The Recording Academy honored legendary artists Dr. Dre, Lil Wayne, and Missy Elliot, along with esteemed record executive Sylvia Rhone at its second-ever Black Music Collective Ceremony on Thursday, one of the marquee events leading into the Grammy Awards this Sunday.
The event was celebratory, even by Grammy standards, as the four music industry fixtures were each awarded the Global Impact Award, a sort of lifetime achievement award within the BMC. The recipients gave emotional speeches between performances from their friends and collaborators, including Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Ciara, 2 Chainz, Chloe Bailey, Tweet, Tyga, Korupt, and Ty Dolla $ign.
“I don’t get honored where I’m from,” Wayne said with a slight break in his voice as he took the stage to accept his award toward the end of the evening. “Where I’m from, In New Orleans, you’re not supposed to do this. We don’t get honored. I don’t know all of y’all tonight. Thank you. I ain’t shit without you.”
Wayne was humble in his speech, touching on his early career and recalling his stepfather dying when he was 14. He thanked all his children and all their mothers, particularly Antonia Johnson, the mother of his first child. He also thanked his own mother, as well as Cash Money Records, which signed Wayne as a young teenager.
Wayne’s speech was one of the more emotional highlights of the evening. He was introduced Thursday by his longtime friend DJ Khaled, who recalled meeting the rapper before their careers took off when he worked at Odyssey Records in New Orleans. “I grew up listening to you, and I’m older than you. It’s called timeless,” Khaled said. “I was blessed to know Lil Wayne from the beginning. Lil Wayne is a rap god.”
Wayne also got virtual shoutouts from Deion Sanders and Drake, who Wayne had signed to his Young Money Entertainment label in 2009. Drake has a prickly relationship with the Grammys himself and gave a few cartoonish winks in his speech as he seemed to acknowledge that.
Following his speech, 2 Chainz covered “Duffle Bag Boy,” one of Wayne’s first singles, while Tyga performed Tha Carter III standout “A Milli.”
The Black Music Collective is just over two years old, starting in September 2020 as one of the more notable initiatives from the Recording Academy to diversify and grow Black representation within the organization. While a bit more informal than the main event later this weekend — and not without a few technical difficulties throughout the dinner — the night still had plenty of the lavishness of Grammy weekend. Attendees at the Hollywood Palladium chowed down on cornbread topped with crab and caviar (aptly called the Carter III Triple C’s) while Busta Rhymes ran through a quick set, highlighted by a performance of “Baby If You Give it To Me” and his impressive lightning-speed verse on “Look at Me Now.”
Elliot received pre-recorded shoutouts from Timbaland and Lizzo and was introduced by Ciara and her longtime manager Mona Scott-Young before giving an emotional speech of her own reflecting on her lifetime of breaking through barriers to establish her music career.
“This doesn’t get old to me. I’ve won a lot of awards and feel the same way,” Elliot said, pausing as she started to cry. “It hits different when you stand up here. We’ve been through a lot. I know Dre, Wayne, none of us rolled over into success.”
Elliot also thanked fellow honoree Rhone, the lone executive among Thursday evening’s recipients, saying that “she never told me ‘you need to lose weight,’ she never told me to change my records.” She further thanked her mother, God, and the female hip hop artists that came before her, like Yo-Yo and MC Lyte, who Elliot particularly called “the reason that I stand here.”
Elliot’s musical tributes showed off the depth of her catalog both as a performer and songwriter. Chloe Bailey honored Elliot with a rendition of Aaliyah’s “One in A Million,” which Elliot co-wrote, while Tweet performed her Elliot collab “Oops (Oh My),” and Ciara sang the Elliot co-written “1, 2 Step.”
Dre, a familiar figure among Grammy special merit awards as the honoree of the Academy’s Producers and Engineers Wing in 2020, spoke about his love for music production in his speech, honored 50 years of hip hop, and praised the early music that inspired him in his early days, namely “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel,” which Dre said introduced him to hip hop in the first place.
“My musical journey started with me wanting to find something that I can be good at, simply so I can earn enough money to buy a decent pair of shoes,” he said. “The birth of hip hop completely changed the course of my life. I heard mixing and scratching and couldn’t get enough of that sound. Once I got my hands on the turntables, I knew I found my wings, and I was determined to learn how to fly. It didn’t stop for me with scratching and mixing. I fell in love with the idea of manipulating sound, taking those different sounds and putting them together like a puzzle to make a song.”
Honoring Dre was his longtime collaborator Snoop Dogg, who played “Deep Cover,” “Nothin’ But A G Thang,” and “Bitch Please,” bringing out Kurupt early, while Ty Dolla $ign sang on “Ain’t No Fun.”
While Rhone may not hold the same level of notoriety outside of the industry that her artist contemporaries have, she was as venerated if not more throughout the night, thanked profusely by artists for her efforts to push music forward, and for never saying no and always empowering the artists at her labels.
Rhone is one of the few black female chief executives in the recorded music business as the CEO of Epic Records, and she’s often lauded as one of the most influential figures in Hip Hop culture, working with artists like fellow Impact Award recipient Missy Elliot, along with Future, Travis Scott and MC Lyte.
“It’s been a lot of years for me in hip hop. I appreciate more than you could know to be recognized with these cultural icons,” Rhone said. “I’m just as excited for the future of Epic Records, and yes, that includes Future,” she further quipped.
She was the first to accept her award, getting a warm introduction from Swizz Beatz, who called the executive “Queen Sylvia Rhone The Great.” “What she’s doing for music and culture and hip hop is fucking epic.”
Busta, another Rhone artist, also lauded the executive after his performance. “She put her job on the line to make sure we could be trailblazers,” he said. “Every dream I had, I could wake up, come into the office, and Sylvia went balls to the wall to make our dreams come true.”