Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
N.W.A's DJ Yella, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and MC Ren
N.W.A Are 'Straight Outta Compton': For The Record
What started as an attitude that helped put Compton on the map grew into a worldwide music revolution celebrating the streets
A debut album that landed like a sledgehammer, 1988's Straight Outta Compton has become a legend in its own right. The featured N.W.A lineup was Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and MC Ren. The album was produced by Dr. Dre and DJ Yella, and released on Ruthless Records, the label co-founded by Eazy-E and N.W.A manager Jerry Heller two years before.
Although it sold well initially, its landmark status rested on the controversies surrounding its gangsta lifestyle themes and attitudes. Its provocative tracks described the world N.W.A knew through their own eyes, including the title track, which elevated the group's hometown of Compton, Calif., "Express Yourself" and "Gangsta Gangsta." The album also included "F*** Tha Police," which resulted in the FBI and U.S. Secret Service sending threatening letters to Ruthless Records and the group's banishment from many venues.
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Credited as one of the most influential hip-hop records of all time, in 2015, Straight Outta Compton the film appeared, dramatizing the 1988 impact of the album, with Ice Cube portrayed by his son O'Shea Jackson Jr. Confrontations with law enforcement and antagonism based on "F*** Tha Police" form a core element of both the 2015 drama as well as the drama on the streets that has never stopped.
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Among the album's many aftermaths, Eazy-E died in 1995, Ice Cube went on to produce and star in his extensive filmography and the adventures of Dr. Dre touch on many other histories, including those of Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. Meanwhile, in recognition of its critical importance to music history, Straight Outta Compton was inducted into the Recording Academy's GRAMMY Hall Of Fame as well as the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry.
Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Inside The 2024 Special Merit Awards Ceremony Honoring N.W.A, Gladys Knight, Donna Summer & More
A deeply emotional pre-GRAMMY ceremony honored an extraordinary group of musical creators, pioneers, educators and icons including the Clark Sisters, Tammy Wynette, K'naan and others legendary innovators.
This year, the Special Merit Awards ceremony was not for the faint of heart.
The 2024 GRAMMY Week event, held Saturday at a capacity Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles, presented Lifetime Achievement Awards, Trustees Awards, the Technical GRAMMY, and the Music Educator Award to a dazzling gallery of musical innovators whose work has generated deep emotional connections across decades. In a world currently ensnared in a pattern of global conflict, the presentation of the award for Best Song for Social Change for the first time at the Special Merit Award ceremony this year added an extra layer of poignancy.
The presentation was touching from the very beginning, with a video montage of previous winners set to the historic recording of Aretha Franklin singing the Puccini aria "Nessuna Dorma." Glimpses of many legendary faces and performances on the screen underscored the Academy’s empathy for impactful music history: from Marvin Gaye to Janis Joplin; Billie Holiday to The Carter Family; The Beatles and Tina Turner to Dolly Parton and The Supremes.
The 2024 Music Educator Award was then given to Annie Ray, a music teacher and orchestra leader from Annandale, Virginia selected for her relentless positivity and inclusive energy. "Orchestra is much more than a class — it’s a family," said one of her students during a brief video chronicling her work. Ray, whose classrooms include students from 66 different countries — put together, they speak 59 languages — was visibly touched as she received the award. "I am thankful to share with the world what my students have taught me," she said.
The year’s Technical GRAMMY belonged to Tom Scott and the late Tom Kobayashi, who met at Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Sound in 1985 and together launched the Entertainment Digital Network (EDnet), which allows the sharing of high-quality video and audio. An estimated 250,000 musical collaborations have been facilitated by their innovations, including many GRAMMY performances.
Next up were the three Trustee Awards: British pop legend Peter Asher, member of Peter & Gordon, prolific A&R executive, producer, manager, and a self-professed "admirer and member of the Recording Academy for almost 60 years"; legendary entertainment attorney and former Recording Academy Chairman Joel Katz, known as "the dealmaker who thinks outside of the box"; and Jamaican American DJ Kool Herc, renowned as one of the founders of East Coast hip-hop in ‘70s. He received the award joined by his sister Cindy who promoted his initial series of parties in the Bronx, noted for his groundbreaking use of two turntables and the extension of funky breaks in songs.
It was time to honor the Lifetime Achievement recipients, and a sprightly Laurie Anderson stepped onstage and gave a witty assessment of her reputation as an uncompromising song alchemist. "They say my music is experimental, which sounds like doing something in the lab that might explode," she said. From her wonderfully robotic, left-field 1982 hit "O Superman" to her poetic concept album Homeland in 2010, Anderson has created her share of aesthetically explosive works of the art-pop and avant-garde variety.
"I love music so much, and I married a musician," she said acknowledging her husband, the late Lou Reed. "Wouldn’t it be great if there was a piano on every corner?"
The best-selling female gospel group in history, Detroit-based The Clark Sisters are known for their soaring vocal harmonies and powerhouse hits like "You Brought The Sunshine."
"We thank our Lord and Savior for allowing us to do what we do: singing," they said, adding words of gratitude for their mother — "the lady who paved the way" — the late choral director Dr. Mattie Moss Clark.
The importance of a rich spiritual life was also emphasized by Motown legend and Soul empress Gladys Knight. The singer known for classic hits such as "Midnight Train to Georgia" and a raucous rendition of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" beamed onstage as she recalled her beginnings in music, before she became an international star with The Pips. "We had to go to church every Sunday, and it did make a difference," she said. "Everybody was singing around me when I grew up. And my mom would never allow me to do it easy. It had to come from the heart."
It was time to witness the strength of street knowledge. Delving into the very core of hip-hop identity, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to N.W.A, the revolutionary Los Angeles collective that transformed the landscape of popular music with its 1988 debut Straight Outta Compton. The group was joined by the mother and son of late rapper Eazy-E, who passed away in 1995 at age 30. The surviving members of the group – excepting Dr. Dre, who was celebrating his daughter’s birthday and sent a text greeting – looked vindicated. "We always knew that a GRAMMY was not in the cards for us, but we still wanted to express ourselves," said Ice Cube. "When you do your thing, the world will come to you."
Donna Summer, the ethereal and visionary singer who took disco music into progressive territory during the ‘70s, passed away in 2012. The "I Feel Love" star received a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award on Saturday — and her husband Bruce Sudano and their three daughters were there to collect it. "Her voice and music are omnipresent in the [cultural] zeitgeist," said Sudano. "Donna continues to inspire people worldwide. She always referred to herself as an ordinary girl."
Last but not least, GRAMMY winning country star Tammy Wynette, who died in 1998, was also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award — accepted by her daughters, Georgette Jones and Jackie Daly.
"Mom would feel very humbled to be in such a talented group of people," Jones said. "She always thought that the GRAMMYs were the biggest accomplishment in music. And she never fully understood her own impact."
When rapper and singer K’naan was a child in Mogadishu, his mother managed to get the family out of Somalia on the last commercial flight before the civil war erupted. Together with songwriters Gerald Eaton and Steve McEwan, K’naan was honored with the Best Song for Social Change award for "Refugee," a track about the plight of political refugees around the world.
"In the Somali language, the word 'home' derives from the word 'mother,'" explained K’naan as he received the award to a standing ovation. "I dedicate this GRAMMY to my home — my mother."
Photo: VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images
2024 GRAMMYs: Jay-Z Receives Dr. Dre Global Impact Award
Alongside his daughter Blue Ivy, Jay-Z accepted the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award at the 2024 GRAMMYs with an inspiring speech.
A 24-time GRAMMY winner and 88-time nominee, Jay-Z was presented the Global Impact Award after being introduced by host Trevor Noah.
He then delivered a powerful speech that touched upon hip-hop's history, discussing its struggle to get recognized by the Academy and his own decision to boycott the show in 1998. He also thanked Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg for opening up opportunities for himself and other East Coast Rap artists and encouraged artists to keep pushing.
"You gotta keep showing up. Just keep showing up until they give you all those accolades you feel you deserve, until they call you genius, until they call you chairman, until they call you the greatest of all time. Feel me?"
Photo: Timothy Norris / FilmMagic / Getty Images
GRAMMY Rewind: Dr. Dre Takes Home The Inaugural Global Impact Award, Named In His Honor, In 2023
In homage to Dr. Dre's trailblazing achievements in music, the Recording Academy presented the first-ever Dr. Dre Global Impact Award at the 2023 GRAMMY Awards ceremony — to the rapper himself.
Dr. Dre has proven that an artist's job can go far beyond writing lyrics and performing at venues. In his nearly 40-year career, he has founded his own record label, Aftermath Entertainment, co-founded Beats Electronics, endowed the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andrew Young Academy, and much more.
To celebrate his massive achievements, the Recording Academy and Black Music Collective created the Global Impact Award, named in his honor. Relive the moment Dr. Dre accepted the inaugural gramophone in this episode of GRAMMY Rewind.
"I know everybody in here probably knows this already, but this is the 50th anniversary of hip-hop," Dr. Dre said at the beginning of his speech. "Make some noise for hip-hop!"
In his eyes, one of the most rewarding parts of his work is the collaboration. "Assembling a team with talented artists, engineers, and musicians with gifts different from mine and who shine in ways that I don't have been both inspiring and crucial to my success," he recalled.
"I'm extremely grateful to all of those who have comprised that team over the years, and I would not be here accepting this award without their contribution."
Before heading off the stage, Dr. Dre gave one encouraging message to the next wave of music's changemakers: "What I love about this award is that it uses my name to inspire the next generation of producers, artists, and entrepreneurs to reach for their greatness and demand that from everybody around you. Never compromise your vision. Pursue quality over quantity. And remember everything is important."
Watch the video above for Dr. Dre's complete acceptance speech for the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award at the 2023 GRAMMYs.
Check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind, and be sure to tune into the 2024 GRAMMYs 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).
Photo Credits: Derek Blanks; Mel Elder, Jr.; Michael Ochs Archives; Stephanie Diani; Kim Virdi; TiVo; photo courtesy of SMPTE; Copyright Brian Leatart; Gittings; Steve McEwan; Henry Diltz; Kobayashi Family; Johnny Nunez/WireImage; Nabil Elderkin
The Recording Academy Announces 2024 Special Merit Award & Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees: N.W.A, Gladys Knight, Donna Summer, DJ Kool Herc & Many More
The 2024 Special Merit Awards honorees include Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Tammy Wynette, the Clark Sisters, and many others. The Special Merit Awards will return to the Wilshire Ebell Theater on Saturday, Feb.3, during GRAMMY Week 2024.
Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, the Recording Academy has announced the 2024 Special Merit Awards honorees.
Laurie Anderson, the Clark Sisters, Gladys Knight, N.W.A, Donna Summer, and Tammy Wynette are the 2024 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award honorees; Peter Asher, DJ Kool Herc and Joel Katz are the Trustees Award recipients; Tom Kobayashi and Tom Scott are the Technical GRAMMY Award honorees; and “Refugee,” written by K’naan, Steve McEwan, and Gerald Eaton (a.k.a. Jarvis Church), is being honored with the Best Song For Social Change Award.
The Recording Academy’s Special Merit Awards Ceremony celebrating the 2023 Special Merit Award recipients will return to the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles on Saturday, Feb. 3.
“The Academy is honored to pay tribute to this year’s Special Merit Award recipients — a remarkable group of creators and industry professionals whose impact resonates with generations worldwide,” said Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy. “Their contributions to music span genres, backgrounds and crafts, reflecting the rich diversity that fuels our creative community. We look forward to honoring these music industry trailblazers next month as part of our week-long celebration leading up to Music’s Biggest Night.”
Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees
This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees to performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording (through 1972, recipients included non-performers).
Laurie Anderson is a writer, director, composer, visual artist, musician, and vocalist who has created groundbreaking works that span the worlds of art, theater, experimental music, and technology. As a performer and musician, she has collaborated with many people including Brian Eno, Jean-Michel Jarre, William S. Burroughs, Peter Gabriel, Robert Wilson, Christian McBride, and Philip Glass. In 2002, Anderson was appointed the first artist-in-residence of NASA which culminated in her 2004 touring solo performance, The End of the Moon. She has been nominated for six GRAMMY Awards throughout her recording career and received a GRAMMY for the release Landfall in collaboration with the Kronos Quartet at the 61st GRAMMYs.
The Clark Sisters, an American gospel vocal group initially consisting of five sisters: Jacky, Denise, Elbernita, Dorinda, and Karen – have been taking the world by storm since the early 1980s. Credited for helping to bring gospel music to the mainstream, the Clark Sisters are considered pioneers of contemporary gospel. Their biggest crossover hits include: “Is My Living in Vain?,” “Hallelujah,” “He Gave Me Nothing to Lose,” “Endow Me,” their hit song “Jesus Is A Love Song,” “Pure Gold,” “Miracle,” and their largest, mainstream crossover gold-certified, “You Brought The Sunshine.” The Clark Sisters (Jacky, Elbernita, Dorinda, and Karen) have won three GRAMMYs (two awarded to the group, and one to Karen as a songwriter for “Blessed and Highly Favored”), and with 16 albums to their credit and millions in sales, they are the highest-selling female gospel group in history.
Gladys Knight is a seven-time GRAMMY Award winner who has enjoyed No. 1 hits in pop, gospel, R&B, and adult contemporary, and has triumphed in film, television and live performance. Knight has recorded more than 38 albums over the years including four solo albums. She appeared on ABC’s 14th season of “Dancing With The Stars” in 2012, and in 2019, she competed on the inaugural season of “The Masked Singer.” Knight has sung the National Anthem at several major sporting events, including at Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta in 2019, and at the 2021 NBA All-Star Game. She was a National Endowment for the Arts 2021 National Medal of Arts Recipient and received a Kennedy Center Honor for Lifetime Artistic Achievements in 2022.
N.W.A was a rap group from the Compton district in Los Angeles who are credited by many with inventing gangsta rap. The group, consisting of Eazy-E^, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, and MC-Ren, developed a new sound, which brought in many of the loud, extreme sonic innovations of Public Enemy while adopting a self-consciously violent and dangerous lyrical stance. In 1988, N.W.A released their album, Straight Outta Compton, a brutally intense record that became an underground hit without any support from radio or MTV. This negative attention worked in their favor as it brought the album to multiplatinum status. Although the group was short-lived, gangsta rap established itself as the most popular form of hip-hop during the mid-1990s.
Donna Summer^ rocketed to international superstardom with her groundbreaking merger of R&B, soul, pop, funk, rock, disco, and avant-garde electronica, catapulting underground dance music out of the clubs of Europe and bringing it to the world. Summer holds the record with three consecutive double albums to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts (the only solo artist to ever accomplish this), and first female artist to have four No. 1 singles in a 12-month period on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. A five-time GRAMMY winner and 18-time GRAMMY nominee, Summer was the first artist to win the GRAMMY for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female (1979, “Hot Stuff”) as well as the first-ever recipient of the new GRAMMY Category for Best Dance Recording (1997, “Carry On”). Summer was the first female artist to win GRAMMY Awards in four different genres: dance, gospel, rock, and R&B.
Tammy Wynette^ first hit the musical scene in 1966 with “Apartment #9” after moving to Nashville and teaming up with record producer Billy Sherrill. Together, the duo wrote songs that reflected the yearnings and the things Wynette felt were important in her life. In 1968, Wynette released “Stand By Your Man,” which sold more than five million singles and became the largest-selling single ever recorded by a female artist. By 1970, she racked up five No. 1 country hits, was named the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year three times, and won two GRAMMYs. Wynette was the first female country music singer to sell over one million albums and has sold more than 30 million records grossing more than $100 million, earning her the title “The First Lady of Country Music.”
Trustees Award Honorees
This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees to individuals who, during their careers in music, have made significant contributions, other than performance, to the field of recording (through 1983, recipients included performers).
Peter Asher’s career began in 1964 as one-half of Peter & Gordon, whose “A World Without Love” topped the charts worldwide. Nine more Top 20 hits followed before Asher became head of A&R for the Beatles’ Apple Records in 1968, and discovered, produced and managed James Taylor; later adding Linda Ronstadt, Neil Diamond, 10,000 Maniacs, Cher, Diana Ross, Kenny Loggins, Bonnie Raitt, Robin Williams, Stevie Nicks, Lyle Lovett, Morrissey, Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, Ed Sheeran, and more to his roster. Asher won the GRAMMY for Producer Of The Year in both 1977 and 1989. He hosts a hit radio show “From Me To You” on Sirius XM and is much in demand not only in the studio but as a performer, speaker and author.
The legendary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee DJ Kool Herc is consistently credited as the founder of hip-hop. His mastery at the turntables is known worldwide, as are his positive contributions to the evolution of hip-hop culture. Herc’s popularity rose by playing long sets of assorted rhythm breaks strung together. Unlike any of his DJ counterparts, Herc is not a rapid rapper who keeps your head spinning with a patter, but he is a musical innovator to the turntables. He first introduced using two turntables to make the beats last longer, creating the illusion of one long break for the B-Boys to show off their skills. Herc has received a great deal of recognition during his lifetime, including his induction into the 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and recognition from the New York Landmarks Conservancy as a 2023 Living Landmark.
Joel Katz has played a profound role in shaping the entertainment industry through his work in facilitating entertainment-related corporate acquisitions and mergers and consulting multi-national and multi-media entertainment companies. Katz was ranked Billboard magazine’s No. 1 entertainment attorney in its “Power 100” list of most powerful executives in the music business and has been called “the dealmaker who thinks outside the box.” At Kennesaw State University, Katz endowed and began a commercial music program – one of the largest music education programs in America with over 500 students. He has authored and co-authored many articles and commentary on topics concerning entertainment law. In honor of his work, the University of Tennessee College of Law dedicated its library in his name, the Joel A. Katz Law Library.
Read More: GRAMMY Trustees Awards | The Complete List
Technical GRAMMY Award Honorees
This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Producers & Engineers Wing Advisory Council and Chapter Committees and ratification by the Recording Academy's National Trustees to individuals and/or companies/organizations/institutions who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field.
Tom Kobayashi^ and Tom Scott met at Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Sound in 1985, when the duo joined the company and completed the building of the Skywalker post-production facilities in both Northern and Southern California. Together, Kobayashi and Scott launched the Entertainment Digital Network, also known as “EDnet,” which employed fiber-optic networks to send high-quality video and audio great distances. Its then-revolutionary technology enabled the industry to link together talent, executives and production facilities at great cost savings. For 25 years, that company connected hundreds of recording studios worldwide in the days before the Internet could handle high-quality audio. EDnet became a part of Onstream Media, and over the decades, tens of thousands of long-distance collaboration sessions were facilitated for the music, advertising, TV, and cinema businesses.
Best Song For Social Change Award Honorees
This Special Merit Award honors songwriter(s) of message-driven music that speaks to the social issues of our time and has demonstrated and inspired positive global impact. The finalists and recipient(s) are selected annually by a Blue-Ribbon Committee composed of a community of peers dedicated to artistic expression, the craft of songwriting and the power of songs to effect social change. See past recipients here.
In June 2023, singer-songwriter K’naan released the inspiring single and accompanying video “Refugee,” co-written by GRAMMY Award-winning songwriter Steve McEwan and GRAMMY-nominated producer Gerald Eaton (also known by his stage name, Jarvis Church). “Refugee” stands out as a distinctive musical endeavor, skillfully interweaving personal and political narratives, and serving as a tribute to refugees around the world. With the single, K’naan drew inspiration from his personal experiences, aiming to redefine the traditional perception of the term “refugee” into a symbol of resilience and strength. The song was written with the hopes of encouraging individuals to embrace the word “refugee” proudly and to give those made homeless by conflict a song that felt like home.
Read More: GRAMMY Technical Awards | The Complete List
^Denotes posthumous honoree.