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‘Empire’ star Jussie Smollett & more added to ‘ESSENCE Festival’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

The ESSENCE Festival has added more star power to this summer’s lineup of music artists. Empire heartthrob, vocalist and activist Jussie Smollett will get to share his many talents in one of the Super Lounges on Saturday, July 7.

The triple threat performer will be singing songs from his new album, Sum of My Music, which debuted last month. It includes his hit single, “Freedom.”

In addition to Smollett, ESSENCE has also added R&B divas Ledisi and KeKe Wyatt along with jazz sensation Damien Escobar and iconic 90s trio SWV.

The ESSENCE Festival is taking place July 5-8 in New Orleans, LA and features Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Fantasia, Snoop Dogg, The Roots and Teddy Riley‘s New Jack Swing Experience with Guy and BlackStreet.

Stay tuned…

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com and Instagram/Jussie Smollett

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Snoop Dogg, Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin and more attend ‘Stellar Gospel Music Awards’ [PHOTOS]

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Gospel music’s biggest night was celebrated over the weekend at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. I’m talking about none other than the 2018 Stellar Gospel Music Awards. This year’s show was hosted by Grammy winning performer Kirk Franklin and will air this Good Friday, March 30 at 9 p.m. on TV One.

This year’s award’s ceremony opened with Stellar Awards alum Erica Campbell reuniting with her sister Tina Campbell as the hit gospel duo Mary Mary for the first time in more than six years. The show also included an all-star tribute to the late, great Edwin Hawkins, with his sister Lynette Hawkins accepting the Edwin Hawkins Icon Award in his honor. Also, a stand out moment featured the multi-platinum award-winning Snoop Dogg performing material from his new gospel album, “Bible of Love.”

The night also included performances by Kierra Sheard, Tori Kelly, Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Anthony Brown, JJ Hairston, Travis Greene, Jonathan McReynolds, Ricky Dillard, Todd Dulaney, Tasha Page Lockhart, KeKe Wyatt, Canton Jones, Deitrick Haddon, Koryn Hawthorne, Le’Andria Johnson and more. Special presenters included Donnie McClurkin, Merle DandridgeDavid MannAnika Noni Rose and more.

Top winners of the night were JJ Hairston winning six awards; Tasha Cobbs Leonard and Travis Greene each winning four awards; and Anthony Brown winning two awards.

Don Jackson bestowed special honors upon gospel greats who have made significant contributions to the genre. The incomparable Tamela Mann was the 2018 recipient of the James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award and the legendary Rev. Milton Biggham received The Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award.  Stellar Honors Hall of Fame Inductees includes Kurt Carr, Ben Tankard, and Dr. Marabeth Gentry – President of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses.

The 2018 Stellar Gospel Music Awards will air on March 30 at 9 p.m. on TV One.

Check out the red carpet & performance photos below:

KIRK FRANKLIN

VASHAWN MITCHELL

TASHA PAGE LOCKART

MARVIN SAPP

TASHA COBBS LEONARD 

JONATHAN MCREYNOLDS

LAURIEANN GIBSON

DEBORAH JOY WINANS + MERLE DANDRIDGE + DESIREE ROSS

CANTON JONES 

HEZEKIAH WALKER 

DEREK BLANKS 

KIERRA + J. DREW SHEARD

LE’ANDRIA JOHNSON 

DR. BOBBY JONES 

MARY MARY 

JOE JACKSON

BEN + JEWELL TANKARD 

JJ + TRINA HAIRSTON

TODD DULANEY + WIFE 

THE WALLS GROUP

ANIKA NONI ROSE 

KURT CARR

TRAVIS GREEN + WIFE 

BRYON CAGE 

ANTHONY BROWN

JONATHAN SLOCUMB

KIRK FRANKLIN + DAVID MANN

Photo Credits: Earl Gibson for Getty Images

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‘The House That Misery Built’ featuring LaShun Pace, Q Parker, KeKe Wyatt + Kierra Sheard (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Playwright Zuri Craig is pleased to announce his upcoming stage play The House That Misery Built on Sunday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. at ATL’s Center Stage Theater.

The show stars Gospel Legend LaShun Pace, Recording Artist and 1/4 of R&B Group 112 Q Parker, R&B Diva KeKe Wyatt, and Stellar Award winning Gospel Recording Artist Kierra Sheard.

Margaret Greene had it all…a loving husband, three wonderful children, a successful business, and a beautiful home. The perfect life.

When her husband mysteriously falls ill and dies, Margarets family and friends rush to be by her side in her time of need. While helping her cope with her husbands death, Margarets family and friends soon discover that everything about her perfect life is not as it seems.

The horrible things that took place inside of her beautiful home the secrets that she and her children had hoped to bury alongside her husband, are all coming to light for everyone to witness. Soon, all of us will know that Margaret and her picture perfect family are living inside of the house that misery built and its going to take all of the strength and the prayers of family and friends to fix whats been broken.

Zuri Craig is an American Actor, Renown Playwright, and 1/half of  Craig Lewis Band (the musically talented band sensation seen on BET, Tyler Perry’s stage play and tour Madea’s Big Happy Family, and America’s Got Talent).

Click here for tickets!

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‘Stellar Awards’ to feat. Mary Mary, Snoop Dogg + Kirk Franklin

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

The debut of Snoop Dogg‘s gospel album and a reunion of gospel duo Mary Mary just a few of the highlights for this year’s 2018 Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards. The show will be hosted by Grammy winning superstar Kirk Franklin and will be held at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on March 24.

According to the press release, the iconic rapper, actor and television personality will grace the Stellar stage with music from his new inspirational album Songs of Love. The sisters—Erica and Tina Campbell—will come together for a spectacular performance of their classic hits and more.

Other scheduled performers include: Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Travis Greene, Tye Tribbett, Anthony Brown & group therAPy, Kierra Sheard, KeKe Wyatt, Jonathan McReynolds, Tasha Page-Lockhart, Todd Dulaney, Koryn Hawthorne and Ricky Dillard & New G, among others.

Grammy winning vocalist and reality star Tamela Mann is this year’s recipient of the James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award and the legendary Rev. Milton Biggham will receive The Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award. Stellar Honors Hall of Fame Inductees includes Kurt Carr, Ben Tankard, and Dr. Marabeth Gentry – President of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses.

“Each year we strive to bring new and innovative performances and collaborations to the Stellar Awards and this year is no different, with the inclusion of mainstream hip-hop rapper and mogul, Snoop Dogg.” stated Stellar Awards Founder, Don Jackson. “Snoop expressed his desire to release a gospel album in honor of his mom who is an evangelist and he’s teamed up with Gospel superstar Tye Tribbett, there’s no way we couldn’t bring this explosive performance to the Stellar Awards stage.”

2018 Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards telecast will premiere on TV One on Friday, March 30 at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT.

Click here for a list of this year’s nominees!

Will You Be Watching?

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Bounce TV to air ‘Am I Black Enough’ and more for Black History Month (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Bounce TV, the first-and-only over-the-air broadcast television network for African Americans, is celebrating Black History Month in February with a variety of compelling programs and tributes that are worth watching.

Check out the highlights below:

  • The 2018 Bounce Trumpet Awards, the prestigious annual event celebrating African-American achievements and contributions premieres Sunday, February 11 at 9:00 p.m. ET hosted by actors Larenz Tate and Erica AshLudacris, CeeLo Green, Cameo, Doug E. Fresh, Xscape, Bow Wow, Keke Wyatt and more gather to perform and to honor the outstanding accomplishments of African Americans and those who have succeeded against great odds and inspired success in others.
  • A special installment of the Bounce newsmagazine show Ed Gordon called “Am I Black Enough?” which will examine the nuances of cultural identity within the Black community to define exactly what it means to “be Black.” The award-winning journalist and series producer/host Gordon explores this interesting subject matter with influencers such as Samuel L. JacksonAnthony AndersonWayne BradyYara Shahidi, Taye Diggs, Charlamagne Tha GodMisty CopelandBoris Kodjoe and others. On Monday, Feb. 12,”Am I Black Enough?” will be available for streaming exclusively on Brown Sugar, the new subscription-video-on-demand service featuring the biggest collection of the baddest African-American movies of all-time which also showcases Bounce original programming. The special will premiere on Bounce on Saturday, Feb. 17.  
  • A new original short-form series of vignettes called “Your Story Matters” spotlighting the unique and inspiring experiences of trailblazing African Americans, including legendary actress, philanthropist and Brown Sugar spokeswoman Pam Grier, Academy Award®-winning actor and community activist Lou Gossett, Jr. and NASA engineer and 2018 Bounce Trumpet Award Honoree Dr. Lonnie Johnson.

In addition to the specials, Bounce will also feature a variety of relevant movies throughout February including: “Amistad,” starring Morgan Freeman and Djimon Hounsou; the 2008 adaptation of “A Raisin in the Sun” featuring Phylicia Rashad, Sanaa Lathan, Sean Combs and Audra McDonald; “Panther” with Courtney B. Vance, Kadeem Hardison and Chris Rock; “Ruby Bridges,” “Selma” “Lord, Selma” and more. Additionally, a one-hour documentary chronicling the civil rights movement, “Trail of Hope: The Journey to Equality,” will air on Sunday, Feb. 18.

Photo Credits: Bounce/YouTube

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Jermaine Dupri & more honored at ‘Bounce Trumpet Awards’ [PHOTOS]

Written by | Ray Cornelius

It was all about African-American achievement Saturday night during the 2018 “Bounce Trumpet Awards.” The annual ceremony was taped at the beautiful Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center and yours truly was in the building to capture all of the sights and sounds.

Ray Cornelius with Trumpet Awards founder Xernona Clayton

My radio show, UPFRONT Inside Atlanta’s Entertainment Industry teamed up with CAU-TV 23 to cover the red carpet for a future television special. I got a chance to interview a number of the evening’s honorees including Music Innovation Award recipient Jermaine Dupri, teen sensation and Trailblazer Award recipient Marley Dias and Rising Star Award recipient Rhyon Brown.

Ray Cornelius with Larenz Tate

I also got a chance to chop it up with the show’s hosts—Larenz Tate and Erica Ash as well as celebrity attendees Ashley Love-Mills, “Saints and Sinners” stars Vanessa Bell Calloway, Donna Biscoe and Jasmine Burke + Red Carpet hosts Demetria McKinney and Ed Gordon.  I also got additional interviews with comedian Rodney Perry, HGTV star Egypt Sherrod, Judge Penny Reynolds, actress DeEtta West, hip hop icon Ed Lover, actor and singer T.C. Carson + performers Xscape, Sir the Baptist, Bilal, Anthony Hamilton, Arrested Development and “The Voice” star Wé McDonald.

Angie Stone with Ed Gordon and Lamman Rucker

After the red carpet, I got an opportunity to get a few more pictures of the show’s other honorees including Tamika Mallory, Dr. Lonnie Johnson and Rich Dennis. Performers MAJOR., Donald Lawrence, Stokley Williams, KeKe Wyatt, Arrested Development and Angie Stone also stopped through the press room along with presenters Angel Conwell, Omar Gooding, Lamman Rucker and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

My “Red Carpet Trumpet Awards Special” will air on CAU-TV 23 on Sunday, February 11 a little before the “Bounce Trumpet Awards” at 9 p.m. Stay tuned…

Check out more images below:

Ray Cornelius and UPFRONT on the red carpet

Ray Cornelius with “Bounce Trumpet Award” host Erica Ash 

Anthony Hamilton 

Honoree Rich Dennis 

MAJOR. 

Honoree Tamika Mallory 

Ray Cornelius with red carpet host Demetria McKinney

Ray Cornelius with Ashley Love Mills

Angie Stone showing us love

Ray Cornelius with “If Loving You is Wrong” actress April Parker Jones

The cast of Bounce TV’s “Saints and Sinners”

(l to r) Tasia Grant, Dawn Half Kenny, Clifton Powell,

Vanessa Bell Calloway, Keith Robinson, Jasmine Burke and Donna Biscoe

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms 

Honoree Marley Dias 

Angel Conwell and Omar Gooding

Honoree Dr. Lonnie Johnson 

Sir the Baptist 

Wé McDonald

Donald Lawrence 

Stokley Williams 

Arrested Development 

Photo Credits: RayCornelius

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UPDATE: Anthony Hamilton, KeKe Wyatt, Estelle, MAJOR. to perform at the ‘Bounce Trumpet Awards’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

The “Bounce Trumpet Awards” have added more star power to this weekend’s show. The prestigious annual event, celebrating African-American achievements and contributions, will take place at the Cobb Energy Centre on Saturday, January 20 and is hosted by actors Larenz Tate and Erica Ash.

As previously reported, this year’s honorees include Jermaine Dupri, Cameo, Richelieu Dennis, Tamika Mallory, Marley Dias, Dr. Lonnie Johnson and Rhyon Brown. 

Performers will include: Doug E. Fresh, Keke WyattAnthony Hamilton, Bow Wow, Sir the BaptistArrested Development, Estelle, Bilal, Big Daddy Kane, V. BozemanDonald Lawrence, Major., We’ McDonald, Mr. TalkBox, Kevin Lemons & Higher Calling, Rhyon Brown, Michel’le, Stokley Williams and Carl Thomas.

Celebrity presenters include Cee Lo Green plus “Family Time” stars Omar Gooding and Angell Conwell. 

Founded in 1992 by American Civil Rights leader Xernona Clayton, The Trumpet Awards were acquired by Bounce in 2016. The list of prestigious honorees over its 26-year history includes Muhammad Ali, Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx, Halle Berry, Stevie Wonder, The African-American Women of the United States Congress, Steve Harvey, Martin Luther King III, Janelle Monáe and Spike Lee.

The “Bounce Trumpet Awards” will air exclusively on Bounce on Sunday, February 11 at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Photo Credit: RayCornelius.com

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KeKe Wyatt: ‘I’d love to play Phyllis Hyman in a biopic’ (VIDEO)

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

I recently interviewed former “R&B Diva” star KeKe Wyatt during  my radio show #UPFRONT and the singer and budding actress revealed to me that she would love to portray the late Phyllis Hyman in a biopic.

Hyman was one of the most iconic R&B voices of the late 70s and early 80s and had a string of hit songs including “You Know How to Love Me,” “Living All Alone,” “Don’t Want to Change the World,” “Living in Confusion,” and her rendition of the Chi-Lites classic, “Betcha by Golly Wow.”

She also appeared on Broadway in 1981’s “Sophisticated Ladies” and made a cameo in Spike Lee‘s iconic musical film, “School Daze.” In addition to her voice, Hyman was also known for her over-the-top fashions which included an array of bedazzled and feathered chapeaus and sparkling gowns with high shoulder pads and lots of cleavage.

“I think I would want to play Phyllis Hyman,” said Wyatt. “The only thing is I don’t like the ending part of her life and death. That is very uncomfortable. But as an artist and as an actress and as a person in the industry, I can see how you can do something like that. But you just got to be stronger. But I can see myself playing that part.”

Hyman committed suicide on June 30, 1995, just hours before she was to perform at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem, NY. She would have turned 46-years-old the following week.

While there are no current film projects in the works, Sheryl Lee Ralph and the creators of “Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Story,” Anthony Wayne and Kendrell Bowman, did produce a recent off-Broadway production titled, “An Evening with Phyllis Hyman.” It featured “Mighty Real” actress Jacqueline B. Arnold and played to sold out shows earlier this year.  Click here to see a snippet of Arnold’s performance and check out Hyman in “Sophisticated Ladies” below:

What are your thoughts?

Would you like to see KeKe Wyatt as Phyllis Hyman?

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New Edition, Peabo Bryson, Wendy Williams & more receive Trumpet Awards [PHOTOS]

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

The 2017 Trumpet Awards were taped on Saturday evening at Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and your truly was in the mix to capture all of the sights and sounds of one of Atlanta’s biggest nights. This year, I covered the red carpet for my radio magazine #UPFRONT and gathered exclusive interviews with some of the attendees, honorees and presenters. That segment will air this Saturday morning at 9 a.m. on WCLK.com.

After the red carpet, I was able to go backstage and cover the media room where most of the show’s presenters, performers and honorees stopped by for photo opportunities. As previously reported, this year’s 25th Anniversary show recognized the accomplishments of some of the biggest names in the African-American community including talk show host Wendy Williams, whose Trumpet Award for Entertainment was picked up by her media brother, hip hop icon Ed Lover.

New Edition’s Rickey Bell, Ronnie DeVoe, Michael Bivins and Johnny Gill, collected their much deserved Lifetime Achievement Trumpet Award. The iconic group from the 1980s, who laid the foundation for many  boy bands of the 90s and 2000s, was recognized just days before their highly anticipated biopic which airs tonight on BET. The group was saluted by R&B groups Transitions, Silk and Jagged Edge.

Music legend Peabo Bryson was honored for his enduring career as a Grammy winning-singer and songwriter. He has performed some of music’s most beloved duets including “Tonight I Celebrate My Love” with Roberta Flack, “Beauty and the Beast” with Celine Dion and “A Whole New World” with Regina Belle, who also performed the song with R&B crooner Kenny Lattimore as part of Bryson’s musical tribute. Bryson’s award was presented to him by music legend—Bill Withers. I had a chance to see Bryson perform last spring and he was simply amazing. He is one of the few veteran performers that still puts on an entire show including stories, dazzling costumes, a live band and back to back hits. This award is very well deserved and was one of the evening’s highlights.

NBA star Dikembe Mutombo picked up the Humanitarian Trumpet Award and praised gospel vocalist Tamela Mann for her amazing performance. She was a ray of sunshine when she entered the media room and bought a smile to everyone’s face. Fashion Blogger Gabi Gregg, was also glowing as she picked up this year’s Trailblazing Trumpet Award. I got a chance to chat with her on the red carpet and she described the moment as “surreal.”  I believe she is the first blogger to receive this award and was really humble to be in the midst of such greatness.

Gospel superstars Jekalyn Carr, Le’Andria Johnson, Travis Greene and Derek Minor were all in the house for a foot stomping, hand clapping, spirit-filled musical tribute. While I wasn’t able to see it from the media room, we were all in awe when the Queen of Gospel, Shirley Caesar, walked into the room. She even took pictures with a dry eraser sign that we created with the famous tag line, “You Name It.”  That was the name of the remixed song that created quite a frenzy over the Thanksgiving holiday and used a line from iconic tune, “Hold My Mule.”

The icing on the cake was Oscar winning-actor Louis Gosset Jr. being there to present Trumpet Awards founder Xernona Clayton with the distinguished Golden Trumpet Award. She also joined us backstage and had everyone’s full attention with her radiant white and gold gown and dazzling head piece.

Other stars spotted on the carpet included Ed Gordon, Erica Campbell, Dr. Bobby Jones, T.C. Carson, Lalah Hathaway, the show’s hosts Nicole Ari Parker and Deon Cole, the cast of Bounce TV’s “Saints and Sinners,” Gary Owens, BJ The Chicago Kid, KeKe WyattErica AshWillie Moore Jr., Tyler Williams from “The New Edition Story” and more!

See more backstage photos below and stay tuned for red carpet pics:

Vanessa Bell Calloway

Tamela Mann

Tamela Mann with Miss Georgia Pre-Teen Damacia Howard

showing off their sparkling shoes

Honoree Dikembe Mutombo with Ed Gordon

BJ The Chicago Kid 

Honoree Peabo Bryson with Bill Withers and Ed Gordon

Kenny Lattimore, Erica Ash and Bill Withers 

KeKe Wyatt

Le’Andria Johnson and Jekalyn Carr

That shoe tho! #Jekalyn Carr

Canton Jones with Shirley Caesar 

Shirley Caesar

Willie Moore Jr. 

Honoree Gabi Gregg

Gary Owens taking part in our backstage shenanigans

The group Transitions performed as part of the NE Tribute

Honorees Ronnie DeVoe and Michael Bivins 

Tyler Williams 

Ronnie DeVoe and Lyfe Jennings 

Trumpet Awards Founder Xernona Clayton

The Trumpet Awards airs this

Sunday, January 29 at 9 p.m. EST On Bounce

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com

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‘Trumpet Awards’ to honor Wendy Williams, New Edition and more!

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Bounce TV has announced the honorees for this year’s “25th Annual Trumpet Awards” and congratulations goes out to media maven Wendy Williams, who will be given the Entertainment Award and legendary R&B group, New Edition, who will pick up the Lifetime Achievement Award. The lavish ceremony will tape next Saturday, January 21 at Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and will air on Sunday, January 29 at 9 p.m. EST.

“Black-ish” star and two-time EMMY® nominated actor Deon Cole is teaming up with and “Rosewood” and seven-time NAACP Image Award nominated actress Nicole Ari Parker as hosts of the black-tie ceremony.

Other honorees include former NBA great Dikembe Mutombo (Humanitarian Award), GRAMMY®-winning soul singer Peabo Bryson (Legend Award) and fashion blogger Gabi Gregg (Trailblazing Award).

The 25th Annual Trumpet Awards will also include special performances by Erica Campbell, Kenny Lattimore, Tamela Mann, Shirley Caesar, Bobby V., Keke Wyatt and Jekalyn Carr.

In a very special tribute, civil rights icon and founder of the Trumpet Awards Xernona Clayton will be presented with the distinguished “Golden Trumpet Award” in recognition of her unparalleled leadership, affecting change, and steadfast work in building the legacy of the awards.

“We have come so far since we started in 1993 and I am extremely obliged to those individuals who saw the vision and who have worked with us for 25 years. Bounce is the ideal custodian to continue to enhance the level of excellence that is our standard going forward. I am thrilled to have my beloved Trumpet Awards become part of Bounce who will continue to celebrate the achievements of those who had an impact on our community for many more years to come,” says Mrs. Clayton.

RayCornelius.com and “UPFRONT” will be on the red carpet to get all of the exclusive interviews with the honorees and presenters, so stay tuned!

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com and Facebook/Wendy Williams

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Sheryl Lee Ralph brings ‘DIVAS’ to Philly!

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Sheryl Lee Ralph is bringing her “DIVAS Simply Singing” to Philadelphia! The Tony nominated-Broadway actress and acclaimed TV and Film star will celebrate its 2nd annual staging of the show on August 20 at 7:00 p.m. at the Dell Music Center.

This highly anticipated and much respected community health service charity concert began in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It now adds mental wellness, heart disease, diabetes and Hep C and other life threatening diseases. The Foundation with the support of Commissioner Sue Slawson and The Dell Theatre, will bring together some of the industry’s most talented artists and Divas to address the need for Health and Wellness awareness. A strong community is a healthy community.

This show’s talent roster includes Avery*Sunshine, KeKe Wyatt, Mack Wilds, Tweet and jazz vocalist Maysa. It will also feature R&B icons—Full Force, Martha Wash, Jean Carne, Cheryl Pepsi Riley and more!

Click here for tickets!

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RC talks ‘Black Music Month’ with IM3 Media’s Isaac M. Hamm III

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.

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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.

IMG_7212
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:

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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

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Kandi Burruss, Monica and more attend Tiny’s Baby Shower [PHOTOS]

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Grammy winning-rapper and actor Tip “T.I.” Harris and wife singer/songwriter Tameka ‘Tiny” Harris recently celebrated the forthcoming addition of a seventh child at Atlanta’s Le Fais Do-Do. The “Royal Affair” baby shower was complete with crowns and tiaras of all sizes along with a palace-shaped cake and thrones for the happy couple.

TI and Tiny Photobooth

“We want to thank you all for joining us for the very last Harris Family baby shower,” T.I. said jokingly to the roomful of well-wishers. “And for those of you who missed the first four, five, however many there were, I promise you this will be the last one and we’re going out with a bang.”

(l-r) Mz Shyneka

A number of the couple’s friends and family were in attendance including Kandi Burruss and Todd Tucker, Rasheeda and Kirk Frost as well as Monica Brown, Keke Wyatt, Toya Carter, Reginae Carter, Phaedra Parks, Shekinah Jo, Dr. Jackie Walters, Gocha Hawkins and Atlanta’s First Lady Sarah Elizabeth Reed.

Tiny and mom Diane Cottle

Following the shower, Tiny spoke exclusively with Entertainment Tonight, revealing new details about her third pregnancy and sharing that T.I. is much more hands on this time around. “I think it’s because it’s a girl,” Tiny explained. “His protective nature is already coming out.”

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Tiny’s baby girl, due in April, will be welcomed by oldest sister Zonnique Pullins, Tiny’s daughter from a previous relationship; T.I.’s sons and daughter Messiah, Domani and Deyjah Harris, also from previous relationships; and the couples’ two young sons together, King and Major Harris. The family is currently filming the sixth season of their popular VH1 reality show The Family Hustle. T.I. is also currently completing a Vegas residency at Drai’s Nightclub at The Cromwell Hotel.

See more photos below:

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Rasheeda, Kandi Burruss-Tucker and Toya Wright 

Shekinah Arrival

Shekinah Jo arriving to the baby shower

Zonnique Pullins and Monica

Zonnique Pullins with Monica Brown

Photo Credits: Freddyo.com and Ross Oscar-Knight

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RC Exclusive - Ent Recap

ATL’s ‘Legendary Awards’ honors Full Force, Tena Clark, Darryl Simmons and more [PHOTOS]

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

Some of the most recognizable names in entertainment, music, politics, and sports were honored last night at Atlanta’s Legendary Awards. The black-tie affair took place at the Cobb Galleria and was hosted by “The People v. O.J. Simpson” star Cocoa Brown and comedian Rodney Perry.

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Rhonda Wilkins with honoree Chanita Foster

The Legendary Awards honors and celebrates the careers of individuals who have made significant contributions within their industries and communities locally, nationally and internationally.  It also serves as a fundraiser for the Legendary Health initiative which provides education, prevention, awareness, advocacy and improved access to care for Georgian residents lacking access to quality healthcare, pre-screening diagnosis and health screenings.

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Honoree Tena Clark and guest

Awards were given out in categories such as arts, health and humanities and featured a who’s who list of honorees including philanthropist Chanita Foster, acclaimed songwriter and music producer Tena Clark, retired Lieutenant General Russel L. Honoré, noted Cancer surgeon Dr. April L. Speed, R&B supergroup and songwriters Full Force, iconic beauty and sports broadcaster Jayne Kennedy Overton, Olympic gold medalist Gwen Torrence, Grammy winning songwriter Darryl Simmons, and Berean Christian Church Pastor Dr. Kevin B. Lee.

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KeKe Wyatt

Celebrity presenters and performers included former “R&B Diva” star Keke Wyatt, former “American Idol” contestant Ashton Jones, 90’s R&B trio The Rude Boys, vocalist Noel Gourdin, “From the Bottom Up” star Christine Beatty, singer Latrese Bush, singing sensation Black Girl, actress and first Black “Bond girl” Trina Parks and UK vocalist Katy Shotter.

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Rhonda and John Wilkins with host Rodney Perry

The Legendary Awards was created in 2010 by Atlanta entrepreneur, philanthropist and former entertainment executive Rhonda Wilkins and her husband John Wilkins after spearheading a memorable 50th birthday celebration for NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins.

Other notables spotted at the ceremony included “Hit the Floor” actress Valery Ortiz, 80s R&B singer Melisa Morgan, TV and film actress Reece Odum, comedian Michelle “MzWallStreet” Hodges, Emmy winning poet Hank Stewart, NY Times Bestselling Author Zane, celebrity life coach Akema Day, and media personality Mitch Faulkner.

Check out more photos from the award ceremony below:

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Host Cocoa Brown and guest

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Full Force’s Paul Anthony, B-Fine and BowLegged Lou with Trina Parks 

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Hank Stewart and Michelle “MzWallStreet” Hodges

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Reece Odum and Rodney Perry

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Melisa Morgan with Jayne Kennedy Overton

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Valery Ortiz and guest with celebrity life coach Akema Day

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R&B Trio – The Rude Boys

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Chanita Foster is responsible for feeding over 1,000 children in Swaziland

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Former track star turned cosmetologist Gwen Torrence accepting her award

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Russel L. Honoré was the Commander for the Joint Task Force after Hurricane Katrina DSC_0833-2

Trina Parks presenting the award to her friend Jayne Kennedy Overton

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Tena Clark has written R&B hits for Patti LaBelle, Natalie Cole, and Vesta Williams

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Full Force are songwriters and appeared in the iconic “House Party” films

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Ray Cornelius with Full Force/Photo Credit: Terrence Carter

Click here if you would like to donate to the Legendary Health Initiative.

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com