Skip to the content

Thursday, September 24, 12:00pm - 1:00pm:  SPOTLIGHT ROUNDTABLE (Live Presentations)

Growing Up Hip Hop:  Mary J Blige and The Making of a Queen 


Roundtable Description

From its earliest beginnings, black music has had a penchant for turning youngsters into youngstars, often the result of the work of A&R geniuses whose discoveries catapult little known artists into certain fame and fortune. Black women have historically been at the forefront of these discoveries - from Little Esther whose "Double Crossing Blues" was released in 1950 when she was 15 years old, to The Supremes smash debut "Meet The Supremes" released in 1962 when Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson were 18 and 19 respectively, to Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair" released when she was 10, to newcomer Alaya "Lay Lay" High, who at 11 years old is the youngest female rap artist to sign a record deal (Empire Records) to Za-Za, the four year old IG sensation who racked up 4 million YouTube views for her song “What I Do”.

What we know for sure is that there is a schism between generations. Gen X doesn’t get millennials, millennials resent Boomers. Boomers hate everyone. While generational biases play out social media, the music industry continues to cater to its youth movement. The times they are a changing. Algorithms are the new DJ’s. Insta-fame is a very real thing and we have questions.

What's the journey like of a music ingenue today? What do they offer the industry and what's our obsession with them? How has youth been commodified from the 60's until now. What price, if any do prodigies pay for fame and is it more fleeting for young artists in today's "favorite new artist every week" streaming age? How do you measure longevity in today's music economy? Do R&B and Hip-Hop place greater value on youth than other genres? How old is too old to be a star in either one? With the recent Twitter meltdowns of a few of R&B’s young breakout stars, the question begs asking: is youth a blessing or a curse in today’s landscape?

Where music is concerned, technology has not only revolutionized how we consume it, but who we consume. Perhaps it’s too early to speculate the end game for today’s best and brightest, and ambitious to hope to bridge the generational musical divide, however we do think it’s important to establish a sort of sonic genealogy, by examining music culture and that old black (girl) magic across genres and over decades. To do that requires the benefit of scholarship, pop culture savvy, social media influence and veteran experience from women who work in the business. Those assembled for this roundtable have that.