“[With] everybody saying I’m not this or that,” she continued, “sometimes I gotta see it and feel it for myself because it’s hard. Everybody always wants to say I made it because of this or made it because of that. I made it because I worked my ass off… Thank you very much, ASCAP. This is an honor for me."
Motown Records’ 60th anniversary and ongoing legacy were commemorated by the presentation of the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Heritage Award to founder Berry Gordy Jr. and current president Ethiopia Habtemariam. In addition, rap artist/activist Tip “T.I.” Harris received the organization’s inaugural Voice of the Culture Award.
After receiving his award from political commentator Angela Rye, T.I.—holding his youngest daughter in his arms—spoke passionately about his evolution from artist to philanthropist through his non-profit Harris Community Works (HCW). “People like me come from a place where they usually don’t let us in these kinds of buildings to sit at tables with fancy tablecloths and nice silverware. So for us to be here is an extreme accomplishment. I’ve learned to use my voice to create a path for the future. I have always said that our culture is our greatest asset...I am a proud product of it and a fearless protector of it.
“I’m not being honored for anything that the rest of you in the audience can’t do,” he added. “I’m just doing my little part and urge everybody else to do their part too. All of the success that I have and all the influence that I’ve gained ain’t going to mean shit if I don’t use it make the world a better place for my children to live in.”
Valerie Simpson, who with late husband Nick Ashford penned many Motown classics, and ASCAP president/chairman Paul Williams presented the Heritage Award to Gordy. Afterwards, Williams joined Quality Control CEO Pierre “Pee” Thomas and COO Kevin “Coach K” Lee in presenting the award to Habtemariam.
With a musical assist from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” a spry Gordy walked to the stage and congratulated all of the evening’s honorees. “Your success is the greatest thrill I could have,” he said. “Pop, R&B, soul, standards, even country … my vision at Motown has always been to make music for all people: black, white, red, yellow, young, old, the cops and robbers. It’s exciting to hear how you’re constantly trying to do the same thing that we were trying to do to make this a better world. I’m so proud and thank you all for continuing the fight."
After thanking ASCAP, Habtemariam saluted Gordy. "It’s truly an honor to continue the legacy of what you did with Motown Records,” she said. “We stand on the shoulders of a giant who left such an impression on all of us. One of my main focuses for Motown is that I want people to remember what this young black entrepreneur, this songwriter, was able to achieve with his vision, fearlessness and commitment. Everyone in this room has an opportunity to carry on this important legacy."
Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) and Warner Chappell Music shared honors as ASCAP Publisher of the Year. Warner Chappell’s string of top songs included “Apeshit” (The Carters), “Finesse (Remix)” (Bruno Mars & Cardi B), “Motorsport” (Migos, Nicki Minaj & Cardi B) and “Nice for What” (Drake). UMPG’s hits tally included “Ring,” “I Get the Bag” (Gucci Mane featuring Migos), “Best Part” (Daniel Caesar featuring H.E.R.) and “God’s Plan” (Drake).
Awards were also handed out for Top R&B Song (“Boo’d Up”), Top Rap Song (“Nice for What”) and Top Gospel Song (“Won’t He Do It”). The complete list of 2019 ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Awards winners is available at http://www.ascap.com/rsawards19.
The 1500 or Nothin Band provided musical support for the evening’s various performances. A musical salute to Motown capped the show, with performances from three of the storied label’s singer-songwriters: Simpson (“You’re All I Need to Get By”), BJ the Chicago Kid (“What’s Goin’ On”) and Ne-Yo (“My Girl”). Prior to that, several other ASCAP songwriters performed as well. Nicole Bus opened the proceedings with “You,” followed by Joelle James (“Boo’d Up,” the winning song she wrote), A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie (“Look Back at It”) and gospel artist Jekalyn Carr (“You Will Win”).