In spring 2020, the U.S. came to terms with its role in racial inequality on the heels of a tragedy: the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. That singular moment compelled many, including those in the music business, to pledge funds and action. It also gave birth to the Black Music Action Coalition, a collective of Black creators, activists and change-makers who have diligently kept the issue in the headlines and on the minds of corporate parents.
On Sept. 22, the organization — whose leadership includes industry veterans Damien Smith, Caron Veazey and Shawn Holiday, among others — celebrates its second annual Music in Action gala in Beverly Hills, where honorees include Lil Baby, Sony Music Publishing chairman Jon Platt, 300 Elektra Entertainment’s Kevin Liles and 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones. It promises to be a gathering of heavies, as last year’s inaugural fete — Variety is a media sponsor — drew the Weeknd, Motown chairwoman Ethiopia Habtemariam and attorney Ben Crump.
BMAC has been busy in the months since, releasing a series of reports addressing diversity, social justice and bias. Its latest, “Three Chords and the Actual Truth,” is directed at Nashville, spurred by video of singer Morgan Wallen using a racial slur. BMAC’s collected data drills down to “the inception of the business that surrounds country music — which, historically, has been segregated,” BMAC co-founder and co-chair Willie “Prophet” Stiggers tells Variety.
To help lessen the financial disparities that affect marginalized groups in the city, BMAC developed a $1,000-per-month Nashville-based basic income program for up-and-coming Black artists. “We wanted to use Nashville as a model,” says Stiggers. “We feel that if we can get it right there, we can get it right anywhere in the country.”
Meeting with Wallen directly, however, didn’t have the impact BMAC had hoped for. “It was a missed opportunity,” Stiggers says. “It wasn’t just that a slur was said. It spoke to how Black America and white America coexist in this country. That was a chance for this generation to bring about change.”
Still, BMAC’s resolve remains as it traverses heavy ground, like advocating to remove the use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal trials and its call to ban Confederate flags at public performances. It’s also actively working on legislation to close the wealth gap in the U.S., and with legacy artists and other influential figures to change business practices within the music industry.
The awards for Thursday’s gala are as follows: Lil Baby (the Quincy Jones Humanitarian Award); manager David Ali (the BMAC BLACK: Future. Now. Award); Amazon Music and the Recording Academy (the BMAC Social Impact Award); attorney and author Brittany K. Barnett and Culture Creators’ Joi Brown (the BMAC Change Agent Award); Congresswoman Maxine Waters (the BMAC Icon Award); and Billboard executive director, R&B/Hip-Hop Gail Mitchell along with Variety’s own executive editor of music, Shirley Halperin, will receive the BMAC 365 Award recognizing “a person, company or organization that has consistently supported social change throughout the year.”
Pictured (from left): Damien Smith, Caron Veazey, Willie ‘Prophet’ Stiggers, Ashaunna Ayars, Shawn Holiday, Jamil Davis
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Michelle Pfeiffer Remembers Coolio: ‘Nothing But Gracious’
Michelle Pfeiffer, the prolific screen star of the ‘80s and ‘90s, has paid tribute to Coolio as a “gracious man” whose mega-hit “Gangsta’s Paradise” powered the success of one of her own films, Dangerous Minds.
Coolio was found dead on the bathroom floor at his friend’s house on Wednesday (Sept. 28), at the age of 59. Paramedics initially suspect that he suffered cardiac arrest, reports claim, though an official cause of death has yet to be announced.
Pfeiffer joined the chorus of tributes to Coolio, whose career briefly intersected with hers and created dynamite at the box office and on sales charts around the globe.
“Heartbroken to hear of the passing of the gifted artist Coolio. A life cut entirely too short,” she writes on social media.
“As some of you may know I was lucky enough to work with him on Dangerous Minds in 1995. He won a Grammy for his brilliant song on the soundtrack – which I think was the reason our film saw so much success. I remember him being nothing but gracious. 30 years later I still get chills when I hear the song.”
She’s not the only one still touched by the song. In July of this year, the official music video for “Gangsta’s Paradise” passed the one billion streams milestone on YouTube.
That clip featured Pfeiffer in her Dangerous Minds character Louanne Johnson, and went on to win best rap video category at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards.
The track, one of Coolio’s six hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, would go on to win the Billboard Music Award for single of the year, and a Grammy for best rap solo performance.
The single interpoles Stevie Wonder’s 1976 song “Pastime Paradise,” and was deemed the best-selling single on Billboard‘s year-end Billboard Hot 100 chart after spending 12 weeks in the top two positions; it logged a total of 62 weeks on the chart, including 3 at No. 1 and 11 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard‘s Hot Rap Songs survey.
Dangerous Minds, which observes the day-to-day of Johnson, an ex-Marine now teaching at a tough inner-city school, grossed more than $179 million worldwide on a budget of about $22 million, according to IMDB.
“Sending love and light to his family,” Pfeiffer signs off. “Rest in Power, Artis Leon Ivey Jr.”
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5 Takeaways From Ivy Queen’s Empowering Q&A at 2022 Billboard Latin Music Week
At Billboard Latin Music Week on Wednesday (Sept. 28), Ivy Queen candidly discussed her career, her songwriting and her struggles as the only woman in a genre dominated by men and her new music.
Moderated by Leila Cobo, vp/Latin industry lead, Billboard, see the best takeaways from the Icon Q&A with the Queen of Reggaeton.
On Fashion: “It’s always been important for me. When I started in the industry, everyone criticized my long nails, they called me Freddy Krueger, Edward Scissorhands. Now everyone has them long and I have them short. It was hard to find my identity. I dressed very tomboyish, to feel comfortable in a male-dominated industry. When we grow older, we appreciate our curves more. It was a very drastic change.
On Finding Her Sound: “My own style is made to defend women. It took me time to define my sound. I’ve always loved the reggae movement and everything that was being done in Panama but then I fell in love with rap music because it’s poetry. I can express what I feel.”
On “Te He Querido, Te He Llorado”: “I’ve always been very open and I’ve always sang to love. This song touched my life and the ones of who have deeply fallen in love. It was an overcoming process. Instead of doing something physical to my ex, I grabbed a pen and wrote the song. Music has showed me how to ventilate my feelings and go to bank to get my royalties.”
On Her Empowering Lyrics: “I get inspired by real things and tragedies that women can’t voice. It’s for those women who are going through a crisis in a toxic relationship and can’t see it. My music is based on the reality of many women.”
On Authenticity: “Feel comfortable with who you are, your punchlines, your lyrics. Whoever tells you differently, it’s because they can’t comprehend it. People in the industry said my look and voice were very masculine. But in the end, it was my biggest blessing. I asked for advice in the wrong but you have to give it your all.”
Coinciding with National Hispanic Heritage Month, Billboard Latin Music Week includes workshops and panels featuring artists such as Christina Aguilera, Romeo Santos, Camilo, Nicky Jam, Wisin y Yandel, Maluma, Chayanne, Ivy Queen, Grupo Firme, Bizarrap, Blessd, Grupo Firme and many more.
The event also includes superstar concerts, intimate showcases, and new music premieres by Bizarrap, Elena Rose, Justin Quiles, Mariah Angeliq, and BRESH, who will throw the ultimate closing party at Oasis, in Miami’s Wynwood.
For 30 years, Billboard Latin Music Week has been the longest-running and biggest Latin music industry gathering in the world. It will also dovetail with the 2022 Billboard Latin Music Awards on Sept. 29, in Miami.
The Billboard Latin Music Awards will broadcast live on Telemundo, and will also broadcast simultaneously on the Spanish entertainment cable network, Universo, and throughout Latin America and the Caribbean on Telemundo Internacional.
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‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, LL Cool J, MC Hammer, Questlove Pay Tribute to Coolio: ‘Peaceful Journey Brother’
Fellow musicians and other entertainers are paying tribute to rapper Coolio, whose songs “Gangsta’s Paradise” was used in “Dangerous Minds” and “Aw, Here It Goes!” in the opening sequence of Nickelodeon’s “Kenan & Kel,” died Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 59.
Coolio, born Artis Leon Ivey Jr., also had hits with “Fantastic Voyage” and “1,2,3,4 (Sumpin’ New)” and “It’s All the Way Live (Now).”
Among those who remembered Coolio on social media were “Weird Al” Yankovic, who was involved in a feud with the rapper when he released the song “Amish Paradise.” They later mended fences. Ice Cube, Questlove, Debbie Harry, Martin Lawrence and M.C. Hammer also paid tribute to the Compton-raised musician.
“One of the nicest dudes I’ve known,” wrote M.C. Hammer. See more tributes below:
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