Tag: Rick Rubin

LL Cool J to Become Kennedy Center’s First Hip-Hop Honoree

LLCoolJ (photo via npr.org)

by Rodney Carmichael via npr.org

Thirty years after becoming rap’s first sex symbol, LL Cool J will be the first hip-hop artist to receive Kennedy Center Honors in its 40-year history.

The rapper-turned-actor born James Todd Smith will be inducted with a prestigious 2017 class — including pop stars Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan, television icon Norman Lear and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade – on Sunday, Dec. 3 at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C.

The honorees will be saluted by performers while seated alongside President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. While Kennedy Center Honors acknowledge the lifetime achievements of contributors to American culture, the list has traditionally been limited in scope. But the inclusion of LL, born James Todd Smith, in this year’s honoree list further expands the center’s growing embrace of hip-hop culture.

Earlier this year the center appointed Simone Eccleston as its first director of Hip-Hop Culture after naming A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip as artistic director of Hip-Hop Culture in 2016. Historic performances by Kendrick Lamar and Common have also underlined the center’s investment, and more programming for the 2017-18 season is expected to be announced in the coming months.

At 49, LL will be the Kennedy Center’s youngest honoree since Stevie Wonder. It’s a long way from home for the St. Albans, Queens native who made his first record, “I Need A Beat,” at 16, after his demo tape made it to the ears of producer and Def Jam founder Rick Rubin. As rap’s first bona fide solo star, LL was larger than life in the 1980s, the first to embody the street-corner swagger and sex appeal that would become a blueprint for future hip-hop icons ranging from Big Daddy Kane to Biggie.

Before an artist like Drake could legitimately mix hip-hop lyricism with R&B vulnerability, LL turned out the first hit rap ballad with 1987’s “I Need Love.” And the ladies loved him for it. Best known today for his starring roles in TV and film, he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year. But after a career spanning 30-plus years and 13 albums, he’s yet to leave rap alone — he’s rumored to be in the studio recording with Dr. Dre.

To read full article, go to: LL Cool J To Become Kennedy Center’s First Hip-Hop Honoree : The Record : NPR

NYT MUSIC FEATURE: Can the Weeknd Turn Himself Into the Biggest Pop Star in the World?

02weeknd1-superJumbo
The Weeknd (Photo Credit: Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, The New York Times)

The scene backstage last November at the American Music Awards, that annual gathering of pop perennials and idiosyncratic arrivistes, was carnivalesque: Niall and Liam of One Direction toddled about trying to snap a picture with a selfie stick, while Zayn, their bandmate at the time, smoked coolly out of frame; Ne-Yo was there in a leopard-­print blazer two sizes too small; Lil Wayne was wandering around, alone, wearing absurd shoes. In the middle of it all, Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, remained calm, slow ­motion to everyone else’s warp speed.

Allergic to these sorts of scrums, he found his way to his trailer to hang with his friends, five or so fellow Canadians, all of them art-goth chic, wearing expensive sneakers and draped in luxurious, flowing black. Tesfaye, 25, was dressed down by comparison, in a black corduroy jacket and paint-­splattered jeans (Versace, but still). He stands 5-foot-7, plus a few more inches with his hair, an elaborate tangle of dreadlocks that he has been growing out for years, more or less letting it go where it wants. It spills out at the sides of his head and shoots up over it, like a cresting wave. Casually, Tesfaye did some vocal warm-ups and sat indifferently as his underutilized makeup artist dabbed foundation under his eyes and balm on his lips.

Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a. the Weeknd, at his apartment building in Toronto last December. (Credit: Peter van Agtmael/Magnum, for The New York Times)

He’d just had his first flash of true pop success: ‘‘Love Me Harder,’’ his duet with Ariana Grande, the childlike pop star with the grown-up voice, cracked the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. He was scheduled to make a surprise cameo here at the end of a Grande medley. Until that song and, in a sense, that moment, Tesfaye had been a no-hit wonder: a cult act with millions of devotees and almost no mainstream profile.

When Tesfaye came out from the shadows midway through Grande’s performance, the crowd screamed. For two minutes, the singers traded vocal riffs and unflinching eye contact, Grande playing the naïf and Tesfaye the aggressor. The performance was quick and sweaty, and seconds after it was over, Tesfaye was already speeding for the exit, stopping only for a quick embrace from Kendall and Kylie Jenner. When he reached the parking lot, a yappy talent wrangler for an entertainment-­news show sensed an opportunity and asked for an interview. Tesfaye gave him an amused half-smile and kept walking. ‘‘Hey!’’ the guy shouted in desperation, fumbling for a name before landing on the wrong one: ‘‘A$AP Rocky!’’ Tesfaye turned his head and said, ‘‘C’mon, man,’’ arching an eyebrow, then picked up the pace.

Even though he had just performed for an audience of millions, Tesfaye was still, to many of them, a total stranger. When he began releasing music in 2010 — murky Dalí-esque R.&B., sung in an astrally sweet voice, vivid with details of life at the sexual and pharmacological extremes — Tesfaye chose to be a cipher. The only photos of him in circulation were deliberately obscured; he didn’t do interviews. His reticence was an asset — fans devoured the music without being distracted by a personality. Their loyalty was to the songs and, in a way, to the idea of the Weeknd. He was happy to stay out of the way.

Continue reading “NYT MUSIC FEATURE: Can the Weeknd Turn Himself Into the Biggest Pop Star in the World?”

Producer/Songwriter Nile Rodgers to be Honored with Vanguard Award During This Year’s Grammys Celebration

56th GRAMMY Awards - Press Room

Nile Rodgers, the songwriter and producer behind Chic’s “Le Freak,” David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” and Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” will be honored by the Recording Academy’s Producers and Engineers Wing at a special tribute on February 3.  As part of the official roster of Grammy week events, the evening will include appearances by nine-time Grammy nominee Ledisi, six-time Grammy winner Al Jarreau, and Def Jam co-founder Rick Rubin.

Rodgers co-founded the legendary band Chic with Bernard Edwards in the late ‘70s, and capitalized on disco’s popularity with a string of hits including “Good Times” and “I Want Your Love.”  Rodgers also produced for top artists such as Madonna and Diana Ross, and won the Grammy for Record of the Year for Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” along with Pharrell Williams in 2014.

Rodgers will also be awarded the Vanguard Award at this year’s MojaMoja Pre-Grammy Brunch, an annual event hosted by KCRW’s Garth Trinidad.  In March, Chic will release a new album entitled It’s About Time.  

article by Rhonda Nicole via theurbandaily.com