Summer Walker, John Legend, Chloe Bailey, Muni Long Light Up Black Music Collective Event, a New Grammy Week Highlight

John Legend Muni Long Grammy
Courtesy Recording Academy

Summer Walker, Chloe Bailey, Muni Long, Cordae and Jimmie Allen delivered rousing performances and groundbreaking female rapper MC Lyte and singer-songwriter John Legend were honored at the Recording Academy’s first-ever Black Music Collective ceremony on Saturday night.

“It’s been a long time coming, and I don’t feel great saying that,” Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. told the glittering audience at Resorts World Las Vegas. “But now we’re finally here, so let’s celebrate.”

And the event lived up to the moment, and planted the flag for an exciting new landmark in the Grammy Week lineup. The event also spoke to the wide range of Black music, ranging from the sultry R&B of Walker and Long to rapper Cordae and country singer Allen, and the hundreds of artists, industry types and members of the community were in the room.

Amber Grimes gave a rousing induction speech honoring Walker’s label, LVRN (Love Renaiassance), speaking of how the company’s five founders had united to push forward Atlanta’s music scene and made mental health a foundation of their approach. The label also features 6lack, D.R.A.M. and Boogie, as well as Walker.

Saweetie presented groundbreaking female rapper and television personality MC Lyte, who was honored for her pioneering role in hip-hop.

“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.”

DJ D-Nice showed heartfelt humility, speaking of how the world unexpectedly rallied around his virtual Club Quarantine sets during lockdown, speaking of his astonishment as hundreds of thousands of people tuned in and the role John Legend played in spreading the word via Instagram. Recording Academy co-president Valeisha Butterfield Jones showed off her background with the Obama Administration, delivering a moving speech addressing the moment and what it means for the community. And Legend himself received the Academy’s first ever Global Impact award.

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Summer Walker Christopher Polk for Variety

Muni Long (pictured, top, with Legend) brought the house down with her bawdy ballad “Boyz 2 Men”: “I got my ‘hoo’/ And you got yours too / You are just the ex that I call for sex / Until I find the one that I want.” (See clip below.)

Spearheaded by Riggs Morales, the Collective is an advisory group formed in 2020 to advance Black music. Legend serves as an honorary chair member with Quincy Jones, Debra Lee, Jimmy Jam, and others.

“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,” Legend said.
“Our art and music can help movements find their footing and voice. Our art and music can help activists, the people closest to injustice, and lead the way forward to equality and opportunity.”

D-Nice also recognized John Legend’s impact through the creation of his wildly successful Club Quarantine, sharing with the movers and shakers of the industry that it was Legend who helped ignite the wave of acclaim and new followers during the early days of the IG Live broadcast party.

“Club Quarantine is not really about D-Nice, the DJ,” 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 as I said before ‘Black music saved the world.’”