D’Angelo Brings Friends, Classics and No Drama to Verzuz Stage For Competition-Free Performance

Greats from hip-hop and R&B’s past and present joined D’Angelo and his unparalleled catalog tonight (Feb 27), celebrating at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, one of music’s most storied venues. Verzuz creators Timbaland and Swizz Beatz later confirmed that the battle was originally supposed to be with renowned R&B star Maxwell on Valentine’s Day — but since that didn’t work out and D’Angelo was ready, the neo-soul luminary performed himself.

Before the battle started, DJ Scratch set the tone for a legendary evening with The Notorious B.I.G., Jodeci, Usher, Mary J Blige, and plenty of classic ’70s soul records. During the sensational set, the likes of Common, H.E.R., Snoop Dogg, and Quincy Jones flooded the Instagram comment section with anticipation. 

After a little under an hour, D’Angelo breezily walked on the Ciroc-loaded stage with a cigarette in hand, a black mink coat on his back, and a tall, wide-brimmed hat on his head. “Peace and love, everybody,” he calmly declared, welcoming viewers to a deeply intimate evening with D’Angelo. He informed the audience that they would be the friends, opting for the concert route rather than a traditional 1v1 setting.

He kicked off the night with a performance featuring trumpet player Keyon Harrold (of his backing band The Vanguard), then transitioned to the fan favorite Smokey Robinson cover “Cruisin” from 1995 debut album Brown Sugar — to instant delight from viewers. After D’Angelo and DJ Scratch collaborated in performing the singer’s most celebrated early records, such as “Lady” and “Me and Those Dreamin Eyes of Mine,” Method Man and Redman joined the stage. D’Angelo instantly grinned seeing his Voodoo partners rap on “Left and Right.” The soul in the music and the joy blooming in the room was contagious. 

After the rap legends and How High stars exited, D’Angelo dipped into “1000 Deaths” and continuously unraveling his stunning discography. DJ Scratch suggested they slow the pace down, submerging the audience in a deeply intense, sensual mood. D’Angelo effortlessly crooned over classics like “One Mo’Gin,” “Jonz in My Bonz,” “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and “Really Love.” Shortly after playing “Another Life,” “Send It On,” and “Spanish Joint,” Grammy award winning R&B singer H.E.R. joined to perform her Daniel Caesar collab “Best Part” with D’Angelo, while also mixing the chorus to his Lauryn Hill collab “Nothing Really Matters.” 

His final stretch of songs was especially strong, leaning on some of his best songs, like “Brown Sugar” and “The Root,” and also playing a fuller version of Lauryn Hill’s “Nothing Really Matters.” At the very end, DJ Scratch joked how the comments section was clamoring for the biggest D’Angelo track of them all. The duo obliged the requests by closing out the outstanding set with the singularly sexy Voodoo smash “Untitled (How Does It Feel?),” saving the best for last. 

Despite a uniformly positive reaction to D’Angelo’s Verzuz performance on social media, it attracted surprisingly low viewership on Instagram. Even at its height, it peaked well short of 200k fans tuning into the event live simultaneously on IG, considerably lower than past battles. It’s a far cry from both the frequently postponed Ashanti/Keyshia Cole faceoff, whose simultaneous IG viewership reached over 1.1 million viewers, and the record-setting 1.8 million peak from Gucci Mane and Jeezy’s grudge match.

Perhaps it could’ve been the shakeup in format, D’Angelo opting for a intimate solo performance rather than clashing against one of his peers. The aura in the room was considerably different, one favoring commemoration rather than a clawing urge to vanquish an opponent. Though the more competitive aspects of Verzuz have been de-emphasized over the course of its first year — and with the return of pro sports, they may fill less of a void than when the series first debuted in the early days of the COVID pandemic anyway — having two iconic figures playing off one another has always been a key dramatic element of the series, and one that was conspicuously missing on Saturday night. As a result, the stakes felt far lower than usual, and it could’ve had an effect on the casual fan’s investment. 

However, regardless of the relatively low viewership, D’Angelo’s performance was still phenomenal. With the help of DJ Scratch, they curated an outstanding set of songs, weaving in and out of tempos and guests with ease. More than anything, D’Angelo’s concert on the Apollo stage created an avenue for viewers to celebrate both his own spotless musical career, and R&B on the whole. It’s a celebration of Black artists, spotlighting their illustrious past and exhilarating future. 

J Balvin Joins Canelo Alvarez to Premiere ‘Ma’ G’

J Balvin released the first single from his upcoming album with a bang. Literally.

The Colombian star took to the boxing ring, alongside pal and boxer Canelo Alvarez, to perform the new “Ma’ G” for the first time prior to the Canelo/Avni Yildrim fight at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Saturday night (Feb. 27).

The official music video for “Ma’ G” was filmed in Balvin’s hometown of Medellín, and the song marks a return to Balvin’s rap roots.

“Ma’ G” is Balvin’s first song since “Un Día,” last year’s collab with Dua Lipa, Bad Bunny and Tainy. The track was released alongside a merch collection with 747 and La Plaga Invade that includes a varsity jacket, hoodie and, of course, masks.

Watch the “Ma’ G” video below.

‘Pokemon 25: The Album,’ Featuring Katy Perry, J Balvin & Post Malone, Set for Fall 2021

Pokémon 25: The Album will be coming in fall 2021, it was revealed following the Pokémon virtual concert Saturday night (Feb. 27).

The album will be comprised of a total of 14 songs by 11 Universal Music Group artists, including Katy Perry, J Balvin and Post Malone.

Post Malone’s version of Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Only Wanna Be With You” is on the Pokémon 25 album track list.

Katy Perry, J Balvin and another surprise artist will each release a song inspired by the Pokémon franchise, along with a music video and merchandise collection.

J Balvin commented on taking part in the project in a statement released on Saturday: “Pokémon is pulling out all the stops for P25 Music, and I’m thrilled to join the program as one of its premier collaborators,” he said. “I’m looking forward to adding my own unique flavor to this huge Pokémon party and adding more good vibes to the celebration.”

Pokémon 25: The Album, part of this year’s P25 Music program for Pokémon’s 25th anniversary, will be released by UMG’s Capitol Records.

Saturday night’s concert can be watched on-demand on the official Pokémon YouTube channel.

German Radio Station Issues Statement After Host Compares BTS to COVID-19

Bayern 3, a radio station in Bavaria, Germany, has issued a statement after host Matthias Matuschik compared BTS to the coronavirus on-air.

After playing BTS’ cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You” on Wednesday (Feb. 24), Matuschik said their version of the song was “blasphemy” and likened the K-pop superstars to “some crappy virus that hopefully there will be a vaccine for soon as well,” the Associated Press reports.

“I have nothing against South Korea. You can’t accuse me of xenophobia only because this boy band is from South Korea … I have a car from South Korea. I have the coolest car around,” he said.

Matuschik then suggested BTS “will be vacationing in North Korea for the next 20 years” for their “Fix You” cover.

In a response obtained by the AP, the radio station said Matuschik was “presenting his opinion in an ironic, exaggerated way and with exaggerated excitement, his words went too far and hurt the feelings of BTS fans. But he — and he has assured us of this — in no way intended this. He just wanted to express his displeasure over the aforementioned cover version.”

“That does not change the fact that many of you found his statements to be hurtful or racist,” said Bayern 3. “We apologize for this in every way possible. We will work on the matter with Matthias and the team in detail again in the next few days.”

Besides outraging the BTS ARMY, Matuschik’s comments were denounced by several music industry peers on social media.

“I am horrified to read the comments made by Matthias Matuschik,” Halsey wrote in a note on her Instagram Stories Friday night (Feb. 26). “Racism and xenophobia cannot be thinly veiled as ‘on air humor.’ Irresponsible and disgusting statements in a time where hate speech and violent behavior towards Asian communities are skyrocketing. This is unacceptable. I hope a better apology to BTS, and the Asian communities across the world, is on its way.”

“Absolutely unacceptable the way radio host Matthias Matuschik speaks hate and racism in general let alone to my brothers,” Steve Aoki tweeted Saturday (Feb. 27). “I stand with @bts_BigHit to condemn hate of any kind and stop this kind of prejudice wherever we can. We must stand together. Spread love not hate.”

“Ewwww I just heard that clip of the radio presenter,” Zara Larsson said on Twitter. “First of all, you f—ed up the second you mentioned BTS. Army’s don’t play like that. And I hope you will never sleep peacefully again, knowing you ruined your career over being racist. I stand with my friends.”

She added, “And this is a bigger issue than one racist radio host speaking about BTS. This is about racism against Asians and xenophobia. we must all speak up, which is the bare minimum, to show people like him that his words have consequences.

“standing by my @bts_bighit brothers and everyone continuously effected by racist remarks as hurtful as what we heard on Bayern 3. no one should have to endure this and together we must stand up and stop it,” Lauv wrote on Twitter.

BTS recently unveiled their cover of “Fix You” in a performance for MTV Unplugged, which Coldplay called “beautiful.”

Nick Jonas’ Silhouette Challenge Ends in a Surprising Way in New ‘SNL’ Teaser

Nick Jonas took part in the Silhouette Challenge ahead of pulling double-duty on SNL.

The Jonas Bro., who will appear as host and musical guest on this weekend’s show, got fans’ hopes up when he posted his own take on the sexy TikTok trend.

“Is it just me or is it getting a little hot in here… See you tonight,” the “Spaceman” singer wrote on Twitter.

But after gazing at the camera and starting to pull his shirt off, his clip didn’t turn out quite the way viewers might have expected.

Watch his Silhouette Challenge below to see what happens, and tune in to his SNL episode Saturday night (Feb. 27) — a gig that’s “a dream come true,” Jonas tweeted when he first announced his appearance.

Nashville’s National Museum of African American Music: An Inside Look

Nashville’s long-anticipated National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) is now open to the public on a limited schedule.

NMAAM, which recently received a $1 million donation from Amazon and established a music education partnership with Sony Music Group, vividly tells the story of Black culture’s contributions and influences throughout the history of American music.

Once inside the 56,000 square-foot space, patrons can interact with six permanent exhibits that span several centuries and 50 musical genres. The first gallery that visitors will encounter is Rivers of Rhythm, described by NMAAM curator Steven Lewis as the “central space that connects the more genre-focused galleries.” The name of the exhibit, which features an interactive timeline of African-American music, was inspired by the Langston Hughes poem,“The Negro Speaks of Rivers.”

The Wade in the Water exhibit chronicles the history of African-American religious music, starting with indigenous African spirituals and musical traditions. The Crossroads and A Love Supreme exhibits (the latter borrows its name from jazz pioneer John Coltrane’s iconic album) focus on blues and jazz, respectively. One Nation Under a Groove (the title of the Funkadelic classic) recounts the history of R&B from WWII to its contemporary counterpart. Final exhibit The Message (Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five) traces the development of rap/hip-hop from its origins in the South Bronx to its global impact.

NMAAM also houses several mini-exhibits including The Business Behind the Music. Sponsored by Sony Music Group, the display spotlights trailblazing Black industry executives such as Logan H. Westbrooks (Capitol, Mercury, CBS and Source Records) in addition to record labels and publishers that have played important roles in music history.

Lewis joined NMAAM in 2018 after serving as a research assistant to the curator of music and performing arts at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History. In collaboration with NMAAM president H. Beecher Hicks III, the museum’s advisory committee and two additional curators, Lewis has spent the last three years collecting more than 1,400 artifacts to display. Once a framework was set for what the museum could include, says Lewis, “we looked for items to illustrate and interpret the history we were trying to convey.”

For instance, museum visitors will see a trombone donated by Helen Jones Woods, a trombonist with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm — the first interracial all-women’s band in the country. (Woods, the mother of Urban One founder/chairperson Cathy Hughes, died last August.) Other artifacts include a guitar on loan from the B.B. King Museum plus a cape and wig donated by Parliament-Funkadelic frontman George Clinton.

Of equal importance is the impact that African-American artists have had in NMAAM’s hometown. “The Nashville stories are woven throughout the space,” Lewis says. Among those prominently featured in those stories are Dr. Bobby Jones, host of BET’s longest-running series Bobby Jones Gospel and the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Lewis adds that a future temporary exhibit dedicated to the Fisk Jubilee Singers will further examine Nashville’s Black history.

NMAAM is currently open on Saturdays and Sundays; visitors must reserve tickets for appointed times. Visit nmaam.org for more information.

Victoria Monét Gives Birth, Welcomes First Child: ‘Mommy and Daddy Love You So Much!’

It’s a girl!

Congratulations are in order for Victoria Monét and her boyfriend John Gaines, who recently welcomed their first child.

The 27-year-old singer-songwriter took to Instagram on Friday (Feb. 26) to announce the birth of the couple’s new baby daughter, Hazel Monét Gaines, who arrived on Feb. 21.

“Mommy and Daddy love you so much!!!” Monét captioned an adorable photo of the newborn holding her finger. “Welcome to the world.”

The singer’s post drew numerous congratulatory messages from fellow artists like Sam Smith, Dua Lipa and Khalid.

Gaines shared the same sweet photo of his girlfriend and daughter on Instagram. “I love you @victoriamonet,” he wrote. “Thank you for the best early birthday gift I could ask for,” and adding the hashtag “girl dad.”

Monét commented on his heartfelt post, writing, “We love you too baby!! family forever.”

The “Moments” singer revealed her baby bump in December with some goddess-like photos of herself on social media.

“I’m so happy to share that I’ve been promoted to the title just above Queen… Mom,” she captioned the beautiful images. “Two hearts beat inside of me now…That’s more love. Two brains and two souls…that’s so much power. Really been feelin like the ultra super Victoria cause my body is doing such miraculous work. This is absolutely the best thing that has ever happened to me and I can’t wait to meet my tiny soul mate earth side!!!”

Monét added, “I hold my head higher with the confidence you already gift. You are the best of me and I promise to protect you and be the best version of myself for you all ways, always.”

See her birth announcement on Instagram here.