Tag: My Music Matters

Turning a Corner: How 4:44 Airstreamed the Revolution

by H. Beecher Hicks, III, CEO & President, NMAAM

Over the last few weeks I’ve enjoyed listening to Jay-Z’s most recent album 4:44. The predominant thought that comes to mind – over and over – is that hip-hop has turned a significant corner with this one.

I’m sure that my sentiment is not unique, as the album has topped the Billboard charts for the last two weeks.  But it’s worth making the point anyway.

I think it’s important to consider that this is an album that deals with very adult subject matter – credit and financial investments, fidelity and fatherhood, racism and homophobia, and entrepreneurship.  This is quite a distance from the counter-disco origins of the genre, the east coast – west coast battles that followed and the apolitical pre-Obama era that we’ve only recently left behind.  Instead, Hov reminds listeners about where he’s come from, but also insists that he’s in a better, more mature place now; and he cautions us to learn the lessons that he has.

“I’m trying to give you a million dollars’ worth of game for $9.99.”

This corner we’ve now turned matters more than we might at first think.

Those of us who came of age with hip-hop as central to our culture must admit that our growth has, until now, been stunted.  The tragic deaths of Tupac, Biggie, Left Eye and Aliyah impacted us more than we know.  These poet prophet prognosticators fed us the important musical nutrients that helped us put an understandable beat to the otherwise perplexing world around us.  And, while they were robbed of their lives, we were robbed of the maturity and wisdom that comes from being well nourished by their lyrical insights.

Make no mistake about it, there is still a lot of “lifestyle” music available to entertain us.  Although I’m amazed at the glorification of strip clubs and drug culture in music at times, I will also confess to bobbing my head to some trap music from time to time.  Notwithstanding this, people are streaming 4:44 on Sprint and Tidal in droves, and the consciousness and behavior of these fans will soon adapt in response to the knowledge dropped in this album.

No, Jay and this single album won’t be solely responsible for this change.  I’ve been recently observing that there seems to be something of a “new morality” emerging in urban music; a more prevalent expression of topics relating to maturity and faith.

For example, Common and John Legend have lent their pens to songs on uplifting films such as Selma and shows such as Underground; Childish Gambino tells us to “Stay Woke!” in his latest single “Redbone”, “Uncle Charlie” Wilson and Avery*Sunshine regularly take us to church during their shows, and Lecrae’s song “Blessings” features Ty Dolla $ign, has done well on Billboard Christian and R&B charts since January and gets frequent airplay on radio.

Further, I went to a recent Chance the Rapper concert with my teenage son and was confused at times about whether I was at a hip-hop show or a gospel concert.  The diverse crowd of 60,000 seemed to know the words to “I’m the One,” “No Problems” AND “When the Praises Go Up.”


By then I was thinking that something was different, but I was sure that we had turned an important corner when the rapper, between marijuana references and mild profanity, asked the audience “How many of y’all want to go to heaven?”  Without much prompting, the screams were the loudest of the night.

I kind of miss Jay-Z rapping about “Run(ning) This Town” with Rihanna and Kanye West.  Maybe a party anthem will be on the next album.

As I said, it’s a “new” morality, so I’m not sure what this public display of responsibility means, or where it all goes from here.  But I welcome it and I’m sure that we will all be better, more at peace and probably wealthier for it.

Hip-hop has turned a corner.

About the Author


The National Museum of African American Music is set to open its doors in 2019. It is to be the only museum dedicated to preserving the legacy and celebrating the accomplishments of the many music genres created, influenced, or inspired by African Americans. Being built in Nashville, the Museum will share the story of the American Soundtrack, integrating history and interactive technology to bring the musical heroes of the past into the present.

Black Music Month & Music Education

Part Two of our Conversation with Black Music Month Co-Founder and NMAAM National Advisory Board Member Dyana Williams

NMAAM has the honor of having one of the co-founders of Black Music Month, entertainment industry veteran Dyana Williams, as a member of its National Advisory Board.  Along with Philadelphia International Records label owner and renowned songwriter Kenny Gamble, she orchestrated the very first White House event to recognize Black Music Month in 1979 during President Carter’s administration.

In part one of our conversation with Dyana, the avid activist shared in this video how she later got a bill to the Senate floor in 2000 with the help of Congressman Chaka Fattah to make June officially nationally recognized as Black Music Month. Signed by President Clinton, this is now known as the African American Music Bill.



In part two of our conversation, Dyana reminisces about that very significant day in Black Music Month history in 1979, the importance of honoring black music’s creators, and NMAAM’s mission to provide music education programs that recognize black music year round.

BMM1979 Credit Dyana Williams-2

NMAAM: Dyana, this is a picture from your personal collection taken on the day President Jimmy Carter hosted the first Black Music Month observance at the White House back in 1979.  What do you think about when you see this picture now?

Dyana Williams: In the company of record mogul and Black Music Month co-founder, Kenny Gamble, it was my first time at the White House, and a most memorable and magical day. I feel a great sense of pride when I see some of the legendary people who attended this historic occasion for Black Music at the White House, hosted by President Carter and his wife. Legendary radio programmer, personality and my former boss, Frankie Crocker, Chuck Berry and many other notable figures in Black music and culture attended this first Black Music Month event.

NMAAM: What do you remember your hopes and aspirations being after getting President Carter’s approval of Black Music Month?

Dyana Williams: We were hoping to secure greater regard for Black music as a multi million dollar industry, as well as being one of America’s finest cultural and economic exports to the world.

NMAAM: Within the past year, black music has suffered a great loss of some of its most significant figures. Do you feel that this will affect Black Music Month this year and if so, how?

Dyana Williams: While we are still mourning the recent April transition of Prince’s life, his June 7th birth date will most certainly be recognized during Black Music Month in the United States and around Planet Earth. The impact and influence of recently deceased artists such as Natalie Cole, Maurice White, Nicholas Caldwell of The Whispers, and Marshall “Rock” Jones of the Ohio Players, among others in different aspects of Black music should never be forgotten and celebrated, during Black Music Month and beyond.

NMAAM: Should we have a particular perspective or focus for this year considering?

Dyana Williams: The perspective should always be on the recognition of the foundation artists, as well as this current aggregation of music creators and future generations of individuals who advance Black music.

Dyana Photograph #2-Credit Whitney Thomas


“Black music is American music!

We should never forget that fact.”





NMAAM: You are also the Philadelphia GRAMMY chapter president, so I am sure you are well familiar with the GRAMMY in the Schools programs as well as other efforts within the industry to keep music programs in the schools.  What would you like to see education wise regarding the history of the contribution of African Americans to American music?

Dyana Williams: I would like to see the contributions of those who have perpetuated Black music and culture, taught to all children starting in Pre K onwards. All genres including Gospel, the Blues, Rock, Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Hip-Hop, EDM, Pop and any hybrid forms of these genres are significantly American. Black music is American music! We should never forget that fact.

NMAAM: As you well know, part of the vision for NMAAM is to provide music educational programming.  What would you say about its importance to the mission of the institution?

Dyana Williams: NMAAM’s focus on music education is one of the most important components of the Museum’s endeavors. With the establishment of NMAAM, we should support this important museum on every possible level.



NMAAM would like to thank Dyana Williams for being a true pioneer and advocate for African American music throughout the years.  As she mentioned, it is important to support the Museum in its many endeavors such as its educational programming. NMAAM is currently doing its part to inspire and educate the youth of the Nashville community, as well as other communities around the country, about the national treasure that is African American music through two of its music programs:


MET Summer Academy


Choral Arts Link and the National Museum of African American Music present The MET Summer Academy, which kicks off June 20th and runs through July 1st. It is a two-week choral retreat for public, private, charter, and home-schooled children, as well as students who participate in the MET Singers.  Singers encounter choral and vocal performance training, varieties of musical styles and tips from special guest artists from the National Museum of African American Music, Barbershop Harmony Society, the Nashville Symphony, Intersection CME and more! The registration deadline for this summer is June 20.  Click here for more information.



From Nothing to Something (FN2S) is a series of one-hour programs consisting of one of six different musical presentations: Spoons, Harmonica, Cigar Box Guitars, Banjo, Innovation of Lyrics and Washtub Bass.  Programs on each instrument, led by artists, explore the musical history, techniques and other interesting stories/facts behind the instrument.

FN2S is designed to educate young people about how a group of people, from different cultures, created instruments from memories and limited resources.  Replicas of these instruments were literally made out of nothing (household items or natural materials), and were used to create something wonderful – music!

Participants will learn how these hand made instruments influenced the development of different musical genres like Blues, Jazz, Country, Rock & Roll, Hip-Hop and more, which created America’s music and culture.

FN2S is offered year round through summer camps as well as through classrooms and groups.  For more information, click here.

Classical Music and the Struggle For An Age of Enlightenment

by Roy “Futureman” Wooten

In my weekly blog series, I outline some of the pivotal musical inspirations and influences that go back and forth between Black culture and Classical music.

In this blog, I want to talk about stories.  A good story has a beginning, middle and end. A famous philosopher named Georg Hegel described a type of story path called the “Hegelian Dialetic,” where you have a thesis set against an anti-thesis that eventually merges through conflict and union to create a new synthesis.  The numerous stories of bi-racial children blending the different cultural influences of their parents and achieving greatness represented a “new synthesis” for humanity, born out of a Hegelian merging of differences.

The union of Classical music and Black history goes all the way back to the many mixed race children of the global slave trade between Africa and Europe and a pivotal slave ship captain who embraced the Negro and Negro melody, well before Antonin Dvorak,

Kurt WeilDmitry ShostakovichMaurice RavelIgor Stravinsky and other European composers began to feature Black music in their master works.

This blog series is focused on connecting the historical dots of many constellations of Classical music and Black history emerging during history’s epic struggle for an age of enlightenment…

When I look at history, I always find that music seems to lead the way.  Music seems to enable a change or inspiration that would otherwise never happen… from the classical sound track of the 18th century Struggle for Enlightenment, to the 20th century Civil Rights Movement and its relationship to African American music.

At any given point in any piece of music, there are many dialogues happening between the different instruments, players and the individual parts that make up the entire work. The individual players, instruments and parts, must perform cohesively in order to reach a unity beyond themselves, and thus become a part of a larger unlimited idea of music.

I want to take a look at the “dialectic” or dialogue process by which innovation, evolution, change and growth emerges in music and civilization.  The Hegelian Dialectic is a philosophy introduced by the philosopher Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel that speaks on the process of two different sides merging through a variety of ways to introduce a new synthesis.

The Hegelian Dialectic expresses the idea that tragedies in the world are not simply conflicts between right versus wrong, but conflicts that can also arise between more than one right.  The philosophy expresses the idea that the “absolute” truth (or the solution to the problem) is found neither wholly in the thesis nor the anti-thesis but in the relationship of an emerging synthesis, which reconciles the two sides.

The relationship between Classical music and the Black experience showcases the emerging new synthesis of multi-cultural children individually and collectively establishing a “new synthesis” reconciliation of cultural differences.

raceI just watched an excellent movie called “RACE,” which is about Negro track star Jessie Owens who won 4 gold medals at the Berlin Olympics just before Adolph Hitler started his bombing attacks that began World War II.  Jessie Owen’s unprecedented accomplishments of winning 4 gold medals at those Olympic games defied and contradicted Adolph Hitler and his minister Josef Goebels “Entarte” propaganda campaign of negative racist views against Jewish people and Negroes.

This film allowed the audience to experience the racial pressures that accompanied the great achievements of Jessie Owens, and I submit that Classical films in the future will also include the racial pressures underlying the great achievements of people of color. Overcoming racism at home and abroad, Owens seizes the opportunity to show Berlin and the world that he’s the fastest man alive.

Jesse Owens’ quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history thrusts him onto the world stage of the 1936 Olympics, where he faces off against Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy.

I appreciated the accurate story telling in this film that allowed the audience to witness the racial pressures of the times. The film showed how even after winning four gold medals and being received by a welcome home American parade of a million people cheering him in the streets,  Jessie Owens, due to segregation rules, was not allowed to enter through the front door of the hotel hosting a special event being held in his honor.  Owens was forced to enter through the kitchen side door and treated the same way Duke Ellington, and many other black and bi-racial celebrities of history were treated.

I also appreciated the historical movie named “42,”  which told the story of America’s first Negro baseball player to integrate the all white game of major league baseball.  The player’s name was Jackie Robinson, and his story is another great example of historical storytelling that also captures the racial pressures of the times. The racial pressures and challenges faced by Jackie Robinson are similar to the racial pressures faced by the Chevalier Saint Georges, who was the first person of color to achieve greatness in many arenas from fencing to freemasonry, to military leadership and music.

MV5BMTQwMDU4MDI3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjU1NDgyOQ@@._V1__SX1234_SY748_     belle

The story of “Belle” brings us to the year 1760 , when England was a global power and major slave empire.  The film shows the racial tensions underscoring the Age of Enlightenment and revolutions.  It depicts the life and pressures of a mixed race daughter of a White Navy Admiral, who gets placed in the white family of an aristocratic Great Uncle. The Uncle later becomes the Judge to decide the “Zong” case controversy between slave traders who threw slaves overboard in order to collect insurance money and their protesting insurance company.  This was a very high profile case that gave abolitionist William Wilberforce one last great chance to make his case to abolish the slave trade. The story of “Belle” captures the racial pressures of being a bi-racial individual in a very segregated society.  The story of Belle also reveals the racial tensions occupying the same time when Franz Joseph Haydn, Chevalier Saint Georges, George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower and Ludwig Van Beethoven were each establishing their legacies.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”36″ gal_title=”classical artist”]

Hadyn, Saint Georges, Beethoven and Bridgetower each established a “new synthesis” of multi-cultural greatness in classical music. They were all referred to as moors, creoles or mulatto in their own time because of their mixed race status.

At the age of twenty-eight Haydn composed his first symphony. Soon after this, he attracted the attention of Prince Esterhazy, whose entire family has become known in the history of music as generous maecenases of the art. Prince Esterhazy, who paid Haydn handsomely, referred to him as the Moor when he hired the composer and forced him to eat in the kitchen with the servants.Haydn's Death Mask It is interesting to note that it was in the kitchen that Hadyn discovered the young mixed race violin virtuoso Bridgetower– who would later befriend Beethoven and follow in the footsteps of Saint Georges to become a superior violin virtuoso.

It is also interesting to note that Saint Georges was sent to pay Haydn– more than he had ever been paid by Prince Esterhazy– to write new music for a huge, “Olympique” Orchestra that would become known as the “Paris Symphonies.”

Classical music has played a significant role in the history and politics of race relations. Saint George’s brilliant rehearsals and the premier of Haydn’s new “Paris Symphonies” established that he was not only the greatest fencer and violinist, but also the greatest conductor of all of Europe.  When we take note of the racial pressures of the times, we can see that great achievements have shaped Classical music and played a significant role in the politics of race relations and the soundtrack of change.


Wilberforce gave a prolific four hour speech that would convince lawmakers to legally end the slave trade.  His life is portrayed in the film “Amazing Grace,” which is also the name of a famous hymn.

The Amazing Grace Hymn is based on the “common meter” structure that slave ship Captain John Newton heard from his African slave captives.  Thus, Newton’s popular hymn may be considered an 18th century homage to the “Negro melody” that Dvorak and many other European composers would later emphasize in the 19th century.Wilber

A key point to absorb is that Black sacred music was being sung during the same as the “Age of Enlightenment” when Haydn, Chevalier Saint Georges, Mozart, Bridgetower and Beethoven were writing and performing their great masterworks.  Another key point to absorb is that all of the above named composers wrote and performed their music during an era that was at the height of a global slave trade.

As I finish up this blog, I am reminded that the ideals of liberty, equality and brotherhood, are living principles that will always inspire idealistic composers and revolutions throughout the ages. Thus, I see the Chevalier Saint Georges’ and Mozart’s enthusiasm for freemasonry as a special (albeit secret) bond that connected them as fraternity brothers in a sincere quest for those three living principles.

Liberty (or freedom), egalite (or equality) and fraternity (or brotherhood) represented the ideals for  masonry and the French Revolution, which spun out of control and beyond the reach of Enlightenment.  I believe that part of the reason that Mozart’s and Chevalier Saint George’s music has such a similar energy and sound is their similar personal enthusiasm to make real the unrealized ideals of the French Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment.

jMusic is a Force of change and social justice that can outlast dictatorships and soothe the savage beasts of racist doctrines of “degenerate” propaganda.

All the world is a stage and a great many actors played their parts in the unsettling age of Franz Joseph Haydn, Chevalier Saint Georges, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Beethoven, Bridgetower, Ben Franklin, James Madison, Napoleon, Alexander Dumas, Toussaint Overture, Madam Pompadour & King Louis the XV, le Comte de Saint Germaine, Marie Antoinette & King Louis the XVI, Jean Jaques-Rosseau, Voltaire, William Wilberforce, Willie Lynch, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, etc.

Classical music is the soundtrack to this epic age of MAKE UP, WIGS AND FASHION. Revolutions and declarations mask the impact of the slave trade and the slave songs.

The Age of Enlightenment is stained in the blood of DUELS, REVOLUTIONS AND GUILLOTINES.

In my next blog I will show examples of the (Hegelian) Dialectic process unfolding in the “new synthesis” artistic creations between Classical music and Black culture and its role in race relations.

NMAAM Hosted Successful 2016 My Music Matters™: A Celebration of Legends Luncheon 

Music City honored a star-studded line-up of honorees during NMAAM’s My Music Matter Week 

Nashville, Tenn. – (May 10, 2016) – The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) hosted the 2016 My Music Matters™: A Celebration of Legends Luncheon, honoring renowned music icons. The event, in its third year, celebrated:

  • Pastor Shirley Caesar, GRAMMY®, Dove and Stellar award-winning Gospel icon
  • Cathy Hughes, TV One/Radio One, Chairman
  • Alfred Liggins, III, TV One/Radio One/InteractiveOne, President & CEO
  • Kenny Gamble, Gamble-Huff Music
  • Leon Huff, Gamble-Huff Music
  • Jon Platt, Chairman & CEO, Warner/Chappell Music

The luncheon took place on Friday, May 6, 2016, 11:30 am at the Renaissance Hotel and honored the contributions of these legends and trailblazers who impact the music industry and contribute to American culture. Dyana Williams and Shannon Sanders, GRAMMY® chapter presidents of Philadelphia and Nashville, respectively, co-hosted the event and served as masters of ceremonies. Williams also received a surprise award, for her contributions to both the music industry and NMAAM.

The luncheon, which serves as the premier, annual fundraising event for the museum, raised money for educational programs and community outreach. NMAAM, an innovative institution set to open in 2018, will educate, celebrate and commemorate the contributions of African Americans in American culture.

“Our 2016 honorees provided a vital connection to the importance of having NMAAM in Music City,” said H, Beecher Hicks III, president and CEO of NMAAM. “When hearing from people like Cathy Hughes, Kenny Gamble and Jon Platt concurrently, that there is no better time or place for this institution, it really validates that we are on the right track and the growing belief in our project. We are extremely grateful to have had each join and celebrate with us, this year.”

Funds raised from the event are not yet available. Earlier in the week, NMAAM did announce over $4 million has been raised in the last few months towards the development of the project along with new National Chairs, Darius Rucker, India.Arie, CeCe Winans and Keb’Mo’.

Attendees of the luncheon included music industry artists and executives: Little Richard, Clarence Spaulding (Spaulding Entertainment), Jim Ed Norman (Curb Records), James Alexander (The Bar-Kays), Catherine Brewton (BMI), Phil Thornton (e-One Entertainment), Anasa Troutman (Eloveate), Chuck Gamble (Warner/Chappell), Ryan Press (Warner/Chappell), Lukas Graham (Pop/Soul Recording Artist, Warner/Chappell), Frank McComb (Former Prince Pianist and R&B Artist) and GRAMMY® winning group, The Fairfield Four.

About Dyana Williams: 

A radio and music industry professional, journalist, community activist, Ms. Williams may be best known for being the co-founder of the federally recognized Black Music Month observance. She is also the current host of a weekly broadcast, Soulful Sunday on Radio One’s 100.3 WRNB. Additionally, Williams serves as a frequent commentator in TV One’s docu-series “Unsung,” and is the CEO of Influence Entertainment, a media consulting and artist development firm where she coaches high profile celebrities in the sports and entertainment arenas. She’s currently President of the Philadelphia Chapter of The Recording Academy.

About Shannon Sanders: 

Mr. Sanders is a GRAMMY®, Emmy and Dove award-winning producer and songwriter and is recognized for his GRAMMY® award-winning work with artists like India.Arie, John Legend, Eric Benet, Heather Headley and many other artists serving as producer, musical director and mentor. He currently serves as President of the Nashville Chapter of The Recording Academy.

About the National Museum of African American Music: 

As the only museum dedicated to the many offerings African Americans have made in music, the National Museum of African American Music serves a global landscape by commemorating and honoring the legacy, impact and influence of rhythm on over 50 music genres and styles. Detailing the many dimensions of all types of music, NMAAM focuses on the musical impact of musicians and consumers around the world. For more information, visit www.NMAAM.org, Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Periscope: theNMAAM.

NMAAM SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS: Website – www.NMAAM.org, Facebook – www.facebook.com/theNMAAM, Twitter – www.twitter.com/theNMAAM, Periscope – @theNMAAM, Hashtags – #MyMusicMatters #Legends2016 #theNMAAM

The First Time I Heard…Usher

Man I miss the 90’s. Big puffy jackets, Yo! MTV Raps, S-Curls. I could sit here all day talking about the things I miss about that decade. Just like every era, there’s a certain cycle that comes around ever so many years. We have our boy band era, our girl group era, and our teenage heartthrob/young Michael Jackson like singer era. Back in the early 90’s, we had a bunch of young singers out like Tevin Campbell, Hi-Five, Shanice, and Soul for Real. But one that really stood out for me was Usher. I remember seeing him for the first time on MTV Jams with his video for the second single “Think of You”. He was an adorable kid but that jam was anything but a cute bubble gum type of song. This was the early part of the 90’s when R&B had married hip hop. Soul music was starting to have more of an edge so this young singer’s song went hard! I remember soon after going to Sam Goody to purchase the CASSINGLE (remember those) and wearing it out as I studied to get my driver’s permit.

The cream definitely rose to the top of young R&B stars when Usher broke out with his mega hit, the Jermaine Dupri produced “U Make Me Wanna” off of his smash album My Way. Soon after was the album 8701, which yielded the hits “U Remind Me” and “U Got It Bad”, but it was game over once the Confessions album dropped. This to me is Usher’s career album. With classics like “Yeah”, “Burn” and the title cut including those incredible album tracks, you can pretty much play Confessions from beginning to end without skipping a beat. I really don’t know if you can even think about Usher without thinking about Confessions. Now the New Edition/Bobby Brown fan in me won’t say that this made him the King of R&B in the early 2000’s but let’s be honest: Confessions was an era in its own right.

Speaking of Confessions, I have a little confession of my own: I fully expected, perhaps unfairly, for Usher to fill MJ’s penny loafers soon after he passed away. I haven’t quite adapted well to Euro-dance pop Usher or even “Good kisser bang bang” sexual innuendos Usher. Knowing that Michael Jackson is one of his idols, I’ve always wanted to see him continue on to make timeless soul music over what happens to be trendy and hot in the streets nowadays. But if there’s one thing that Usher has proven is that he has longevity. Usher still has that star quality that makes him stand out from the rest. I truly believe that even though he’s only in his mid-thirties that Usher is already truly an R&B legend.

Check out my top 10 favorite songs by Usher, or as some of us like to affectionately call him, “Ursher”, on my Spotify playlist.

2015 My Music Matters: A Celebration of Legends Luncheon

The National Museum of African American music celebrated Black Music Month by honoring a star-studded lineup of music industry trailblazers on June 19, 2015 during the My Music Matters: A Celebration of Legends Luncheon at the Wildhorse Saloon in downtown Nashville.
The luncheon, in its second year, honored five African American music trailblazers, presenting them with the Rhapsody & Rhythm Award. Dr. Bobby Jones, an inaugural recipient of NMAAMs Rhapsody & Rhythm award in 2014, served as master of ceremonies. Guests enjoyed musical tributes from Jazz singer Sonja Hopkins, saxophonist Marcus Johnson and R&B vocalist Eric Copeland. A video tribute of each honoree was also presented featuring artists and music industry professionals including Kevon Edmonds, Janice Gaines, The McCrary Sisters, Ben and Jewel Tankard, The Wooten Brothers, Dyana Williams  and others.


NMAAM featured industry icons and artists representative of R&B, Country, Jazz, Blues and/or Gospel music showing the diversity and significance of African American music, as well as their influence and longevity in the music industry.

[ezcol_1half]Michael Bivins was a founding member of the legendary R&B group New Edition and later formed pioneering Hip-Hop group Bel Biv Devoe. Bivins became the music industry’s first (and youngest) African- American indie-label president with his Biv Entertainment Company.[/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end]Donny Hathaway is a legendary singer, songwriter and keyboardist. His music is known for merging the melodic sounds of R&B, Gospel, Jazz, Classical and Rock genres paving the way for many African American Soul artist. [/ezcol_1half_end] 

[ezcol_1half]Howard Hewett is an Urban Contemporary writer and producer, a former member of internationally touring group Shalimar and Billboard chart topping solo artist with R&B classic hits such as “I’m For Real,” “Stay” and more.[/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end] Little Richard is a singer and songwriter who revolutionized the Rock-n-Roll genre fusing the fire of Traditional Gospel with driving upbeat piano riffs. He has been an influential figure in popular music an culture for more than six decades and plays a pivotal role in the formation of other genres. He has influenced singers and musicians across genres from Rock to Hip-Hop and changed American culture forever. [/ezcol_1half_end]

[ezcol_1half]CeCe Winans is a Grammy, Stellar and Dove Award winning Gospel artist. Having released over 16 full legnth albums, many of which were gold and platinum certified, CeCe has solidified herself as a Gospel industry icon. [/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end]   [/ezcol_1half_end]

Thank you to our 2015 Sponsors for their support.

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About the Author


The National Museum of African American Music is set to open its doors in 2019. It is to be the only museum dedicated to preserving the legacy and celebrating the accomplishments of the many music genres created, influenced, or inspired by African Americans. Being built in Nashville, the Museum will share the story of the American Soundtrack, integrating history and interactive technology to bring the musical heroes of the past into the present.

The first time I heard… Queen Latifah.

The first time I heard… Queen Latifah.

It was 1989 when a new female rapper named Queen Latifah debuted her video “Dance for Me” on Yo! MTV Raps.  I remember sitting incredibly too close to the television with my nose practically on the screen in complete awe.  Her rhymes!  The dance moves! The clothes! Where were they doing this and how could I too dance for the queen (I later found out that it was practically in my backyard in New Jersey).  I was instantly struck.

 You see it wasn’t just her statuesque Afrocentric headgear that made Queen Latifah stand out from all of the other female rappers I had seen before.  It was how instantly she commanded everyone’s attention.  First of all, she called herself a “queen” straight out the gate. I remember how brazen I thought that was.  How was she a queen and I had never heard of her before? It wasn’t like she was appointed queen by some male rapper or clique; there was no endorsement by any male posse.  She was self-appointed and in charge.  She let everyone know by the title of her debut album, All Hail the Queen, exactly how she was to be addressed- as royalty.  As a pretty impressionable teenage girl in love with Hip-Hop, I was so down.

 Her cassette tape hadn’t been in my boombox for longer than a week before I knew every lyric off of Hail to the Queen.  However, the song that I wore out until the tape popped was the follow up classic hit “Ladies First” introducing a young dynamic British rapper named Monie Love.  This women’s anthem featuring Monie’s tongue twisting flow alongside Latifah’s smooth yet hard hitting delivery, was a tribute and lesson on the important role of women in our society.  It championed the strength within femininity and still hails as one of the greatest Hip-Hop records of all time.

 What I have come to love about Queen Latifah’s career is that she has always been in charge not just on wax but behind the scenes as well.  Her company Flavor Unit, which she mentions first in “Dance for Me”, started as a collective of artist friends from her hometown.  It later evolved into an artist management company launching the careers of such artists as De La Soul and Naughty By Nature.  The company has grown right along with her as she has made a very successful career in crossing over from music to television (Living Single, The Queen Latifah Show), and movies (Set It Off, Hairspray, Chicago).  Flavor Unit has also expanded into television and movies.  It is responsible for a number of films such as Bringing Down the House and Beauty Shop and televisions shows such as Centric’s Single Ladies and Lifetime’s Steel Magnolias. Most recently they struck a film distribution deal with Netflix to air content exclusively through the internet based subscription service.  In May, Queen Latifah will portray legendary jazz singer Bessie Smith in a biopic for HBO which she will also be executive producing through Flavor Unit.

 Queen Latifah is not only a Hip-Hop pioneer. She is a trailblazing businesswoman who can even add the title Covergirl to a long list of accomplishments in her illustrious career.  From her early days in Hip-Hop to starring in movies and having her own talk show, Queen Latifah has royally defied the odds. All hail the queen indeed.

 My Top 5 Favorite Queen Latifah Songs (in no particular order):

 “Dance for Me” from All Hail the Queen


“It’s Alright” from Order in the Court


“Latifah’s Had It Up to Here” from Nature of a Sista

“Come Into My House” All Hail the Queen


“Fly Girl” Nature of a Sista



About the Author

Toya Haynes
Toya Haynes

Toya Haynes is a Philadelphia-area based writer who calls Music City her second home. Within the Nashville community, she is best known for her Kid Electric Concerts series which unites local musicians to pay tribute to iconic soul/R&B albums for local charities. The series has included tributes to albums by Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, Stevie Wonder, and D’Angelo.

National Museum of African American Music Announces Legends Luncheon

Inaugural Luncheon to Honor Icons of African-American Music


– In collaboration with the Jefferson Street United Merchants Partnership (JUMP), the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) will honor African American music trailblazers at the inaugural My Music Matters: A Celebration of Legends Luncheon on Friday, June 20, 2014 at Wildhorse Saloon. The luncheon will serve as the kickoff event for the 14th annual Jefferson Street Jazz & Blues Festival which takes place from June 20-21.

The event will honor African American music icons including The Bar-Kays, Dr. Bobby Jones, Denise LaSalle, Kirk Whalum, and Moses Leonard, Jr.

• The Bar-Kays are a soul, R&B, and funk group that had dozens of charting singles from the 1960s to the 1980s. This year marks the band’s 50th anniversary in show business.

• Dr. Bobby Jones is a Grammy Award–winning gospel musician, television host, and executive producer of several cable television’s gospel music programs.

• Denise LaSalle, also known as queen of the blues, is a blues, R&B, and soul singer, songwriter, and record producer.

• Kirk Whalum is a smooth jazz saxophonist and songwriter who has received 12 Grammy nominations.

• Moses Leonard, Jr. is a guitarist who went by the stage name of Leonard Moses, took-in and performed with a younger Jimi Hendrix and Billy Cox at The Jolly Roger, in Nashville, and at various other locations on the “chitlin-circuit.”

The luncheon has been designed to celebrate the accomplishments of local and nationally known artists who have made a significant impact in the music industry or his/her genre-focus through talent, triumphs, ability and power. The shared purpose of the luncheon is to celebrate music legends and showcase the soon-to-open institution that celebrates American culture as told through African American music.

“We could have never imagined the impact that the My Music Matters campaign would have on the local and national levels. I’m glad to announce this partnered event with JUMP. I believe that this event will increase overall awareness of the contributions that African Americans have made to music worldwide, and in the region,” said H, Beecher Hicks III, president and CEO of NMAAM.

The Legends Luncheon was created to provide an extension of the conversations from NMAAM’s successful My Music Matters campaign. The My Music Matters campaign provides a platform where local and national leaders and influencers to discuss the impact that African American music has had on them as an individual as well as the ways that African American music has shaped the musical landscape of the United States.

Tickets are $75 and can be purchased here.

Charles Bone

An influential Nashvillian, Charles grew up right “up the road” in Gallatin, TN. He’s grown up here and sees the value in music as the city’s brand, as well as the city’s opportunity.  We’re proud to have Charles as part of the NMAAM family, telling us why his music matters in the My Music Matters™ campaign.

Learn more about Charles by visiting his company’s website.

About the Author


The National Museum of African American Music is set to open its doors in 2019. It is to be the only museum dedicated to preserving the legacy and celebrating the accomplishments of the many music genres created, influenced, or inspired by African Americans. Being built in Nashville, the Museum will share the story of the American Soundtrack, integrating history and interactive technology to bring the musical heroes of the past into the present.