It’s Grammy Week here in New York City. I’ve RSVP’d for and attended about six events. Once the Grammys are over, I will be taking a nap until further notice. This girl is exhausted.
The Grammy Awards have returned to the Big Apple for the first time since 2003, and as a New Yorker (by way of North Carolina), I gotta say, I was hype! I’m a party lover. Correction: I am a girl who loves cool and free events with open bars, a plethora of fancy hors d’oeuvres, photo opps and gift bags. I know I should be doing things that support my career, like networking, but I always end up keekeeing with my friends. Sue me.
But #GrammyWeek proved difficult once I received an overwhelming list of parties happening all over the city all week and up until the actual show on Sunday. I almost gave up, shut down and pulled my covers over my head, but I gathered my anxieties and RSVP’d to things that sounded fun. Simple as that. So where did I go?
The first invite I accepted for the week was a live taping of the podcast of Questlove of the Roots (not to be confused with The Root), Questlove Supreme. This was the show’s first live broadcast, and with the special guest being rapper Common, I had to go!
Alongside his Team Supreme co-hosts Boss Bill, Laiya and Suga Steve, Questlove facilitated a music-history-focused conversation around Common’s hip-hop beginnings in Chicago; Questlove’s love for and disrespect of his custom Yeezys; Common’s five-minute college education; how J. Dilla was basically the god of music; Common’s early career as a ball boy for the NBA; and so much more.
When you sit down with Questlove, you’re sitting with an encyclopedia of all things music, so each topic leads into something else. The 90-minute recording went well over two hours, and the entire audience leaned forward, sitting on the edge of their seats, wanting more. Myself included. I won’t reveal too much because you should listen to Questlove Supreme on Pandora.
Essence threw a party to celebrate Missy Elliott. Now, if you know me, you know that Missy is my muse. She means much to me as someone who doesn’t fit a mold but still shines. So I was there for Missy sightings (and free drinks—thanks, Lincoln)! But I got the bonus of watching another legend honor Missy by presenting her with Essence’s Visionary Award. That legend was none other than the snatched, edges, boots and hair-poppin’ Janet Jackson! What?! I was in a room breathing in the air that Janet had just exhaled.
In her poised Janet whisper, she addressed Missy, saying:
Some rhyme, some rap. Some act, some choreograph. Some write hit songs, some create whole new sounds. Some women are able to make her mark in some of these fields. But there’s only one woman who has made her mark in all of these fields.
And once Missy hit the stage, obviously emotional, she took us all to church, saying: “I want all of you women in here to know that you’re beautiful. You gotta believe in yourself. Because there are going to be times that people tell you you can’t do it or you don’t look the part. But I am a walking testimony.”
After I managed to pick myself up off the ground from all the glorious #BlackGirlMagic swirling onstage, I managed to meet a fave, Daniel Caesar, and chatted it up with some folks we all love, like Danielle Brooks (Orange Is the New Black), Elle Varner, Tank, Tarana Burke and more. Essence can throw a party, y’all! JANET!
I would have been good to go home after this because 1) it was a very cold night, 2) I saw Janet and Missy, and 3) my feet were hurting, but my friends dragged me with them to the next party: a jam session with the Roots.
The Legendary Roots Crew took up residence at New York City’s Gramercy Theater all Grammy Week. From daytime until nighttime, they packed the theater for all kinds of events. From a live taping of Questlove Supreme to a School Daze panel to Questlove deejaying with kids, the day events were interactive and unique. But at night, that’s when the show really started. The Roots shared the stage with all kinds of surprise guests, ranging from Roxanne Chanté and Kirk Franklin (who legit tore the house down) to Jill Scott, Talib Kweli, Marsha Ambrosius and more.
It’s fair to say that I haven’t been to a jam session before, but I’m pretty sure I went to the best jam session ever. The night I attended, the Roots brought out Kirk Frankin, Anthony Hamilton, Common, Talib Kweli and a few more. I missed everyone before Franklin because y’all know I was out at the Essence event trying to comprehend what is life after Missy and Janet.
But I also got my life from Franklin singing a few classics like “Stomp” and “Lean on Me,” basically sparking up a church session right in the middle of a hip-hop and soul concert. Franklin is an entertainer, to say the least. He has the sturdiest Milly Rock and the smoothest chicken head I’ve ever seen a grown man execute. His performance was the soul stir I didn’t know I needed. The Roots kept the energy high in the room each night and put on the type of show you should pay for. But this was a free offering from the Roots that made Grammy Week just a bit more soulful.
My name wasn’t even on the list when me and my girls got to the door. When I tell you I was shooketh! But the door girl smiled at me and said, “You know what? Enjoy it,” as she put a wristband on me. That wristband allowed me to go downstairs in the venue, which ended up being VIP. I spotted Black Thought as soon as I walked in.
Thought is a friend to The Root and often calls our Deputy Managing Editor, Yesha Callahan, and me his annoying little cousins. We love you, too, Thought. But that’s not all! I also got a chance to meet Kirk Franklin (who thought he knew me and also thought I was hilarious), Anthony Hamilton, Derek Waters (Drunk History) and Dave Chappelle!
In doing all of this, I stayed out way too late (4 a.m.), because the next morning, I needed to be in Harlem (and I live in Brooklyn) by 11:45 a.m. for the Apollo Grammy Luncheon. Did I make it?
Of course I made it, but it certainly wasn’t by 11:45. I got to Harlem around 12:15 p.m. Luckily I still had time to check in and get positioned on the red carpet. Jan. 26 was the Apollo’s 84th birthday, so we got a chance to celebrate that on top of celebrating Grammy nominees like Anthony Hamilton, Ledisi, Luis Fonsi, the Baylor Project, Daniel Caesar and more (including Dapper Dan *screams*).
The powers that be told us that Fat Joe would also be in attendance, but as we stood on the carpet and the hosts were announcing that the lunch was about to begin, we figured Joe blew us off for another fabulous event.
I started packing up my equipment and was then told that Fat Joe was in the building. Joe made his way down the carpet as if he didn’t have to be onstage in 30 seconds. When he got to me, I was able to ask him one question, so I did. Check it out here. His response certainly gave me pause.
The Apollo made us all feel special by hosting the lunch on the historic Apollo stage. I even got to rub the log! During the lunch, we were graced with a performance by Hamilton’s background singers, the Hamiltones, and they did their signature down-home covers of Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Loyalty.”
The chicken and waffles they served us were perfectly black and bougie, and the gift bag? Oh honey! The Apollo came through with the classy Tiffany’s box, and I didn’t know how to act. I haven’t even opened the gift yet because I want to keep the gift pristine. So far, the Apollo has everyone and their mommas beat on gift bags.
Later that night, I went to a dinner hosted by Lincoln Motor Co., honoring Floetry’s songbird, Marsha Ambrosius. She has a new album coming out, hopefully soon, but she played us a few of her classics, like “Say Yes” and “Butterflies.” Swoon is an understatement.
During the dinner (I had a burrata salad, filet mignon and New York cheesecake—you care), Ambrosius shared that her daughter just turned 1 year old, and she and her baby’s father are now married! Ambrosius’ life looks different now, so one can only imagine what her new music will sound like.
This dinner was on Friday night. In my mind, I would go to other Grammy parties that I didn’t RSVP to (hello, party crasher) because Friday. Nah, that wasn’t the case. I was carrying around a tripod, and my backpack was filled with all of my work essentials and the exhaustion of 1,000 Grammy Weeks. Plus, I knew I needed to get up bright and early to make it to the ASCAP brunch. Priorities and such.
I know, I know. I don’t look exhausted. I struggled to wake up on Saturday morning so I could make it from my Brooklyn apartment into Manhattan for the ASCAP Grammys Brunch. And look at me up there. I don’t even look like my bags have bags. They did, but that good Fenty helped me out. Well, that and sleeping in just a wee bit.
I was supposed to check into the carpet by 10:30 a.m.; I arrived at 11:45 a.m. I know, I’m terrible, but guess what? According to my fellow journalists, I didn’t miss much.
I didn’t really get the chance to chat with anyone on the carpet, but instead of getting discouraged, I decided to go into the party and see what I could gather from the inside. Shamefully, I went back to my default Danielle-at-the-party ways and immediately grabbed a cocktail and mini burger with foie gras on it (yasss, gawd) and sipped and chomped until I was full. I laughed and took too many pictures with my girlfriends, and we all talked about our Grammy Week experiences. One thing was consistent: We were all exhausted, but the week isn’t over.
Sunday is the big day, and I’m trying to decide if I am going to get up in the morning, get my nails and makeup done, slip on a black-tie dress and head to a watch party (not going to the actual Grammys, guys; not this time) or stay home, wrapped up in my sheets, rooting for everybody black at the Grammys on my own TV. I’m gonna leave it up to you to decide which one I’m leaning toward.