“CAN YOU FEEL IT?” That’s the question music royalty, also known as the Jacksons, ask and the crowd will always answer with a hearty response and applause.
Or maybe some would rather, “Let’s Chill” because that’s what Guy would do. The crowd response is “I Like.”
Or perhaps “I’m Looking for a New Love” like Jody Watley.
But I don’t care how you “Get Here” just get here soon like Oleta Adams advised.
“Hey Young World,” Slick Rick says the world is yours.
When you’ve done, all you can do, you just have to take Donnie McClurkin’s advice and just “Stand.”
Paying homage to legends that paved the way for the artists of today and the future is the highlight of the 2nd Annual Black Music Honors in Music City. The event was held last week and honored legendary artists who have made significant musical contributions to African American Culture and American music worldwide. Proceeds from the event benefit the National Museum of African American Music. LeToya Luckett and Rickey Smiley hosted the show that’s expected to air on Bounce TV on October 10 at 7 p.m.
It was amazing to see that despite everything going on in the world, inside the Tennessee Performing Arts Center for two hours, people of all colors united over a common love; music. LeToya Luckett says it’s important to honor the ones that laid down the foundation for those to follow. “We have to continue to honor our people. There are so many people that as an African American singer/actress there are so many people that came before me and knocked down doors so that I could have the platform that I have today. How dare we not honor them, and continue to honor them? Their works are not dead. So I think it’s important that we have events like Black Music Honors to come together and just love on each other because that’s what the world needs right now, a whole lot of love,” said Luckett. The event was produced by Center City Productions. “Events like this are important for a lot of reasons because we need to see positive images of African American people and really celebrate in the things that we do because if we don’t do it, who will? That’s why it’s so important for us to do it,” explained Erma Davis with Center City Productions. “I am pleased and thrilled to honor some of today’s most influential and iconic music artists”, Don Jackson founder of CCP and executive producer of Black Music Honors. “The caliber of this year’s honorees speaks to the incredible impact, breadth and depth of the music these artists have given to the world. I am truly excited about this year’s show. From a legendary group like the Jacksons, to Jody Watley, Donnie McClurkin, Slick Rick, Oleta Adams, and Guy, we are paying tribute to extraordinary artists from various genres of the music industry.”
I chatted with some of the honorees and performers on the red carpet!
On being honored:
50 years in the game and the Jacksons are still humbled to receive their Black Music Honors Lifetime Achievement Award. “It’s a great feeling you know we’ve been doing this for some time, so to get this award, it’s a beautiful thing. We are more excited about the people that supported our career, so we’d like to say thank you for all the millions of fans that supported us,” said Tito Jackson.
Rick the Ruler also known as Slick Rick was hype about being acknowledged for his art of storytelling. “It’s a good feeling to be honored to be honored in front of people and in front of the cameras and stuff like that. It’s a really good feeling.”
On paying homage to the honorees:
A rap legend in her own right, Da Brat said it’s time to start showing legendary artists love. “Slick Rick is everything! If you grew up listening to Slick Rick then you know he is the ruler. His lyrics are about storytelling. He taught us the art of storytelling. It’s very important to love and appreciate him while he’s still here. We don’t want something to happen to him and we rolling the credits saying thank you, he needs to hear it while he’s still here, all of the legends do.”
Singer Sevyn Streeter embodied Jody Watley’s spirit during her tribute to the icon. “First of all she was one of the first brown skin women that I saw on television that had the ability to dance and sing and just be cool like she was. My mother can tell you I grew up dancing and singing to Jody Watley’s music getting on her last nerve (laughs). I just love her.”
Vivian Green shared the stage with Streeter to pay tribute to a woman that many grew up emulating her sense of style. “Her music was just part of growing up. Her style, was just so groundbreaking with her style. She and Grace Jones had some groundbreaking style that a lot of people inherited and took after them. I think that’s amazing.”
Why events like this are important:
Rapper and producer Kwame was in the building showing his support for his artist Vivian Green who performed a tribute to Jody Watley. “I think events like this are important to honor musicians and give tribute to the great musicians while they are here. I’m just real proud to have something to do with it here and it’s just a cool thing, for example Slick Rick, because he’s like my all-time favorite rapper and to see someone I personally know getting honored is dope. Jody Watley is one of my favorite artists, so to have my artist, Vivian Green, honoring her is very dope. I’m glad to see this.”
Why the National Museum of African American Music is needed:
“It is important because in this era when history is often erased or overlooked especially with our contributions to society, music, and beyond. It is just so necessary now more than ever. It is such an honor for me being a part of this beyond being an honoree, but as a human being, and a person of music and the arts, it’s just everything. I’m looking forward to the museum and everything that comes from this night,” said Jody Watley.
LeToya Luckett agrees that it’s important to preserve our music history. “I think the museum is important as well. I didn’t have that as a kid where I could go around and see a museum where I could identify with people. I’m glad that the proceeds from this event are going toward helping put something like that together.”
President and CEO of the National Museum of African American Music, H. Beecher Hicks III, talked about how the mission of the museum will help keep musical history in-tact. “It’s important to celebrate. Part of our mission at NMAAM is to educate, part of it is to preserve, and part of it is to celebrate. So the icons that we are celebrating have made a tremendous impact on American music so it’s tremendous to be able to celebrate them,” said Hicks.
Honorees and performers on their favorite moment in music history:
We know the Jacksons have miles of receipts they could roll out as a favorite moment, but there is one thing that stands out in Marlon Jackson’s mind. “I just think that after all these years’ fans still appreciate our music. I think that’s one of the best things ever. Also, to know that we can unite the world in harmony and peace through our music, that’s greatly appreciated.”
For Jon Harreld from the R&B group Troop, being able to pay tribute to his idols quickly became one of his favorite moments. He also mentioned another connection to the Jacksons. “The biggest moment is for me today, getting to do a tribute to the Jacksons. It was my idea for us to record their song, “All I Do is Think of You,” and I just remember thinking it would be a great song for us to redo especially with Steve singing the second part, since he does a lot of Michael Jackson stuff. So I just knew from that point on it was going to be something special for us.”
In case you need a reminder of the remake:
The late 80s took off with the New Jack Swing sound and Damion Hall from the group Guy says being a part of the group and still being recognized is a highlight. “We are getting honored for the R&B Icon Award and you have Teddy Riley here who produced some of everybody in the business from pop to rock to R&B, also a creator of New Jack Swing. To have Guy still around after 29 years and getting love still being heard on the radio, doing shows, and people still honoring us, it’s a beautiful thing. So for me, I’m happy for the whole trip that we’ve been on.”
Teddy Riley added that one of their songs is a favorite for him. “Mine is still “Let’s Chill” because I’ve been waiting to do that for the longest time with someone and hopefully that will happen soon.”
Carl Thomas recalls one of his more memorable moments. “It’s really hard to say because most or all of these moments become great memories. I would have to say, one special moment in my career would be breaking Elvis Pressley’s “Blue Suede Shoes” record with my own record. That was a feat to me, I was always a fan of his voice, and people are weird about that, but I’ve always been a fan of Elvis.”
Rap legends Kid ‘N Play had such a long list of accomplishments, narrowing it down to one big highlight was hard. “We had a cartoon series on NBC, marvel comic book series, and the movies. So I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d ever do a movie. I still haven’t soaked that in, it’s still surreal to me. We have a lot of highlights,” said Play. Kid agreed and said everything about their career has been a highlight. “ I think at this point in our lives and careers it’s like the accumulation of everything and the fact that people still like our work and appreciate us, it’s humbling, so it’s hard to pin down one particular thing, it’s the accumulation of all of it and that we still get to do it. We’re the rap group with the AARP card,” said Kid.
This is one show you do not want to miss! Without dishing any spoilers, I’ll just say watch it until the end because there’s one performance you will want to watch at least 50 times!
The Black Music Honors will air in syndication throughout the month of September and don’t forget to tune in on Bounce TV in October!