Grammy weekend 2012 was no stranger to incredible highs and unspeakable lows, with benchmark events hosted by the Recording Academy (the MusicCares concert featuring Sir Paul McCartney, among others) and parties and performances both directly and indirectly related to the awards sprinkled over the course of a seven day stretch in Los Angeles, culminating in the live telecast of the 54th annual Grammy Awards.
For this two-year Grammy Awards veteran attendee, the weekend kicked off on Friday, February 10 with the legendary KissNGrind, an annual highlight during music’s biggest weekend. The party, hosted at the Vanguard on Hollywood Blvd., is the brainchild of musician and DJ extraordinaire Vikter Duplaix of BET’s Master of the Mix. Deftly blending soul, house, hip hop, electronica, and ol’ skool R&B, Duplaix and special guest DJ Questlove of the Roots kept revelers on the dancefloor all night long—literally. The party reportedly wound down somewhere around 4AM.
Bright and early Saturday morning, the SoulTrain.com team arrived at Mr. C’s–a fabulous new hotel on the west side of the city—for the fifth annual MojaMoja Pre-Grammy brunch, which raises awareness and money for Oxfam America. Spearheaded by internationally beloved DJ, tastemaker, and KCRW on-air personality Garth Trinidad and co-founder Ramona Wright of Mozaic Media + Communications, the MojaMoja brunch features exclusive performances by artists on the verge of absolute greatness; previous years’ brunches have seen the likes of Janelle Monae, The Foreign Exchange, Alice Smith, and Nneka grace the stage. This year’s celebration included soul-rocking performances by Sonos, Blah Blah Blah, and Mariachi El Bronx. The always phenomenal Goapele opened her set with an absolutely gorgeous rendition of Etta James’ classic “At Last”, and trail-blazing drummer, percussionist, and philanthropist Sheila E. was presented with the Vanguard Award for her work with her Elevate Hope Foundation. The organization uses music therapy to help abused children.
During the brunch, SoulTrain.com caught up with actress Nicki Micheaux (Soul Food, Lincoln Heights), a “sister on the ground” advocate for OxfamAmerica. We spoke with Ms. Micheaux about the critical work OxfamAmerica does to help bring clean water and essential food resources to distressed and disaster-stricken areas, as well as the Darfur Stoves Project, which for $25 provides stoves to women inDarfur. “The Darfur Stoves Project [provides] women in replacement camps with solar-powered stoves, so that they don’t have to go out and look for firewood. A lot of times, women will go out and have to walk 5-7 hours a day to just find firewood good enough to cook their food.” High incidences of rape and assault make this seemingly simple task extremely dangerous for the women, who may be ostracized if they are attacked. So the stoves provide some measure of security for the women and their families, and more importantly they serve as a better alternative for cooking and preparing food. Nicki Micheaux recently completed a short film which she has written and directed, and is submitting to film festivals. While she says she does not plan to give up acting, there are stories—specifically Black women’s stories—that need telling, and she wants to use her voice to do just that.
On Saturday night, the legendary Roots crew took over the House of Blues on Sunset Blvd. for their ever-popular pre-Grammy jam. This year’s show boasted cameo appearances by Bilal (who is featured on The Roots’ new album UnDun), newcomer Elle Varner, the incomparable India.Arie, New Orleans musician turner world renowned jazz artist Trombone Shorty, and hip hop artist Childish Gambino. True to form in every conceivable way, The Roots rocked the house for more than four hours, treating the culturally diverse audience to hit after hit. India.Arie joined the crew on stage for “You Got Me”, and Elle Varner performed her single “Give It To You” as well as Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love for You”.
Last and certainly not least, the 54th annual Grammy Awards aired on CBS on Sunday, February 12. Hosted by hip hop great LL Cool J, the show featured performances by Rihanna, Chris Brown, Bruno Mars, and Nicki Minaj. Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt offered a rich and soulful rendition of Etta James’ “Sunday Kind of Love” in honor of the late great blues and R&B singer, and at long last pop vocalist Adele returned to the stage in full voice and perfect form after undergoing throat surgery in late 2011. Chris Brown walked away with the Grammy for Best R&B Album, and Jay-Z and Kanye West won the Grammy for Best Rap Record for their song “Otis”. Adele was the big winner of the night, taking home six trophies. Following an in memoriam tribute dedicated to those whom we lost since last year’s awards show, Jennifer Hudson blessed the audience with a stirring and heart-wrenching version of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”. Houston died suddenly at the age of 48 on Saturday, February 11 inLos Angeles. Soul Train enthusiast and drummer for the legendary Roots crew Questlove paid homage to Soul Train creator, visionary, and media pioneer Don Cornelius, and Diana Ross and the late Gil Scott-Heron were honored with the Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award prior to the evening’s broadcast.
For more about this year’s Grammy nominees and winners, check out grammy.com.
Rhonda Nicole is an independent singer/songwriter from Dallas, TX, based in the Bay Area. Download her EP “Nuda Veritas” on CDBaby and iTunes, and follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/rhondanicolemusic and on Twitter @wildhoneyrock.