Paying homage to music icons that paved the way and celebrating their achievements was the highlight of the 2019 Black Music Honors show in Atlanta, Georgia. The event was held on September 5, at The Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and honored legendary artists who have made significant musical contributions to America’s soundtrack and worldwide. LeToya Luckett and Rickey Smiley hosted the annual event that’s expected to air on Bounce TV on October 20 at Noon.
During the two-hour star-studded event, Central City Productions honored Xscape who received the Urban Music Icon Award for their 25 years in the industry. 5 time GRAMMY winner Yolanda Adams received the Gospel Music Icon Award, Arrested Development received the Hip Hop Icon Award, Tamia was awarded the Soul Music Icon, and legendary chart topping singer Freddie Jackson whose career has spanned over 30 years, received the Legend Award. Don Jackson, founder of Central City Productions and executive producer of Black Music Honors, says he was inspired to create an event to honor icons because of the National Museum of African American Music. “This is what [NMAAM] is all about.So this is the way to keep the history and culture of music alive and show the contributions it’s had to the world.”
Host Rickey Smiley says it’s important to honor legends while they are still here. “We tend to throw people away, and if you aren’t in the top ten, then we act like people don’t exist. So, to be able to shout out the honorees and different groups and artists coming out to celebrate them is really exciting.”
Despite the political climate and the forces of Hurricane Dorian looming along the east coast, people came together to uplift and celebrate the artists that made a cultural impact musically. The show featured tribute performances by Avery Wilson, Tevin Campbell, Tony Terry, Dee-1, Jade Novah, Jekalyn Carr, June’s Diary, Kelly Price, Keke Wyatt, Le’Andria Johnson, Melanie Fiona, 702, Mali Music, Travis Greene and Mumu Fresh and more. Other notable performances were from Naughty By Nature, Jessie Woo, and Jagged Edge.
NMAAM was on the red carpet to chat with some of the attendees and performers!
On being honored and the musical impact:
Known for his sensual slow jams and songs that serenade, Freddie Jackson noted the impact his music over his 33 year career has had on the industry. “It changed things in R&B. “Rock Me Tonight” did something that other records did not do. Regarding families, I helped to create a lot of babies. That “Tasty Love” is still working.” Jackson said.
Eshe from culturally conscious group Arrested Development, says they made noise because they followed their own blueprint. “Arrested Development came out at a time when music was doing something completely different. We just came out with this southern energy and uniqueness and people really connected to it. They can see their family in it and their roots, especially in the sound.”
Her group-mate Speech agrees, “One of the beautiful things about when we first came out is that all of the MC’s had a different voice, a different viewpoint that they were kicking. So you as listeners got a chance to hear the diversity of black thought. That needs to be represented again and so we’re doing great music now and still striving to stay at it.”
Gospel great Yolanda Adams, who was also a 2018 NMAAM Rhapsody & Rhythm Honoree, says it’s important for people to realize how much artists put themselves out there. “We have to recognize that people have dedicated their lives to music, period. You know, to make other people’s lives better, to give people hope in times of distress, give them encouragement. You know, when they needed to let them know that they can, they can get up and dust themselves off and first believe in yourself.” She added that it feels good that people still want to hear music from her. “ I am so honored that people still want to hear the music. They still want more recordings and hear my voice. That makes me feel real good because I have spent my life trying to make sure that I encourage and empower people.”
Naughty By Nature’s Treach weighed in on the impact his group has had on music and why it’s important to honor artists for their contributions to the industry. “We strive to be legends. We embrace and look up to all of our entertainers, athletes, and a lot of other stuff in the communities, but in the hood it’s not positive. So when you see people that’s our color, that’s our ethnicity, in the rap game, and in the music game doing it, it’s something to aspire to. So we always got to support that.”
On paying homage to the honorees:
Artists MAJOR and Leon Timbo teamed up for soulful performance paying tribute to the legendary Bill Withers for his longevity and ability to take his life experiences and bridge the gap between R&B and acoustic folksy soul. “People may forget his face because Bill Withers wasn’t pretentious in the sense that he needed to be seen, but his songs live forever. You cannot go without singing, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” or “Lean on Me,” or even “Grandma’s Hands,” explained MAJOR.
Singer Tevin Campbell took part in the tribute to Freddie Jackson, an honor that he says is past due. “Freddie has a phenomenal voice, very expressive, and he’s just a great guy. I’m really glad that they’re honoring him this way. Long overdue, but he deserves it. He’s also the only R&B artist that I know who sang and played the piano for Sophia on the “Golden Girls,” and that automatically qualifies him for a tribute.”
Jade Novah paid tribute to Tamia, who she says is her favorite singer. “I’m just grateful to honor her while she can acknowledge it and be present and just be celebrated.”
Why the National Museum of African American Music is needed and its impact on the industry:
President and CEO of the National Museum of African American Music, H. Beecher Hicks III says the mission of the museum is to keep music history in-tact and the impact will be huge. “I think more people will come to Nashville to record and do business. I also think it will really change the perception of the way that most Americans really think about Black music and its impact and its importance. So even hip hop fans will understand the importance of blues and jazz and be able to put it together and understand how it all connects. People that are not African American will come to really appreciate how, significant African American culture has been to their own cultural and music experience. So we’re really looking forward to that being a part of what they’re saying about the museum.”
Leon Timbo added that it’s important for NMAAM to exist to teach younger generations. “You really know what we’re doing or where we’re going if we don’t realize the struggle and the tensions and what it built in us as a people. Those wells are already dug. No sense in re- digging them. The next generation will know how high we can go, you know, our ceiling is their floor as as it were, and if we don’t understand what those things were, we’ll never know how to be the best versions of ourselves.”
Vin Rock of Naughty by Nature says it’s crucial to tell our own stories. “We have to preserve our legacies because as we know, people will try to erase your whole history. So we need museums, we need curators, to protect and just hold down our story in our history.”
Cradling her baby bump, songstress Keke Wyatt agreed that it’s important for the NMAAM to exist. “We’re dope and we’re amazing and epic.So, why don’t we deserve that? They can put somebody’s clothes in a museum, right? So why not put us in a museum?”
Remembering GRAMMY winning songwriter Lashawn Daniels.
Many artists held back tears and embraced as they still try to cope with the loss of songwriter Lashawn Daniels who was killed in a car accident just a couple days before. He was known for his songwriting on hits for Brandy, Lady Gaga, Destiny’s Child, Michael Jackson, Tamar Braxton, Whitney Houston and many more.
Kelly Price was emotional on the red carpet. “I had a couple of tough conversations with the Lord over the last couple of days, but we are going to remember his work, celebrate his work, and absolutely celebrate his life.”
The Black Music Honors will air in syndication throughout the month of September and on Bounce TV in October. The broadcast schedule is available at www.blackmusichonors.com