On a wet but buzzing Thursday evening ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, leading lights in the music industry gathered for the third annual Recording Academy Honors Presented By The Black Music Collective. Along the event’s black carpet, stars and industry insiders were showing out — taking photos, reconnecting with friends and collaborators, and chatting with the press.
The official 2024 GRAMMY Week event was held Feb. 1 — the first day of Black History Month — at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles and was sponsored by Amazon Music and City National Bank. Each year, BMC presents its Global Impact Award to legendary musicians advancing the culture, and 2024’s honorees Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey, loomed over the entire evening before they’d even arrived.
Flava Flav, sporting his patented clock necklace, was also hyped about the evening. “It means everything to be at the GRAMMYs tonight. This is big,” Flav told GRAMMY.com. The rapper then spoke about the two transcendent stars being honored. “I feel real big about the honorees. Mariah Carey, always been proud of her and I love her songs…Lenny Kravitz is my dude. That’s my man. So congratulations Lenny!”
The significance of the event was felt from the first foot set on the black carpet. Afrobeats star Fireboy DML weighed in on the importance of the night. “I’m honored. It feels good. It’s always important to be in spaces like this,” Fireboy told GRAMMY.com, adding that he’s excited about his upcoming fourth album. “It’s important for the culture.”
As attendees inside the jam-packed ballroom room eagerly awaited the main guests of the night, Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. spoke about the momentum being built through Black Music Collective.
“[Last year] I spoke how great it was to be holding the second annual BMC event. To me it meant we established a new tradition. And now the tradition proudly continues,” Mason Jr. told the audience, emphasizing how the influence of Black culture can be found in all corners of the world and across musical genres.
A performance by Nigerian superstar Davido, a first-time GRAMMY nominee, spoke to the power of musical diversity in the Academy and BMC. Although the crowd had sat down with their appetizers, many stood up to vibe out as Davido performed his nominated song, “Unavailable.”
By the time Andra Day, adorned in a bright red leather coat, got to the end of her rendition of “Strange Fruit” with support from trumpeter Keyon Harrold, everyone in the ballroom was on their feet. It was a great moment for Day, whose cover of Billie Holiday’s 1939 cry for justice hammered home the connection between Black artists across different genres and across time.
Gabby Samone garnered the second standing ovation of the night for her take on Nina Simone’s “Four Women.” Simone has had a number of major cosigns as her star has grown brighter, and her fans include Jennifer Hudson and none other than Mariah Carey. Samone’s performance was followed by a powerful song from Erica Campbell, whose I Love You is nominated for Best Gospel Album this year.
A set from DJ Mannie Fresh, Kravitz took the stage to receive the first BMC Global Impact Award of the night. Introduced by mentee H.E.R, she talked about “American Woman’s” genre-bending influence on her own career and Kravitz’s own influence from childhood. “The fashion, the confidence, the badass walk, and the killer vocals made me at six years old say to my dad ‘I wanna play guitar.’ ‘I wanna be a rockstar.’ ‘I wanna be like Lenny Kravitz,’” H.E.R. said.
She then listed off some of Kravitz’s other accomplishments including working on “Rustin,” the new Netflix film about critical civil rights architect Bayard Rustin, as well as Kravitz’s work in philanthropy through his Let Love Rule Foundation.
Once the din died down, Kravitz took a trip back to childhood, too. He shared how, when he went to go see the Jackson 5 with his family, and was so hooked that he dreamed of becoming part of the storied troupe. “I fantasized that I was their long lost brother and turned the Jackson 5 into the Jackson 6,” he said.
Kravitz also spoke the various genres of music that helped mold him, drawn from many different corners. From his “grandfather’s block in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn,” where he “witnessed the birth of hip-hop,” to being shaped by legends like Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye and Nina Simone. He also shouted out his godmother, the late great actress Cicely Tyson.
In a particularly cool mashup of genre and generation, Quavo provided vocals to “Fly Away,” flanked by P-funk all star George Clinton, Earth, Wind & Fire bassist Verdine White, and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. At the end of the performance, Kravitz went over to each performer and hugged them.
After a brief intermission, record producer and BMC Chair Rico Love shouted out leadership, including the Recording Academy board of trustees and Ryan Butler, Vice President of DEI. Love spoke about Black Music Collective as a space where everyone can feel at home. “The life of a creator is so hard. And lonely. That’s why it’s valuable to build community,” he emphasized.
Black Music Collective’s scholarship program, in collaboration with Amazon Music, Love said, will once again support HBCU students who aspire to be in the next generation of music industry power players. In 2023, scholarships were awarded to students at Florida A&M University, Texas Southern University, Norfolk State University, among others. Love recalls the mentors he had when he was coming up and is glad BMC is also paying it forward.
Last night’s program found one of the few people on the planet that even Mariah Carey might be star struck by. Before the pop legend received her Global Impact Award, Stevie Wonder appeared and sat down over a keyboard.
“Very excited to be here to celebrate someone that has been a friend and I’ve been a fan of since the very beginning of hearing her voice,” he said, before serenading Carey with “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” ending the rendition with “I love you, I love you, you are my hero.”
Mariah Carey was seemingly surprised and star-struck herself. Once she overcame the awe, Carey detailed the pressure she faced early in her career to avoid leaning into Black music. “When I first started in the music business, I was often told to ‘conform’ to certain expectations. I was not encouraged to focus on my love for Black music,” she told the crowd.
Later, some of Carey’s other friends and collaborators performed, including Babyface, who once sang backing vocals on Carey’s “Melt Away.” (Carey then returned the favor by singing on “Every Time I Close My Eyes.”) Another Carey collaborator, Busta Rhymes, performed crowd favorite “I Know What You Want” and offered sincere thanks to Carey for her boldness and desire to “run with the wolves.” Tori Kelly also sang “Vision of Love” during this segment and earlier in the night, gospel legend Yolanda Adams performed “Make It Happen.” The third annual Recording Academy Honors/BMC event certainly did make it happen, as attendees flooded out of the ballroom and into the streets pumped with pride.
Head to live.GRAMMY.com all year long to watch all the GRAMMY performances, acceptance speeches, the GRAMMY Live From The Red Carpet livestream special, the full Premiere Ceremony livestream, and even more exclusive, never-before-seen content from the 2024 GRAMMYs.
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