The fifth iteration of Urban One Honors continues to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of Black public figures in arts, politics, and communal upliftment, premiering on MLK Day, Jan. 16 on TV One and Cleo TV. Hosted this year by R&B artist Tank, the 2023 theme of “Icons of the Culture” highlighted trailblazers whose impact forever changed their industries. Honorees of the night included Pharrell Williams, LL Cool J and Rep. Maxine Waters, receiving Icon awards for the influence and work in their respective fields.
Pharell took home the Music Innovation Award for his pioneering of contemporary pop music sound as well as being pivotal in making hip-hop mainstream. As Pusha T presented this honor to him, Pharell took the stage to salute his heroes, including fellow honoree LL Cool J, for inspiring him to get to this place of success. He expressed his gratitude for the attendees, stating “people in this room have opened so many doors not only through their music but their creativity and entertainment.” It was a “pinch yourself” moment for the 13-time Grammy award winner.
LL Cool J, The Entertainment Icon honoree of the night, was also featured in a lead-in clip detailing his accolades and diverse contribution to the culture. The multi-hyphenate entertainer received this honor from Rev. Run, gave words of inspiration to those watching by stating “your dreams do not have a deadline.” His debut at age 16 was foundational to the formation of Def Jam Recordings, and has since led LL Cool J to a vast career uplifting Black representation in media through his music, hosting and acting ventures.
Introduced by former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and journalist Roland Martin, Rep. Maxine Waters received the Lifetime Achievement Icon Award at the televised event. The California congresswoman took the stage to reiterate her famous “reclaiming my time” statement, but also including how it is “for all of us,” and that she “has the gavel and I know how to use it.”
Fellow musicians such as Bobby Brown and gospel artists David and Tamela Mann were honored as the Phoenix and Inspiration Impact award recipients, respectively. Bobby Brown had an emotional speech, thanking Urban One and his family while admitting it’s “kind of hard accepting an award for living.” However, he continued to say to a standing ovation that “God is not done with me,” and there is “so much that I want to do with my life.”
Tamela Mann, in her speech with husband David, was also tearful, beginning to sing “If you ask me how I made it through/I can say he came to my rescue/God Did it.” Keke Wyatt performed a tribute medley to the couple, including Tamela’s song ‘Take Me To The King.’
Other highlights from the awards special included a performance by T.I., an in memoriam sequence to Black icons we lost this past year, as well as a showcase celebrating Hip-Hop’s 50th Birthday by Doug E. Fresh and Monie Love, accompanied with a set by DJ Spinderella.
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