A Big Band For Biggie: Celebrating The Notorious B.I.G. With A Classical Orchestra
The Notorious B.I.G.

Photo: Michael Lavine


A Big Band For Biggie: Celebrating The Notorious B.I.G. With A Classical Orchestra

Biggie "was and is someone that represents freedom, excellence and transcendence for all people."

GRAMMYs/Jun 9, 2022 - 10:06 pm

More than 25 years after his passing, the Notorious B.I.G. remains one of the most influential rappers in hip-hop's history. The Brooklyn native born Christopher Wallace made hip-hop fall in love with his charisma, confidence and innate storytelling abilities. He also built a reputation throughout New York as a freestyle king, capable of insulting his opponent with double entendres and witty metaphors bar after bar. This past May, he would have turned 50 years young.

Before he became one of Bad Boy's top selling artists, Biggie was discovered by New York DJ Mister Cee. In 1994 he set his career off with the release of "Juicy," the lead single from his debut album Ready to Die. The autobiographical album, released when Biggie was just 22, gave listeners a glimpse into a life of poverty, drugs and crime — as well as the introspection of a young man who knew that, because of his circumstances, death could be knocking on the door.  

The concept of death, or close proximity to it, eerily framed Biggie's debut and posthumous albums — even down to the album cover of Life After Death. Just six months after the death of rival rapper Tupac Shakur, Biggie was gunned down at a traffic light in Los Angeles while leaving an industry party. He was 24 years old, and his death left the hip-hop community in a permanent state of mourning. 

By the time of his passing, Biggie's stardom, notoriety and influence expanded far beyond New York. How could you not love the technicality of a Biggie record? Who else flows so sick on a beat? Or keeps you entertained with lyrics so intricate that the details sound like a movie script? Or what about the creative skits? Although the prophetic rapper declared "you’re nobody until somebody kills you," he was a star in the physical and after life. From his rapping style to specific lyrics, the Notorious B.I.G. has inspired generations of artists.

To honor his influence and contributions to hip-hop, on June 10, New York's Lincoln Center will present an Orchestral Tribute to The Notorious B.I.G., featuring multi-instrumentalist and composer Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. The West Coast-based musician describes the opportunity to pay tribute to B.I.G. with a 25 piece orchestra as one of the greatest honors and joys of his life:

"Having gone from listening to his music every single day while in high school in the mid-'90s, to experiencing the collective heartbreak of his passing the year before I started college, to living in Bed Stuy for a year around the corner from where he lived, to the realization that Christopher Wallace wasn't just an extremely charismatic, intelligent, rare, skilled, and elite rapper — he was and is someone that represents freedom, excellence and transcendence for all people," Atwood-Ferguson tells

Hosted by radio personality Angie Martinez, the event will open with a set by DJ Reg West followed by an Orchestral performance of B.I.G.'s most well known songs, from the multi-platinum album Ready To Die and 11 x Platinum Life After Death, featuring special guests and an extensive live set from regular B.I.G. collaborators. Despite being two disparate musical genres, the blending of hip-hop and classical music allows for magic to happen, stripping away the elitism associated with classical music and depicts rap as an adaptable, valuable genre.  

This isn’t Atwood-Ferguson’s first time using classical music to pay homage to a hip-hop legend. After the passing of Detroit native J-Dilla, Atwood-Ferguson created a tribute that consisted of orchestral interpretations of Dilla’s music; in 2009 Atwood-Ferguson released an EP titled Suite for Ma Dukes. The EP and live performance was met with critical acclaim. 

This time around, Atwood-Ferguson will be accompanied by the Originals, a world renowned DJ collective who were some of Biggie’s closest musical partners.

"It is extremely difficult to put into words just how impactful Christopher Wallace’s body of work and legacy is. From being birthed into the culture of hip-hop to his transition from raw talent to a polished commercial product, his rise to fame was unparalleled," said international DJ Rich Medina, a member of the Originals. "As a wordsmith, there are a few artists worldwide who’ve put such a large dent in the canon of lyricism with just two full length LPs."

The Biggie tribute continues a legacy of hip-hop engagement at the New York institution. "Lincoln Center has been building its relationship with the hip-hop community for decades, starting with iconic dance battles on the Lincoln Center plaza in the 1980s," Jill Sternheimer, a consulting curator at Lincoln Center tells via email. "When…Miguel Atwood Ferguson and the Originals signed on to do this tribute, we knew we had the makings of a magical project, keeping true to the Wallace Family and the New York City community." 

Without a doubt, the Notorious B.I.G. will continue to have an influence on hip-hop culture. "As ferociously talented as he was, it seems to me that it is his heart and spirit that most touches and inspires us," Atwood-Ferguson says. "He was and is on an upward trajectory and I can't wait to share my orchestral impression of some of my favorite music of his." 

The Orchestral Tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. is free to the public and begins at 7:30 p.m.

Revisiting 'Supa Dupa Fly' At 25: Missy Elliott Is Still Inspired By Her Debut Record


GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.

In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.


Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year


Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

 Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 and will be broadcast live on the Univision Television Network at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central. 

"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community.

Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list. 

At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself  but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the album release of that concert, Juan Gabriel En Vivo Desde El Palacio De Bellas Artes, broke sales records and established his iconic status. 

After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.   

In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.   

Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized. 

For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or

Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Grizzled Mighty perform at Bumbershoot on Sept. 1

Photo: The Recording Academy


Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Alexa Zaske

This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.

The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.

Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."

Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.

Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed. 

Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.

My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.

For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.

(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)

Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images


Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 10:58 am

As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.

Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.

"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."

Full Winners List: 61st GRAMMY Awards