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Gage SkidmoreCC BY-SA 3.0, MC Lyte via Wikimedia Commons

Hip-hop icons Grandmaster Flash and Mc Lyte will be among the honorees on Sept. 14, when the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) acknowledges and celebrates their impact on American culture, music and society.

The RIAA Honors: Pioneers of Hip-Hop event will take place in Washington, D.C., and in addition to the venerated, veteran MCs will also honor Universal Music Group’s Jeff Harleston and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries's immense contributions to the genre.

“At this year’s RIAA Honors, we are thrilled to celebrate pioneers who have defied obstacles, defined a genre and accelerated the growth of hip-hop to audiences across generations and geography," said RIAA chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier in a statement announcing the event. “Congratulations and thank you, Grandmaster Flash, MC Lyte, Jeff Harleston and chairman Hakeem Jeffries for your contributions to this diverse musical landscape and setting the stage for creators to come.”

The event will feature performances by DJ Jazzy Jeff, Mix Master Mike and Rapsody. Dr. Dre and Missy Elliott are scheduled to present virtually, and DJ Kool and Yo-Yo will be on hand for the ceremony.

Here is a closer look at the RIAA honorees:

Victor Frankowski / Southbank CentreCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Grandmaster Flash – One of the originators of the musical genre called Hip-Hop and the first DJ to use turntables as a musical instrument, Grandmaster Flash began in the Bronx with neighborhood block parties. The first DJ to physically lay his fingertips on the body of the vinyl and manipulate it, he was dubbed the “Toscanini” of the turntables and his template laid the groundwork for everything a DJ can do with a record today. His group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first hip-hop collective ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is also featured in the Smithsonian Museum of American History’s RECOGNIZE! exhibit alongside LL Cool J, Erykah Badu and Common.

MC Lyte – Legendary lyricist, DJ, voice-over talent, actress, entertainer and icon, MC Lyte is still making the crowds move across the globe. At the age of 17, she began schooling other MCs in the art of rhyme. Since then, she has proven that greatness always prevails with ten albums to her credit. MC Lyte is the first rap artist ever to perform at New York’s historic Carnegie Hall and the first female rapper to receive a GOLD single from the RIAA. The first female solo rapper ever nominated for a Grammy Award, MC Lyte's lyrical skills have also been tapped into by Hollywood. She co-wrote and performed theme songs for Fox’s “Dark Angel” and BET’s “Holla.”

Jeff Harleston (Label Honoree) – During a 29-year career with UMG, Harleston’s accolades include The Recording Academy’s 2020 Entertainment Law Initiative Service Award, Billboard’s 2018 “Lawyer of the Year,” the 2018 Diversity Award from the Association of Corporate Counsel for Southern California; Ebony magazine’s “Power 100” list and Billboard’s “Power 100” list. Harleston recently served as interim CEO of Def Jam Recordings from 2020-2021 and is co-chair of UMG’s Task Force for Meaningful Change. He is also the founder of the Universal/Motown Fund, an endowment dedicated to providing financial assistance for artists from the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Harleston graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from Williams College and holds a J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law at U.C. Berkeley.

Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (Policymaker Honoree) – Congressman Jeffries (D-NY-08) is a member of the House Judiciary and Budget Committees, and since 2018 has served as Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. Through his five terms in Congress, he has been a tireless advocate for his constituents, the causes of social and economic justice, and the music community. He played a key role in crafting the historic Music Modernization Act, which brought American copyright laws in line with the streaming revolution, as well as the Copyright Alternative in Small Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act, which created the Copyright Claims Board to resolve copyright disputes quickly and effectively under $30,000 in the U.S. Copyright Office.

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