ASCAP Celebrates Black History Month | Week 2: Black Music & ASCAP History

February 13 is ASCAP's 107th birthday! This week, our Black History Month coverage focuses on Black ASCAP members that have shaped our history as an organization, and milestones in ASCAP's ongoing work to amplify Black voices.
James Weldon Johnson & J. Rosamond Johnson

James Weldon Johnson, ASCAP Founding Member

James Weldon Johnson was an activist, diplomat, lyricist and one of ASCAP’s founding members. He’s pictured here at the piano with his brother J. Rosamond Johnson, his co-writer on “Lift Ev’ry Voice & Sing” – the hymn called “The Black national anthem” by the NAACP, and adopted as its official song in 1919. 

Lionel Richie

1984: Lionel Richie Wins Songwriter of the Year at First ASCAP Pop Music Awards

Lionel Richie won Songwriter of the Year at the inaugural ASCAP Pop Awards in 1984, for the success of his hits "My Love," "Truly" and "You Are." Here he is at that ceremony, surrounded by a pantheon of ASCAP greats: (l-r) Henry Mancini, Kenny Rogers, Hal David and Marilyn & Alan Bergman. Richie won Songwriter of the Year again in 1985 and 1986, and came back at the 25th Pop Awards to earn our Golden Note Award.

Black Music Celebration

1988: The ASCAP Black Music Celebration Begins

Here's a vintage invite from the 2nd ASCAP Black Music Celebration, held March 13, 1989 and honoring Rick James, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince and more. Later renamed the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Awards, our annual ceremony honors achievements in R&B, hip-hop and gospel music.

  • Check out our most recent ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Awards, honoring Cardi B (Songwriter of the Year), Meek Mill’s “Going Bad” (Top Rap Song), DaBaby's “Suge” (Top R&B/Hip-Hop Song), “Deliver Me (This Is My Exodus)” (Top Gospel Song) and Universal Music Publishing Group (Publisher of the Year)
Kandi Burruss

2000: Kandi Burruss Makes History

Kandi Burruss becomes the first Black woman to win ASCAP Songwriter of the Year in any genre, thanks to her co-writes “No Scrubs” (TLC) and “Bills Bills Bills” (Destiny's Child). Kandi cemented her legacy in 2018 when she won a Song of the Year award at our Pop Music Awards (for Ed Sheeran's “Shape of You,” which interpolates "No Scrubs") and the prestigious ASCAP Golden Note Award (with XSCAPE) at our Rhythm & Soul Music Awards.

Fight for Change

2020: ASCAP Fights for Change

In 2020, ASCAP re-committed ourselves to amplifying and empowering Black voices. We created our Fight for Change initiative, matched employee donations to Color of Change and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, launched an HBCU Intern Leadership Program, supported racial justice and police reform bills, and made Juneteenth a company-wide holiday.

There is so much more for us to do and to learn. But we are proud of what ASCAP has done so far to stand with the Black community in our fight against systemic racism and injustice, and support the Black music creators who enrich our lives every single day. 

Jadakiss, Gucci Mane, Youngboy NBA
Jadakiss, Gucci Mane & Youngboy NBA - three ASCAP members who've co-signed ASCAP in their lyrics

ASCAP Birthday Party Favor: 21 Hip-Hop Lyrics That Namecheck ASCAP

It's ASCAP's birthday on February 13! To paraphrase "It's My Party," the first hit single ever produced by ASCAP legend Quincy Jones: "It's my party, I can search myself on Genius if I want to." Since our 107th b-day sits right in the middle of Black History Month 2021, we've compiled a list of 21 of our favorite hip-hop lyrics that namecheck ASCAP. Read it here. 🎂 🎤 


Valentine's Day: Black ASCAP Power Couples

For Valentine's Day, we’re celebrating love, music and Black History Month with six Black power couples – all of them ASCAP members – who are partners in life and in music. Read their stories in the photo gallery, and listen to some of the music they've written and/or recorded together in our Spotify playlist below. 

ASCAP Black History Month home page