Busta Rhymes, MC Lyte, Chloe x Halle and more were honored at the seventh annual Culture Creators Innovators & Leaders Awards Brunch on Saturday (June 24) at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Hosted by award-winning journalist Gia Peppers, the Culture Creators Brunch not only celebrated the achievements of Black leaders in the entertainment industry that have shaped popular culture but the event also commemorated the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. And there was no better way to kick off the event than by honoring MC Lyte as the first icon award recipient. Kash Doll and Lady London gave the veteran MC her flowers, commending her for how she “paved the way, broken barriers and shattered glass ceilings” for women in hip-hop in a “male-dominant music industry,” Doll said, and explaining the the metaphor “light as a rock.”
“It’s explaining how heavy your impact has been in my life and in my career,” London said. But when Lyte got up on stage and accepted her award, she caused the audience to uproar with laughter when she commented on how “heavy” it was and passed it back to London.
“Thank you for the sisterhood and the friendship, it really means a lot to me,” she told the ladies who introduced her. “Thank you to this wonderful community of hip-hop for me, made up of artists, producers, videographers, dancers, DJs who break records, who have pushed the limits to get the genre where it stands today. Someone asked me, ‘Did I think hip-hop would make it this far?’ No, but here we are.”
Ryan Press, president of North America at Warner Chappell Music, presented the technology award to Troy Carter, whom he hailed as a “visionary, connector, entrepreneur, father, husband and friend” who “has made it his mission to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the music business and amplify the voices of creators and indie artists.” Before becoming co-founder and CEO of music and tech company Q&A, Carter was CEO/chairman of Atom Factory, the multi-dimensional branding, entertainment and artist management company. He also previously managed Eve, Lady Gaga, John Legend and more and was Spotify’s global head of creator services.
“It’s very, very special just being in this room of people who have really moved the needle, people who actually bended and shaped culture in so many crazy ways,” Carter said in his acceptance speech. He went on to specifically thank “my big brother Will Smith who taught me to always show up and to never let anyone box you into what they think you are,” “to the great Clarence Avant who taught me about fighting for the next generation and being gracious with my time and generous with my knowledge,” “to Russell Simmons who showed us that hip-hop could transcend television, fashion and finance,” “to the late Chris Lighty who encouraged me to stay in the game,” “to Eve who taught me about betting on potential,” “to the incredible Lady Gaga who taught me about endless possibilities” and “to Daniel Ek who always pushed me to think bigger when I thought I was thinking big.”
Culture Creators founder Joi Brown had the honor of awarding Chloe x Halle with the innovators of the year trophy, applauding them for “capturing our hearts and our minds with their fearless, fierce artistry” and becoming “symbols of strength and role models for young women, knocking down barriers and proving that dreams can be realized.” Chloe accepted on behalf of the duo because Halle’s flight from Paris was canceled.
“For us as little girls singing covers on YouTube and performing around our hometown of Atlanta, we were just doing what we loved. And that turned into Chloe x Halle, which over the past years has evolved into this whole thing. I remember we would discuss, ‘OK, are we going to go as Chloe x Halle, or are we going to come up with some group name or The Bailey Sisters?’ We couldn’t decide, but now, we’re Chloe x Halle,” she explained, later delving into how they’ve expanded the boundaries of their artistry “with me releasing my solo album, touring the country as a solo artist, and my sister inspiring young girls everywhere as Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. But we know that whenever we’re together as Chloe x Halle, it’s special. One of our favorite quotes is ‘Individually we are a drop, but together we are an ocean.’ Whether we’re doing our solo music or acting projects on our own, we are forever Chloe x Halle because our sisterhood is a forever thing.”
But Busta touched the entire ballroom when it was finally time for him to receive the second icon award, just 24 hours before he would receive the lifetime achievement award at the 2023 BET Awards on Sunday. After Big Daddy Kane and Mona Scott-Young praised him for having “the greatest flow in hip-hop” and being “the man, they myth, the dragon,” they said respectively, the lighting-fast rhymer was at a loss for words.
“I get a lot of love because I’m a giver of love…. But I don’t get awards … not in this form. So it’s a little overwhelming for me because, Mona would know, a lot of times I would ask, ‘How much longer I gotta wait?’” he said while growing emotional and finding the words to describe the indelible impact of Black people across every industry. “We are the founders of civilization, the makers and the owners of the planet, the gods of the universe. Our culture is the greatest. And with that being said, even when they gave us nothing, we created every culture.”
Busta also revealed he was releasing a new album “in the next eight weeks,” which would mark his first album in three years since 2020’s Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath of God. He also shouted out his new Hitmaka-produced single “Beach Ball,” featuring Bia, but rather than continuing to “plug and promote” his own music, he preached about the modern-day music industry’s dependence on social media algorithms, follower counts and other numbers dictating the art.
“Don’t get me wrong, I get it and I understand ’cause we all gotta be swift and changeable in order be remainable. But don’t allow that to dictate the soul,” he said while being met with a round of applause. “What I want is for the execs to come back to being a human first. Yea, we gon’ capitalize off the algorithm. But how many Biggies, Tupacs, Nas and Busta Rhymes is y’all gon’ miss if their algorithm ain’t jumping? The people dictated what the culture did, not the computer. Let’s get back to that y’all. ‘Cause I’m always going to be there to give you the friendly reminder that the computer can’t dictate sh– Busta Rhymes got goin’ on. I’mma bust its a– regardless!”
Other honorees included Karl Kani, Candace Rodney, Flau’jae Johnson, Stephen Hill, Laurieann Gibson and Chris Robinson.