Hollywood’s grand Pantages Theater, a former home of the Academy Awards, was the backdrop for BMI’s annual Urban Awards (Aug. 26). As tourists and lookie-loos shouted from the sidewalks or while cruising down Hollywood Boulevard, artists, songwriters, producers and industry execs made their way down a three-hour red carpet. The theater’s fab art deco lobby provided a respite from the humidity outside with a bar and food tables featuring macaroni-and-cheese squares, chicken meatballs, mini-pizzas and long-sticked red velvet lollipops. Among the industry executives and guests spotted in the lobby before the ceremony: Jon Platt, president, North American creative for EMI Music Publishing; Ethiopia Habtemariam, Motown senior VP and exec. VP/head of urban music for Universal Music Publishing Group; Tom Sturges, exec.
VP/head of creative for UMPG; Max Gousse, senior VP/A&R for Island Def Jam; Devyne Stephens, CEO of UpFront Megatainment and L.A. Laker Ron Artest. And BMI wasn’t playing when it came to social media: the accompanying press packet not only listed BMI’s various hash tags and Twitter handles but also two and a half pages of handles for its urban artists and songwriters.
Following a musical tribute that kept everyone on their feet the entire time, Dr. Dre paid homage to his longtime friend Snoop Dogg. Reading from notes after teleprompter problems, Dre noted, “I gotta lot of love for this man; he’s one of the people responsible for putting me where I am today. He makes me excited to go into the studio and make music.” Noting earlier on the red carpet that he doesn’t put himself in the icon realm, Snoop thanked Dr. Dre and former Death Row head Suge Knight when honored with the BMI Icon award. “We built Death Row, we built a sound and you can’t take that away. And I’m thankful to both of them because wasn’t nobody from Long Beach rapping then. But I can do 20 more years of this; it ain’t over yet.” Calling Drake a “bad motherfucker” and encouraging those in the room to keep making music, Snoop ended with a word about the long-awaited “Detox” album. “Dr. Dre is finally getting the motherfuckin’ ‘Detox’ going. You all aren’t going to have to wait too much longer.”
Off the red carpet, Drake, winning Songwriter of the Year, shared he’s “a good 80% done” with his album, “Take Care.” “I’ve been in Toronto for the longest time since I started my career, which has been great. The album is definitely a genuine reflection of my life past and present. I have a line on the album where I say ‘I feel like I was numb to it last year, but think I feel it now more than ever.’ That’s probably the best way I can paint the picture for you of this album. I got to reconnect with a lot of people I haven’t seen in years; I got to see my family a lot. It stirred up a lot of emotions that I probably wouldn’t have had if I’d been on the road traveling everywhere. It’s almost there; I’ve got some great, great things. I’m very excited, the most confident I’ve ever been including ‘So Far Gone’ and any mixtape.”
Jukebox, producer of Willow Smith’s runaway hit “Whip My Hair,” says he’s done about nine songs for the pre-teen’s upcoming debut album. “People have to remember she’s a child and still has to have a child’s life,” said Jukebox when asked when fans might expect the album. “She’s been touring with Justin Bieber, so she just got back in [the studio] two-three weeks ago. Hopefully, the album will be out later this year.” In the meantime, Jukebox is featured on Swizz Beatz and Chris Brown’s new collaboration, “Dance Like a White Girl.”
During the ceremony, BMI executive Catherine Brewton noted that 27 songwriters were first-time award winners this year. “That shows the tide is changing,” she added. Later in the evening, Drake drew a roomful of ooohs during his acceptance speech after receiving the songwriter of the year award. He dedicated the award to his mother, crediting her for “always making me look up the definition of words I’d ask her about,” and to his uncle “who sat me down and said keep on” after “Sylvia Rhone said I couldn’t make it.”
Jazzed about the reaction to her first single “Invisible,” Skylar Grey says her “Invinsible” album is now pushed back to January. She adds it’s a “positive move because we have some different things going on now.” Though she declined to reveal what those things are, she did note that the KIDinaKORNER/Interscope album, produced by Alex da Kid, remains “diverse-sounding with elements of hip-hop and rock, which is more my background” and that the Marilyn Manson-featured track “Can’t Haunt Me” will still be included.
Just call him Dr. of Funkology. Bootsy Collins, on tour and also a guest on Sly Stone‘s new “I’m Back! Family & Friends,” is gearing up for year two of his online school, The Funk University (thefunkuniversity.com). Resplendent in a red sequined shirt and matching pants, Collins says the upcoming FU curriculum will feature special guest professors Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire, Ron Carter, Jack Bruce, Stanley Clarke and Larry Graham.
Her debut single is called “Do My Thang,” and Snoop Dogg’s daughter Cori B was doing just that as she answered questions on the red carpet about her own foray into music. The 12-year-old, who also plans to act, just finished a video for the single and is aiming to have her first album out early next year. As for his daughter’s foray in music, Snoop Dogg said, “I’m proud of my baby girl. I’ve always been into giving back and now I can give what I’ve learned to her uncut but with love.”