61st Annual GRAMMY Awards - Inside
Drake accepts Best Rap Song for 'God's Plan' onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

10 Problems With The Grammy Awards And How To Fix Them

After years of criticism toward the Grammys, we suggest some changes.

Going into the 2020 iteration of the show, The Grammy Awards couldn’t be more irrelevant and in a place of struggling to attract younger viewers. Each year sets new lows in the coveted 18-49 demographic, and the show continues to take one step forward and ten steps back when it comes to its relationship with hip-hop. The step forward this year will be the confirmed tribute to the late Nipsey Hussle featuring Kirk Franklin, DJ Khaled, John Legend, Meek Mill, Roddy Ricch, and YG. Fixing what was once the most cherished institution of the music business and one of the most-watched events of each year is complicated and will require drastic directional shifts and changes to elements of the show that have been part of its fabric for many years. These are the 10 problems with the Grammy Awards and how to fix them.

  • The Grammys Have Not Repaired Their Relationship With Hip-Hop

    The Grammys’ strained relationship with hip-hop goes back many years, beginning in earnest in 1989 when DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince boycotted the awards due to the only rap award being announced during the non-televised portion of the show. Things have gotten progressively worse from there. From Macklemore & Ryan Lewis being awarded the ‘Best Rap Album’ instead of Kendrick Lamar’s consensus classic Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City  in 2014 to most Grammy telecasts only featuring one rap performance, the show has never endeared itself to the rap community. Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich said ahead of the 2019 show that the event is still trying to figure out its relationship with hip-hop, some three decades on from the original boycott. “The fact of the matter is, we continue to have a problem in the hip-hop world,” Ehrlich told the New York Times. “When they don’t take home the big prize, the regard of the academy, and what the Grammys represent, continues to be less meaningful to the hip-hop community, which is sad.” And the problems keep getting worse with former Grammys CEO claiming the academy is ripe with sexism and discrimination, something many have speculated about over the years.

    How To Fix It

    Get the controllable elements right. The Heist winning ‘Best Rap Album’ did little to grow credibility within the hip-hop community, and the continued excuse of offering hip-hop artists slots on the show and them declining is waning. Did Drake decline? Too bad but hip-hop extends well beyond Aubrey. What about Future? Da Baby? J. Cole? If the show was really after a viral hip-hop moment this year and one that could help repair its relationship with the genre, give a platform to Shady Records and have Eminem, Boogie, and Griselda hit the stage to show the past and future of the genre. This year’s Nipsey tribute will serve significantly to show that the awards are in tune with the genre and build a new foundation that they can hopefully build on in years to come. It’s just unfortunate someone like Nipsey didn’t have the chance to touch the Grammy stage while he was still here. In addition, the Grammys should also right the wrongs where the heist on rap awards cost genre-defining classics their rightful place in history in favor of vanilla music that didn’t even stand the test of a year following its award, let alone time as a whole.

  • The Performers Aren't Relevant

    Let’s have a look at the list of performers slated for the 2020 Grammy Awards on January 26th: Aerosmith, Camilla Cabello, Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, H.E.R., Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, Lizzo, Bonnie Raitt, Rosalia, RUN-D.M.C., Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani, Blake Shelton, Tyler The Creator, Charlie Wilson, Nipsey Hussle Tribute

    Nipsey tribute aside, if most collective music fans’ opinions around this list were an emoji, it would be the shrug emoji. How many times can awards shows trot out the same artists? From Camilla Cabello to Ariana Grande to Demi Lovato, we’ve seen this movie before. One thing the Grammy Awards used to have going for it more than any other award show was the collaborations and element of surprise. From the much talked about Eminem and Elton John collaboration in 2001 to Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons mashing up “Radioactive” and “m.A.A.d City” in 2014, the show used to create anticipation each year where fans wondered what once-in-a-lifetime collaborations they were going to see. Looking at this year, the Grammys have paired Aerosmith and RUN-D.M.C. together as their safe go-to rock/rap collabo, and for some reason, they think there is high-demand from people to see Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton perform together. That’s not a surprise collaboration. That’s an episode of ‘The Voice.’

    How To Fix It

    The prevalent issue with Grammy performers is that while they technically represent all genres, they don’t truly represent the “now” in each genre. Save for Tyler, The Creator, is this truly the best the music industry had to offer in 2019? Where is DaBaby? Where is Maren Morris, who made history this year for the most streams for a female-fronted country album’s debut in the chart’s history for her album ‘Girl’? Where is Lil’ Nas X? He's nominated but not performing. Where is Khalid? The list goes on from there. Looking at the 2020 performers, one has to wonder where this year’s talked-about moment will come from.

  • The Show Is Way Too Long

    The 2019 Grammy Awards clocked in at an exhausting three hours and 45 minutes. Look to any successful entertainment event or property, and most of them have worked to get their run times down to meet the short attention spans of an ever digitally bombarded and distracted audience. Major sports have implemented measures to get game times to the two and a half hour or less mark and film executive Jeffrey Katzenberg is getting ready to launch Quibi, his new short-form video mobile platform that is spending over $1 billion on new content. The logic of the Grammys wanting to attract a younger, more relevant music audience and still producing a show that somehow can’t come to conclusion in three hours or less doesn’t add up. 

    How To Fix It

    Put together a tightly-produced two-hour show each year that people can look forward to instead of dreading a drawn-out marathon. Sure, it will cut down on the number of ever-popular (insert sarcasm here) Grammy tease with the promise of your favorite artist “up next” and they don’t end hitting stage until into the 3-hour mark of the show. But the positives will likely be an increase in ratings and as demand grows for the show once again, the Grammys shouldn’t have any problem getting artists to show up if they know it will mean direct impact on streams and exposure.

  • Lose The Host Or Use A-List Entertainers

    What do Frank Sinatra, Rosie O’Donnell, and LL Cool J have in common? They all have hosted the Grammy Awards. And save for “old blue eyes”, there is little logic in the history of Grammy Awards hosts. The 60s, 70s, and 80s primarily saw recording artists hosting the event while the 90s brought a mixed bag of comedians and actors (Billy Crystal? really?). The ’00s went back to recording artists hosting with LL Cool J holding the gig for six years straight. But it was the host the show had from 2006 - 2011 where they seemed to come closest to getting it right. That host? No one. No corny monologues. No forced banter. No “bits” from non-comedians. This year sees Alicia Keys returning as host, and while she did a serviceable job last year, is anyone tuning in to see Alicia Keys host? 

    How To Fix It

    The Grammys has two simple paths forward concerning hosting. 1.) Put the music at the forefront again and remove the host. Allow presenters to keep the flow of the show going but remove the needless segments in between what people ultimately care about, the performances, and the awards. 2.) Give people a host to tune in for. Kevin Hart, Eddie Murphy, Ricky Gervais, Dave Chappelle, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Ellen (who did host in 1996 and 1997) – all these names would ultimately be a draw.

  • The Show Is Too Cemented In Los Angeles And New York

    Yes, technically, Los Angeles and New York are still the business hubs of the music industry. Yet, as streaming continues to explode and new artists are discovered the world over via social networks like Tik Tok, the rules are evolving and changing. No longer does the fat cat in his corner office in L.A. or New York control what music fans hear. It might be a 15-year-old with 100,000 playlist followers living in Wisconsin putting you on to the latest wave, or some kid throwing a hip-hop/country mash-up called “Old Town Road” onto Soundcloud that becomes the biggest song of 2019. Outside of ease of executive travel, there is little reason to cement the Grammys in NYC or L.A.

    How To Fix It

    Want to bring relevancy back to the Grammy Awards? Take the show on the road. It would expose the live show to other audiences, and taking the show to other music meccas like Atlanta, Nashville, Toronto, or Chicago would generate additional press. Open up the show to new performers who purposely shun the cliched location of the yearly event, and going a step further, allow the Grammys to put a spotlight on a local music scene each year. In addition, live stream the show online for free and work out stronger digital-forward delivery methods for the program. News flash: young music fans aren’t glued to CBS and many don’t even have cable.

  • Voting Process Hasn't Changed With The Music Business

    On its surface, the Grammy voting process is simple. Academy members vote on the first-round ballot; nominations review committees determine final nominees, and then members vote on a final ballot. The issue revolves around the nominations review committee, a part in the process that is shrouded in secrecy where the will of the voting members can be overturned in favor of nominees brought forth by the committee. This speaks to one of the most significant issues with the Grammys in recent memory: people don’t know what the award represents. This is in contrast to the Billboard Music Awards, as an example, where the winners are very clearly determined based on album and digital songs sales, streaming, radio airplay, touring, and social engagement. In other words, it’s a business award given to those doing the most business. Is there artistic merit in that? That’s another debate, but at least those watching the show know what the artists are being awarded for; the Grammys not so much. 

    How To Fix It

    The likelihood of the legacy voting process behind the Grammy Awards going away is slim. The academy did create the rap specific review committee in 2018; however, the committee process is entrenched in the academy and likely will be for years before it changes. The Grammys need to give more visibility into the review committee process, sharing video of the process on social media and live streaming the selection process so that fans and artists alike can better understand why they are or aren’t being nominated and ultimately what it means to win an award.

  • The Grammys Aren't Producing The Show For The Audience They Want

    In 2019, the Grammy Awards hit new all-time rating lows with adults 18-49 and largely remained flat against 2018 for total viewership. And it’s no wonder, looking back to comments made by show producer Ken Ehrlich heading into the 2016 version of the show where he said he was confident the 18-49 demo would watch a show that skewed older in its artists and performers. Well, they haven’t, and the “music’s biggest night” tagline has almost become laughable in a streaming first recording industry. In reality, music’s biggest night for music fans could be Monday night at home playing your favorite songs or a Friday night party. The Grammys are not music’s biggest night for music fans anymore; it’s music’s biggest night for the recording industry elite. As the saying goes, “dreams don’t work unless you do,” and the Grammys hoping for a barrage of viewers in the 18-49 demo without actually doing anything to attract them seems like a pipe dream.

    How To Fix It

    The Grammy Awards aren’t “cool” anymore. Cool is many times one of those intangible things that one can’t put their finger on. But until the show finds its cool, it’s going to see ratings continue to decline. One way to fix this would be to partner with proven people that know cool to produce the show. Imagine a Grammy Awards produced by Jordan Peele and Rick Rubin or Ice Cube and Frank Dukes. Have rotating producer roles each year with one person responsible for the visual and performance aspect and one person responsible for the production of the music programming. Grammys executive producer Ken Ehrlich has announced that he will be stepping down following the 2020 ceremony. The time for change is now.

  • Acceptance Speeches Have Become Irrelevant

    The scene was the 2019 Grammy Awards, and those responsible for putting together the show were overcome with joy that Drake had decided to show up. And then, Drake won the award for ‘Best Rap Song.’ 

    He commenced to deliver an acceptance speech that called out the issues with the Grammys and awards shows in general. Drake made the point that if an artist had built a fan base and had people singing their songs, then they had already won and didn’t need an award for validation. For his part, Drake had his mic cut off effectively ending one of the show’s more exciting moments and very likely cementing the fact that Drake won’t be showing up to the show for years to come.

    How To Fix It

    If artists are going to be given a platform, then provide them with the platform to speak. Not only does unfiltered opinion make for a more exciting show, but it begs the question: what is the point of acceptance speeches if artists are going to be cut-off midway through because they’ve expressed an opinion that doesn’t align to the elitist ways of the Academy? The Drake incident made it clear that the idea of acceptance speeches at award shows has become irrelevant. Younger viewers wouldn’t even notice if they removed them and it would serve to keep the show flowing even quicker if key winners were announced and the show got back to what people watched it for, to begin with - the performances.

  • A-Listers Don't Want To Attend. Why Invite Anyone At All?

    The Grammys have struggled over recent years to get A-list artists to attend. Time magazine summed it up nicely following last year’s notable absences like Jay Z, Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, Justin Bieber, and Taylor Swift by saying, “the Grammys need these artists more than these artists need the Grammys.” And it’s true. There is little career benefit for these artists to be attending the show anymore, especially when so many younger music fans see it as being out of touch. A Pitchfork article from 2019 looked at the often mentioned “grammy bump,” which refers to the increase in sales (or streams) an artist receives by winning a Grammy or appearing on the show. A 20+ year music industry veteran interviewed for the article, who is also a voting member of the academy, said that a “Grammy, more than ever, is worthless.” 

    How To Fix It

    The Grammy Awards need to be a celebration of music for music fans. Only artists performing or presenting on the show should attend, and the audience should be filled with one group: music fans. Make it a glorified concert with set changes being the opportunity to hand out key awards. The Grammy’s could produce a show without worrying about who was or wasn't showing up (they would know each year who to expect), wouldn’t hold artists and other record industry people hostage for almost 4 hours if they didn’t need to be there and would ensure a freshness to the show each year.

  • They Stopped The Best Female Rap Solo Performance Award

    Everyone remembers the #GrammysSoMale hashtag that ran rampant during the 2018 version of the show which spoke to the male dominance of the show. Across the ‘00s, the Grammys moved away from gender-driven awards in favor of all-encompassing categories that could be won by males or females. It was a pleasant change and one that aimed to bring more gender equality to the industry, but it hasn’t necessarily worked out as intended, at least on the rap side of things. The award for Best Female Rap Solo Performance was given out only twice during the 45th and 46th Grammy Awards, awarded to Missy Elliott in both years. The male and female rap solo awards were consolidated into the existing ‘Best Rap Solo Performance’ award from 2005 - 2011, where a female artist was not awarded, and during those years, a female artist, Elliott again, was nominated only once in 2007.

    How To Fix It

    Reverting back to gender-specific awards seems like regression. but the Grammys need to figure out how to show recognition for female rap artists not named Cardi B or Nicki Minaj, such as Young M.A. In a tight rap category, there are no female nominees in 2020 save for Cardi B as a featured artist on Offset’s ‘Clout’ nominated for Best Rap Performance. One suggestion would be for the Grammys to evaluate category-by-category and genre-by-genre the history of the award and whether there has been fair male/female representation and the instances where there hasn’t, such as the rap awards, consider building in additional opportunities.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Courtesy of Biz 3 / FCF

Quavo Is Introducing 'Fan Controlled Football' To The Culture

From their penchant for popping tags and name-dropping designer brands in their rhymes to the obsession with diamond-encrusted neckwear, the Migos are the modern-day poster-children for decadence and opulence. But when it comes to balling, group member Quavo is a seasoned veteran, literally and figuratively. Notorious for his appearances in NBA all-star celebrity games, where he routinely dominates the competition, Huncho has built a rep as one of the athletically gifted hit-makers in music today.

Although he's known for his skills on the hardwood, football is definitely among his passions. His newest endeavor, an ownership stake in Fan Controlled Football (FCF), the first professional sports league to put the viewer in the coach's seat and the general manager's office, in live time, finds him putting his focus back on the gridiron. Having inked an exclusive, multi-year streaming broadcast partnership with Twitch, the FCF will be the first professional sports league to be fully integrated with the streaming platform with the potential to explode in the digital age, where user interest and participation is the main recipe for success.

Having tossed the pigskin around as a Georgia high school football star, to Quavo, it was a no-brainer to get involved with the innovative league on the ground level. “We are building a brand and something different in our league – with the fans. They are in control and get to pick the team names, colors, logos, and more,” said Quavo said in a press release. “I’m really excited because FCF is fast-paced, high-scoring 7v7 football and you are in control. You go from sitting on the couch watching TV and pressing buttons on the remote to actually pressing the buttons on the plays.”

Played on "a 35-yard x 50-yard field with 10-yard end zones,” the Fan Controlled Football league will kick off in February 2021, with a four-week regular season, one week of playoffs, and a Championship week. The league will consist of former elite D-1 athletes, the CFL, XFL, and the Indoor Football League. Broadcasted live from the FCF’s state-of-the-art facility in Atlanta, each game will be 60 minutes in length and will allow the viewers to play a hand in the final outcome on Twitch.

Aside from sports, Quavo has been relatively lowkey on the musical tip as of late, with two years having passed since a solo release or a Migos album. However, according to him, this delay can be considered the calm before the storm, as he assures him and his brethren are primed for one of their biggest years yet. VIBE hopped on the line with Quavo to talk Fan Controlled Football, what he's got cooking in the studio, and his foray into TV and film.

---

You're the newest team owner at Fan Controlled Football (FCF). What about the league piqued your interest and made you wanna get involved?

It's just showing my interest in the game of football and just trying to put a twist to where it's fan-controlled, fan-involved. A lot of times we watch the game, you watch the game, you just have some concerns. Sometimes you feel you can make the plays or call the play, [with FCF], you can sit on the couch and make the play. I just think we came together to make something crazy like that. I feel like it's something hard, it's something new, it's something fresh. It's a new beginning to something, like giving ni**as a chance. Giving D-1 players who couldn't make it to the league a chance, giving ex-NFL ni**as a chance if they still got it, [and] to go with the fans. When we saw the Falcons lose the Superbowl LI, we [fans] just knew what plays to call, we knew to run the ball. We were up 28-3. All we had to do was hold the ball, but we wanted to air it out and we made a mistake and lost to Tom Brady. Just like when Marshawn could've won a Superbowl. If they'd have given him the ball on the two-yard line. We knew that Marshawn Lynch was supposed to get the ball, [but] they wanted Russell Wilson to win it and the New England Patriots caught an interception. So that's how we're trying to shape it, we're trying to make something new.

The FCF will be live-streamed exclusively on Twitch, which has become one of the leading platforms for eSports live-streaming and will kick off in February 2021. Do you feel the FCF has the opportunity to fill that NFL void during the spring, particularly given the fan engagement that FCF enables?

Most definitely, cause after the Super Bowl, it just feels like you just want another game. You feel like you want one more game. and coming from something [where it's] eleven on eleven players to seven on seven, I feel [there’s] still a difference. After coming from watching the game and the regular politics, the regular structure of the game, now you're getting to be involved in a game that you can control. You can pick the jersey, you can pick the helmets, you can pick the jerseys, you can pick the coaches, you can pick the plays. I just feel there are two different dynamics [between the NFL and FCF). You come from sitting on the couch and pressing the remote to actually pressing the button on the plays."

Speaking of fan engagement, the FCF is the only professional sports league that enables fans to call the plays in real-time and puts the viewer in control of a game’s outcome like never before. Have you ever had that experience, as far as fantasy football?

Nah, but I'm into Madden. You can sit at home and pick your plays [with FCF], it's just like the lifestyle of Madden. It's like a reality of Madden. You're playing with people at home, with these unique athletes, and it's seven-on-seven.

As an Atlanta native, how significant was the FCF’s state-of-the-art facility being in your hometown in your decision to come on board as an owner?

It's very important. We got top-tier talent here, so it's opening up opportunities for a lot of guys. We're just glad it's in the south, it's like a hub. Everybody loves Atlanta and everybody wanna be here. Everybody wanna play and the weather is good.

NFL Super Bowl Champions Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch, boxing legend Mike Tyson, and YouTuber and podcaster empire Greg Miller are among the FCF's team owners. How does it feel to be competing against some of the most accomplished athletes and entertainers in the world? Have you had the opportunity to meet with any of them?

Most definitely. I have a good relationship with Mike Tyson. I've met Marshawn Lynch, it's a blessing. I feel like we're not competing right now, I feel like we're building a brand. I feel like we're building a league. I feel like we're trying to make the world understand what we're bringing to the table and what type of game we bring to the table, you feel me? I feel we're trying to create something different. Once we get the ball rolling, it's all together and moving into a real FCF league, then we'll get to compete. Of course, we all wanna win, but right now, we're just trying to get the foundation and the basics going and letting the strength of the owners and the relationships show on the field.

Being that you'll all be working with your respective fan bases in shaping your team’s personality and identity, any thoughts about what the team’s name will be? 

Man, I wish I did, but it's so straight strictly fans that you never know. Just like with music, can have an idea that is a smash, and then the fans don't think it is. You gotta strictly listen to the fans on this one. You gotta listen strictly to how they want it because it's the point of the game, that's the point of the league. We gotta let them control this game and then we the players and we the people that's listening to the people, the culture. FCF stands for culture, too, you feel what I'm saying? We listen to the culture, we're letting the culture run the field.

How involved will you be in the drafting and scouting process for your squad?

The fans make the draft, fans get to see everything. Open books, everything. It's an open thing, it ain't nothing to hide over here. The fans control it all.

In addition to sports, you've also been delving into acting, with cameos in shows like Atlanta, Star, Black-ish, and Ballers. Earlier this year, you appeared as yourself in Narcos: Mexico. How did that opportunity come about? 

Narcos reached out. We [Migos] had this song called “Narcos” on the [Culture II] album and we went and shot [the video] in Miami and everybody thought it was a Narcos movie scene and it ended up being Madonna's house. So we just shot that there and then they reached out to us. I think Offset had a performance somewhere and Takeoff had to do something and I just ended up being free that day and I went and shot it in New Mexico. I had fun, I loved it.

Do you have plans to pursue any supporting or leading roles in film or television?

Hell yeah, most definitely. I've been sitting down and having real great meetings with directors and people that got some movies in the works for 2021. I feel like I’ve got some good spots. I don't wanna tell it cause they’re gonna make some announcements. It's coming soon.

It's been two years since you've released a solo project or one with the Migos. Can fans expect any new music from you anytime soon and what are your next plans on that front?

Most definitely, hell yeah, we're shooting videos right now. We’re vaulting up a whole lot of videos so we can give you music and visuals at the same time. “Need It," the song came first and then the video. Right now, we wanna get a lot of videos and a lot records in the vault and smash [them] all at once 'cause it's been two years.

Pop Smoke's passing was one of the more tragic events in rap in recent memory, but his debut album, which you appeared on throughout, has been one of the most successful and acclaimed projects of 2020. How has it been seeing how the album’s been received, especially after you and him developed such a bond in a short time?

I'm happy. I'm proud of him, that was my partner. We did a lot of records, we spent a lot of time together and I feel like the album would've did even more with him being alive. A lot of people's album just go crazy when they die, I feel like his sh*t would've still went crazy. He had the momentum, he had the buzz. He was having fun. He was hot, he was fresh, he had everything ready.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Continue Reading
Toots Hibbert performing at Hammersmith Palais, London in 1983.
Photo by David Corio/Redferns

Remembering Toots Hibbert

The best singers don’t need too many words to make their point. Otis Redding could let loose with a sad sad song like “Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa” and get you all in your feelings. Bob Marley got pulses pounding with his “Whoi-yoooo” rebel yell. Gregory Isaacs melted hearts with nothing more than a gentle sigh. Toots Hibbert, who died last Friday at the age of 77, could sing just about anything and make it sound good. One of the world's greatest vocalists in any genre, Toots paired his powerful voice with the understated harmonies of Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Mathias to form The Maytals, a vocal trinity that never followed fashion and remained relevant throughout the evolution of Jamaican music—from the ska era to rock steady straight through to reggae, a genre named after The Maytals' 1968 classic “Do The Reggay.”

Whether they were singing a sufferer’s selection (“Time Tough”), a churchical chant (“Hallelujah”), or the tender tale of a country wedding (“Sweet and Dandy”), The Maytals blew like a tropical storm raining sweat and tears. The lyrics to Six and Seven Books,” one of The Maytals' earliest hits, are pretty much just Toots listing the books of the Bible. “You have Genesis and Exodus,” he declares over a Studio One ska beat, “Leviticus and Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua, Judges and Ruth...” Having grown up singing in his parents' Seventh Day Adventist Church in the rural Jamaican town of May Pen, Toots knew the Good Book well.

The Maytals broke out worldwide in 1966 thanks to the song “Bam Bam,” which won Jamaica's first-ever Independence Festival Song Competition, held during the first week of August as the island nation celebrated both independence from Great Britain in 1862 and emancipation in 1834. They would go on to win the coveted title two more times, but “Bam Bam” was a singular song with a message every bit as powerful as Toots' voice. “I want you to know that I am the man," Toots sang. He was young and strong, ready to "fight for the right, not for the wrong." The trajectory of "Bam Bam" would not only transform Toots' life but make waves throughout popular music worldwide.

"Festival in Jamaica is very important to all Jamaicans," the veteran singer stated in a video interview this past summer while promoting his latest entry into the annual competition. "I must tell you that I won three festivals in Jamaica already, which is “Bam Bam,” “Sweet & Dandy” and “Pomp & Pride.” Toots described that first festival competition as a joyous occasion. "Everybody just want to hear a good song that their children can sing," he recalled. "Is like every artist could be a star."

In 2016, on the 50th anniversary of "Bam Bam" winning first place, Toots looked back over the legacy of the tune that made him a star. "I didn’t know what it means but it was a big deal," he told Boomshots. "You in the music business and you want to be on top and you write a good song and you go on this competition and if they like it then it becomes #1." After The Maytals won, the group was in demand not just all over the island, but all over the world. "We start fly out like a bird," he says with a laugh. "Fly over to London."

"Bam Bam" went on to inspire numerous cover versions, starting with Sister Nancy, Yellowman, and Pliers. It would also be sampled in numerous hip hop classics, and interpolated into Lauryn Hill's "Lost Ones." But according to Toots, he did not benefit financially from these endless cover versions. "People keep on singing it over and over and over, and they don’t even pay me a compliment," he told Boomshots. "I haven’t been collecting no money from that song all now."

 

View this post on Instagram

 

“This man don’t trouble no one... but if you trouble this man it will bring a Bam Bam” Original Maytals Classic @tootsmaytalsofficial 🎶 All them a talk, them nuh bad like Niya Fiya Ball ☄️🔥💥 via @tonyspreadlove . 💥💣🔫#Boomshots

A post shared by Word Sound & Power (@boomshots) on Sep 12, 2020 at 8:19am PDT

When Toots began singing in his parents' church, music was not seen as a career prospect, and the profits were slim for Jamaican recording artists in the 1960s. "Those days we get 14 cents for the record to play on the radio," Toots said. "I get three shillings and five shillings for a number one record, which I had 31 number one record in Jamaica... It’s not about money for me. It’s about the quality that Jamaicans need to go back in the festival jamboree... You gotta talk to the children."

On the poignant “54-46 (Was My Number),” Toots recalls the dehumanization of his arrest and 18-month imprisonment at Jamaica's Richmond Farm Correctional Center for what he always insisted was a trumped-up ganja charge just as his music career was taking off. The song's crescendo comes two minutes in when Toots breaks into a scat solo that cannot be translated into any language known to man, delivered with palpable passion that made his message universal. During Toots' ecstatic stage performances he would follow this riff by commanding his band to “Give it to me... one time!” Then the 'd make 'em say Uh!  (Way before Master P!) “Give it to me... two times!” Uh! Uh! And so on and so forth until Toots worked the place into a frenzy.

The Maytals' live show was so explosive that Toots began touring all over the world, opening for rock megastars like The Rolling Stones and The Who. While Bob Marley richly deserved the title King of Reggae, his friend Toots was performing internationally before The Wailers, and remained a force to be reckoned with throughout his life, blazing a trail for generations of reggae artists to follow in his footsteps.

On his Grammy-winning 2004 album True Love, Toots recorded some of his greatest hits with a host of legendary artists, many of whom were also good friends, including Willie Nelson, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, and Eric Clapton. His 2006 cover of Radiohead's "Let Down" was a favorite of the band's, who used to play it on their tour bus. Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood called Toots’ version “truly astounding,” according to Easy Star Records Michael Goldwasser.

Toots supported himself and his family by touring all over the world. During a 2013 show in Richmond, Virginia he was singing John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads" when a teenager in the crowd threw a vodka bottle at the stage and hit him on the head. He suffered a concussion and had to stop touring for several years. As his first album in a decade, Got To Be Tough was highly anticipated when it was released on Trojan Jamaica label August 28. On the cover the former boxer and lifelong fighter can be seen throwing a punch. Just a day after the album dropped, Toots came down with symptoms similar to COVID 19. Within a few days he was hospitalized where doctors placed him into a medically induced coma from which he never recovered. As his Tidal obituary pointed out, he passed away exactly 33 years after his old friend Peter Tosh died by gunfire.

Songs like "Just Brutal" from the hit different now, with Toots pleading for more love in a world gone wrong. "We were brought here," Toots sings. "Sold out. Victimized brutally. Every time I keep remembering what my grandfather said before he died."

“I’m feeling alright,” Toots said the last time we spoke, while he was still sidelined with stress issues due to the bottle-throwing incident. "I’m feeling alright. I’m feeling alright. I’m feeling just cool because is Jah works. You seet?" I asked him if the song "Bam Bam," was about him—a peaceful man who should not be provoked—or else. "Nooo don't trouble him," Toots said with a laugh. "It’s gonna be double trouble, triple trouble. A lot of trouble."

Continue Reading
DJ Cassidy

DJ Cassidy Speaks On 'Pass The Mic Vol. 2' Ft. Hip-Hop Greats LL Cool J, Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa, MC Lyte And 30+ More MCs

With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc globally, 2020 has been a year filled with tragedy and uncertainty, as an innumerable amount of lives have been taken or affected as a result of the spread of the virus. The world of entertainment, which relies on ticket-holders and live spectators, is affected severely, with artists unable to tour, give live performances, interact with fans, or even create material by committee. This unprecedented blackout of sorts is a tough pill to swallow and threatens to forever alter the industry as we know it. However, as a culture and artform that built its history around making the best of times with minimal resources at its disposal, hip-hop is at the forefront of keeping the public entertained and butts moving, with various DJs, artists, and producers discovering new ways to stay in tune with the people.

While new, digital platforms like DJ D-Nice's "Club Quarantine" and Swizz Beatz and Timbaland's "Verzuz" battle series are ahead of the curve, the latest virtual experience to emerge is Pass The Mic, a live event created and hosted by legendary spinner DJ Cassidy. A native New Yorker, Cassidy, who made his name via the club circuit during the late '90s and early aughts, has a resume that rivals the most accomplished of DJs, having spun at high profile events such as the 2009 inauguration ball for Barack Obama, Obama's 50th birthday party, and the wedding of JAY-Z and Beyonce. Performing hundreds of shows on a yearly basis, Cassidy, whose touring schedule was halted due to the pandemic, was stuck at home when a conversation with legendary soul musician Verdine White of Earth, WInd & Fire gave him an epiphany.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Thank you @revwon @kingdmc @llcoolj @mrchuckd_pe @therealdjchillwill @therealdougefresh @thegodrakim @mcshan1 @mcmilkdee @specialedmusic @emceeserch @mclyte @chipfu @erick_sermon @doitalldu @therealgrandpuba @djpremier @darealgregnice #smoothb @blacksheepdres @therealclsmooth @realpeterock darealmonielove @youngmc89 @chubblive @officialbigdaddykane @robbasemusic @kidfromkidnplay @the_playgroundz @darealpepa @saltnpepaofficial @speech__ @rasadon @eshe2xgrammy @treachtribe @unclevinrock ❤️ You are my heroes. And to all 122,000 people that tuned in, I am truly grateful. 🎙👑🎙#PassTheMic @rockthebells @behindtherhymetv @twitch

A post shared by DJ Cassidy (@djcassidy) on Aug 5, 2020 at 9:13pm PDT

Cassidy explains: "In the heat of the pandemic, in the middle of the quarantine, I was facetiming with my good friend and mentor Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire. Verdine has grown to be a close friend whom I truly admire, and he and I go to dinner every month or so and, obviously, we were not able to do that. So we were on a Facetime call catching up and while I was talking to him, his song, ‘That's The Way of the World,’ came on my speakers. And ‘That's The Way of The World’ is my favorite Earth, Wind & Fire song and on a regular day, it sends a chill down my spine. But being that the world was in flux and everyone was in their homes, separate from each other, [and] being that I was looking into his eyes as I heard the song, a kind of special feeling came over me. And I said, 'You know, I'm very lucky that I have so many relationships with all of my heroes of music and I can hear their music in their company.' And I said, 'Wouldn't it be amazing if I could find some way to give that special feeling to other people around the world during this crazy time. And I said, 'Well, if I can connect my musical heroes from home to home, perhaps I can give people this feeling that I'm feeling right now. And perhaps I can use that as a way to pay homage to the heroes around the world fighting for health.' So therein lies the foundation of the whole idea."

That spark ultimately evolved into Pass The Mic Vol. 1, which saw some of the biggest R&B stars of the late '70s and the '80s performing their greatest hits from the comfort of their homes, for the world to see. The event, which was streamed live on Twitch before being uploaded to Cassidy's Instagram page, was a big hit, amassing upwards of twenty thousand viewers, prompting the DJ to follow up with a second volume geared towards his first love: Hip-Hop. Airing this past Wednesday (Aug. 5), Pass The Mic Vol. 2 saw DJ Cassidy summoning a slew of his friends, who just happen to be among the greatest rap artists of all-time, to join him in a cipher of the most pivotal rap records of the '80s and early '90s. DJ Premier, of the legendary rap group Gang Starr, spoke on DJ Cassidy approaching him to be a part of the massive celebration. "When Cassidy texted me the links to VOLUME 1, I was blown away by the people he chose," Premier shares. "And it kept getting more and more exciting as the songs progressed to wonder who's next. Even the way he sequenced it..."

Beginning with Run of Run DMC performing "Sucker M.C.'s," the nearly forty minute set included appearances from the likes of LL Cool J, Chuck D, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, MC Lyte, Kid N' Play and Naughty By Nature, all of whom tear the house down, albeit virtually from the comfort of their own. The session includes many magical moments and is filled with a love for one another, as well as the culture that brings us all together.

With the second volume in the series having took place, with many more to come, VIBE spoke with DJ Cassidy via phone about the genesis of Pass The Mic, what the process entailed putting the first two volumes together, the healing and unification of music, and how Black music has had an indelible impact on his life and career.

VIBE: The first volume of Pass The Mic included appearances by Earth, Wind & Fire, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Kool & The Gang, Patrice Rushen, and other stars of the '70s '80s. What made you kick off the series celebrating that particular era?

DJ Cassidy: I think two main reasons come to mind. First of all, the Facetime call with Verdine White was really the genesis of the concept, so it was that call that inspired the whole idea. And it was that song, the first song on Vol. 1 that was playing, so to me, it was automatic that I should go to that era of music to set the project off. But the second reason is kind of a bigger picture, which is I really believe that that music is the most feel-good, uplifting music ever created. It is undeniably body-moving and for two-thirds of my life, I've traveled the world, making people dance and there is no music that uplifts, inspires people, makes people smile and makes people dance than the r&b music of the '70s and the '80s. So when the world is going through what it's going through and people wanna smile and people wanna be uplifted and people wanna unite, there really was no greater music to channel to try to do such a thing, to achieve such a mission.

How would you describe an episode of Pass The Mic and what are some unique wrinkles users can expect?

Pass The Mic is an interactive mixtape delivered in a way that you've never experienced before. As I drop each record, you experience that record with the artist who recorded that record and you connect with those artists from home to home. And through that personal experience, you're left with an emotional experience of music unlike any before. And I'd be lying if I said I thought that all the way through when I started, I didn't. A lightbulb went off for me, I saw the big picture and I went for it, but I didn't quite understand how emotional the response would be until I premiered it.

You've also mentioned how the times we're in, with the COVID-19 pandemic, was also a factor in you creating Pass The Mic. What are your thoughts on how other DJs and producers have been adapting to the climate we're in?

Well, I think the pandemic has been such a tough time for everyone around the world, yet it's also been a great time for DJs to be the best versions of themselves. At our core, we DJs unite people. At our foundation we bring people together through music and no one exemplified that better, bigger and faster than D-Nice. In the first week of the pandemic, he found a way to unite the world through DJing and it was truly beautiful to watch then and remains beautiful to watch now.

You've been spinning professionally for upwards of two decades and have an expansive list of high-profile artists and musicians at your disposal. What has the recruiting process for Pass The Mic entailed and how would you describe the artists' reception to the idea of it all?

Well, the process has certainly evolved, I would say that's the best word to use. The recruitment process for Vol. 1 was entirely different from Vol. 2 'cause while recruiting artists for Vol.1, I had nothing to show. All I had was a crazy idea that some people understood and some people didn't, but what they did exhibit was a unanimous trust in me and for that, I was not only grateful, but extremely honored. We're talking about some of the most legendary r&b artists of all time, they don't need to do my Pass The Mic idea. And they all took a leap of faith and they put their trust in me and I think they were all excited by the results and that really was the biggest reward. The recruiting process for Vol. 2 was entirely different because not only had many of the artists now seen Vol. 1, but for those who didn't I of course had Vol. 1 to show them. One of the greatest experiences was calling Big Daddy Kane, one of the greatest rappers of all-time.

Now, I haven't spoken to Kane on the phone in years. In fact, I might have never spoken to Kane on the phone before. I first developed a relationship when he performed at my birthday party in New York many years ago, over ten years ago. And every time we see him, it's all love and, of course, I admire, idolize and look up to him and I wasn't even sure if I had the right number I called, I got a voicemail, it wasn't his voice. I text him, I said 'Kane, it's Cassidy, is this still you?'  And he called me within five minutes and I picked up and go, 'Kane!' And his first words were, 'Look, if you're calling about something having to do with Pass The Mic, I'm in,' and that was one of the greatest phone calls I've ever had in my life. And I will never forget that one sentence. Big Daddy Kane, the great, the legend, the forefather, he not only saw it, but loved it, felt that's why I might be calling and was down to take part in whatever I was doing and there's really no words to describe that feeling. And that sentiment was common in many of my phone calls  that a lot of the artists I was calling had seen Vol. 1 and were really emotional in their response to it. So the recruiting process from Vol. 1 and 2 were very different, in that respect.

For the debut volume of Pass The Mic, you partnered with Twitch, a streaming platform that's been continuing to gain steam. What spurred you to use that particular platform and is that partnership official?

Firstly, what I was doing wasn't possible to present to people on Instagram. I love Instagram, it's the platform I use the most, it's how I share my life and times, but there was no way I could've presented Pass The Mic through Instagram. So I was looking for a platform that allowed for a live experience, one which I could treat as a live event and there were several: YouTube, Facebook and Twitch. And Twitch seemed like a great home for the launch, their platform, their technology, their fanbase. They're extremely forward thinking and it was a great place, but it was also a partnership with the Behind The Rhyme channel. Behind The Rhyme is a channel on Twitch that presents  lots of great content having to do with hip-hop and r&b, specifically classic hip-hop and r&b, but all kinds of hip-hop and r&b. So it was a great kind of home for Vol. 1 and it worked out well, so I've chosen to host a live event for Vol. 2 there as well. And I've also partnered with Rock The Bells on this edition, they represent all things classic hip-hop so it's self-explanatory. The partnership is a no-brainer. LL Cool J and his brand represent everything that Pass The Mic Vol. 2 strives to represent, the beauty and inspiration of classic hip-hop.

The second episode of Pass The Mic aired this past Wednesday (August 5), and saw you putting the focus on the golden era of hip-hop, with legends like LL Cool J, Run-DMC and Salt-N-Pepa all appearing on the show. How would you describe your relationship with that era of hip-hop and how the music inspired you as a DJ?  

Well, I grew up in that era of hip-hop. I grew up memorizing the words of the hip-hop records of the mid '80s, late '80s, and early '90s, that was my childhood.  Hip-Hop is my first love, hip-hop is why I became a DJ, hip-hop is why I asked my parents to buy me two turntables and a mixer for my birthday when I turned ten. And these artists, the artists who I've included in Pass The Mic Vol. 2 are my true heroes. They are the artists I looked up to as a child, they are the artists I idolized as a child and to this day, I hold them up on the highest of pedestal.  They define the way I walk, the way I talk, the way I danced, the way I dress, the way I fought, they gave me identity. Without these artists, I don't really know what my identity would be. I became who I am through this music, so this volume really meant a lot to me, the last twenty-one days have been surreal.

Yeah, for sure. The reason the past twenty-one days have been so surreal is not only because I got to Zoom with all of my heroes of hip-hop, but because after we knocked out what we had to do we stayed on for another half an hour or more talking. And sometimes I'd be on with some of these artists for an hour and I'd be asking them questions and they would tell me stories and I just heard the greatest anecdotes. And sometimes with those whom I had relationships with, we talked about stories that involved me and us and those were incredibly special, for obvious reasons, but all the stories were just, like, gems. They were just dropping gems on me. I have all that footage and I hope, at some point, there is another component of Pass The Mic where I share those stories.

What would you say are three records from that period that personally resonate with you?

"Sucker M.C.’s" is a very important song to me, as it is to hip-hop culture, as it is I believe, to pop culture. "Sucker MCs," in my opinion, is the archetype of a hip-hop record. It's so brilliantly simple and it's powerful because of its brilliant simplicity. All that's on there is a kick, a snare, a clap, and rhymes. There's no chorus, it's only four verses. And if you think about it, on paper, it's the simplest hip-hop record ever made and it's just so magical because if an alien came from out of space like, 'What is hip-hop?' I would play them “Sucker M.C.'s.” So, for me, it was really important for that reason, to set off this particular volume with that record.

Another record that's really important to me is Arrested Development "People Everyday." It's not only one of my favorite hip-hop records of all-time, it's one of my favorite records of all-time, it just simply exudes joy and celebration. And Speech is not only an incredible rapper, but an incredible singer and his voice is just simply something you can feel. He's uplifting, he's truly a unifying spirit and I'm so happy he was willing to get down 'cause he really brings the celebration to this.

"Hip Hop Hooray," which closes out Vol. 2, is really important to me. As a child, I worshipped the ground Treach walked on. I thought Treach was the coolest person to ever walk the face of this earth. And Treach and Vinnie are the sweetest guys, I've known them since I was a child and they've always been really supportive of me and my career and that song is special. No matter where you go in the world, no matter what music someone loves, no matter how old they are, no matter who they are, no matter where they are, everyone sings along to that chorus and knows exactly what to do with their hands. And there's something really beautiful about that so there's no better song to end this with.

The first two episodes of Pass The Mic have been geared towards celebrating Black icons in music, across various genres. In the age of Black Lives Matter and social injustice, what are your thoughts on how music and the performance of it can help bring forth unity and healing?

I think there is no greater unifying power than music and I think there is no greater healing force than soul music. And soul music doesn't just mean r&b music, it means hip-hop, too, hip-hop comes from soul. And I think we're living in a time of divisiveness, bigotry and of separation and I think we, as humanity, can look to any one thing to uplift people and unify, it would be music. And you mentioned Black music, my life wouldn't be what it is without the music of Black artists, hip-hop and R&B has defined my life in so many ways, and not only in my career. It's my source of inspiration, it's my source of culture, it's my source of style, it's really my source of happiness. And it's through the music of soul artists and hip-hop artists that I've been able to travel the world and make people dance and make people smile.

What do you see Pass The Mic evolving into moving forward and what do you hope viewers walk away with after viewing an episode of Pass The Mic?

I hope people walk away feeling uplifted, that's it. That's the goal, to uplift. And by sharing these records in a unique way, I've been able to uplift, then I've done my job. The magic is in the music and I'm just a messenger. What do I see for the future? Well, at this point, sky's the limit. I didn't anticipate quite an emotional response from people and it's been quite overwhelming. As I said, this was a little passion project to stay creative, to connect with my heroes and to put a smile on a few faces and it turned into something bigger than I could've ever imagined. There's certainly gonna be more volumes and what the future has in store, we shall see.

Continue Reading

Top Stories