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Listen: GRAMMY.com's Black Joy Playlist, Featuring Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, Anderson .Paak & Many More

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Listen: GRAMMY.com's Black Joy Playlist, Featuring Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, Anderson .Paak & Many More

GRAMMY.com compiled a collection of more than 40 tracks that encompass different interpretations of Black joy —and span many of the genres Black people have created.

GRAMMYs/Jun 17, 2022 - 01:12 pm

What is Black joy?

It is pure, it is sustainable, it is profound. But in the face of ongoing adversity and societal strife — after the protests, after the storm — it is Black joy that gets many of us through the day and on to the next. 

I began thinking about the concept of Black joy in the midst of the George Floyd protests in 2020. Many craved protest songs to describe the moment, and while that request made sense in the present, I felt it lacked the insight into what it actually means to survive and fight in a needlessly cruel world. 

Living a rich, fulfilling life of triumph, full of exultation, is a form of protest, too. Thriving in spite of everything else (like racism, or sexism, or classism, or all three intersecting) is the protest. It is the statement of objection. It is a response to the way things always are and it is a fight for something better in the future. 

In this playlist, we have compiled a collection of more than 40 tracks that span the last 50 years and encompass different interpretations of Black joy. Like all great Black art, it is multifaceted, spanning many of the genres Black people have created — from hip-hop to house to funk — and all with the express purpose of celebration or triumph or hope. It is our wish that you can turn to this playlist again and again, in the present and in the future, as acknowledgement and assurance of what can be, despite an increasingly complicated world. 

In celebration of Black Music Month 2022, listen to GRAMMY.com's official Black joy and optimism playlist on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.

Black Sounds Beautiful: How Beyoncé Has Empowered The Black Community Across Her Music And Art
Beyoncé

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Black Sounds Beautiful: How Beyoncé Has Empowered The Black Community Across Her Music And Art

In the debut episode of GRAMMY.com's Black Sounds Beautiful series, learn about the many ways in which Beyoncé's words, music and initiatives have celebrated and elevated the Black community

GRAMMYs/Jun 12, 2021 - 11:40 pm

Beyoncé doesn't only loom large in American culture just because of her hits. Although her musical accomplishments are staggering—at 28 GRAMMY wins, she holds the record for most GRAMMYs won by a woman—Beyoncé's ongoing commitment to uplifting and celebrating the Black community has become a key part of her legacy.

This goes beyond her empowering songs—it's in her public statements and art, too.

In the debut episode of GRAMMY.com's Black Sounds Beautiful series, a special series honoring Black music and culture in all its forms, learn about the many ways in which Beyoncé's words, music and initiatives have celebrated and elevated the Black community and how she remains a steadfast fighter for the accomplishments of Black people everywhere.

"It's important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty, so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror—first through their own families as well as the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House, and the GRAMMYs—and see themselves and have no doubt that they're beautiful, intelligent and capable," Beyoncé said in an acceptance speech at the 59th GRAMMY Awards in 2017.

She doubled-down on the sentiment at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards show when she won the GRAMMY for Best R&B Performance for "BLACK PARADE," which she originally released on Juneteenth last year.

"As an artist, I believe it's my job, and all of our jobs, to reflect the times," she said in her GRAMMY acceptance speech this past March. "... So, I wanted to uplift, encourage and celebrate all of the beautiful Black queens and kings that continue to inspire me and inspire the whole world."

She's continued to do exactly that throughout her entire career.

In 2018, Beyoncé headlined Coachella, becoming the first-ever Black woman artist to headline the festival. She used the history-making moment as a platform to celebrate Black culture, inviting performers from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to the Coachella stage and mixing in vocal snippets of Black icons like Malcolm X and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her 2020 GRAMMY-nominated music film, Black Is King, is a "love letter" to Black men. The film is the visual counterpart to The Lion King: The Gift, a 2019 soundtrack album curated by Beyoncé that spotlights African and Afrobeats artists like Wizkid, Burna Boy, Mr Eazi and many others.

Check out the strengthening clip above and watch out for more episodes of Black Sounds Beautiful as GRAMMY.com's Black Music Month celebrations proceed throughout June.

Inside The Visual World Of Beyoncé And 'Black Is King,' Her "Love Letter" To Black Men

Dyana Williams On Why Black Music Month Is Not Just A Celebration, But A Call For Respect

Dyana Williams 

Photo: Caliph Gamble

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Dyana Williams On Why Black Music Month Is Not Just A Celebration, But A Call For Respect

The radio legend and Black Music Month co-founder tells GRAMMY.com about the plight to make the month official and who she admires in music’s new generation

GRAMMYs/Jun 10, 2021 - 01:02 am

Black music is the foundation of the music industry, and Dyana Williams isn’t going to let you forget it. Born in the Motown era, the music journalist and veteran radio personality’s musical love affair began by listening to predominantly Black, New York-based radio stations like WABC and WWRL. The Bronx native started building the blocks of her legend status in the early ‘70s, beginning with her first radio gig at Washington D.C.’s 96.3 WHUR in 1973, where she fused her love for jazz with R&B and reggae. When she moved to WRQX-FM in 1978, she made history by becoming the first Black woman rock DJ.

At that time, radio personalities were non-existent, and Williams had to program music she did not feel belonged to her. "I distinctly remember my first show at WRQX: five hours of playing music that was not culturally mine,” she tells GRAMMY.com over Zoom. “I knew some of it, like James Taylor and Carly Simon, because obviously, I listened to the radio growing up."

The job, Williams says, made her more well-rounded as a DJ in the industry, but she wanted to do something to amplify Black music. Williams’ yearning led to the birth of Black Music Month in 1979. Co-founded with radio DJ Ed Wright and her former husband, Philadelphia soul legend Kenny Gamble, the month is meant to be a vibrant celebration of all the genres that thread America’s cultural fabric. But the month also educates and provides resources for those wanting to learn more about Black people’s impact on the industry, which has led to Williams serving on the board of Nashville’s National Museum of African American Music.

"Black music should be celebrated every single day, but it's a concentrated period of time for us to observe the legacy, and mothers and fathers, many of whom never got paid properly or recognized or credited for their contributions," Williams continues, noting that Black music educators, writers and journalists should be celebrated, too. "It is an economic engine for America to the tune of not a million or several million, but billions of dollars."

At the end of the day, Williams just wants credit where it’s due. "[Music] is one of our greatest exports. That's how we need to look at it,” she says. “I want us to be celebrated. I want us to be respected. I want us to get what we rightfully deserve."

GRAMMY.com spoke to Dyana Williams about the origins of Black Music Month and why Black creators still deserve a big chunk of the industry’s money pie.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What are your thoughts on how the new generation, including myself, are interpreting Black Music Month? 

I love them. My core business is artist development and media coaching. So I work with a lot of young artists. That's how I saw your Saweetie article in Harper’s Bazaar. I was working with her around that time. I have great regard for artists like Elaine, Joyce Wrice, Masego, Giveon, Lucky Daye, who I worked with as well. Jazmine Sullivan, one of my clients from Philly. I met her when she was a little girl and now she is all grown up and she is bringing it, okay?

We missed her voice so much.

She needed a break. Sometimes it can be daunting, the industry and the expectations and all of that stuff. I'm a huge H.E.R. lover, I was listening to "Damage" last night. H.E.R. to me, [is] very important because she's a musician as well. She's a songwriter, producer, just [won] an Oscar. She's going to be a GOAT probably before it's all over. But she represents the finest of what young people are doing and [how they are] paying homage. I love the artists of this time that recognize what transpired before them. Now there’s some artists who have no reference. They have no foundation. And probably we'll just hear about them for a quick flash and then they're gone. I'm interested in the artists that are going to have —like with H.E.R.—a legacy that they will be able to leave for the next generation.

What was it like being on the radio in the ‘70s? It’s not as prevalent anymore because of streaming. 

Well, my experience in the '70s was heavenly. To have the opportunity to program music was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn matching sounds and vibes and energy. Plus, I interviewed everybody, and I was on the radio in the nation's capital when it was Chocolate City—so any and everybody that came in to perform at Howard [University] and at the Capital Centre. One of the big first concerts I MC’ed was in the Capital Centre, it was Curtis Mayfield. I mean, major acts. I MC'ed Earth, Wind & Fire. Richard Pryor was their opening act. It was wonderful because I got an opportunity to not just play the music, but to speak with the people who were creating all of this innovation. At that time in the ’70s, we had a lot of bands: the Ohio Players, Parliament-Funkadelic. It was exciting for me. I was a young girl. I was 19. 

I know you went to Philly in 1980. Was it just a next career move?

No, actually I fell in love with Kenny Gamble. [Laughs.] Initially, when I left BLS to go on maternity leave with our first son Caliph Gamble, I moved back to DC for a period of time and then moved to Philadelphia full time in 1980. At that time, I was blessed to hold down a spot at WDAS, which is the heritage station and very similar to WBLS in New York in terms of the adult contemporary format. Not only did we play the current music of the day, but we were entrenched in the community. And for me, that's everything. I'm the radio personality who’d go to the senior citizens’ home, the daycare center, the church, wherever I was invited in the community to talk about music. I would always do and still do to this day.

Even before Black Music Month was formed, I read that you initially co-founded the Black Music Association chapter in Philadelphia, is that correct?

Well, here we go. The Black Music Association was founded by my ex, Kenny Gamble. We were a couple, we lived together so I became a member of the local chapter and I was in the leadership. However, it is Gamble’s conception. We went to the White House for the first Black Music Month event on June 7th 1979. We sat with President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn.

But years later, I was producing a celebration[ for] Black Music Month [in June]. I wrote to Bill Clinton: "Can you hold some similar events?" The White House said, "Well, we see that President Carter hosted the Black Music Association. We know that you were his guests." But he unintentionally did not write a presidential proclamation, which would've meant that every president following him would have done similarly.

What was your reaction when you heard that news?

It was official to us because we were the creators. For all those years, there were activities around the country. We celebrated it in Philly. So, when I got that piece of information from the White House, I was blown away and shocked. But as far as the American government and American presidents are concerned, it did not become official until I was asked by the White House to go get legislation. I remember I called Gamble: "Can you believe this?" It just gave a higher level of official recognition or celebration. It's just like Juneteenth. Black folks have been celebrating Juneteenth for a long time, but now it's becoming more in vogue and more well known.

So 2000 was when the bill passed?

To be recognized by Congress and the American people is right, but I had been petitioning for several years. I had even written an op-ed, in Billboard, about why it was significant for us to celebrate it. So yeah, several years of me knocking on congressmen and senators’ doors. I knew nothing about the process of lobbying. So I became a natural lobbyist, just passionate about the music and the cause. And at that point, it was significant for me to get the president to acknowledge us. Not just because of the cultural dynamics, but the economic value and potency of our music. We don't tend to think of it in those terms, but the reality is Black music is big business.

It's still the No. 1 genre and is literally keeping the industry afloat.

Girl, the No. 1 genre in the world. As you know, Bianca, Black music is hip-hop. It’s the music that they thought would go away, and we are about to celebrate 50 years of hip-hop.

Isn't that something? A genre that was once shunned has transformed to be the pillar of what so many artists look to for success. 

Well, the reality is Black music is for everyone. While it is created by Black people, it is a universal language overstood by billions. I have traveled to most of the continents: South America, Asia, Africa, Europe. Europeans know more about our music than we do in many cases. They're very well-versed in the history [of it]. We sometimes as Black folks take it for granted because it's our natural asset and gift. But the reality is that Black music has always been an inspiration, a source of influence for countless musicians. Come on, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, all those major white rock groups.

There’s also the country and the EDM scene, which has become a huge power player that’s built on the backs of Chicago house. 

We are the wellspring, we are the resource and then it is imitated and appropriated. We, the people who create it, are not righteously compensated. This is also one of my issues that we need to address because it's foul. Let's take rock and roll. No, Alan Freed, you did not invent the DJ. You were one of the DJs that played it, but the reality was there were Black DJs playing Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. These are the mothers and fathers of rock music, period. And then you have white artists.

The prime example being Elvis Presley. Even those hip shakes came from us.

A lot of his songs were written by Black people. Clearly, you can look at him and see that he was biting on Little Richard. But they don't want to acknowledge it. And then it is our responsibility to say it. My thing is, don't try to take credit for something that you did not create. I want to make sure that in that process, the songwriters, the producers, the engineers, the people who make the music, are credited, acknowledged and compensated. That's critical and part of the issue of what's missing in today's modern music industry.

I'm so glad that you brought that up because it’s important to have those conversations about what's going on behind the scenes. 

And it's not even an adequate piece of the pie. I don't know if you've ever seen, Bianca, what artists get from streaming? It's like a percentage of a penny.

It's super dismal.

But meanwhile, billions of dollars are being generated by these streaming companies. And the creators of the music are simply not being [compensated]. I'm in The Recording Academy as a member, I'm a past president of the Philly chapter. And part of our advocacy has been to change the antiquated copyright laws that do not serve today's music industry. So we've had some level of success. I really think, Bianca, they need me to go in there and get that st fixed.

You'll set them right, for sure.

Exactly. And I'm an OG at this point. Even when I was younger, I was fearless in my convictions, and I respect everybody's right to their opinions. I saw somebody write a comment on social media the other day: "Well, we need white music month." My attitude was like, "Well, white music month is just about every month but June." I was listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young the other day. And Steely Dan and Michael Franks. I love white music too. But my agenda is to elevate and recognize the forgotten, the deserving of the legacy foundation people. Just to your point, we're the flavor.

We add the salt.

I mean, we are it girl. We the hot sauce, the salt and the pepper.

One Year After #TheShowMustBePaused, Where Do We Stand? Black Music Industry Leaders Discuss

Black Music Month: Celebrating Black Fashion At The GRAMMYs Throughout The Decades
Black Music Month: Black Fashion

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Black Music Month: Celebrating Black Fashion At The GRAMMYs Throughout The Decades

As Black Music Month winds down, bring that love and appreciation into the rest of the year with a rundown of Black fashion moments and vibrant looks throughout GRAMMY history

GRAMMYs/Jun 30, 2021 - 12:33 am

Black Music Month is about the whole package of human expression—both audio and visual. 

And from a GRAMMYs perspective, Black artists of all persuasions have consistently stepped out with eye-popping looks and unique threads.

As Black Music Month winds down, watch how leading Black artists and visionaries in music and culture, from Beyoncé to Stevie Wonder to Lil Nas X, have pushed the boundaries of fashion on the GRAMMYs stage throughout the decades.

Watch the celebratory clip above and click here to enjoy more GRAMMY.com offerings in honor of Black Music Month.

Dyana Williams On Why Black Music Month Is Not Just A Celebration, But A Call For Respect

5 Black Artists Rewriting Country Music: Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer & Willie Jones

(L-R): Willie Jones, Kane Brown, Mickey Guyton, Brittney Spencer, Jimmie Allen

Photo credit for source images (L-R): Matthew Berinato, Matthew Berinato, Phylicia J.L. Munn, John Shearer

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5 Black Artists Rewriting Country Music: Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer & Willie Jones

Despite inventing country music, Black artists have historically been marginalized in that sphere. That's all changing in the 21st century with the help of Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer, and Willie Jones

GRAMMYs/Jul 26, 2021 - 10:30 pm

2021 has introduced a dynamic change to American life that has aggressively called into question stereotypes surrounding race, gender and culture. And there may be no better lens through which to examine this development than in country music. 

For almost a century, the Appalachia-born genre, more than almost any other subset of American popular music, has largely excluded Black artists and performers. However, the roots of country music lay in the hands of banjo-playing Black slaves and minstrel-show performing sharecroppers. 

Still, for well over 50 years, the only Black artist significantly represented in the country music industry was the late Charley Pride, who died last December. The Mississippi-born sharecropper turned All-Star Negro League pitcher's ability to navigate his way around a country song led to four dozen-plus top 10 Billboard Country chart hits (including the 1971 classic "Kiss An Angel Good Morning") and worldwide appeal.

Today, in an era partly defined by reparational justice toward African-Americans nationwide, country music contains numerous performers whose tireless efforts in the genre are now being rewarded. Of the growing crowd, Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer, and Willie Jones have all received Pride-level applause for their successes within country music.

Read More: For Charley Pride, Black Country Music Was A Self-Evident Truth

Country's Next Great Torch Singer: Mickey Guyton

From Patsy Cline to Carrie Underwood, country music has a tradition of white female vocalists whose impressive vocal control and electrifying histrionics elevate superb songwriting to award-winning levels.

Comparatively, warm, soulful singers like Linda Martell and Rissi Palmer have opened doors for Black female country performers.

For those looking for a marriage of the two, Mickey Guyton—a veteran country artist buoyed by the pained yet profound inspiration of the Black Lives Matter movement—married her multi-octave superstar vocal instrument to the poignant ballad "Black Like Me" and has soared to top-tier country acclaim. Her new album, Remember Her Name, drops on September 24.

Country music is often maligned because of its inability to address issues of race and gender in a manner that befits the tenor of progressive times. However, Guyton's now-signature song overcame the genre's historical slights against marginalized communities. What's more, it reflects country music's slow, continued moves toward justice for them.

A "Worldwide Beautiful" Superstar In The Making: Kane Brown

Kane Brown is the type of artist as comfortable making modernized trap-style country ballads (2020's "Be Like That," featuring Swae Lee) as he is covering the neo-traditionalist Randy Travis' classic "Three Wooden Crosses."

His head—frequently topped with an adjustable trucker hat—has growing ears, eyes and music-biz savvy. Recently, the trailer-park-raised Chattanooga, Tennessee, native launched a new label, Sony-backed 1021 Entertainment—plus a song publishing company, Verse 2 Entertainment. 

However, if looking for the accurate measurement of Brown's cross-cultural reach, "Worldwide Beautiful" drives home why Brown is a star of note, with an extraordinarily passionate social media following to boot.

When he sings, "At every show I see my people/They ain't the same, but they're all equal/One love, one God, one family," his rich tenor conveys a unifying message that supersedes today's American frustrations and antagonism.

The Hometown Hero: Jimmie Allen

Country music loves stories of self-made small-town boys with humble dreams that shine under Music City's downtown Broadway lights.

To wit, rising country star Jimmie Allen is a native—and still, proudly a resident—of Milton, Delaware, a town populated by a hair below 3,000 people. His new album, Bettie James Gold Edition—an expansion of his Bettie James project—dropped in June.

Within the first five years of his country career, Allen's achieved two platinum-selling, number-one Billboard Country Airplay chart singles (2018's "Best Shot" and 2019's "Make Me Want To"), plus recently became the first Black artist to win the New Male Artist of the Year award at 2021's Academy of Country Music Awards.

It's also notable how Allen carries forth Charley Pride's legacy. In a 2020 interview for Holler, the vocalist noted that the Country Music Hall of Famer taught him that if he made the music he loved, "It'll land on the ears and hearts of the people who are supposed to hear it."

"[That advice] clicked," he replied. "Ever since, I really got the confidence to just kind of fall in my groove of what I do."

Your Favorite Singer/Songwriter's Favorite Singer/Songwriter: Brittney Spencer

Baltimore, Maryland's Brittney Spencer writes from a place of deeply ingrained spiritual inspirations, and her style is borne from years spent as a churchgoing Episcopal church choir member and musical arranger. 

Equally, it's inspired by having a friend introduce her to the music of the Chicks as a teenager. Just like the band whose 1998 song "Wide Open Spaces" is a crossover country classic, Spencer's music is cut from the same cloth.

On songs like the 2020 Compassion EP single "Sorrys Don't Work No More," lyrics like "I called you up in August, hoping I could be honest/But you never let me speak" hurt more than they rhyme—which is a rare talent. 

That skill is not only apparent in Spencer's forthcoming material, but in writers' rooms with the likes of a diverse slate of country performers including Allen, Maren MorrisBrandy Clark and Jason Isbell.

Overall, it's simply a case of if—and not when—Spencer's acclaim will grow.

The Country-Trap Iconoclast: Willie Jones

No artist in the pop-country realm more uniquely highlights the diverse presentations allowed when welcoming more artists of color into the mainstream conversation than Shreveport, Louisiana's Willie Jones.

Suppose a Venn diagram space existed wherein early 2Pac's blend of earnestness and braggadocio blended with Kenny Chesney's desire to kick off his shoes and relax with a drink. In that case, the 26-year old singer-songwriter would occupy it.

From one side of his mouth emerges "American Dream," his critically-acclaimed 2021 civil rights anthem that includes the lyrics, "When you're livin' as a Black man/It's a different kinda American dream."

However, on the other side of the coin, you've got "Down By The Riverside," his Southern, countrified 2021 party track about corn, cotton and crawfish.

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