Toni Braxton received the President’s Award, BMI’s highest honor, during the performing rights organization’s annual R&B/Hip-Hop Awards last evening Thursday (Sept. 1). As the 2016 honoree, Braxton joined fellow previous recipients Ludacris and will.i.am. The ceremony took place in Atlanta for the first time at The Woodruff Arts Center’s Symphony Hall, hosted by comedian Chris Tucker.
Among the evening’s other top honorees: Charlie Puth and Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” as Song of the Year, Chris Brown as Songwriter of the Year and Universal Music Publishing Group as Publisher of the Year. This marked the second year in a row that UMPG — which took home a total of 21 awards — has won the publishing crown. Both Metro Boomin and Brown are UMPG songwriters.
DJ Khaled fittingly kicked off the proceedings with his “All I Do Is Win” featuring Ludacris. Then Khaled played hype man to protégé Kent Jones during the latter’s performance of his debut hit “I Don’t Mind.” Rich Homie Quan (“Type of Way,” “Flex [Ooh, Ooh, Ooh])” and Rae Sremmurd (“No Type,” “Black Beatles”) also pumped up the audience.
But the crown jewel of the evening was the Braxton tribute, celebrating the singer/songwriter’s 25-year career. Yolanda Adams may have unequivocally stolen the show with her hair-raising rendition of “Unbreak My Heart.” Donald Lawrence & Company weighed in with “You Mean the World to Me.” The Braxton sisters Towanda, Traci and Trina — sans Tamar — offered their take on “Breathe Again,” followed by Ledisi’s moving cover of another Braxton hit, “Seven Whole Days.”
Then Braxton was introduced by an old friend. “Once upon a time,” began Epic chairman/CEO and Braxton’s former La Face Records boss Antonio “L.A.” Reid, standing under a spotlight, center stage.
“A few years ago, not many … Evelyn Braxton gave birth to you,” continued Reid. “And God was in an incredibly giving mood the day he gave you that voice.” Backed by her sisters, Braxton showcased that multiple Grammy-winning voice on “He Wasn’t Man Enough.”
Tucker, alongside BMI president/CEO Mike O’Neill and BMI VP, writer/publisher relations in Atlanta Catherine Brewton, spotlighted the past year’s 35 best-performing songs in the U.S. from the BMI repertoire. The list included Future’s “Where Ya At,” Travis Scott’s “Antidote” and Fetty Wap’s “My Way.”