A celebration of singer Brandy at the 2019 BMI R&B/Hip-Hop Awards included an impromptu serenade by her brother Ray J and a quick performance by the honoree. The singer attended the awards show at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center just outside of Atlanta to receive the BMI President’s Award.
During the presentation Mike O’Neill, BMI President, praised Brandy for her musical accomplishments (including her record sales of more than 40 million albums and the record held by “The Boy Is Mine” as the No. 1 selling Atlantic Records single of all time), as well as her acting (Moesha, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Star and more) and Broadway (Chicago) work, and philanthropic efforts.
Jade Novah kicked off a musical tribute to Brandy, performing “Talk About Our Love,” the singer’s 2004 collaboration with Kanye West. Samoht then delivered a version of “Brokenhearted” (1995) that inspired Brandy to ask him to teach her some of his vocal runs. The tribute also included a performance of “Have You Ever” (1998) and “He Is” (2002) from Kierra Sheard, as well as “Baby” (1994) and “Nothing” (2002) from Eric Bellinger. Bellinger thanked Brandy for being the “vocal bible,” a title that followers have gifted the singer for her sharp melismas and soulful tone, on behalf of “sangers” during his performance: “Without you, we would be nothing.” Joining O’Neill and BMI vice president Catherine Brewton on stage, Brandy’s brother Ray J gave a quick, unexpected performance of “Best Friend,” the 1995 song penned about the close bond between the siblings.
Eliciting a standing ovation from the crowd, Brandy launched into an impromptu performance of “I Wanna Be Down” (1994) and “Almost” (1998) before giving a quick speech and thanking her parents who were in attendance. “I love you guys. All of the sacrifices and everything you’ve done for my life to continue to be what it is… I just appreciate you guys so very much.”
The singer shouted out collaborators Kipper Jones (“I Wanna Be Down”), LaShawn Daniels and Rodney Jerkins — who penned songs such as “The Boy Is Mine” for the singer, among others, and were in cheering crowd at the event — before teasing her new album, which is expected to be released later this year. “I’m looking forward to just singing all of my new songs and all of my songs together on every stage that I can possibly sing on. I’m ready for the world, are you guys?”
Following a DJ set from Mannie Fresh, the 2019 BMI R&B/Hip-Hop Awards started off on a somber note with a tribute to the late rapper Nipsey Hussle. Attendees were asked to stand as Hussle’s “Last Time That I Checked” was played throughout the venue. “We are going to take care of his songs and his family,” O’Neill said following the tribute.
Atlanta rappers Gunna and Lil Baby then performed a medley that included their top 10 single “Drip Too Hard.” The pair were awarded a platinum plaque for the record shortly after the performance. “I feel like I’m just an artist [who is] just finally getting acknowledged,” Gunna said, acknowledging his parents who were in attendance.
Major winners included Drake’s “God’s Plan” (R&B/hip-hop song of the year), Tay Keith, who tied with Post Malone for R&B/hip-hop songwriter of the year, and Wheezy Beatz for R&B/hip-hop producer of the year. Sony/ATV Music Publishing was awarded R&B/hip-hop publisher of the year.
The complete list of winners is available on BMI’s website.
Mannie Fresh served as the DJ for the awards show, and Brewton and O’Neill served as the show’s co-hosts.