50 Surprising Facts In Black Music History

James Brown’s dance moves don’t mean what you think they mean.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images

1. Prince reportedly sent Weird Al Yankovic a telegram back in 1986, commanding the comedian to avoid eye contact with him during the entirety of the American Music Awards show.

2. Though little was known about eating disorders in his heyday, Louis Armstrong showed signs of bulimia. He binged and purged with the help of laxatives; he was often pictured with his laxative of choice, Swiss Kriss, and recommended it to his friends with the catchphrase “Satch says: Leave it all behind ya!

3. As a teen, Gil Scott-Heron wrote a number of short detective stories in the vein of Agatha Christie.

4. Snoop Dogg reportedly sold weed to Cameron Diaz back when the two attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School.

5. Lil Wayne‘s debut album The Block Is Hot, released when the rapper was only 17 years old, is nearly profanity-free because of his mother’s wishes.

6. Nas almost had Jesus in a headlock on the cover for his 1994 album Illmatic.

7. B.B. King named every guitar he owned Lucille after an incident at one of his performances. Two men had a physical altercation over a woman named Lucille; during the scuffle, they knocked over a barrel of kerosene that heated the venue and subsequently set the venue on fire. All persons inside were evacuated, but King ran back into the burning building to rescue his $30 Gibson guitar. The guitar thus became known as Lucille, as a reminder to King never to run into burning buildings or fight over women.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

8. At the height of McCarthyism in the ’50s, Lena Horne was blacklisted as a Communist over her participation in the Civil Rights Movement and her friendships with fellow activists Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois.

9. Getting fired from Office Depot inspired Janelle Monae to write “Letting Go,” the song that would reach the ears of OutKast‘s Big Boi and launch her career.

10. When a drunken emcee announced The Sledge Sisters as “Sister Sledge” on stage, the quartet rolled with it and went on to use the error professionally.

11. James Brown‘s famous dance moves were coded directions for his stage band; every hand movement meant Brown had noticed a bum note or had seen a pair of unshined shoes.

12. Jimi Hendrix often switched up the frequently misheard lyrics to “Purple Haze” in his live performances; he swapped out “kiss the sky” for “fuck the sky” during a Seattle rainstorm, and for “kiss this guy” during another performance as he pointed to drummer Mitch Mitchell.

13. Using a modified board with elevated squares, Ray Charles frequently played chess with friends and band members. In 2002, Charles faced off against (and lost to) chess grandmaster Larry Evans.

14. Chuck Berry supplemented his musician’s income by working as a trained beautician.




15. Billie Holiday was inspired to write “God Bless the Child” after she and her mother had an argument over money.

16. Marvin Gaye once shaved his head in protest of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s wrongful murder conviction.

17. In The Last Days of Left Eye, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes of TLC voiced her objection to the glorification of revenge-cheating in the group’s hit single “Creep.” Left Eye threatened to wear pieces of black tape over her mouth during the filming of the music video, but she let her resentment creep away.

18. Stevie Wonder led the campaign to have Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday designated as a national holiday.

19. Mary J. Blige‘s debut album title What’s the 411? was a shout-out to her former job as a directory assistance operator.

20. Despite his lyrics to “In Da Club” and “P.I.M.P.,” 50 Cent abstains from alcohol and drugs, citing a “bad experience” with alcohol and an outsider’s view of what drugs can do to a person.

21. Remember that video of a fresh-faced Nicki Minaj acting out a monologue? Before her rap career blew up, Nicki Minaj pursued acting and was cast in the off-Broadway play In Case You Forget.

Sal Idriss / Redferns

Sal Idriss / Redferns


22. Gloria Gaynor won the first and only Grammy for Best Disco Recording with “I Will Survive”; the recording academy discontinued the category after disco fell out of public favor.

23. UPenn graduate John Legend turned down admission offers from Harvard and Georgetown at the tender age of 16.

24. Aretha Franklin‘s fear of flying kept her from attending her Rock And Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

25. In spite of his fame and wealth, Ludacris drove his ‘93 Acura Legend for over a decade, racking up over 244,000 miles on the vehicle.

26. Biggie Smalls learned that another rapper had trademarked the name “Biggy Smalls” years earlier, so he changed his moniker to The Notorious B.I.G.

27. When presented with the instrumentals for eventual hits “Are You That Somebody?” and “Try Again,” Aaliyah initially didn’t like them, but recorded the songs.

28. Ol’ Dirty Bastard once saved a 4-year-old girl who was trapped under a car that hit her; Dirty and his friends lifted the car off the girl, who was then rushed to the hospital for her injuries.

Sebastien Bozon / AFP / Getty Images

29. Smokey Robinson got his stage name from his childhood nickname Smokey Joe, a “cowboy” nickname bestowed upon him by his uncle.

30. Miles Davis performed with his back to the audience; it made it easier for him to give his band signals.

31. Public Enemy’s Flavor Flav can play 15 instruments, from French horn to oboe to xylophone.

32. Kanye West was ~internationally famous~ before The College Dropout hit store shelves. He lived in China for a year as a child — his mother Donda was a visiting professor.

33. Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton recorded “Hound Dog” and “Ball ‘n Chain” long before Elvis or Janis Joplin did.

34. Frank Ocean credited his Bernese mountain dog Everest as the executive producer of his critically acclaimed album Channel Orange.

35. Missy Elliott accidentally filmed “Work It” while drunk; director Dave Meyers forgot to replace the wine glass in the restaurant scene with water. After the shot had been filmed seven times, Missy was thoroughly inebriated.

AFP / Getty Images

36. As a student at the Baltimore School of Arts, Tupac Shakur took ballet classes.

37. Jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, and Illinois Jacquet were all arrested for gambling in a racially motivated sting set up by the vice squad of Houston’s police department.

38. Salt-N-Pepa‘s “Push It” began as a joke. Producer Hurby Azor came up with the synth line: Salt-N-Pepa’s Cheryl James and Sandra Denton found it “corny” and added the now iconic “Ooh, baby, baby” to mock it.

39. Michael Jackson‘s groundbreaking music video for “Billie Jean” was the first music video by a black artist to appear on MTV.

40. Janet Jackson initially balked at the idea of collaborating with brother Michael, citing a desire for her own fame separate from the Jackson name, but eventually caved in. Thankfully she changed her mind; the siblings went on to give us “Scream.”

41. Dizzy Gillespie‘s signature cheek pouches, caused by his blowing techniques, are now considered a medical condition.

42. Beyoncé, who is now recognized as a style icon for her red carpet looks, was a staunch tomboy who refused to wear dresses as a child.

RB / Redferns

RB / Redferns


43. As a high school sophomore, Lauryn Hill appeared on daytime soap As the World Turns as Kira, a troubled teen.

44. Erykah Badu was fined $500 and charged with a misdemeanor for public nudity during the filming of her music video for “Window Seat.” Badu intended her nudity to be a statement of liberation against groupthink.

45. At the height of its popularity, Chubby Checker‘s “The Twist” was explicitly forbidden in New York City Catholic schools because of the song’s “un-Christian” nature.

46. Mariah Carey‘s high school nickname was “Mirage,” thanks to her many absences.

47. Nat King Cole was the first black American to have his own television show. The Nat King Cole Show ran without national sponsors on a network-supported basis, and was eventually done in by a lack of financial support.

48. Contrary to popular belief, Jay Z‘s stage name does not come from the J and Z lines that run by his childhood home in Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects. Jay Z had been known as Jazzy, but he adopted his current moniker after Jazzy became too “glittery.”

49. The phone number in Alicia Keys’ “Diary” was her old phone number, which led to a number of headaches for Georgia resident J.D. Turner, who had Keys’ old number (albeit a different area code.)

50. Whitney Houston nearly became a member of the Huxtable clan. She auditioned for the role of Sondra Huxtable, the eldest daughter on The Cosby Show, but lost the role to Sabrina LeBeauf.

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/moniquemelendez/50-surprising-facts-in-black-music-history

Plastic Surgery Is OK — As Long As You’re White

The rush to defend Renée Zellweger’s right to plastic surgery is another example of how female celebrities of color are treated differently in popular culture.

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Getty Images Astrid Stawlarz


When Renée Zellweger walked the red carpet at the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards last week with a face that many deemed “unrecognizable,” the reaction from the court of public opinion was swift, relentless, and all-too-expected: What had she done to herself? And why? Her crime appeared to be plastic surgery, and many were quick to judge her for it. But what happened in the hours following was something remarkable and rare: The internet declared a mistrial. Numerous news outlets, including this one, rushed to Zellweger’s defense, and the mirror that had been thrust so closely to her face swiveled around to reflect our own ugliness — namely, the impossible standards of beauty and youth to which we hold female celebrities, and the backlash said celebrities face when they go behind the back of Mother Nature to achieve them.

But the think pieces, tweets, and status updates begging us to just “leave Renée alone” don’t represent a feminist shift toward a society that promotes fairer and more realistic expectations for the looks and choices of women in Hollywood. Rather, they illuminate our collective tendency to defend and protect a specific type of female celebrity — a white one.

Getty Images Brenda Chase

Getty Images Andrew H. Walker

Getty Images Chelsea Lauren


From left: Lil’ Kim in 1999, in 2012, and in February 2014.

Last year, rap legend Lil’ Kim was mocked relentlessly for a face that the Huffington Post described as “hamster cheeks, smooth complexion, and Michael Jackson nose.” Like Zellweger, Lil’ Kim had been relatively absent from the spotlight for some time since her years as a multiplatinum-selling rapper, one of hip-hop’s few female stars. When she appeared in 2013 at events in West Hollywood and New Jersey with high, prominent cheekbones, full lips, a tapered nose, and lighter, tighter skin, she, too, was considered “startlingly unrecognizable.” Yet, outside of a few fan comments on articles, there was no “leave Lil’ Kim alone,” nor were there dozens of web writers critically examining the culture that condemned her. Instead, on Twitter, several users likened her face to plastic masks worn by murderers in last year’s horror hit The Purge. By contrast, Zellweger’s transformation has exposed an “imbalanced culture,” “savage news cycle,” and “horrible face-shaming.”

The Lil’ Kim example, while parallel, is admittedly not a perfect one. Lil’ Kim had been slowly transforming her face for some time, looked markedly more different than Zellweger’s (whose didn’t look that much different), and some of her alterations — the apparent skin lightening, the nose job — seemed to show a woman who was not only trying to achieve a more youthful look, but also a whiter one.

Nonetheless. Didn’t she also deserve the right to make her own choice without being “face shamed”? And why was she forced, through her rep, to issue a harshly worded statement in her own defense, while Zellweger was able to make gracious comments after what seemed like the bulk of online news media was already on her side?

Getty Images Anthony Harvey

Getty Images Craig Barritt


Lil’ Kim isn’t the only black celebrity who hasn’t had the luxury of getting defended by the court of online opinion. Nicki Minaj has been questioned endlessly about the legitimacy — or, rather, lack thereof — of her signature derriere, as well as her face. Yet, while many feminists have debated and defended her sexuality and lyrics, they’ve been relatively (though not completely) quiet on her right to have whatever plastic surgery she wants and get people off her back(side).

Or, look at Kim Kardashian, whose history of dating black men, ample curves, and ethnic ambiguity proximate her in many minds closer to blackness than to whiteness. Like Minaj, the solution to the “riddle” of whether Kardashian’s butt, nose, or post-pregnancy weight loss are natural has been debated over and over and over again — instead of holding her up as an example of the impossible demands put upon female celebrities (and despite her repeated answers).

While the defense of Zellweger was ultimately a necessary feminist act, it was also an exclusionary one, born of a casual hypocrisy not unlike that which propelled the names of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and Ariana Grande to the headlines of the celebrity nude leak scandal while burying those of Jill Scott, Gabrielle Union, and Keke Palmer. Zellweger’s beauty — artificial or not — is something to cherish and protect, while the beauty of women like Lil’ Kim, Minaj, and Kardashian simply isn’t.

As if that weren’t enough, the “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” paradox that women in Hollywood face when it comes to plastic surgery carries an extra edge for those of color. As explored in Maureen O’Connor’s lengthy article on the trend of “ethnic plastic surgery” earlier this year, many of the procedures undergone by women of color are seen — usually by white people — as an attempt at “Westernizing” (read: whitening) themselves. Rather than just famous people trying to keep up like everyone else in Hollywood, celebrities of color who go under the knife are also stripped of their agency and authenticity. At best, they’re victims of a majority that doesn’t grasp that perhaps not everyone actually needs (or wants) to look like them. At worst, they’re race traitors.

All women have the right to not be shamed for plastic surgery. But they’ll have a much easier time of it if they’re white and already conform to a normative standard of beauty that is also defined by whiteness. Should Zellweger have been defended? Absolutely. But so should Lil’ Kim. Until that happens on as broad a scale, our “feminism” will be nothing more than plastic.

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/anitabadejo/plastic-surgery-is-ok-as-long-as-youre-white

The 2012 Grammy Nominees; Award Ceremony set for February 12th

The 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards will be held Sunday, Feb. 12 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, and will be broadcast live in high-definition TV and 5.1 surround sound on the CBS Television Network from 8 – 11:30 p.m. (ET/PT).

The Recording Academy®’s GRAMMY Recordings® and Universal Republic Records have joined forces to release the 2012 GRAMMY® Nominees album on Jan. 24, 2012. The 18th edition of the best-selling series will showcase many of this year’s GRAMMY-nominated artists and songs. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the album will help support the year-round efforts of the GRAMMY Foundation® and MusiCares® Foundation — two charitable organizations of The Recording Academy.




Press release — Universal Republic Records and The Recording Academy®’s (www.grammy.com) GRAMMY Recordings® have partnered to release the 2012 GRAMMY Nominees album and give a lucky music and GRAMMY fan an opportunity to attend the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2013. The album, which will be available January 24, 2012, features 22 critically acclaimed smash hits from a myriad of chart-topping artists from various genres.

The 18th edition of the best-selling collection includes many of the most widely recognized GRAMMY categories representing nominees for Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Best New Artist, Best Country Album, and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. The album is made possible by a special arrangement with all of the major music distribution companies and rotates labels from year to year. A portion of the proceeds from the album benefits the MusiCares® Foundation (www.musicares.com) and the GRAMMY Foundation® (www.grammyfoundation.com) — two charitable organizations established by The Recording Academy.

Additionally, in conjunction with the 2012 GRAMMY Nominees album, Universal Republic Records and The Recording Academy will give a lucky music fan an opportunity to attend the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2013. Each 2012 GRAMMY Nominees album purchased in stores or online will include a special game piece featuring a unique entry code for the 2013 GRAMMY Ticket Game. To participate, the code must be entered at www.grammy.com/grammyticketgame for a chance to win a trip for two to the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2013. The second-place winner will receive a GRAMMY Awards T-shirt and the third-place winner will receive an official GRAMMY Awards poster.

“Rolling In The Deep”
Record Of The Year
Album Of The Year

Record Of The Year
Album Of The Year

Record Of The Year

“Moves Like Jagger”
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

“Super Bass”
Best New Artist

“What’s My Name?”
Album Of The Year

7. J. COLE
“Work Out”
Best New Artist

“Yoü And I”
Album Of The Year

“Pumped Up Kicks”
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

“Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites”
Best New Artist

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

Album Of The Year

“If I Die Young”
Best New Artist

“The Cave”
Record Of The Year

Record Of The Year
Best New Artist

“Just A Kiss”
Best Country Album

Best Country Album

“Honey Bee”
Best Country Album

“Drink In My Hand”
Best Country Album

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

“Don’t You Wanna Stay”
Best Country Album

“Body And Soul”
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance