Billboard 2019 Hip Hop Power Players
Noam Galai/Getty Images for Billboard

Billboard And VIBE Host Second Annual R&B/Hip-Hop Power Players Event

“I’m feeling the energy and power in the room. It’s like a family reunion.”

Billboard and VIBE joined forces for the second annual R&B and Hip-Hop Power Players event on Thursday night (October 17). Held at New York City's Union City, the brands honored the 100 accomplished music executives, agents and more who made the third annual list for their outstanding contributions of driving, influencing and guiding the music industry and hip-hop culture today.

Billboard Executive Director of R&B/Hip-Hop Gail Mitchell and VP of Culture Media/VIBE Editor-in-Chief Datwon Thomas greeted guests at the invite-only reception saying, "Big shout to the team that puts this together, we just want everyone to know that this is a night of celebration. A lot of people have been working in the game for a long time - you are here tonight so you are all winning." He added, "We thank you for taking the time to celebrate your colleagues."

Shortly after, the hosts presented Steve Pamon with the Billboard Executives of the Year Award shared with Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. As he accepted his award, the Parkwood Chief Operating Officer delivered a speech saying, “This award was given to myself and Beyoncé, but the award truly belongs to the team behind me. We live off respect and responsibility. A sincere thank you.” He went on to say, “We live off of respect and the responsibility of being around all of you. You are hip-hop. We are hip-hop. It’s not about us. It’s about us all.”

The late Nipsey Hussle was honored with the Billboard Impact Award for his contributions to breaking barriers of cultural appropriation, young professionals seeking educational resources in science, tech and mathematics spaces, and positivity in his community. Prior to Marathon Agency co-founder, Steve Carless, acceptance of the world on Hussle's behalf, there was a 30-second moment of silence.

In his emotional yet encouraging speech, Carless said, “I accept this on behalf of Nipsey, his family, and all his loved ones and his children. What this means to me, it’s a testament to his hard work and dedication." He added, "Congrats to everyone who made this year. It’s a huge honor...One thing I do want to say it, this award is about inspiration. Responsibility is to uplift each other mentor each other and lead each other. May all of us leave here and know we have a responsibility.”

As attendees enjoyed beverages and captured Instagram-worthy images at the Billboard and VIBE cover-inspired installations, rappers Casanova and Young M.A hit the stage, respectively, to perform their popular singles. Flip through photos and interviews from Thursday night's event down below.

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The Millennium Tour 2020: Pretty Ricky Returns To Heat Things Up

The energy inside the Chase Square at Madison Square Garden is electric. The Millenium Tour 2020 returned to New York City on a rainy Friday night (March 6), satisfying fans’ yearlong wait for the nostalgic vibes to arrive in the city that never sleeps.

Big hoop earrings and jersey dresses paint the picture inside the lobby while chatter amongst small groups of people about which artist on the bill will have the best set fills the air. "I'm here for Pretty Ricky," says one elated fan as she rushes to find her spot on the line waiting to enter the doors of the Hulu Theater. "My boys are back and I'm not missing out on this."

Around this time 15 years ago, the members of Pretty Ricky were beginning to make their debut in a crowded R&B scene that included other notable groups like Jagged Edge and 112. Their platinum-selling debut single "Grind With Me" charted at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and helped the group stand out by opening the door for listeners to explore their raunchy, steamy world.

Since that time, the group has experienced ups and downs. Their first two albums, Bluestars and Late Night Special, were certified Gold with the latter debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The success from their first two albums catapulted the group into superstardom, winning millions of fans across the world and touring with the likes of Omarion, Chris Brown and Bow Wow. Unfortunately, personal issues and inflated egos within the group caused friction and placed a hold on things for the next few years.

Fast forward to today, and Pretty Ricky is back to heat things up. As a part of The Millenium Tour 2020, the group joins Omarion, Bow Wow, Ashanti, Lloyd, the Ying Yang Twins and more on a 32-date tour across the country. It's the second time in two years that Pretty Ricky has hit the road with the first being last year's The Millenium Tour, and if anything, the group is having even more fun with it.

Pretty Ricky back in NYC like they never left on The Millennium Tour 2020#PRETTYRICKY#THROWBACK#THEMILLENNIUMTOUR2020 pic.twitter.com/7RODWvEbsH

— ME VKV DON DVDV 🇭🇹 (@BlackDynamite91) March 10, 2020

"There are stretchers outside just in case someone faints," Spectacular tells VIBE as the group prepares for a special meet-and-greet with fans before their set. "You know how Pretty Ricky does it."

"It feels like 2005 all over again," Pleasure P exclaims as fans screamed just outside the curtains. "All the girls got on their throwback stuff. The energy is great, and of course, we're banging them with hits every night and it feels good."

The hits were flowing as Pretty Ricky made a strong case that they were the best performers on the bill. During the lively set, rabid fans sang along to "Grind With Me," "Your Body" and "On The Hotline" while rocking to the first-ever live performance of the group’s newest single "Body." The Florida natives even showed they haven't missed a step hitting their trademark gyrations in silk white pajamas with precision.

First ever live performance of Pretty Ricky’s newest single “Body” in NYC. #THEMILLENNIUMTOUR2020#PRETTYRICKY#BODY pic.twitter.com/Ac41pzC4KL

— ME VKV DON DVDV 🇭🇹 (@BlackDynamite91) March 10, 2020

"We know this is exactly what the people need, that good music and that good feel from back in the 2000s," says Spectacular who also performed on stage in nothing but a towel halfway through Pretty Ricky's set. "We want to bring that same feeling back and it feels great being back on this tour to give the fans what they want."

"Every single night we get to come out here and create a nostalgic experience for them," Baby Blue adds. "It's kind of like we were the soundtrack to their life and it feels good to create that lifetime experience. They get to relive their high school moments or maybe the first time they lost their virginity, their first kiss or the first time they went out with their homegirls."

A few years ago it seemed Pretty Ricky would be no more after they put their issues front and center on VH1's Love & Hip Hop: Miami and tried numerous times to fix their problems. There were even reports of a fight breaking out backstage between Pleasure P and Baby Blue at a show in Phoenix in 2018, but Baby Blue assures the guys are more than good this time around.

"It's a family and the thing about that is sometimes you might get into disputes, or whatever, then two hours later you're hugging. That's the strength in family and it's good that it's like that with us," he says as Slick 'Em cracks a joke with Spectacular to the side. "Sometimes in other businesses you might not be able to voice how you feel about certain things and how it gets received. With family, you can voice those feelings, but you have the option to make a change and go back to that family member and tell them I apologize and I love you. I think that's what keeps us together because it's a family-based business."

Keep up with Pretty Ricky at @PrettyRicky on Twitter.

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An interior view of Spotify Celebrates Black History Is Now Pop-Up on February 28, 2020 in New York City.
Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Spotify

Spotify Opens 'Black History Is Now' Pop-Up In New York City

As Black History Month comes to a close, Spotify is taking the annual moment to another level. On Friday night (Feb. 28), Spotify hosted a VIP preview of their immersive exhibit-style pop-up celebrating "Black History Is Now: Phenomenal Black Music." The opening party was an exclusive first look at Spotify’s celebration of the songs and women that have shaped the way music is made, experienced, and replicated across the world.

The pop-up celebrates 32 phenomenal songs and women, with representation ranging across genres and generations—from Bob Marley and Mary J. Blige, to Lil Nas X and Lizzo. Opening to the public for one weekend only, the exhibit features a look into the songs and artists with stories curated by music journalist Jewel Wicker, interactive elements curated by the Spotify creative team, surprise merch drops, and performances and panels.

As part of the experience, Spotify also partnered with Levi’s to build out a customization station, where guests can pick out patches designed by Joe Freshgoods and Jamilla Okubo and have them pressed onto Levi’s jackets. After DJ Olivia Dope, delivered jams from the likes of Bel Biv Devoe, Spotify's Director and Head of Music Marketing at Spotify thanked her team and attendees for joining the festivities.

Shortly after,  6LACK hit the stage and performed jams like "Ex-Calling," "Pretty Little Fears," and more. The pop-up is open to the public in NYC on Saturday, February 29th  from 11 am to 8 pm and on Sunday, March 1st from 11 am to 7 pm. As for the free merch, everything will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more details and to RSVP, visit Blackhistoryisnow.splashthat.com.

For more information on the campaign, head over to blackhistoryisnow.com. Scroll down below for more pictures from last night's opening event and watch highlights from the event on VIBE's Instagram Stories.

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Event attendees admire the limited-edition Sprite Ginger Collection items at the Sprite drop event at Extra Butter NY, on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020 in New York City.
Brian Ach/Getty Images for Sprite®

Sprite Launches Sprite Ginger Capsule Collection In New York City

Sprite is testing out another way for you to "obey your thirst" or "thirst for yours" with its new Sprite Ginger flavor. Introduced earlier this month, the addition to the soft drink's portfolio  "brings together the classic lemon-lime taste of Sprite with a hit of ginger flavor in every sip," according to a Coca Cola press release

To celebrate the brand's "spirit of reinvention," Sprite worked with veteran streetwear designer Jeff Staple and a team of young tastemakers and artists to develop the limited-edition “Sprite Ginger Collection,” inspired by reinvention and by the facets of culture permeating hip hop, fashion, music, and art. At a private event earlier this month at New York City's Extra Butter, Sprite debuted the brand's first limited-edition creative capsule by Staple and 9 other creatives, which consists of hoodies, jackets, jewelry, tees and more.

During a panel discussion moderated by Hearst style director, Tiffany Reid, Staple alongside creatives BLUBOY, Barbara Rego and Elan Watson chatted about drop culture, how young artists can make their mark in the industry, and the importance of reinvention.

"Having a [fashion] brand for 20+ years almost requires you, necessitates you to reinvent yourself because there's no way you can do the same thing for, forget 20 years, even 3 years before you're literally dead," shared Staple. "To me, the opposite of reinvention is death because you're not moving forward. You're just completely stagnant.

"So for me, it was always me constantly trying every few seasons to figure out a way to reinvent myself. And not in a way where I needed to stay relevant. I never felt a need to stay relevant, but I wanted to actually be able to connect authentically with the next generation of creators because that is actually what inspires me."

Dapper Dan, Amara La Negra, Mack Wilds, and Sway Calloway were among the celebrities and influencers who made an appearance at the event. Harlem's own Dave East performed a couple of his records while DJ Va$htie provided sounds throughout the night while spinning on the ones and twos.

Over the next few weeks, Sprite and Staple will continue the search for up-and-coming designers and host a series of "re-workshops" Extra Butter. Scroll down to see more pictures from the event. For more info on where you get a bottle of Sprite Ginger, head over the Sprite.com. As for where you can cop an item from the collection, follow @Sprite on Twitter and Instagram for surprise giveaways. You can also visit head over to StaplePigeon.com for more Sprite swag!

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