ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Awards begin, featuring Lil Baby, Swizz Beatz and more

The annual awards show that honors R&B, rap and gospel producers, songwriters and publishers will take place on various ASCAP social media platforms over three days

On Tuesday, the 2021 ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Awards kicked off its three-day celebration of the best and brightest in songwriters, producers, and publishers throughout Black music. Prominent hip hop acts Lil Baby, Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, and more will be receiving top honors this year as well as performing and speaking.

The 34th annual event is continuing its innovative virtual format of posting its festivities exclusively on social media platforms. Announcements of winners, photos, interviews, and performances will all be available and updated in real-time via ASCAP and ASCAP Urban’s Instagram pages, as well as ASCAP’s Twitter page. This repeats the execution of all of ASCAP’s 2020 awards across various genres.

Lil Baby Seizz Beatz
Swizz Beatz, Lil Baby (Credit: Getty Images)

Lil Baby was announced as the ASCAP Songwriter of the Year. The Grammy-nominated rapper’s sophomore album My Turn debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 last year and has made a massive impact with songs “Emotionally Scarred,” Woah,” and “Sum 2 Prove.” He has also been lending his pen to hits for other artists, such as DaBaby’s number one single “Baby,” which also won for Best R&B/Hip-Hop and Rap Song.

Lil Baby, who’s real name is Dominique Jones, joins past winners like Gucci Mane, Quavo of The Migos and Cardi B, who, according to ASCAP, won Songwriter of the Year the previous two years in a row.

The festivities kicked off with the ASCAP’s Voice of the Culture Award, given to ASCAP members who have had a major cultural impact throughout the year. Music producers Timbaland and Swizz Beatz and DJ D-Nice are the 2021 recipients, as previously reported by theGrio. They won due to their respective virtual music platforms that sustained millions of fans during the COVID-19 pandemic amid live music shutdowns.

Timbaland and Swizz Beatz’s Verzuz series is a spirited “battle” platform that has been a destination for fans to celebrate the work of songwriters such as Ne-Yo, Teddy Riley, Babyface and The-Dream, as well as vocalists Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Patti LaBelle and Brandy and hip-hop performers including Ludacris, Nelly, Redman, Method Man, Gucci Mane, Jeezy and more.

D-Nice’s Club Quarantine DJ sessions on Instagram gave many who were stuck indoors a reason to dance as well as provide a new template for live DJing and performing.

Born Derrick Jones, D-Nice was humbled as he accepted his award Tuesday. “During the beginning of the pandemic, I didn’t do this for notoriety,” Jones said. “It was really about playing music to save lives and to keep people smiling and keep people dancing together.”

Tuesday, the three honorees took part in a live 2021 ASCAP Experience conversation, Voices of the Culture: How Swizz Beatz, Timbaland & D-Nice United the World Through Music on ASCAP’s YouTube, which is now available on demand.

Swizz Beatz attributes the success of Verzuz and Club Quarantine to the artists and music that don’t have “an age limit.”

“Most of those records that y’all jamming to that D-Nice is playing is timeless music,” Swizz said. “Those artists that on Verzuz, those are timeless artists. And this is the biggest message is to promote timeless music and timeless artists which is, you know, why this award is so important because ASCAP is a part of that as well.”

Other winners announced so far included Kanye West’s “Follow God,” which takes the Top Gospel Song award. The song was written by West, along with Bryant “XCELENCE” Bell and Jahmal “BoogzDaBeast” Gwin.

Publisher of the Year was given to Universal Music Group, whose writers were responsible for mega-hits like The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights,” DaBaby and Roddy Rich’s “Rockstar” and Drake and Lil Turk’s “Laugh Now, Cry Later.”

Writers Anderson “Vinylz” Hernandez, Che Ecru, Joshua “J-Louis” Huizar, Matthew “Boi-1da” Samuels and Noah “40” Shebib each were honored for Top Hip-Hop/Rap Song for the Chris Brown and Drake platinum collaboration, “No Guidance.”

The awards will continue over the next few days. On Wednesday, Jones will be premiering a special performance of his Top 5 single “The Bigger Picture” at 4 p.m. on ASCAP’s YouTube channel. The song was released as a protest record following the death of George Floyd last May, as reported by Rolling Stone.

The final day of the festivities on Thursday includes a full itinerary of virtual events. Recently departed rapper DMX will be celebrated with a Memoriam segment. Grammy-winning producer/songwriter Jermaine Dupri will lead a virtual tour of his famed So So Def recording studio. D-Nice will lead a special edition of Club Quarantine for an Instagram Live afterparty at 4 p.m.

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