Alicia Keys, Grandmaster Flash among Black American Music Assn.'s inaugural honorees

Alicia Keys arrives at premiere of "Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story," April 26, 2023, at Regency Village Theatre in LA.
Alicia Keys will be in the first group of artists and executives honored by the Black American Music Assn. (Jordan Strauss / Invision / Associated Press)

Music icons Alicia Keys and Grandmaster Flash soon will be recognized by the Black American Music Assn. for their creativity and contributions to the music world and Black culture.

The organization announced Wednesday that Keys, Grandmaster Flash, super-producer team Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, billionaire philanthropist Robert F. Smith, film and television producer Suzanne de Passe and Universal Music Group executive Jeff Harleston will be honored with the inaugural Imperial Crown of Excellence Medal of Honor awards.

“We are thrilled to launch the ICE Medal of Honor and to recognize these outstanding individuals who have made an enduring mark on the world through their art and creativity,” BAM co-founder Michael Mauldin said in a statement. “This celebration is a testament to the power of Black American music in shaping culture and inspiring generations.”

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The ceremony will take place Oct. 15 at Morehouse College in Atlanta. BAM is self-described as being "dedicated to preserve, protect and promote the legacy and future of authentic Black American music."

Grandmaster Flash was one of the earliest pioneers of hip-hop (celebrating its 50th anniversary this year) and gained mainstream recognition with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's socially conscious 1982 track "The Message." The groundbreaking “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” in 1981 was the first record to feature the scratching and mixing routines that were a hallmark of ’70s hip-hop park jams. In 2007 Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first rap group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Keys broke through in the music scene with her 2001 hit "Fallin'." Her debut album, "Songs in A Minor," topped the Billboard 200 chart. The "If I Ain't Got You" singer has been nominated for 30 Grammy awards and has won 15, including for song of the year and best new artist.

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Jam and Lewis got their start in the music business in the early 1980s when they were in the Minnesota-based group the Time and opened for Prince. They were eventually personally fired by Prince while touring. The duo then became known for their magic touch in the recording studio, producing mostly notably for Janet Jackson — including on her hit albums "Control" and "Rhythm Nation." The pair has been nominated for 23 Grammys, winning five.

As Motown Productions' first Black woman president, De Passe is credited with persuading Berry Gordy to sign the Jackson 5 and helping to secure the Commodores. She has won two Emmys and received five additional nominations. The trailblazer was also the first Black American to be Oscar-nominated for original screenplay, for 1972's "Lady Sings the Blues."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.