Written by | Ray Cornelius
When Philadelphia native Isaac M. Hamm III aka Izzy Ike is not in the music studio with one of his independent artists or planning some fabulous music industry mixer, he is in the streets spreading the gospel of Black Music Month. The thirty-something-year-old disciple of Black Music Month founder Dyana Williams is determined to continue the legacy she and co-founders Kenny Gamble and Ed Wright started over 37 years ago.
Black Music Month was created in 1979 by Williams, Gamble and Wright as a means to celebrate the impact of Black music. The Philadelphia group of music industry professionals successfully lobbied President Jimmy Carter to host a reception on June 7th, 1979 to formally recognize the cultural and financial contributions of Black music. Since that time, Black Music Month has grown from a small commemoration to national proportions with events held annually across the country.
I caught up with Hamm to discuss why this month is still so important and some of the things he’s doing to commemorate it.
Why should we celebrate Black Music Month?
The same reason why we should celebrate February as Black History Month. June celebrates the Black history of music. It was founded in 1979 and has been recognized by every President since then. In 2009, President Obama changed the name to “African-American Music Appreciation Month.” I’m not sure why he did that (LOL) but we still call it Black Music Month. We as African-Americans complain about February being the shortest month of the year. Well, June is also a time to celebrate our history too. It’s not so much about the music as it is about the history of African-Americans that changed what we hear on the radio and how it affects the different cultures from all around the world.
What is it about Black music that captures everyone’s attention?
I think that we have a story to tell. I feel like we as African-American people have stories to tell through our songs. I feel like we illustrate the pain and the passion of stuff that what we go through. These struggling stories are what make us stronger. Like I may have grown up on government cheese but I refuse to stay living on government cheese. So our songs of struggle make us stronger.
Who’s your favorite soul music artist?
I would have to say my favorite artist and one that just gets me so excited is Musiq SoulChild. He’s from Philly and his song, “Just Friends,” is like my absolute favorite. Like I love to do karaoke to his songs. Whitney Houston is another one. When I think about good singers, she comes to mind. I had the biggest crush on her when she performed the Olympic song, “One Moment in Time” back in 1988. I just remember watching her on TV and was in awe by her beauty. I’m also a fan of K. Michelle too. Her message is so heavy about the struggles she’s going through as an African-American woman feeling disrespected by African-American men but then finding love again. I also love K-Ci and JoJo and will fight you over them.
Do you find that today’s music industry is more about selling units than it is about producing real music?
Definitely! In just working with some of my indie artists, I sometimes have to keep it real with them that they may not become a Beyoncé, where their music totally saturates the market place. I think when created brands, artists have to find their own lane and understand that you may be that singer that has to open up for other artists. Like I love how Algebra and Anthony David work together because they just get up there and they hustle and they do it for the love. KeKe Wyatt does it for the love. She wants to be a mom but she also loves singing. You may have to look at things differently and realize that you may not retire off of this. However, you are consistently working and you will have that identifying crowd that will love you and won’t mind seeing you as the opening act for other artists.
Is R&B dead and if not, then who’s keeping it alive?
I don’t think that R&B is dead. I just think we have to wait for it come back around. I feel like people are still putting out good R&B music like K. Michelle, Tank, and Tyrese. I would also say Chris Brown too. He still has timeless songs as a young R&B artist and I think he’s consistent and relevant when it comes to getting on stage and performing.
Check out Izzy Ike and IM3Media‘s Black Music Month events below:
JUNE 18 – ATLANTA
“The Comeback Power Brunch ATL” on June 18 where he will honor gospel music sensation Bishop William Murphy, 90’s super group SWV and VP of eOne Nashville Phil Thorton from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at Level V in Buckhead – Atlanta.
JUNE 28 – PHILADELPHIA
He will also be in Philadelphia, PA on June 28 at the Painted Bride Art Center and honoring TV, film and Broadway actress Sheryl Lee Ralph and her husband Senator Vincent Hughes as well as Grammy winning-writing duo, Helen Bruner & Terry Jones and media personality Lonnie Hunter.
Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com