“The only thing I want to do is create platforms for people who have something to say.”
So noted Charlamagne Tha God while accepting the Living Legends Foundation’s Jerry Boulding Radio Executive Award. The co-host of WWPR (Power 105) New York’s syndicated show The Breakfast Club, multimedia entrepreneur and best-selling author was the first of eight honorees saluted at the foundation’s 30th anniversary awards gala, held Friday evening (Oct. 7) at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood.
Crediting various mentors in his career, such as iHeartMedia’s Thea Mitchem and Bob Pittman, Frankie Crocker and Tom Joyner, plus his wife (“Strong men are secure enough to get out of the way and let strong women lead” he said, followed by hearty applause), Charlamagne implored the audience to “ask yourself every day who have you helped or empowered to help people be the best versions of themselves.” That sentiment echoed throughout the three-hour gala that saw Cash Money Records co-founders/co-CEOs Bryan “Birdman” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Before the presentation, producer Polow da Don paid homage to the brothers: “They represent and give voice to people in the trenches.” In a taped message, Baby and Slim thanked their various mentors as well, including former Universal Records GM/exec. vp Jean Riggins, who gave Cash Money its start. “She took a liking to us, stuck with us and taught us how to work the system,” related Baby. “Our long journey is still going. We’re going to keep pushing because we like to change lives.”
One of the evening’s more emotional moments occurred when Sharon Heyward received the A.D. Washington Chairman’s Award for a groundbreaking career, whose highlights include tenures as Virgin Records’ head of urban promotion and later senior vp/GM of its urban division, president of production duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’ Perspective Records and founder of marketing/consulting firm Sharon Heyward Enterprises (SHE).
Her longtime industry colleagues and friends David C. Linton and Ray Harris, LLF’s president and chairman emeritus, respectively, presented the award to Heyward, who currently owns and operates industry mentorship firm The Solutionist LLC. “I’m a hard-nosed, straight-no-chaser girl,” said a visibly emotional Heyward as she accepted the evening’s last award. “One of the biggest legacies of my career are the mentees and others telling me how much I’ve helped in their careers.” She also took naysayers to task for dismissing the industry’s older generation as “dusty.”
“That shows no respect for the legacy that’s been given to you,” she added. “We need to have respect for each other; to reach back and bring forward.” Joined onstage by her daughter Monique, who also works in the music industry, Heyward played snippets of the Impressions’ hits “Keep on Pushing” and “I’m So Proud” before concluding, “The record business is no joke for women. I didn’t want my daughter Monique in this but I’m so proud of her … and [to the audience] thank you for letting me be a mentor to some of you.”
The LLF also paid tribute to five additional honorees:
Media Icon Award – Curtis Symonds, founding partner/president & CEO of 24-hour streaming network HBCUGO TV
Music Executive Award – Geo Bivins, industry veteran (Jive Records, Capitol and RCA); now president/founder of record label consulting firm Port Perry Entertainment
Digital Executive Award – Tuma Basa, director of Black music & culture, YouTube
Mike Bernardo Female Executive Award – Johnnie Walker, first female senior vp/promotion for Def Jam Recordings; now founder/CEO of the National Association of Black Female Executives in Music & Entertainment Inc. (NABFEME)
Founders Award – Henry “Hank” Caldwell, veteran industry senior executive (WEA, Cotillion, Atlantic, SOLAR Records, Epic and Death Row Records)
Hosted by syndicated radio personality DeDe McGuire (DeDe in the Morning) with musical interludes helmed by DJ Battlecat, the evening marked the Living Legends Foundation’s first in-person awards ceremony in three years owing to the pandemic. Among the distinguished guests and presenters on hand for what ultimately transitioned into a huge industry family reunion were Epic Records chairwoman/CEO Sylvia Rhone, artists P.J. Morton and Johnny Gill (Caldwell’s presenter) and talk show host/author Tavis Smiley.
“We are stronger when we all work together,” said LLF’s Linton during his opening remarks following the invocation by Rev. Marilyn Batchelor. “Our mission is to keep moving the culture forward. Tonight is your night!”