Quincy Jones, James Brown and Otis Redding were chosen as “foundational inductees” for the Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame, which will be installed in the historic downtown Atlanta area on the sidewalks of Martin Luther King Jr. and Northside drives. The Walk of Fame will be unveiled at a formal induction ceremony during Black Music Month in June.
Jones, 87, is the only foundational inductee who is still living. Redding died in 1967; Brown in 2006. In addition to these three inductees, who are such towering figures that they will bypass a voting process, 35 Black artists are competing in seven categories to join them.
The Walk of Fame is designed “to honor iconic individuals and organizations that have impacted Black culture and community alongside those who continue to lead us into the future,” according to a statement.
There are separate male and female categories in both hip-hop and mainstream (the Walk of Fame’s term to describe R&B that is not hip-hop). But there’s just one combined male/female category for legacy artists, gospel and music & entertainment moguls. (The legacy artist award is designed for artists who began their careers prior to 1980. The other categories are for artists who have been active for at least 25 years.)
Four of the five artists nominated for legacy artist — Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder — rose to fame on Motown Records. (The fifth artist nominated in that category is Chaka Khan.)
All five of the nominees in the music & entertainment mogul category are mid-career hip-hop artists who have also been enterprising entrepreneurs. (None of them are also nominated for hip-hop awards.) Queen Latifah is the only woman in that category, squaring off against Sean Combs, Dr. Dre, Will Smith and Jay-Z.
Jackson is the only deceased artist nominated in any category (not counting the two posthumous “foundational inductees”). It’s interesting that Jackson must compete for a spot on the Walk of Fame in the legacy artist category, rather than be “grandfathered” in with Jones, Brown and Redding. The other three titans broke through before Jackson did, but not by much in Redding’s case. Redding landed his first big crossover hit, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now),” in May 1965, just four and a half years before The Jackson 5 broke through with “I Want You Back.”
Here’s a complete list of the nominees:
Mainstream male: Charlie Wilson, Pharrell Williams, Usher, Maxwell, Babyface
Mainstream female: Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Anita Baker
Hip-hop male: Nas, OutKast, Run-D.M.C., LL Cool J, Public Enemy
Hip-hop female: Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott, MC Lyte, Lil’ Kim, Da Brat
Legacy artists: Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan
Gospel: The Clark Sisters, Kirk Franklin, BeBe & CeCe Winans, Shirley Caesar, Donald Lawrence
Music & entertainment mogul: Sean Combs, Dr. Dre, Queen Latifah, Will Smith, Jay-Z
The Walk of Fame was created by Michael Mauldin and Demmette Guidry, founders of Black American Music Association, and Georgia State Representative Erica Thomas and Catherine Brewton, founders of the Georgia Entertainment Caucus. Mauldin is a former Columbia Records president of Black music.
The names were announced on Thursday (Feb. 18) at a private reception at The Gathering Spot Atlanta hosted by V-103’s Kenny Burns. Attendees included the four principals listed above plus Ludacris, Dallas Austin, gospel artist Isaac Carree, actor and TV personality Miss Lawrence and Chaka Zulu, Spotify’s head of artist & talent relations.
The evening included a performance by R&B artist Jac Ross and a surprise performance by Cee Lo Green of “Jesus Is Love.” Green also shared a new poem inspired by the event entitled “To Know the Difference Between Being Black and Dark.”
Also in attendance were artist D.L. Warfield, who together with sculptor and historian Ed Dwight created the “Crown Jewel” emblem that will be embedded on the Walk of Fame representing each inductee.
The Georgia Entertainment Caucus is an Atlanta-based organization that focuses on bridging the gap between the Georgia political sector and the entertainment industry.