According to Variety.com, Sony Music Entertainment announced today the promotion of Sylvia Rhone to Chairman and CEO of Epic Records. In this role, Rhone will lead the overall creative direction and management of Epic Records, overseeing Epic’s roster of hit-making artists such as Travis Scott, Future, Camila Cabello, 21 Savage, Meghan Trainor, DJ Khaled, and French Montana.
Rhone has been President of Epic Records since 2014, and since then has overseen projects including Scott’s 2018 best-selling album “Astroworld”; Camila Cabello’s debut album “Camila” and the smash single “Havana,” as well as music from Future, 21 Savage and others.
“I am excited to continue my amazing journey at Epic Records supported by Rob Stringer’s vision and leadership,” stated Rhone. “Everything we do is a testament to our incredible artists who set the bar of the entire Epic culture, inspiring our dedicated executive team every day and enriching the legacy of this great label.”
Before joining Sony Music, Rhone was President of Universal Motown Records and Executive Vice President at Universal Records from 2004. From 1994-2004, Rhone was Chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group’s Elektra Entertainment Group, the first African American woman to be named Chairman of a major record company, where she oversaw releases from artists such as Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Metallica, Staind, Third Eye Blind, Tracy Chapman, and Natalie Merchant. Rhone began her career at Buddah Records in 1974, a label best-known for its Gladys Knight and the Pips albums.
Rhone is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania‘s well-regarded Wharton Business School. She received an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music on April 5, 2019, in recognition of her achievements as a leading female music executive who has headed labels multiple times during her career.
Since becoming the creative director for American Express Platinum in December 2016, Pharrell Williams has worked closely with the financial services company to bring awareness to the importance of arts education and advocacy. Nearly two years later, the “Happy” singer is taking his efforts one step further with the inaugural Yellow Ball gala.
The event will take place on Monday, Sept. 10 at the Brooklyn Museum and will benefit the Young Audiences Arts for Learning, the nation’s largest arts-in-education network. The Yellow Ball title was chosen by Pharrell himself, as the color has many meanings — and ties in with the purpose of the event.
“Pharrell views the color and event as helping to shine a light on the need for arts education and its ability to pave the way for a brighter future,” Elizabeth Rutledge, chief marketing officer of American Express, says. Pharrell adds, “That’s what this is about — bringing light to this cause.”
The Yellow Ball will feature musical performances, including a special set from Missy Elliott. Along with music, the event will also include multi-room art experiences from American Express Platinum Collective member Daniel Arsham, and a multi-course dinner experience by American Express Global Dining Collection Chef Dominique Crenn.
Ahead of the announcement, Billboard chatted with Pharrell about his latest initiative, his thoughts on today’s young generation of artists, and why the arts (and the color yellow) are so important for all ages.
When you were named creative director of AmEx Platinum, what were your goals and where does the yellow ball kind of fit into all of that?
My goals were to work with a company that I felt like had the means to make a difference, but just maybe needed a nudging, or maybe needed some direction. But then when I started working with them and got an education on all the things that they’ve done — from the Tribeca Film Festival to the sales program they have for small businesses on Saturdays — I realized that they had been doing this the entire time. When we talked about doing the Yellow Ball and I told them I wanted it to be about arts and education, they didn’t blink. What I wanted to do with them was just going to be just yet another great thing that they do in the world.
Why did you decide on the name the Yellow Ball, and what does the color yellow mean to you?
Not to get all esoteric, but yellow is like the color of the solar plexus. Yellow is the color for creativity, yellow is the color for curiosity. Art is largely diminishing throughout the curriculum throughout this country, and we need to protect the creative mind.
Everything around you right now versus everything you’re using, it’s just not organic, it was someone’s epiphany. That’s creativity, that needs to be protected. If we don’t have that, I don’t know what kind of future we have. We have to protect the artist community at all costs, across all artistic disciplines.
Why do you think it’s so important for people to be exposed to the arts and learn from it at a young age?
On a more paramount level, everyone is a creative. Everyone that makes a move or does anything in life is a co-creator, but the ones who actually create things that we use and things that we need, that needs to be protected. There is a future that will have corporations that will have more say. You see all the things happening with lobbyists now, you just can never doubt that. In the artistic community, it’s the educational portion of it is eroding, what kind of future is that for us? So we need to talk to all the corporations that we can — that care — now.
Did the controversy surrounding the funding cuts for the NEA change the course of action for you in your involvement with AmEx platinum in any way?
A lot of decisions that are being made are having a domino effect on programs like the [NEA]. And while we might not like that, the powers that be are the powers that be, but we are still the people and we can do things to help the people with the resources that we have access to. That’s literally all we’re doing, there’s no political stance, it’s more of a people’s stance.
Has becoming a father had an impact on the way you think about how art can affect lives?
I want all children to have access to that kind of creative growth, access and support. All kids, not just my own. There’s a lot of variables in a situation as to why something falls apart, but there’s only one scenario where it holds together, and that’s when all the variables are there. The environment, the family, the school, the system — there’s so many things. We just want to do what we can to balance the odds so that as many kids as we can afford, or help and assist in whatever ways, get this access and support.
What do you think the younger generation of today’s musical artists are bringing to the table?
I love what they do and how they express themselves. It’s like these amazing pockets of lyrics or melodies that feel good to them. The music just takes on a direction of its own, it’s not so formatted. I love that this generation is just grabbing the instruments and using them in whatever way feels good to them. That’s just like a sign of how the times have changed.
It’s kind of like the fourth time that I’ve seen music and the spirit of it change — like drastically change. It’s been amazing to see it. You see certain things that feel familiar, then you see things that you’ve never seen or thought of in your entire life. As a musician I can feel connected to it.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) brought down the House on Tuesday with a loving tribute to female hip-hop and rap artists.
“Throughout the years, artists such as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen have been recognized on the floor of the House of Representatives,” Jeffries said. “Today, I rise to honor the top 10 female MC hip-hop collaborations of all time.”
Jeffries’ top 10 includes Eve’s “My Chick Bad,” Lauryn Hill’s “Ready Or Not” and, of course, Lil’ Kim’s “Quiet Storm” remix. He also shouted out the legendary Queen Latifah, MC Lyte and Salt-N-Pepa.
“As we celebrate Women’s History Month here in the United States’ Congress, these dynamic women are worthy to be praised,” Jeffries said.
This isn’t the first time the Brooklyn-native congressman has honored rap artists on the House floor. Last year, Jeffries paid tribute to New York rapper The Notorious B.I.G. on the 20th anniversary of his death.
VH1 is pushing out another stellar tribute for Salt-N-Pepa at this year’s Hip Hop Honors. The network announced on Friday (July 8) that Ashanti, Amber Rose, Keke Palmer and Dreezy will be paying homage to the first all-female rap crew, comprised of Cheryl “Salt” James, Sandy “Pepa” Denton and DJ Spinderella.
The ladies will be shaking their thang (SNP pun intended) alongside other surprise guests for the evening’s tributes to fellow honorees Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah and Lil’ Kim. As previously announced, Pharrell, Timbaland and Nelly Furtado among others will salute Elliot while Common, Da Brat, Naughty By Nature and more will be on-hand to hail Queen Latifah.
Salt-N-Pepa featuring Spinderella will be in effect at VH1’s Hip Hop Honors: All Hail The Queens. The ceremony’s ladies-only lineup will feature a tribute to the legendary female rap group alongside previously announced honorees Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott.
Salt-N-Pepa — comprised of Cheryl “Salt” James and Sandy “Pepa” Denton alongside Spinderella — have been known for their timeless hits including 1988’s “Push It,” 1994’s En Vogue-assisted “Whatta Man” and 1993’s “Shoop.” The Queens-bred trio were also the first female rap group to achieve platinum status and have gone on to sell over 12 million albums. Salt-N-Pepa was also honored at the 2005 Hip Hop Honors.
Hip-Hop and art have once again merged in an exciting way, thanks to the inventive mind of a graduate student. Regina Flores Mir is the brains behind the Hip-Hop Project, a program being implemented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that allows visitors to navigate the various collections with guiding narration from MCs. Lyrics from songs by artist including Missy Elliott, Notorious B.I.G., Eric B. & Rakim, Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Queen Latifah, and more are used as keywords and then cross-referenced with the Met’s massive archive of art, providing listeners with a Hip-Hop-centric blueprint by which to examine and understand the museum’s collections.
According to the Hip-Hop Project’s website, “although the rap lyric may not be directly correlated to the art work in meaning, it allows visitors to see work that they may not have otherwise known existed,” allowing for the kind of accidental discovery that could inspire Heads to establish bridges between music and art in uniquely individualized ways.
As Kari Paul wrote for Vice’s Motherboard channel, the relationship between the lyrics and pieces of art in question aren’t necessarily straightforward, but are nevertheless engaging. “For example, in ‘Juicy’ when the Notorious B.I.G. says ‘fuck all y’all hoes,’ the Hip-Hop Project pulls up an ancient hoe artifact. Users can click on it and explore this work and others,” she explains. The Hip-Hop Project’s site allows users to experience the museum tour without a trip to the Met, simply by picking a rapper and delving into the lyrical matches to items available for viewing. Heads will also appreciate the website’s domain (www.rappersdelight.nyc).
Although season 9 of The Voice will not debut until September, already there are leaks about the new mentor teams this season.
It looks like Missy Elliott will be joining forces with Pharrell, while Selena Gomez will team up with Gwen Stefani to help with the mentoring. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s John Fogerty will team with Adam Levine, and Brad Paisley will join forces with Blake Shelton.
If this news doesn’t get you excited for the season 9 debut on September 21, we don’t know what will.
Usher and Missy Elliott were both added to the Essence Festival lineup. This comes after a first round of entertainers were chosen, according to the Singersroom.
Elliott and Usher are joining R&B/soul artists Mary J. Blige,Erykah Badu, Floetry, India.Arie, Elle Varner, Kelly Price, Tweet, Tank, Raheem DeVaughn and many more who have been confirmed for the 21st annual celebration.
Hip-hop artists Kendrick Lamar, Common, Slick Rick, Kool Moe Dee, Doug E. Fresh and Mystikal were also confirmed.
Comedian Kevin Hart is headlining the “Now Playing” Concert on the first night. The festival will be on July 2 – July 5 in New Orleans, La.
“On the heels of the ESSENCE Festival’s epic 20th anniversary celebration in 2014, we’re delighted to announce a selection of the best artists and biggest names in entertainment who will take the stage at the Superdome this summer,” Essence President Michelle Ebanks said in a press release.
“From first-time Festival performer Kendrick Lamar to return appearances from fan favorites like Kevin Hart, Common and Mary J. Blige, the ESSENCE Festival offers the definitive entertainment and cultural experience for our passionate ESSENCE community every Fourth of July weekend,” she added.
At Good Black News, February is an especially invigorating time. When Black History Month rolls around, people have more interest than normal in African-American history, music and culture, and GBN inevitably benefits from the heightened exposure. We make an extra effort to provide a wide variety of information and stories (historical and current) during this time, and point to events and programming we find to be educational as well as entertaining.
Even so, we are a small operation with limited (albeit growing) reach, and we know a lot of black folks feel skeptical about BHM — it always seems like the same old, same old — Martin, Malcolm, Rosa, and the black movie, tv show or person du jour get celebrated in the national news, and then everybody forgets (or tries to forget) about African-American history until next year.
Last night, however, as I was flipping through cable before going to bed, I noticed there was not only an increased amount of black programming (and not just on BET or TV One or PBS), it was more varied than ever. So much so, I wasn’t even sure what to watch: “Angel Heart” with Lisa Bonet and Mickey Rourke, a horror thriller set in New Orleans and the world of voodoo (which reminded me of a time where the media considered Bonet the controversial one from “The Cosby Show”), “School Daze”, the Spike Lee movie set at an all-black college in the South, or “Iceberg Slim: Portait of a Pimp”, a 2012 documentary produced by Ice T, primarily chronicling the author’s experiences in Chicago and Los Angeles.
I had been thinking about “School Daze” earlier that day, so I took it as a sign and flipped to that. It was the scene where the light-skinned sorority girls (lead by Tisha Campbell-Martin and Jasmine Guy) bump into the dark-skinned girls (lead by Kyme and Joie Lee) and go into a full-on musical fantasy where they square off as they sing “Good and Bad Hair.”
My jaw about dropped — I saw this movie in the theatre when I was in college, but I’d forgotten how provocative the lyrics and the visuals were. I mean, this movie was released in 1988 and had black women going hard for each other over hair, calling each other “high-yellow” and “jigaboo,” holding up fans with images of Hattie McDaniel as Mammy and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett to taunt one another! Up until Chris Rock‘s 2009 documentary “Good Hair,” when had this subject matter ever received exposure in mainstream entertainment?
I’d also forgotten how talented the actors and dancers were/are, blending traditional and historical dancing styles and choreography with contemporary steps, and how creative and original Lee was to even imagine doing a number like this in what was then only his second motion picture.
The next scene was a frat hazing scene where pledges where being paddled and this all-too-real violence (as well as the abhorrent misogyny that would soon be coming down the pipe) made me realize the film was deeper and pointed to more problems and issues in the black community than I’d recalled. “School Daze” received its share of flak (at the time and over the years) for being the hodgepodge of styles that it is, but it’s an important, innovative part of Lee’s work as well as black cinema, as relevant as “Dear White People” is in 2015, and fully worth a re-watch and discussion with the new generation of young people and college students.
Jazzed from this rediscovery, I flipped over to the Iceberg Slim documentary. Although I’ve known about Iceberg Slim for decades, I’ve never read his work, dismissing it based on its categorization as “gangsta” literature. Having matured since my 20s however (at least I think I have), I realized I really didn’t know anything about Iceberg Slim other than my perception, so perhaps I should learn more. I’m so glad I did. Not only was the documentary particularly well-executed (creative visuals, innovative music, interesting talking heads and dynamic footage of old Slim interviews), I learned what an intelligent man (Robert Beck) lay behind the Iceberg Slim persona, and how he wrote books such as “Pimp” and “Trick Baby” as cautionary tales rather than celebrations of street life. Even though I don’t (neither does he in his later years) condone or excuse his repulsive criminal behavior and abuse of women, I do recognize he artfully captured and described a very real part of the black experience in the 50s, 60s and 70s.
I also had no idea “Trick Baby” was made into a motion picture by Universal, which helped spur the burgeoning “Blaxploitation” film boom in the 1970s, or that he lived for years only ten blocks away from my grandparents in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles/Inglewood. It was equally fascinating to learn Birdman of Cash Money Entertainment acquired the rights to “Pimp” and Slim’s other works to keep them alive on the Cash Money Content imprint via Simon & Schuster. And now I want to read those books and get that movie.
All in all, these late-night viewings made me even more excited and energized about Black History Month. And when I looked at my DVR this morning, I saw a variety of options casually waiting for me there, too: the latest episodes of the “Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore”, “How To Get Away With Murder”, “Empire”, “Black-ish” and what I hear via Twitter was an incredible performance by D’Angelo on “Saturday Night Live” last night. If that wasn’t enough, I started writing this piece while watching NFL QB Russell Wilson attempt to lead the Seattle Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowl wins, which, if he does, will be a first for an African-American quarterback. (And btw, what an unexpected treat to see Missy Elliott featured in the halftime show with Katy Perry — Missy was fire!)
We all have the ability, even casually, to celebrate and discover (or re-discover) our history, music, literature and culture and I invite all GBN followers to comment, tweet, email or share any unexpected, positive BHM experiences you have. I’m going to continue to chronicle mine alongside more formally-presented stories and articles — looking forward to hearing yours as well!
It’s been nearly a decade since Missy Elliott’s last solo album, 2005’s The Cookbook, but Timbaland says a new one may be on its way. “It’s coming,” the rapper’s longtime producer and songwriting partner tells Rolling Stone. “It’s on her. She got the first single, it’s just a matter of when she wants to do it. We got the hollow-tip bullet in the gun. We have the game-changer right there,” he says, making the sound of a gun firing.
Asked what that bullet sounds like, Timbaland remains vague: “It’s something you ain’t never heard Missy do. It sounds today, but the future.”
Despite their close relationship, the two artists work in an unusual way. “I’ve never watched her record, never in my whole career,” he continues. “I do it, she be like, ‘OK, I got it,’ and I leave the room. She kicks us out. That’s how she do it: She does everything herself.”
In 2012, Elliott released two new Timbaland-produced songs, “9th Inning” and “Triple Threat,” but in the following years her output has been limited to feature appearances. In 2013, she had verses on Little Mix’s “Without Me” and Fantasia’s “I Deserve It,” and earlier this year she and Sharaya J, an artist signed to her the Goldmind Inc., rapped over Faith Evans’ “I Deserve It.”
Timbaland, meanwhile, co-produced much of Justin Timberlake‘s The 20/20 Experience, Jay Z‘s Magna Carta… Holy Grail and Michael Jackson‘s posthumous Xscape. He tells us he’s at work on a solo album called Opera Noir he describes as his Purple Rain. “I have no features on it,” he says. “It’s all about truth and what’s going on around us.”