Lil Baby was recognized with the Black Music Action Coalition’s Quincy Jones Humanitarian Award on Thursday night at the Music in Action Awards Gala.
After being introduced with a video congratulations from his mother Lashawn Jones and Quality Control Music Group founder Pierre Thomas as well as a letter written by Quincy Jones, the rapper took the stage in a dapper velvet black suit, which he paired with some reading glasses on stage.
“Not only have you made music history and impacted the course of modern hip-hop, but you use your platform to give back to the community in a meaningful way. And that’s what it’s all about,” said Jones in his letter, which was read to the crowd by his son Quincy Jones III.
“To even be acknowledged in music, let alone by a role model like Quincy Jones and the Black Music Action Coalition,” Lil Baby started his succinct speech. “I honestly didn’t know what a humanitarian award was, but as I looked into it and I started reading, I understand I’m actually a humanitarian.”
Others in attendance to the formal event included G-Eazy and Tyler The Creator, who presented the Amazon Music Team with the BMAC Social Impact Award –– they accepted the honor with the Recording Academy and Kevin Liles.
The rapper was honored along with several other prominent figures and organizations in the music business including “Big Jon” Platt, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Rep. Maxine Waters at the event.
Liles, who was honored with the BMAC Social Impact Award, used his speech to advocate for support behind the Restoring Artistic Protection (RAP) Act, a bill introduced by Congressmen Hank Johnson and Jamaal Bowman that would limit the admissibility of evidence of creative or artistic expression against an artist in court.
The proposed bill comes in light of rappers Young Thug and Gunna’s ongoing legal woes as they both face hefty criminal charges. Young Thug, born Jeffery Williams, is currently accused of conspiracy to violate Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and is facing multiple felony charges including participation in criminal street gang activity, violation of the Georgia controlled substances act, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of a machine gun and drug charges, among others.
Gunna, whose real name is Sergio Giovanni Kitchens, is charged with racketeering and is accused of being the leader behind another Metro Atlanta street gang.
“I’m gonna set aside the common sense thing that artistic creative expression is the same thing as a confession. I’m gonna set aside a First Amendment should protect our freedom of expression.Scholars around the world have tracked almost 500 cases of Black and brown people subjected to a double standard and treating that art as confessions in court. This doesn’t happen if you’re white. Not ever,” Liles said.
“What about Freddie Mercury? My man says, ‘Mama I just killed a man/ Put a gun to his head/ Pulled the trigger and now he’s dead.’ Now, did we really think Freddie Mercury was going to kill somebody?” he added. “Meanwhile, I got a crew of people that can’t be fathers to their children … And they’re propped up on charges of lyrics.”
Thug and Gunna’s court case inspired Liles to get involved in the fight to protect the two men, and artists like them, from having their lyrics manipulated by prosecutors and potentially silencing the next generation of rappers who aspire to set trends with their words, he told the audience.
“If you need a righteous cause, if you need somebody that wants to lead by example — I’m gonna walk, ‘m gonna run or do whatever I got to do because we’re gonna need to protect each other,” he said.
Sony Music Publishing’s Jon Platt also delivered poignant remarks during his acceptance speech, reading aloud a letter written by Clarence Avant decades ago, but as meaningful today, about the need for diversity in the board rooms of music companies.
Additional honorees recognized included manager David Ali (the BMAC BLACK: Future. Now. Award); Amazon Music and the Recording Academy (the BMAC Social Impact Award); attorney and author Brittany K. Barnett and Culture Creators’ Joi Brown (the BMAC Change Agent Award); Congresswoman Maxine Waters (the BMAC Icon Award); and Billboard executive director, R&B/Hip-Hop Gail Mitchell along with Variety’s own executive editor of music, Shirley Halperin, who received the BMAC 365 Award recognizing “a person, company or organization that has consistently supported social change throughout the year.”