 

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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 

Lil Nas X Black Sounds Beautiful Hero
Lil Nas X at the 2020 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage

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Black Sounds Beautiful: How Lil Nas X Turned The Industry On Its Head With "Old Town Road" And Beyond

In this episode of Black Sounds Beautiful, relive Lil Nas X's massive debut, "Old Town Road," and learn how he's since been an advocate for Black and LGBTQIA+ communities through his music and his platform.

GRAMMYs/Jun 28, 2023 - 05:00 pm

Lil Nas X became a global sensation practically overnight, but it wasn't an accident.

The American singer and rapper — born Montero Lamar Hill — became fluent in music and pop culture at an early age, becoming a meme aficionado. His love for internet culture cultivated the perfect recipe for his debut single, "Old Town Road," to become one of the most viral hits in music history; the song also prompted a necessary conversation about the bounds of genre. 

"Old Town Road" rose to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and still holds the record for most time spent at No. 1 at 19 weeks. The single later helped Lil Nas X snag two GRAMMY Awards for Best Pop/Duo Group Performance and Best Music Video. (To date, he's won 2 GRAMMYs and has received 11 nominations overall.)

Aside from his immense musical talent, Lil Nas X — who came out as gay on social media during his Hot 100 reign — has been a fierce champion for LGBTQIA+ and Black communities.

"It's just acceptance of gay people. And they see that as a bad thing, like, They're trying to normalize it. You know what? Yeah. That's actually what I'm trying to do," he told GQ in 2021.

At just 24 years old, Lil Nas X has plenty more history-making and game-changing moves in store. As he revealed during his March 2023 campaign with Coach, "My next big chapter is coming."

Press play on the video above to learn more about Lil Nas X's industry-altering career, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Black Sounds Beautiful.

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Positive Vibes Only - Fena Gitu
Fena Gitu

Photo: VisualsbyBO

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Positive Vibes Only: Fena Gitu Shows Her Appreciation For What "Love Is" In This Intimate Performance

Kenyan Afropop singer Fena Gitu is grateful for everything — from God to her jewelry — in her latest single, "Love Is."

GRAMMYs/Jun 25, 2023 - 04:00 pm

Kenyan singer Fena Gitu is grateful for the little things — down to her fake jewelry. And through an odyssey of gratitude, she's learned to love everyone, to create a more peaceful world.

In this episode of Positive Vibes Only, Gitu delivers a stripped-down performance of her new single, "Love Is," a musical expression of her appreciation for everything around her. For Gitu, loving is minimalistic — and that message is only made more clear from the simplistic setting of this keyboard-driven performance.

"For my God, I stand, give him all my praises/ That I get to live to see another day, yes/ For my fake gold diamond pieces/ I just really want to thank you, Jesus," Gitu declares. "God is love, and love is true/ Love is You."

"Love Is" is the lead single from Gitu's latest album, Love Art Lust, which arrived on June 2. "It's a journey in love. Love for yourself, love for others, and love for God," she explained in a press statement. On June 29, she will return to her hometown of Nairobi, Kenya for a special performance celebrating the album's release.

Press play on the video above to watch Fena Gitu's sentimental performance of "Love Is," and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Positive Vibes Only.

Positive Vibes Only: Anthony McGill Celebrates Black Joy With A Performance Of "Lift Every Voice and Sing"

Whitney Houston GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Whitney Houston at the 1994 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Robin Platzer/IMAGES/Getty Images

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GRAMMY Rewind: Whitney Houston Admires Dolly Parton After "I Will Always Love You" Wins In 1994

Whitney Houston had the chance to thank Dolly Parton — who wrote "I Will Always Love You" — for "writing beautiful songs" during her acceptance speech for Best Pop Female Vocal Performance.

GRAMMYs/Jun 23, 2023 - 05:00 pm

Nearly 50 years after its initial release, Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" has been covered by thousands of musicians. But no other rendition compares to Whitney Houston's iconic 1992 cover for the Bodyguard soundtrack — and in 1994, the two shared a full-circle celebration of the song's massive success.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, relive Houston's Best Female Pop Vocal Performance win for her version of "I Will Always Love You" at the 1994 GRAMMY Awards.

"Dolly, of course, coming from you, this is truly an honor. You wrote a beautiful song. Thank you so much for writing such beautiful songs," Houston said to Parton, who presented the award and originally released the recording (which she wrote herself) in 1974.

Houston praised Rickey Minor, her band, and David Foster, who helped Houston arrange the ballad. "All the songwriters and producers on The Bodyguard, BeBe [Winans], I love you," she added before performing an impromptu song to thank her team members at Arista Records.

"I love you, Mommy and Daddy — I wouldn't be here without you. And always first in my life, I thank my Father, Jesus Christ. Without them, I am nothing," Houston said. Before leaving the stage, Houston took a second to uplift her supporters. "To all the fans, I love you! Thank you, and God bless you!"

"I Will Always Love You" also took home Record Of The Year that night, and The Bodyguard won Album Of The Year — one of only four soundtracks to date to win the coveted award.

Press play on the video above to watch Whitney Houston accept her award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 36th Annual GRAMMY Awards, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

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