As John Legend was honored for his musical achievements Saturday — the night before the Grammy Awards — the singer used the Recording Academy stage to pay homage to a Black music culture that has shaped him and the wider world of music.
Legend explained how Black music has set trends for listeners across the globe, speaking at the academy’s Black Music Collective event in Las Vegas, where he was given the Global Impact Award for his personal and professional achievements in the music industry.
“I’m proud to celebrate and honor and cultivate our music,” Legend said at the event held the night before the Grammy Awards.
“Black music is and has been the rhythm, the root, the inspiration, the innovation behind so much of the world’s popular music. It doesn’t exist without us,” he said.
The multi-Grammy winner applauded the efforts of the Black Music Collective, a group created in 2020 of prominent music industry leaders — including honorary chairs from Legend and producers Jimmy Jam and Quincy Jones — who are looking to find ways to drive Black representation and inclusion . The academy has been focused on amplifying Black voices after years of backlash regarding racial inequality.
Like Legend, the event was filled with empowering messages that touched on the importance of recognizing Black music creators. It also featured a slew of popular performances including Chloe Bailey, Muni Long, Jimmie Allen, Cordae and Summer Walker.
Legend said Black music has the potential to fuel justice and inspire communities.
“Our art and music can help movements find their footing and voice,” he said. “Our art and music can help activists, the people closest to injustice and lead the way forward to equality and opportunity.”
Saweetie, who presented MC Lyte with an award, spoke about how Black women’s accomplishments have been downplayed but their impact on the culture has been undeniable. She has women have been in the forefront of hip-hop as rappers, producers and others behind the scenes.
“There’s no conversation about the past, present and future of hip-hop without women,” she said. “The playing ground has not been level, but I’m proud of the progress we made. Despite the continued injustice and inequality in our industry and society at large, there’s no better time to be a Black creator than now.”
The event highlighted the productive efforts by LVRN, a Black-founded record label that has built a strong roster including 6lack, DRAM, Boogie and Summer Walker.
MC Lyte was honored for being the “beacon of hope” for Black women, while D-Nice was recognized for his success through Club Quarantine. He says Legend helped ignite the flood of new followers in the early stages.
“Club Quarantine is not really about D-Nice, the deejay,” he said. “It’s about a community. People come together and they share conversations in the chats. I’m just in the background trying to create a space to feel comfortable to get together. I say this like I said before ‘Black music saved the world.’”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.