The 2023 Living Legends Foundation Honored
Media, Music, and Entertainment Legends
Walt “Baby” Love, Nelson George, Rocky Bucano, Ed Lover,
Vernon Brown, Esq., Lionel Ridenour, Jacqueline Rhinehart,
Tracey J. Jordan, and Shanti Das at Sold-Out Awards Ceremony
Celebrity Guests Included Ronald “Slim” Williams, Howard Hewett, Kenny Lattimore, Brian Courtney Wilson, and Music Executives L.A. Reid, Jon Platt, and Monte Lipman, Among Others
(Los Angeles, CA – October 10, 2023) — In celebration of Hip-Hop at 50, The Living Legends Foundation (LLF) honored and celebrated an esteemed group of media, music, and entertainment legends including Walt “Baby” Love, Nelson George, Rocky Bucano, Ed Lover, Vernon Brown, Esq., Lionel Ridenour, Jacqueline Rhinehart, Tracey J. Jordan, and Shanti Das Friday evening, October 6, at Taglyan Cultural Complex in Hollywood, CA.
Hosted by Tammi Mac, KJLH’s afternoon air personality, this year’s awards ceremony opened with remarks by David C. Linton, chairman of the Living Legends Foundation, who shared the organization’s mission to continue moving Black music and culture forward. “The state of the Living Legends Foundation is strong,” Linton declared. Linton then addressed the tremendous loss of so many Black executives over the past few years including the recent passing of LLF President and former music executive Varnell H. Johnson and music icon Clarence Avant. Linton noted that both gentlemen were shining examples of leadership and commitment. He concluded that Avant was the conscience of the industry who always made sure Black Music, Black artists, and Black executives had parity within the industry.
Celebrity guests who attended the awards ceremony included Ronald “Slim” Williams of Cash Money Records, Grammy Award-winning artist Howard Hewett, Grammy-nominated artist Kenny Lattimore, Stellar Award-winning artist Brian Courtney Wilson, along with music executives L.A. Reid, c0-founder of mega with Usher; Jon Platt, chairman and CEO of Sony Music Publishing; and Monte Lipman, founder and current CEO of Republic Records, among numerous others.
Linton also noted that it’s the responsibility of veteran music executives to teach and provide the current generation with guidance, support, and opportunities. One of the organization’s key initiatives is to provide scholarships annually to African American students at HBCUs and PWIs. Four of five scholarship recipients had the opportunity to attend the Living Legends weekend, which also included the awards ceremony. The students included Jazzmin Duncan (Pomona College in Claremont, CA); Maximillion Shearod (Yale University in New Haven, CT); Joshua Wilson (University of Southern California in Los Angeles), and Jordyn Kaila Isaacs (Hampton University in Hampton, VA), all of whom worked on individual projects, then met and talked with the honorees, talent, and industry executives. Additionally, they had an opportunity to walk the red carpet before the awards ceremony.
The first award of the evening was presented to LLF Vice President Jacqueline Rhinehart from LLF board member Colleen Wilson. A 30-year music executive and the founder of My Organic Soul Marketing, Rhinehart received the prestigious Creative Visionary Award. “Creative visionary, what it means to me is that you were into something when others weren’t,” Rhinehart philosophically explained. “You may have seen something when others didn’t. Possibly that something became something millions now see, and now others see what you see. In closing, she stated, “I wanted to help artists, and I wanted them to be their highest selves. I wanted to match their creativity.”
Vernon Brown, Esq., founder of V. Brown & Company, followed and received the Entertainment Advocate Award from LLF founder, Ray Harris. Brown talked about the importance of advocacy and addressed the equity and inclusion part of the business. “When I started 30 years ago, there were heads of Black music, presidents of labels, it was flourishing,” he recalls. “And then, of course, we saw that diminish greatly. A lot of it was because of technology and just a drastic change in the business of music. The good news is, I’m seeing a change back in the other direction. I’m seeing the equity part begin to come our way, but it’s up to us, it’s up to me and each of us to speak about it. We need to say, we need more African American representation, executives, and people in the business. We must have that; we can’t dance around the fact or sugarcoat it. I’m happy to say since I’m around [at the various labels], I can tell you it’s happening.”
Music and entertainment veteran Tracey J. Jordan, a partner of Jordan/Lazin Productions, was presented with the Mike Bernardo Female Executive Award by LLF board member Gwendolyn Quinn. Reflecting on her family’s musical legacy, Jordan said, “From bebop to hip hop and all the formats in between, I love music and I owe this deep appreciation to my mom, NEA Jazz Master Sheila Jordan, who would play Name That Tune with me as a toddler using Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, my father, jazz pianist Duke Jordan, and all the jazz greats to teach me about my musical heritage. She and her village of artistic friends taught me how to appreciate all forms of artistic expression.”
Shanti Das, founder of Silence the Shame and former music executive, was presented with the A.D. Washington Chairman’s Award from LLF Chairman David C. Linton. Das acknowledged her many mentors including L.A. Reid, Jon Platt, Donnie Ienner, and Jermaine Dupri, who were huge supporters of her career. She credits L.A. Reid for teaching her about Black excellence. In 2017, Das was on a mission to build her global platform around mental health and wellness. She shared her powerful testimony on depression upon receiving her award. “I stepped away from the music industry in 2010,” said Das. “It was tough for me to step away. I was high functioning with depression. I started experiencing my first bout of depression in 2000 when I was working at Arista Records. We didn’t talk about depression, self-care, and wellness back then. I hit rock bottom in 2016. I counted all the pills in my medicine cabinet, and I was prepared to take my own life. It wasn’t that I wanted to die, but I didn’t know how to channel all that negative energy and I didn’t know how to deal with that generational trauma when my Dad took his own life when I was seven months old. I finally got the help that I needed. My sister encouraged me to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. And it was also my pastor, who is now Senator Raphael Warnock that said, ‘I will pray with you, but you got to get help, you got to go to the doctor.’”
Radio legend and syndicated air personality of Gospel Traxx Walt “Baby” Love received the Ray Harris Lifetime Achievement Award from board member and legendary music executive Miller London. During a lengthy acceptance speech, Love recounted how he got into the radio industry after serving in the military, and then his transition to becoming a nationally syndicated host of a unique hits countdown show with Westwood One. “When I went to Radio & Records newspaper, one of the first things Bob Wilson said to me was, ‘You know the problems that are going on in Black radio and Black music, don’t you, Walt?’ I said, ‘What do you mean, exactly?’ ‘Well, you know, the payola, the this and the that.’ Not like it wasn’t happening in the mainstream world. But we as Black people were being vilified worse than anybody else. And I said to Bobby, ‘Let me start this Black music and radio division, and I promise you I’ll convince the other Black executives and people giving opportunities to do things in a different way.’” Love went on to name all the Black record executives of the day, adding, “They said Walt if you help us and show us what you do, we’ll get behind you and help you so that we are being treated with more dignity and respect, not that we’re just thieves doing something, that we can’t do anything with ethics and morals as Black businessmen and women. That’s important.”
Founder and CEO of Anchor Promotions Lionel Ridenour was presented with the Music Executive Award by LLF board member Tony Winger. Ridenour acknowledged the many executives who contributed to his success, including Barbara Lewis, Keith Frye, Michael Horton, Doug Daniel, David Linton, and Jean Riggins; the executives he helped groom, and his many team members and business partners. Pointedly, he mentioned the amount of talent present in the room at the Taglyan, many of whom had personally experienced change and even loss when major labels restructured and cut Black Music divisions and staff. “When I look out at this room, I see trillions of records sold. The one thing I don’t see is expiration dates on nobody’s forehead. We are here. There is knowledge in this room,” Ridenour declared, adding. “There was a time when we were kings. And when those departments got cut, and all the rest of them, systematic on purpose, and they knew what they were doing, they tried to cut it off. Don’t trade promotions for power, OK? There are things we need to do, and one of those things is, we must get back control of the music. We need to bring it back and support those entrepreneurs, we need to support the music.” He added, “I believe that the future is bright, and I believe our music will always be a part of it.”
Rocky Bucano, the executive Director of the Universal Hip Hop Museum, was presented with the Hip-Hop Visionary Award from LLF board member Azim Rashid. Bucano recounted the fourteen-year journey of bringing the Universal Hip Hop Museum, which opens in 2025 in the Bronx, to fruition, acknowledging his team members and colleagues. “The Hip Hop Museum belongs to us. This is not just a museum that is going to tell stories about the past and to make sure that the legacies of so many legends are preserved, it’s a museum that will hopefully inspire future generations to be artists, storytellers, entrepreneurs, and visionaries. This museum is one of the few that is Black-owned, right? I know that may not sound too important to some of you in the room, but when you build a museum, it takes so many people to make sure it gets to the finish line. A museum is like building a pyramid in Egypt. It needs so much infrastructure, it needs so many people to make sure it gets built, it needs so many people to contribute artifacts and memorabilia, it needs so many people to create content to make sure the stories are accurately told, and most importantly it needs money. And I’m proud to say we raised over $60 million to bring this project to the finish line.”
Famed author and filmmaker Nelson George received the Media Icon Award from LLF board member Vivian Scott Chew. George recalled how he started his career in the music industry. The late Billboard music journalist/reporter Robert “Rocky” Ford hired him as an intern to write about disco and heavy metal, which was his introduction to the music business. George became Billboard’s Black Music Editor, and he credits Rocky as one of his earlier supporters. Later, Rocky left Billboard magazine and became one of the earlier pioneering producers of hip hop. He discovered Kurtis Blow and was part of the celebration and expansion of hip-hop.
Syndicated air personality Ed Lover of The Ed Lover Show with Monie Love was presented with the Jerry Boulding Radio Award. After thanking his parents and acknowledging his children, mentors, and colleagues, Lover noted that he never imagined that he would receive this special honor. “I’ve never been ‘industry,’ I’ve always been ‘in da streets,’” Lover declared, adding, “That’s what I’ve always been, and I’m honored. Thank you, Living Legends Foundation. I never thought I would be any kind of living legend. I never thought that. Before Yo! MTV Raps, I was a security guard at Andrew Jackson High School in Queens. That’s what I was doing in ‘87, ‘88, ‘89 … So, for me this is surreal.”
Two special videos were produced for the evening. The In Memoriam video highlighted 50 of the 175 industry members who died since the last LLF dinner in October 2022 and paid special tribute to Urban Buzz editor Kevin Fleming, Promotion Executive Harold Childs, music icon Clarence Avant, and LLF President Varnell H. Johnson.
The salute to Hip Hop video took a different stance from other tributes honoring the 50th anniversary. While still celebrating the artists who were at the forefront of the genre, the LLF chronicled the history behind the scenes, recognizing the record labels, DJs, and street teams who laid the foundation of what is now a billion-dollar industry. Many of the people mentioned in the Salute were in attendance and able to see their achievements acknowledged.
This year’s dinner chairs were Skip Dillard, brand manager and program director for Audacy’s WXBK/94.7, the Block, New York City; and Lady B, air personality of Classix 107.9 in Philadelphia.
The Living Legends sponsors included Sony Music Group (Presenting Sponsor); Republic Records, The Berry Gordy Foundation for Truth and Justice, and Universal Music Group (Platinum Circle); Empire Music Group, Miles Ahead Entertainment, and SESAC (Silver Circle); City National Bank (Entertainment Sponsor); and Amazon Music, Anchor Promotions, Cash Money Records, Chew Entertainment, Epic Records, Mack Records, Marshall/Pace/Wilson/Hayes, MNRK Music Group, RCA Records, Warner Records (Table Sponsors).
Gift Bag Partners included Carol’s Daughter, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, The Hip Hop Museum, Miracle Butter Cream, SESAC, Sanders & Hardy, Hoodie Hook, Karla’s Kookies, Palmetto Gourmet Foods, and Who Has It?
Photo Credit: Earl Gibson III
Gwendolyn Quinn Public Relations
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