With all the star power at the BET Awards — Kanye West, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce and Samuel L. Jackson, to name a few — the most stirring moment came not from a superstar, but from the mother of one.
Whitney Houston's mother, Cissy, provided the emotional highlight of Sunday's ceremony as she sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in tribute to her late daughter, leaving audience members like Beyonce and Soulja Boy in tears.
Mariah Carey opened the tribute, and her voice wavered as she told stories about Houston. She recalled the last time she saw Houston last year, and how the two laughed and gossiped together.
"I miss my friend," Carey said. "I miss hearing her voice and laughter."
R&B singer Monica was vocally top-notch as she sang "I Love the Lord," a gospel song once sang by Houston; Brandy sang two upbeat Houston hits, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and "I'm Your Baby Tonight." Chaka Khan blazed the stage with "I'm Every Woman," which Houston remade. Gary Houston, Whitney's brother, also performed; and Houston's "Waiting to Exhale" castmates — Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon and Loretta Devine — also honored the singer.
But it was Cissy Houston's soaring performance that brought the audience to their feet, and had many dabbing their eyes. The tribute came five months after Houston's death: She died the night before the Grammy Awards of an accidental drowning complicated by heart disease and cocaine use.
As compelling as that moment was, the show was also defined by its low points: Entire segments of performances, from Nicki Minaj to Rick Ross, were muted out due to foul language and obscenities, though several vulgarities were heard on air.
It started during the opening number by West's G.O.O.D. music group, which included Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz. There were long moments of censored silence when the rappers performed "Mercy," though not all the offending words were bleeped out. Moments later, Jackson, the show's host, was joined by Spike Lee as they did a comedic version of Jay-Z and West's hit song "... In Paris," to laughs.
"Two distinguished Morehouse men," Lee joked after the performance, referencing the alma mater of the two.
The censor police also worked overtime when Rick Ross performed with his Maybach Music Group and during Minaj's performance and acceptance speech for best female hip-hop artist. Minaj's win was her third consecutive time taking the prize.
"I really, really appreciate BET for keeping this category alive, and I appreciate all the female rappers doing their thing, past, present and future," she said, before uttering an obscenity.
Best gospel winner Yolanda Adams, who also performed, gently took some of her peers to task, urging them to act mature and use their fame wisely.
"We need all of y'all," she said onstage. "I'm saying the world needs everyone in this room. Please make sure that you use your gift responsibly, 'cause we're watching. Our babies are watching, and they want to be like us."
West, the most nominated act of the night with seven, and Jay-Z won the ceremony's top prize, earning video of the year for "Otis." They also won best group.
Beyonce was the second most nominated act with six. She won video director of the year (along with Alan Ferguson) and best female R&B artist and thanked the genre and her female influences.
"I fell in love with music by listening to R&B. It's the core of who I am," she said, giving special thanks to Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige and "Whitney Houston, my angel."
When she lost video of the year to Jay-Z and West, she playfully hit her husband and laughed. The joking continued: Moments later, as West was giving his acceptance speech, Jay-Z interrupted him and said: "Excuse me Kanye, I'm gonna let you continue, but ...," and the audience erupted with laughter, recalling West's infamous interruption of Taylor Swift's MTV Video Music Awards speech a few years back.
Chris Brown was also a double winner, picking up his second consecutive win for best male R&B artist, and the "Fandemonium" award for a third time.
Brown also performed in his first televised appearance since the New York City nightclub brawl between his entourage and Drake's. Brown, his girlfriend, his bodyguard and NBA star Tony Parker were among those injured in the June 14 encounter, where bottles were thrown.
Drake didn't show, though he was named best male hip-hop artist.
The tone of night fluctuated frequently, as the show shifted from hotly anticipated performances to solemn moments to irreverence. Usher performed his groove "Climax," and Minaj sported a blond wig with pink tips as she performed the songs "Champion" and "Beez in the Trap," which featured 2 Chainz.
D'Angelo returned to the television spotlight with his first performance in years as he attempts a comeback.
The night also featured some tributes to deceased greats: Chante Moore performed a medley of Donna Summer's hits and Valerie Simpson sang a song in honor of her husband and writing partner Nick Ashford. Don Cornelius, Dick Clark and Hal Jackson were remembered. Even West offered tributes: after his performance, he name-dropped Rodney King and Whitney Houston in a verse that got cheers from the crowd, including his girlfriend, Kim Kardashian.
Presenters included Taraji P. Henson, Tyler Perry, Kerry Washington and Jamie Foxx, who wore a T-shirt that had a picture of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.
Frankie Beverly featuring Maze were honored with the lifetime achievement award, and they were serenaded with performances by Tyrese, Faith Evans and Joe. The Rev. Al Sharpton received the humanitarian award, and urged the crowd to vote this November.
"This election is not just about Obama, this is about your momma," he said.
LOS ANGELES — "American Idol" is facing a $36 million-plus question: Will that combined paycheck lavished on superstar judges Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban pay off in ratings?
The newcomers have their work cut out for them whether they earn it with colorful feuding — ladies, you know who we're talking about — or by discovering a singer who can charm America.
The talent show, a TV groundbreaker when it debuted in 2002 despite a starless panel with Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, needs every edge as its audience erodes and other contests emerge as challengers.
"I think it's actually a renewal (of 'Idol') every couple of years, and what you're seeing now is this panel has reinvigorated the show," said Mike Darnell, Fox president of alternative entertainment.
NBC's "The Voice," one of the newcomers, enjoyed immediate success with brand-name panelists Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine. But famous faces don't guarantee a return, as Cowell's "The X Factor" most recently proved.
Britney Spears, whose lackluster performance failed to capitalize on buzz about her intriguing foray into live TV, split from the show last week. It was a $15 million lesson for all interested parties.
But "American Idol," returning Wednesday (8 p.m. EST) with host Ryan Seacrest, has to make noise as it hits relative old age for a TV series, with its ratings still hefty but on a steady downward spiral.
Last season, "Idol" lost its status as the most-watched TV program for the first time since 2003, eclipsed by NBC's "Sunday Night Football," and pegged its lowest-rated season since it debuted in summer 2002.
An open-wallet approach worked for "Idol" before, with Jennifer Lopez validating her $12 million paycheck by helping (with Steven Tyler) to boost the show's ratings in 2011. That allowed Ellen DeGeneres' short-lived and genially unimpressive judging stint that ended in 2010 to fade into memory.
The result: Carey is raking in close to $18 million, Minaj is getting $12 million and Urban's take is a reported $6 million for the season.
Add in mainstay Jackson's share (in the reported single-digit millions) and that's a platinum-plated group. But it's potentially money well spent for a show that, en route to living up to its title of finding new pop stars, has to keep viewers firmly engaged.
Finding a breakout star like Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood or Jennifer Hudson is one way to do it, but the odds are long. So it's up to the professionals to step in.
"It's more of an entertainment show than anything else, and if judges can supply the entertainment that's an ingredient for success," said analyst Brad Adgate of Horizon Media. "With 'X Factor' that didn't happen and the show didn't get into the fabric of pop culture."
Carey and Minaj already are demonstrating their potential. Their feud, whether real or fabricated, has produced such head-shaking, headline-making moments as Carey alleging that Minaj threatened to shoot her after a taping. The rapper responded with dismissive tweets.
At a news conference, Minaj tried to downplay the squabble.
"We're professionals. Have you ever had an argument with someone you've worked with?" she said after repeated questions about her working relationship with Carey.
"This was sort of one-sided," interjected Carey.
"No, it wasn't," snapped back Minaj.
Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said the judges won't disappoint, including Urban, whom he calls a sweetheart who "sticks up for himself." The singer is expected to reinforce the show's country fan base that has boosted the fortunes of contestants including Southern crooner Scotty McCreey.
Jackson is proving tougher on contestants than in the past, Lythgoe said.
Then there are the divas.
"Nicki can get into it with anybody. She's one of the best judges ever. ... She finds an angle and drives it home," Lythgoe said. As for Carey, she's a "true legand" who is the first "to put her arms out if someone's not going through or she's happy with someone."
In an interview, Minaj described giving the show her all.
"I didn't expect to cry on 'American Idol.' I always said, 'Why do they (judges) cry on those shows? That's so stupid. Get a life.' But now I take that back," Minaj said. "When you're looking into someone's eyes and they gave their all and you know their journey ends here, it's a tough pill to swallow.
"Then you have to join the machine again and keep on judging," she added.
Fox executive Darnell expressed optimism that "Idol," an especially critical part of the network's schedule after a rough start to the season for Fox, remains TV royalty.
He conceded the talent show marketplace is overcrowded and "they're all taking each other down a little bit," each losing up to 20 percent in viewers.
But "American Idol" remains "the king of the shows. This is the one and the only one that makes stars, period," Darnell said. "And I think people will keep coming back to it for that reason." -- (AP)
NEW YORK — From her ultra-blond hair to her super-high heels, Donatella Versace uses every inch of her being to embrace glamour, and she wasn’t going to put the Versace name on anything — and certainly not a collection for global fast-fashion retailer H&M — that didn’t do the same.
The clothes that debuted Tuesday night on the catwalk lived up to the hype surrounding the limited-edition collection as well as Versace’s own glitzy standards: There was a metallic disco dress, a studded leather bomber jacket and an animal-print-meets-tropical-sunset tank dress for women; and a hot-pink suit, studded tuxedo-style shorts and a palm-tree, second-skirt T-shirt for men.
The runway at the huge and historic Pier 57 in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District attracted a crowd that included Blake Lively, Uma Thurman and Jessica Alba. Nicki Minaj and Prince took their front row seats just before the show started, and then emerged on stage at the after-party that recreated a Miami nightclub. Minaj did swap the green feather fascinator she wore to the show for a crystal-covered trucker hat when it came time to perform.
“She’s a legend. She’s amazing,” Minaj said of Versace on the red carpet.
She added: “I said in an interview recently I remember Biggie Smalls rap about Versace and wanting to know what that was. So I told Donatella today, you don’t understand how many little girls are jumping for joy now that you’re introducing a more affordable line. So I’m just happy to be here.”
Swedish fashion chain Hennes & Mauritz AB has partnered with big names before, including Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney and Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz, and Target Corp.’s joint line with the Italian knitwear brand Missoni earlier this fall caused a frenzy, causing its website to crash the first day items were offered. None had a launch quite like this, though.
Versace said in a backstage interview that she thinks it’s this sort of production, coupled with clothes embellished with sequins, studs, leather and lace, will serve as the antidote for the struggling economy. “It was done totally wrong the last time the economy failed,” she said. “Everyone said, ‘Let’s do safe clothes of a good quality that people will invest in and wear year after year.’ That couldn’t be more wrong. The companies that survived the most were the ones that were recognizable, that stuck to their DNA, and our DNA is glamour.”
She added: “This is a very joyful collection.”
Tropical floral patterns were splashed on tight leggings and tunic tops, and heart-print dresses were covered with beaded fringe. Many models wore hot-pink strappy sandals and carried printed handbags with the South Beach motif and Versace’s Medusa logo.
Many of the styles were updated (and, with top prices of $299, less expensive) interpretations of signature looks of the house as it was first designed by the late Gianni Versace and for the last 14 years by his sister Donatella. “I really wanted iconic moments of Versace,” she said. There even was a black dress with gold hardware reminiscent of the label’s safety-pin gown made famous by Elizabeth Hurley.
“I’ve always been such a fan. The dresses that she makes, all the things she makes, they’re always such amazing shapes for women,” said Lively. “And she always has such unexpected things between the colors and the patterns, the detail, the beading, it’s always shocking — and I love that.”
Versace said she thinks head-turning styles are the right introduction to the next-generation shoppers — the ones who know how to mix top-tier designer labels with inexpensive trendy pieces.
“Young people like to dress up and look cool.” Versace said.
With 20-somethings as children, Versace said she has done her fair share of shopping with them at stores such as H&M. “I know this customer. I know what they want. They follow music, fashion. For the new generation, it’s all pop culture.”
She pays attention to it, too, she said, and she mines it for inspiration. “Creativity comes from quantity and quality of information. I want to know everything: politics, music, movies. Only this way can you come up with each new collection.”— (AP)
As the awards season begins in earnest, CBS presents the “People’s Choice Awards 2013, airing live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Jan. 9 at 9 p.m.
Hosted by Kaley Cuoco of “The Big Bang Theory,” the awards of “People’s Choice Awards 2013” were determined by fans who cast more than 93 million votes to pick new categories and determine the nominees for the annual awards show that celebrates fan favorites in movies, music and television. Fans were invited to cast their votes via PeoplesChoice.com, Facebook and Twitter as well as the People’s Choice mobile site, using their Android and iOS devices.
Justin Bieber is the top individual “People’s Choice Awards 2013” awards nominee with five music nods. Other nominees of note include Will Smith, who received nominations for “Favorite Movie Actor” and “Favorite Action Movie Star” for the feature film “Men in Black 3,” which was nominated for “Favorite Action Movie.” “Dexter,” starring Idris Elba, received the nod for “Favorite Premium Cable TV Show,” while Michael Strahan and Steve Harvey both received nominations for “Favorite New Talk Show Host.” “Guys with Kids,” starring Anthony Anderson and Tempestt Bledsoe made the cut in the “Favorite New TV Comedy” category, and ironically, “Last Resort,” the Andre Braugher vehicle that was recently cancelled, was among the nominees for “Favorite New TV Drama.”
Nominees in the music categories include Chris Brown, Usher (“Favorite Male Artist”); Drake, Flo Rida, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj and Pitbull (“Favorite Hip Hop Artist”) as well as Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Usher and Alicia Keys (“Favorite R&B Artist”).
Keys, a two-time People’s Choice Award winner, as well as a 14-time Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and producer, is also slated to perform at the popular awards show, as are Christina Aguilera and Jason Aldean. “The caliber of performances we have planned for this show is beyond compare,” said Executive Producer Mark Burnett. “Alicia is an undeniable vocal powerhouse, and combined with Christina Aguilera and Jason Aldean, we are going to have one epic show. They are three of music’s biggest talents. I am simply ecstatic to have them all joining us this year.”
According to the network, the “People’s Choice Awards,” now in its 39th year, continues to be the only major awards show voted on entirely by the public for fan favorites in movies, music and television. The “People’s Choice” official website at www.PeoplesChoice.com houses the voting platform where fans determine the categories, nominees and winners for the annual awards show.
NEW YORK — Willow Smith is all about kid empowerment.
The young singer says she's hoping to inspire listeners with her upcoming album "Knees and Elbows."
"It's gonna make them feel like they have control over their lives and can do what they want to do and be the person they want to be," she said.
Willow is already proving that at just 11. The daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith has become a buzzed-about star thanks to her hit song "Whip My Hair." She's also become a fashion trendsetter with her funky clothes; on Wednesday, her hair was closely cropped with big bangs in the front, and she wore a cropped jacket with decals, including the name of her album, and sequined jeans.
"I get a lot of my style from my friends," she said, also citing her aunt.
Willow recently teamed up with another fashionista, singer-rapper Nicki Minaj, for Willow's new song "Fireball." Willow premiered it for groups of children and their parents at the Sony Store, as well as BET's "106 & Park."
Even though Minaj and Willow are cited for their style, Willow says they didn't share any fashion tips.
"We just kind of vibed off each other and had fun," she said.
"Knees and Elbows" is scheduled to be released in April. Willow said it will be "more R&B." The title ties in to her theme of inspiration: "Everybody falls down and scrapes their knees and elbows but they eventually get back up," she said.
Willow said she and her famous family will be vacationing for the holidays. But she's not anxious about a Christmas gift.
"I have everything I need. I have my mom, my dad, my brothers, my family; I have bunch of people that I work with that are awesome, that's pretty much what I want to keep," she said. -- (AP)
NEW YORK — Move over Renee Zellweger, oh you of the tasteful buff dress and matchy matchy shoes. Nicki Minaj got the front row next to Anna Wintour at Monday's runway show of your beloved Carolina Herrera.
The multiplatinum singer showed up in a multiplatinum Marie Antoinette wig and technicolor pompom-ed sweater to grab the prime real estate at New York Fashion Week. Rounding out the look for her chat with the Vogue editor in chief was a bright orange mini skirt, neon stockings and pink shoes.
They exchanged smiles before the show but got serious once the models took to the catwalk. On Minaj's other side was W magazine fashion editor Stefano Tonchi. Zellweger, who usually rocks Herrera designs on red carpets, sat front row nearby.
Minaj, who released her platinum-selling debut "Pink Friday" last year, has evolved from oversexed street rapper to animated R&B-pop singer and a bona fide star. She has a penchant for Barbies, wild outfits and cartoonish wigs.
At last month's MTV Video Music Awards, Minaj wore a printed surgical mask, rainbow wig and mini-tutu in a cubic design, with an attached string of stuffed toys.
Zellweger took photos with fellow actress Olivia Munn at Herrera. British singer Corinne Bailey Rae and "Twilight" actress Elizabeth Reaser also attended. -- (AP)
The 2011 American Music Awards (AMAs), honoring artists in the categories of Pop/Rock, Country, Rap/Hip-Hop, Soul/R&B, Alternative, Adult Contemporary, Latin and Contemporary Inspirational will broadcast live from the NOKIA Theatre L.A. at 8 p.m., Sunday, November 20 on ABC.
At 7 p.m., ABC will broadcast a live pre-show, “Countdown to the American Music Awards,” hosted by Chris Harrison (“The Bachelor”/“The Bachelorette”) and Vanessa Minnillo (“Wipeout”).
For the fifth year, winners will be determined by online voting and Adele leads the field with a total of four nominations. Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and The Band follow with three nominations each, and Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Chris Brown, Jason Aldean, Kanye West, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj and Pitbull collected two nominations. The 2011 Artist of the Year nominees are Adele, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne and Taylor Swift.
Orly Adelson, executive producer of the show and Larry Klein, AMA producer jointly stated, “The highly talented group that makes up this year’s 2011 AMA nominees have dominated the charts, airwaves and pop culture all year long. We are excited to congratulate and celebrate all of the artists on American music’s biggest night.”
Performers include Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown, LMFAO, Justin Bieber, Kelly Clarkson, Nicki Minaj, David Guetta, Katy Perry, Pitbull, Daughtry, Enrique Iglesias, Hot Chelle Rae, Gym Class Heroes, Lil Jon, Jennifer Lopez, OneRepublic, The Band, will.i.am, Christina Aguilera, Marc Anthony and Maroon 5.
The AMAs will feature five unique collaborations which include the following special performances: Pitbull with Marc Anthony and Lil Jon, Gym Class Heroes with Adam Levine, will.i.am with Jennifer Lopez, and Maroon 5 with Christina Aguilera, as well as Nicki Minaj with David Guetta, who are scheduled to open the show.
The star-studded list of presenters includes Queen Latifah, Jenny McCarthy, Joe Jonas, Avril Lavigne and Benjamin Bratt.
In 1973, Dick Clark created the American Music Awards to pay tribute to popular musicians from various genres of music and to put audiences in touch with the latest phenomena in American music. Since its founding, the AMAs have honored and showcased the talents of some of the biggest names in the music industry.
As the official awards season gets under way, ABC presents “The 40th Anniversary American Music Awards” (AMAs), created in 1973 by the late producer and broadcast icon Dick Clark to "pay tribute to popular musicians from various genres of music and to put audiences in touch with the latest phenomena in American music."
The ceremony will broadcast live from the NOKIA Theatre in Los Angeles at 8 p.m. on Sunday, November 18.
Winners are determined by the listening public, and Nicki Minaj and Rihanna both lead this year with four nominations individually, while Drake, Justin Bieber, Maroon 5, One Direction and Usher follow with three nominations each and Carrie Underwood, Chris Brown, fun., Gotye, J. Cole, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Luke Bryan and Pitbull collected two nominiations.
The 2012 Artist of the Year nominees include Justin Bieber, Drake, Maroon 5, Katy Perry and Rihanna. This year marks the creation of the new Electronic Dance Music category. The nominees are David Guetta, Calvin Harris and Skrillex.
In an interesting development, Pop/R&B icon Lionel Richie received a nomination in the category of "Favorite Album - Country," for "Tuskegee." The field also includes Luke Bryan ("Tailgates & Tanlines") and Carrie Underwood ("Blown Away").
Performing at the annual showcase for American Music will be Usher, Christina Aguilera, Justin Bieber, Kelly Clarkson, Carly Rae Jepson, Psy, Carrie Underwood, Pink, Pitbull, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, Linkin Park, Ke$ha, No Doubt and The Wanted and Swizz Beatz featuring Chris Brown and Ludacris.
American Music Awards nominees are selected from both BigChampagne's Ultimate and Mediabase. The Ultimate Chart is a ranked list of the most popular artists and songs based on a weighted combination of music sales, radio and TV broadcast, internet streaming and video viewing, and incorporating additional online metrics, including activity on social networks. Mediabase monitors more than 1,800 radio stations in 180 U.S. and Canadian markets, 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week and provides vital airplay and programming information to more than 1,700 affiliate radio stations and every major broadcast group. Winner are chosen by public vote online.
Malcolm X and rap music have always fit together like a needle in the groove, connected by struggle, strength and defiance. But three recent episodes involving the use or misuse of Malcolm and other Black icons have raised the question: Has rap lost touch with Black history?
Chart-topping rapstress Nicki Minaj provoked widespread outrage with an Instagram post featuring one of Black history's most poignant images: Malcolm X peering out the window of his home, rifle in hand, trying to defend his wife and children from firebombs while under surveillance by federal agents. Superimposed on the photo: the title of Minaj's new song, which denigrates certain Black men and repeats the N-word 42 times.
That came after Minaj's mentor Lil Wayne recorded a verse last year using the civil rights martyr Emmett Till in a sexual metaphor, and the hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons posted a Harriet Tubman "sex tape" video on his comedy channel.
What is happening to mainstream rap music, which was launched by Simmons and is now ruled by the likes of Minaj and Wayne?
"I don't want to say today's rappers are not educated about Black history, but they don't seem as aware as rap generations before them," said Jermaine Hall, editor-in-chief of Vibe, the hip-hop magazine and website.
While previous generations had to struggle with the racism and neglect of the 1970s or the crack epidemic of the 1980s, Hall said, today's young people have not faced the same type of racial struggle — "They're sort of getting further and further away from the civil rights movement."
"In the '80s, whether it was KRS-One, Public Enemy, or the Native Tongues, that entire movement, it was very in tune with Black history," Hall said. "They knew everything about Malcolm, about Martin, about Rosa Parks. Now, the new rappers just aren't as in tune."
Indeed, Minaj issued a statement expressing disbelief at the uproar and apologizing to Malcolm's family "if the meaning of the photo was misconstrued." Wayne wrote to the Till family to "acknowledge your hurt, as well as the letter you sent to me via your attorneys." Simmons was the only one to say, "I am sincerely sorry."
The apologies did not change much for Pierre Bennu, a filmmaker and artist who said Malcolm X's life was dedicated to advocating for the humanity of Black people, while Minaj's song was simply dehumanizing.
When he saw Minaj's manipulation, Bennu said, "I felt punched in the gut."
The episode inspired him to post a mash-up video (http://bit.ly/1fpoFYB) laying Minaj's song over the infamous 1941 Walter Lantz cartoon "Scrub Me Mama With A Boogie Beat," which depicts a town of lazy Black people hypnotized by a seductive washerwoman.
Various mainstream rap artists seem reluctant to defend Minaj and Wayne; The Associated Press sought out five, but none returned calls for comment.
Jasiri X, a rapper whose music focuses on Black empowerment and current events, said many of today's mainstream rappers use images of revolutionary Black icons to promote an anti-establishment image.
"All the while, they're being funded and pushed by major corporations," he said.
"I see Nicki and other artists, whether Kanye or Jay-Z, adopting these revolutionary images or using a clip or saying their name, but never practice the principles which these revolutionaries gave their lives for," Jasiri said.
It wasn't always so.
Hip-hop began in the early 1970s as an alternative to gang activity. Before the music was recorded, founding fathers like DJ Afrika Bambaataa — whose slogan was "peace, love, unity and having fun" — would play Malcolm X's voice over instrumental break beats.
"Not only did it sound funky but it helped raise our consciousness," hip-hop historian Davey D wrote on his website.
Davey attended many early rap concerts at Harlem's Audubon Ballroom, where Malcolm was assassinated. As the music gained steam, X was constantly honored on wax. KRS-One duplicated Malcolm's gun-in-the-window pose on the cover of his 1988 classic album, "By Any Means Necessary." In 1991, Tupac rhymed on "Words of Wisdom": "No Malcolm X in my history text, why is that?/Cause he tried to educate and liberate all Blacks."
Malcolm's voice and image appeared on so many records and videos, "many would remark that he was an emcee," Davey wrote.
Tubman also is a longtime rap staple, mentioned by everyone from Ice Cube ("She helped me run like Harriet Tubman") to Pharoahe Monch ("A railroad to underground like Harriet Tubman"). Till, too, has been mentioned in songs such as Kanye's breakthrough 2003 single "Through The Wire."
But today's rappers reflect our money-obsessed society, said Bakari Kitwana, whose Rap Sessions organization just moderated a series of community dialogues between the civil rights and hip-hop generations.
"We see a lot of things going on with our young people, and we don't feel like we are teaching them values that can compete with the way the value of money is ingrained in our culture," Kitwana said. "Everything is just focused on money. If you can get money, whatever else you're doing doesn't matter."
"It's reached a crisis point," he said. "I came up in the '70s and '80s, and greed has always been present, but I don't think I've ever seen it like it is now."
He was echoed by Paradise Gray, who performed in the 1980s with the Afrocentric rap group X Clan.
"Mainstream rap music has lost its reverence for anything besides money," Gray said.
Today's rappers threaten to kill people who disrespect them, "but they sit back and let you disrespect our legacy, our culture, our history," he said.
"What," Gray asked, "will the disrespect of your humanity and your Blackness cost you?"
(CNN) -- A hair stylist is accusing former "American Idol" judge and rapper Nicki Minaj of wigging out on a deal.
Terrence Davidson filed suit Friday in district court in Atlanta alleging that the star not only stole his wig designs, but also cost him a potential reality show deal that he was discouraged from pursuing.
According to the complaint, Davidson started working for Minaj -- whose real name is Onika Maraj -- as her hair stylist in January 2010. He says he began making wigs for her which she would then select for her appearances.
At the time Minaj was a burgeoning star who had steadily built her fan base by appearing as a guest rapper on mixed tapes and projects by her label mates at Young Money Entertainment. She quickly became known as the first lady of Young Money, which includes superstar rappers Drake and Lil Wayne.
The female rapper also became well known for her sense of style, including a multitude of wigs ranging from platinum blonde to pink. She poses in an ensemble which includes a pink wig on the cover of her platinum-selling debut album "Pink Friday," released in November 2010.
Both Davidson and his attorney, Christopher Chestnut, talked to CNN about his influence on crafting Minaj's image as well as the fact that the rapper now sells wigs on her site based on the designs Davidson says he created. The stylist said he discovered the wigs were being marketed and sold after someone sent him a picture and he began researching.
"I see these wigs online," said Davidson, who has also worked with others in the industry, including singers Patti LaBelle and rapper Remy Ma. "People are basically duplicating what I created for Nicki Minaj."
"Nicki Minaj is reaping great success and financial bounty reward for Terrence's creative expertise, and he is entitled to participate in that," Chestnut said. "Someone's got to stand up for the artist. We applaud the fact that she's making millions, but she's also got to pay bounty to those whose creative designs she's making millions off of."
In his suit, Davidson says he designed several wigs for Minaj, including the "Pink Upper Bun Wig," the "Fox Fur Wig," and the "Half Blonde-Half Pink Wig" that she wore in appearances, including the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards preshow. He says there were plans for he and Minaj to launch a wig line and discussions about a possible reality show.
But by 2012, the suit claims, "Minaj and her agents became mum about the business ventures and took active steps to isolate Mr. Davidson and preclude him from the notoriety he deserved for his wig designs."
"On its face you might think, what this guy is suing over wigs," Davidson's attorney Chestnut said. "But we really have to consider this in context. Hair is a multibillion-dollar industry, but moreover these are not your grandma's wigs. These are eclectic. They are decadent, and they are creative. This is about a brand that Terrence has built."
CNN has reached out to Minaj and her representatives for comment.