BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Attention, Recording Academy: Were you listening?
Sean “Diddy” Combs, winner of the Industry Icon award at the Clive Davis pre-Grammy Gala, challenged the industry to get its act together in the next year when it comes to diversity.
“I’m being honored by the industry that I love, the family that I love, but there’s an elephant in the room and it’s not just about the Grammys,” Combs said well into a lengthy speech at the end of the party. “There’s discrimination and injustice everywhere.”
“Truth be told, hip-hop has never been respected by the Grammys,” he continued. “Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be.” He said the current situation isn’t a revelation, nor is it an issue just in music.
“For years we’ve allowed institutions that have never had our best interests at heart to judge us, and that stops right now,” he said to thunderous applause.
He continued: “We need the artists to take back the control. We need transparency. We need diversity. This is the room that has the power to make the change that needs to be made. They have to make the changes for us.”
Combs clarified he’s not intending to simply bash the Recording Academy – but that he’s here to help make a difference and a positive outcome.
The Recording Academy presents the annual Grammy Awards, and this year’s event is Sunday.
He dedicated his award to Michael Jackson for “Off the Wall,” Prince for “1999,” Beyoncé for “Lemonade,” Missy Elliott for “Da Real World,” Snoop Dogg for “Doggystyle,” Kanye West for “Graduation” and Nas for “Illmatic.”
During his speech, Diddy also thanked a swath of people, including Jay-Z and Beyoncé (he calls her “King Beyoncé”), Swiss Beatz, Nas and Quincy Jones.
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Recording Academy already embroiled in drama
Combs’ remarks about the Grammys come on the heels of other drama facing the Academy: Ousted Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan recently said she has “evidence” that the Grammy Awards process is “ripe with corruption.”
With only days until the award show, Dugan filed an explosive discrimination complaint against the academy Tuesday alleging unlawful gender discrimination, sexual harassment, unlawful retaliation and unequal pay.
The Recording Academy stated Dugan’s allegations about the voting processes are “utterly untrue,” adding the academy has “rigorous and well-publicized” protocols for ensuring fair voting.
Ex-Grammys President Neil Portnow also denied rape allegations in the complaint, which alleged that a foreign recording artist accused Portnow of raping her following a performance she gave at Carnegie Hall. The complaint says that despite knowledge of this, the board requested Dugan approve a $750,000 consulting fee for Portnow, which she denied.
In a statement to USA TODAY provided by representative Sallie Olmsted, Portnow called Dugan’s claims “inaccurate, false and outrageous and terribly hurtful,” adding that he would “vigorously defend all false claims.” He also denied asking for a $750,000 consulting fee.
Diddy reflects on former girlfriend Kim Porter
Diddy also took time to acknowledge his family and his former girlfriend, actress and model Kim Porter, who died in November 2018 of pneumonia. “I met Kim Porter ’cause Kim was the receptionist at Uptown. So that’s how far back we go,” Diddy said.
Diddy has regularly opened up about her sudden death.
Just this week, he posted a picture of Porter on Instagram with a powerful caption. “If you got a good woman please let her know,” the caption reads. “Tell her as soon as you can. Make sure she knows.”
While Combs’ speech took a serious turn, the night wasn’t without its stunning musical moments. For example: Cyndi Lauper, barefoot, dueted with Brandi Carlisle on “Girls Just Want to Have Fun;” Broadway star Adrienne Warren’s “Simply the Best,” was just that, as was Oscar nominee Cynthia Erivo’s homage (in the audience!) to Janet Jackson; and Faith Evans, Lil’ Kim and Combs’ son Christian “King” Combs helped pay tribute to Diddy himself.
Davis – a man with a penchant for giving shout-outs to those who attend his annual event – called out returning guest Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Cardi B and Offset and Lana Del Ray, among (many, many) others.
As for other celebrity sightings: Among the crowd, Avril Lavigne and Paula Abdul chatted and embraced, Trevor Noah and Billy Porter posed for a photo and Broadway’s Darren Criss and Warren hugged. On the red carpet before the show, Jessie J and Channing Tatum held hands.
Buzzy Grammy nominees not in attendance included Lizzo, Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X (though his “Old Town Road” duet partner Billy Ray Cyrus was there).
Contributing: Maria Puente, Andrea Mandell and Sara Moniuszko, USA TODAY; Associated Press
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