Everyone from Beyoncé to Nancy Pelosi turned out to honor Sean "Diddy" Combs at the Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Gala, one of the glitziest and most coveted parties of music's biggest weekend. The hip-hop mogul was the 2020 pick for the Salute to Industry Icons Award, joining past recipients like Jay-Z, Herb Alpert, Jerry Moss, Richard Branson, Betty Gordy and Clive Davis himself.
The likes of Cyndi Lauper, Lil' Kim, John Legend, Wyclef Jean, Santana, Brandi Carlile and others performed, warming up the floor for the music legend.
In a bold move, Diddy used his acceptance speech to directly address industry leaders and Recording Academy executives about the Grammys' diversity and transparency. He delivered his speech to an audience including Lil Kim, Cardi B, Offset, Janet Jackson, Chance the Rapper, Jamie Foxx, Quavo, Naomi Campbell, Nas, Usher Jack Antonoff, 21 Savage, Lana Del Rey, Pete Wentz, Timbaland, Anderson .Paak, Dua Lipa, Trevor Noah, Quincey Jones and others.
Shortly after Recording Academy chairman and interim president/CEO Harvey Mason Jr. introduced him, Diddy admitted he's "been conflicted" about accepting the award.
"Truth be told, hip-hop has never been respected by the Grammys," he stated. "Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be... And that stops right now.
“I'm officially starting the clock," he continued. "You've got 365 days to get this sh-t together. We need transparency, we need diversity. They're [the Academy] a non-profit organization that's supposed to protect the welfare of the musical community. But it's going to take all of us to get this done. It's going to take the artists and executives to recognize their power. So sign me up. I'm here to help make a difference and help us have a positive outcome.”
The call-out comes in the wake of an explosive scandal for the Recording Academy. Ex-Academy president Lisa Dugan has accused several members of the Academy of sexual assault, as well as having a nontransparent voting process.
Diddy ended his speech by dedicating his Icons award to snubbed albums by Black artists over the years: "Michael Jackson for Off the Wall, Prince for 1999, Beyoncé for Lemonade, Missy Elliott for The Real World, Snoop Dogg for Doggystyle, Kanye West for Graduation and Nas for Illmatic."
Diddy also spoke about the death of his longtime partner Kim Porter, who passed away at 47 of pneumonia last year.
Read a transcription of Combs' comments, via Billboard, below.
"Now to my other family, my musical family. During the hardest year of my life [the death of longtime love Kim Porter], all of you were there to check on me and push me up. And I want to tell you I appreciate that. I love that. And I wouldn't be here if I didn't get those messages. I want to thank everybody here from the bottom of my heart that really cared about me. And we are a musical family. We have to be there for each other.
And now because we are a family, I have to be honest. The last few days I've been conflicted. 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. There's discrimination and injustice everywhere, at an all-time high. But there's something I need to say to the Grammys. I changed my middle name to love. So it's Sean "Love" Combs now. So I say this with love to the Grammys because you really need to know this.
Every year, you all be killing us, man. Man, you talk about the pain. I'm speaking for all the artists here, the producers and the executives. The amount of time that it takes to make these records, to pour your heart out into it … and you just want an even playing field. In the great words of Erykah Badu, we are artists and we are sensitive about our shit. We are passionate. For most of us, this is all we've got. This is our only hope.
Truth be told, hip-hop has never been respected by the Grammys. Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be. So right now in this current situation, it's not a revelation. This thing's been going on. It's not just going on in music. It's going on in film, going on in sports and going on around the world.And for years we've allowed institutions that have never had our best interests at heart to judge us. And that stops right now.
I'm officially starting the clock. You've got 365 days to get this shit together. We need the artists to take back control, we need transparency, we need diversity. This is the room that has the power to make the changes that need to be made. They have to make the changes for us. They're a non-profit organization that's supposed to protect the welfare of the musical community. That's what it says on the mission statement. That's the truth. They work for us.
We have the power. We decide what's hot. If we don't go, nobody goes. If we don't support, nobody supports. We control what's cool, we control what's hot. We control what your kids listen to, what they dance to, we control what's a video game, we control how they wear their pants, sag their pants … we control everything.
Now we're not going to solve this tonight. But it's going to take all of us to get this done. It's going to take the artists and executives to recognize their power. And I'm standing here today not to just bash you all because as I said, you're a non-profit organization. We just need to get it right. And I'm here for the artists.
So sign me up. I'm here to help make a difference and help us have a positive outcome. I believe all of my brothers and sisters out there will be willing to work on getting this right. Because we just want it right. We just want to be able to go to the Grammys. You've got to understand. We've seen Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson; Michael Jackson's holding eight Grammys and he was dropping the Grammys. But you know why he was dropping the Grammys and why he got eight Grammys? Because they never nominated him for Off the Wall. So Thriller was his revenge. It wasn't his honest work. It was his revenge. He's like, all right, you all want to fuck with me? I'm going to take your souls. And then we had Thriller.
My goal used to be about making hit records. Now it's about ensuring that the culture moves forward. My culture. Our culture. The black culture. And for me to be worthy of receiving an icon award, I have to use my experience to help to make a change. On that note, I'm finishing up: You all got 365 days.
And I want to dedicate this award to Michael Jackson for Off the Wall, Prince for 1999, Beyoncé for Lemonade, Missy Elliott for The Real World, Snoop Dogg for Doggystyle, Kanye West for Graduation and Nas for Illmatic."
Photo via Getty (Courtesy of the Recording Academy)