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Kanye’s Second Coming: Inside The Billion-Dollar Yeezy Empire

Perhaps most impressively, West still owns 100% of Yeezy. This is the reason he became a centimillionaire many times over much earlier in his life than Jordan. Given Yeezy’s success, West should eventually join the NBA legend—alongside sister-in-law Kylie Jenner and mentor Jay-Z—in achieving billionaire status, though the never-modest West would claim he’s there already. And then some. “We’ve yet to see all of the beauty that would be manifested through this partnership,” West says. “We’ve only experienced a small glimmer of light.”

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You know when Kanye West is coming. His matte-black Lamborghini SUV rumbles up his gated driveway on the outskirts of Los Angeles like an earthquake, and when he steps out, in a white T-shirt and dark sweats, the obsessiveness kicks in immediately.

First, there’s the house: The lushly landscaped exterior of the property he shares with his wife, Kim Kardashian West, and their four children (North, Saint, Chicago and Psalm) serves as stark contrast to the unadorned alabaster walls within. Nearly every surface is a monastic shade of white. The floors are made of a special Belgian plaster; if scuffed, the delicate material can be repaired only by a crew flown in from Europe. “The house was all him,” Kardashian West later tells me. “I’ve never seen anyone that pays such attention to detail.”

As I step into the foyer, a handler asks me to wrap my black-and-gray Air Jordan high-tops in little cloth booties. To my left is West’s library, its shelves stacked with the likes of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty and Takashi Murakami: Lineage of Eccentrics. He fiddles with the positioning of a few books that seem off-kilter. Settling into an armchair opposite me, he surveys his interviewer closely. “The first shoe I remember sketching was the Jordan One that you’re wearing right now,” says West, 42. “God does have a way of lining things up.”

West’s precision turned him into one of the world’s most popular musicians. “He went and executed it to another level,” says DJ Khaled, who has spent time with West in the studio and joins him on this year’s Celebrity 100 list of the world’s highest-paid entertainers. But as with Michael Jordan in the 1990s, the key to West’s wealth stems from sneakers. His Yeezy shoe line, which he launched with Nike in 2009 and then brought to Adidas in 2013, has the 34-year-old Jordan empire in its sights, in terms of both cultural clout and commercial prowess. The Jordan line does approximately $3 billion in annual sales; West’s upstart is expected to top $1.5 billion in 2019 and growing.

As with the floor and the booties and the book positions, West fixates over sneaker details; he idolizes Steve Jobs, preferring a limited, carefully chosen number of products with an endless array of colorways. The iPod in West’s world: the ubiquitous, chunky-bottomed Yeezy Boost 350s, which come in dozens of varieties of the same shoe and account for the bulk of Yeezy’s sales. “I am a product guy at my core,” West says. “To make products that make people feel an immense amount of joy and solve issues and problems in their life, that’s the problem-solving that I love to do.”

The obsessiveness is unrelenting. When Forbes shot West for a possible cover, he insisted on wearing a black hoodie. Urged to return the next day to try again, West obliged—wearing the same hoodie. He’s been known to edit albums days after they’ve already been released. And when he didn’t feel I was properly absorbing the religious influence on his business (coming from the guy who calls himself Yeezus and is working on an album tentatively titled Yandhi), he called my editor impromptu on a Saturday evening to hammer the point some more.

Whatever, it’s working. Mostly because of the shoes, Forbes pegs his pretax income at $150 million over the past 12 months; his team insists the number is even higher, partly due to his Yeezy apparel. In any case, it’s by far the best stretch of his career, good for No. 3 on our Celebrity 100 list.

Rewind to three years ago, when West claimed to be $53 million in debt, just before canceling the back of a lucrative arena tour and checking into a Los Angeles hospital for over a week with symptoms of sleep deprivation and temporary psychosis. West credits his turnaround to religious beliefs (“being in service to Christ, the radical obedience”)—and, on occasion, to being bipolar. Call him creative, call him chaotic—just don’t call him crazy. Like some entrepreneurs with conditions like ADHD and Asperger’s, he sees his diagnosis not as a hindrance but as a “superpower” that unlocks his imagination.

“ ‘Crazy’ is a word that’s not gonna be used loosely in the future,” West says. “Understand that this is actually a condition that people can end up in, be born into, driven into and go in and out. And there’s a lot of people that have been called that ‘C’ word that have ended up on this cover.”

West’s design obsession dates back as far as his passion for music. Born in Atlanta and raised in Chicago, he often got in trouble as a middle schooler for sketching sneakers in class. When West’s mother, a college professor, took him to see the Japanese cyberpunk flick Akira, he found inspiration in the film’s shapes and color palettes; he also remembers his father, a former Black Panther, taking him to auto shows, where he became obsessed with the Lamborghini Countach. “There’s a little bit of Lamborghini in everything I do,” West says. “Yeezy is the Lamborghini of shoes.”

Meticulousness served West in his music career, which took off when he caught on as a producer for Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records after dropping out of college. He masterminded the sonic skeleton of Jay-Z’s seminal 2001 album, The Blueprint. When West launched as a solo artist two and a half years later, he designed something genre-bending, his early work peppered with Marvin Gaye and Daft Punk samples; West recorded with Coldplay and toured with U2. In contrast to the snarling materialism put forth by the dominant rappers of the day, West presented a more vulnerable sort of protagonist, with three albums featuring higher-education themes. Gone were tales of drug dealing and street skirmishes; in their place were reflections on dental surgery, racial injustice and working at the Gap, punctuated by a witty swagger.

His fame gave him a chance to return to his first love: sneakers. In 2007, he created a shoe for the Japanese apparel company A Bathing Ape, complete with a teddy bear logo that appeared on some of his early covers. (Find one of those shoes today and you’ll net several thousand dollars.) It was a start, and he cultivated a cadre of fashion-industry friends like Hedi Slimane, who has served as creative director at Dior Homme and Yves Saint Laurent. “You’re going to do something really strong in shoes,” West remembers the designer telling him. That sort of encouragement gave West the confidence to whip out a notepad when he found himself on a plane with Nike CEO Mark Parker shortly thereafter. Says West: “When he saw me sketch, he said, ‘This guy’s interesting, let’s do a shoe with him.’ ”

Yeezy was born (a shortening of the “Kanyeezy” nickname Jay-Z gave him in the intro to a 2003 song). West says Parker put him in the room with Air Jordan designer Tinker Hatfield, and by mid-2008, West was rocking prototypes of his own Air Yeezy high-top onstage, with the genuine article arriving in 2009. Hip-hop has connected with footwear almost since the genre was born, from Run-D.M.C.’s Adidas shell toes in the mid-1980s to Jay-Z and 50 Cent’s Reeboks two decades later. West was the first to do it at Nike on the level of an NBA superstar.

Says analyst John Kernan of investment bank Cowen, “What he’s done in footwear has been truly transcendent.”

At the same time that West’s business interests were shifting, he began changing too. His mother died in a 2007 cosmetic procedure gone wrong; the following year, he split with his fiancée Alexis Phifer. On his album, 808s and Heartbreak, he ditched rap for heavily autotuned singing.

Then came the bizarre. He hopped onstage to interrupt Taylor Swift’s 2009 acceptance speech for Best Female Video at the MTV VMA ceremony, insisting that Beyoncé should have won the award instead; the episode generated such an intense backlash that he cancelled his planned arena tour with Lady Gaga and moved to Italy to intern for Fendi. When he returned from his European sojourn, his previous praise for the Creator was superseded by an insistence on his own holiness, particularly his 2013 album Yeezus, where he declared flatly, “I am a god.”

West kicked off 2016 by unleashing flurries of Tweets, asserting that he was $53 million in debt before asking Mark Zuckerberg for $1 billion to help fund his creative ideas. Then he embarked on his most ambitious tour yet—one that featured him holding forth atop a platform that looked like something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, hovering about a dozen feet above the crowd. West’s rants grew more and more unusual as the tour continued. In one performance, he suggested Jay-Z might be trying to have him assassinated. The year ended with West hospitalized after the tour cancelation. His first appearance after? A pilgrimage to Trump Tower, where he posed with the president-elect (and turned off a lot of his core audience).

His career, however, has proved antic-proof. And he has channeled his intensity profitably, particularly when it comes to sneakers. As sales blossomed at Nike, particularly after the Air Yeezy II release in 2012, West felt that the company was treating him like just another celebrity dabbler. “It was the first shoe to have the same level of impact as an Air Jordan, and I wanted to do more,” West says. “And at that time Nike refused to give celebrities royalties on their shoes.” (Nike declined to comment for this story; two other sources familiar with the arrangement also say he wasn’t being paid royalties.)

West, however, had always insisted on maintaining ownership of his brand. And when Adidas executives caught wind of West’s dissatisfaction, they invited him to Germany. With the help of Scooter Braun, who started a stint comanaging West around the same time, they created what appears to be an unprecedented deal: a 15% royalty on wholesale, according to sources familiar with the deal, plus a marketing fee. For comparison, Michael Jordan is thought to get royalties closer to 5%, though he doesn’t own his brand.

In 2015, West debuted his first “Yeezy Season,” a showcase for his clothing and sneakers. The next year he leveraged his new album to create a launch party for both sneakers and song, at a sold-out Madison Square Garden. His biggest breakthrough: the 350. Marrying his eye for design with Adidas’ Boost technology, which purports to efficiently return energy to runners, West turned trainers into high fashion and made low-top sneakers cool again. The 350’s aggressive stance, leaning forward as if to challenge any foe to a footrace, suddenly had scores of people willing to cough up $200 for a pair of running shoes. Adidas has never released Yeezy’s numbers, but in 2016 West let it slip that his sneakers were selling out surprise 40,000-pair drops in minutes.

His wife—West and Kardashian married in Florence in 2014—gets an assist here, opening up West to her family’s hundreds of millions of social media followers (they routinely sport his Yeezy shoes and apparel).

The partnership works both ways. Kardashian West seeks out her husband’s opinion on all of her projects, from the Kim Kardashian: Hollywood mobile game to her recent shapewear line. When she brought him mockups for the latter, West wasn’t impressed. He sat down and drafted a new logo before personally redesigning the packaging. In any case, West’s advice isn’t limited to the creative side. “He’s just taught me as a person to never compromise and to really take ownership,” says Kardashian West, who ranks No. 26 on The Celebrity 100. “Before, I was really the opposite. I would throw my name on anything.”

Given their hectic schedules, Kardashian West and West often trade ideas at what he calls “bedtime true-crime story meetings,” where she watches police procedurals while he shows her mockups.

“I’m just blessed through the grace of God to go from tweeting at Mark Zuckerberg” to ask for money, West says, to where he is today. He can laugh at himself a little now. “People wondered, ‘Why did you tweet at Mark Zuckerberg?’ And I was like, ‘Hey, I heard he was looking for aliens.’ ”

Speaking of aliens, if you really want to see how West’s creative process works, then a visit to the Star Wars planet of Tatooine is necessary. Inspired by Luke Skywalker’s childhood home, West has been working with a team to design prefabricated structures that sport the same austere aesthetic, with the goal of deploying them as low-income housing units. Just after midnight he ushers me into his Lamborghini for an impromptu visit, barreling back down the road with Bach blasting on the sound system. After about 15 minutes, we arrive at a bungalow in the woods.

A team of four is still clattering away on Apple laptops inside, ahead of a meeting the following morning in San Francisco with potential investors. Around them, the walls are plastered with written notes and sketches. West peers over the shoulders of his charges, instructing them to change a font here or brighten a picture there.

“He pushes people to do their best and pushes people even outside of their comfort zone, which really helps people grow,” Kardashian West says, citing West’s relationship with Louis Vuitton designer and Off-White label founder Virgil Abloh.

After a half hour or so, West appears satisfied with the state of the presentation and motions me toward a back door. We stroll out into the chilly, starless night, and I follow him up a dirt path deeper into the woods for several minutes until he stops at a clearing and looks up, wordless. There, with the hazy heft of something enormous and far away, stand a trio of structures that look like the skeletons of wooden spaceships. They’re the physical prototypes of his concept, each oblong and dozens of feet tall, and West leads me inside each one.

He tells me they could be used as living spaces for the homeless, perhaps sunk into the ground with light filtering in through the top. We stand there in silence for several minutes considering the structures before walking back down to his lurking Lamborghini and zooming off into the night.

For a company that makes Lamborghini-inspired sneakers, Yeezy’s headquarters are remarkably nondescript: a blocky blue-and-gray building just off the main drag in Calabasas. It’s not far from where he’s been hosting his recent Sunday Services—gatherings where popular songs are repurposed with Christian themes by gospel choirs and famous guests from Katy Perry to Dave Chappelle.

When I meet up with West after his return from San Francisco, he doesn’t even mention the investor meeting—already fixated on something else enormous out back. In the parking lot behind his office, laid out in concentric circles, is the sum total of West’s creative output at Adidas: a trove of sneaker prototypes baking in the midday sun, variants of his 350s in a rainbow ranging from blood orange to creamy pistachio alongside a few yet-to-be-released gems like the almost triangular Yeezy basketball shoe (which, he adds almost proudly, has yet to be approved by the NBA—echoing the days when the league fined Michael Jordan for wearing his eponymous sneakers because they violated uniform rules).

West scoops up a 1050 Vortex Boot, which debuted in prototype form at Madison Square Garden in 2016. “I just looked at this line right here,” he says, motioning to a thin strip of blue masking tape on the sole. “I’m going to make this part of the boot. The inside of this will be blue. And I just go with the flow.”

There are about 1,000 pairs laid across the lot, it seems, but when I ask West for the exact tally, he seems almost offended at the notion of reducing his creations to numerals. “You can’t calculate love,” he explains. “If you get a surprise cake from your grandmother, and you didn’t know she was in town, do you start asking her about the batter and specifically the frosting?”

Grandmother?

“These things are made to bring incalculable joy,” he continues. “So to ask me to somehow translate this to numbers is to ask your grandmother exactly what the recipe of the cake was.”

West claims to not be a “numbers guy,” but he has reached an inflection point where someone in the Yeezy orbit needs to be. His brand built its following through its limited releases and surprise drops, much like Air Jordan. The latter, according to NPD retail analyst Matt Powell, has lost a bit of its cachet in recent years as Nike moved to fill declining volume in other areas of business with its iconic sub-brand. “What makes celebrity products sell so well is scarcity,” he says. “So if they make it too broadly available, I think it crashes the business model.”

Adidas seems to be aware of this. “We are continuing to manage volumes in a very disciplined manner so that for 2019 Yeezy sales will not make up a significant share of Adidas’ overall expected sales growth,” says the company’s chief executive, Kasper Rørsted. “Not because brand heat is decreasing, but because we have a disciplined approach to managing volumes and product lifecycles.”

In other words, he’s not willing to chase sales at the expense of prestige, instead continuing to build buzz with surprise drops. The May release of the glow-in-the-dark 350 v2 sold out immediately, even though it rolled out at 6 a.m. in some countries. In June, customers lined up around blocks in Moscow to get a reflective version of a sneaker that had already debuted in the U.S. There are even more far-out concepts in the works, including a shoe made out of algae that will biodegrade completely over time in landfills—or almost immediately if sprayed with a certain type of bacteria.

Perhaps most impressively, West still owns 100% of Yeezy. This is the reason he became a centimillionaire many times over much earlier in his life than Jordan. Given Yeezy’s success, West should eventually join the NBA legend—alongside sister-in-law Kylie Jenner and mentor Jay-Z—in achieving billionaire status, though the never-modest West would claim he’s there already. And then some. “We’ve yet to see all of the beauty that would be manifested through this partnership,” West says. “We’ve only experienced a small glimmer of light.”

Additional reporting by Monica Mercuri and Natalie Robehmed.

Cover photograph by Jamel Toppin for Forbes.

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Celebs

Full List: NAACP Image Awards Nominations!

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The 2021 NAACP Image Awards will air on March 27 at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on CBS and BET, following five nights of non-televised categories streaming from March 22-26.

Special Awards

ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR

D-Nice
Viola Davis
Regina King
Trevor Noah
Tyler Perry

SOCIAL JUSTICE IMPACT

April Ryan
Debbie Allen
Lebron James
Stacey Abrams
Tamika Mallory

Television and Streaming

OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES
#blackAF
Black-ish
grown-ish
Insecure
The Last O.G.

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Cedric The Entertainer, The Neighborhood
Don Cheadle, Black Monday
Idris Elba, In the Long Run
Tracy Morgan, The Last O.G.

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Issa Rae, Insecure
Folake Olowofoyeku, Bob Hearts Abishola
Regina Hall, Black Monday
Tracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish
Yara Shahidi, Grown-ish

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Deon Cole, Black-ish
Jay Ellis, Insecure
Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live
Laurence Fishburne, Black-ish

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

Jenifer Lewis, Black-ish
Marsai Martin, Black-ish
Natasha Rothwell, Insecure
Tichina Arnold, The Neighborhood
Yvonne Orji, Insecure

OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES

All Rise
Bridgerton
Lovecraft Country
Power Book II: Ghost
This Is Us

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

Jonathan Majors, Lovecraft Country
Keith David, Greenleaf
Nicco Annan, P-Valley
Regé-Jean Page, Bridgerton
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Angela Bassett, 9-1-1
Brandee Evans, P-Valley
Jurnee Smollett, Lovecraft Country
Simone Missick, All Rise
Viola Davis, How To Get Away With Murder

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES

Clifford “Method Man” Smith, Power Book II: Ghost
Delroy Lindo, The Good Fight
J. Alphonse Nicholson, P-Valley
Jeffrey Wright, Westworld
Michael Kenneth Williams, Lovecraft Country

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES

Adjoa Andoh, Bridgerton
Aunjanue Ellis, Lovecraft Country
Lynn Whitfield, Greenleaf
Mary J. Blige, Power Book II: Ghost
Susan Kelechi Watson, This Is Us

OUTSTANDING TELEVISION MOVIE, LIMITED-SERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL

Hamilton
Little Fires Everywhere
Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker
Sylvie’s Love
The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A TELEVISION MOVIE, LIMITED-SERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL

Blair Underwood, Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker
Chris Rock, Fargo
Daveed Diggs, Hamilton
Leslie Odom, Jr., Hamilton
Nnamdi Asomugha, Sylvie’s Love

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION MOVIE, LIMITED-SERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL

Aunjanue Ellis, The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel
Kerry Washington, Little Fires Everywhere
Michaela Coel, I May Destroy You
Octavia Spencer, Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker
Tessa Thompson, Sylvie’s Love

OUTSTANDING NEWS/INFORMATION (SERIES OR SPECIAL)

AM Joy: Remembering John Lewis Special
Desus & Mero: The Obama Interview
The Color of Covid
The New York Times Presents “The Killing of Breonna Taylor”
The Reidout

OUTSTANDING TALK SERIES

Red Table Talk
Tamron Hall
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
The Oprah Conversation
The Shop: Uninterrupted

OUTSTANDING REALITY PROGRAM/REALITY COMPETITION SERIES/GAME SHOW

Celebrity Family Feud
Iyanla: Fix My Life
Shark Tank
United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell
Voices of Fire

OUTSTANDING VARIETY (SERIES OR SPECIAL)

8:46
Black Is King
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion
VERZUZ
Yvonne Orji: Momma I Made It!

OUTSTANDING CHILDREN’S PROGRAM

Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices
Craig of the Creek
Family Reunion
Raven’s Home
We Are the Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A YOUTH (SERIES, SPECIAL, TELEVISION MOVIE OR LIMITED-SERIES)

Alex R. Hibbert, The Chi
Lexi Underwood, Little Fires Everywhere
Lyric Ross, This Is Us
Marsai Martin, Black-ish
Miles Brown, Black-ish

OUTSTANDING HOST IN A TALK OR NEWS/INFORMATION (SERIES OR SPECIAL) – INDIVIDUAL OR ENSEMBLE

Don Lemon, CNN Tonight with Don Lemon
Jada Pinkett Smith, Red Table Talk
Joy Reid, The Reidout
LeBron James, The Shop: Uninterrupted
Trevor Noah, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

OUTSTANDING HOST IN A REALITY/REALITY COMPETITION, GAME SHOW OR VARIETY (SERIES OR SPECIAL) – INDIVIDUAL OR ENSEMBLE

Alfonso Ribeiro, America’s Funniest Home Videos
Iyanla Vanzant, Iyanla: Fix My Life
Steve Harvey, Celebrity Family Feud
W. Kamau Bell, United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell
RuPaul, RuPaul’s Drag Race

OUTSTANDING GUEST PERFORMANCE – COMEDY OR DRAMA SERIES

Chris Rock, Saturday Night Live
Courtney B. Vance, Lovecraft Country
Dave Chappelle, Saturday Night Live
Issa Rae, Saturday Night Live
Loretta Devine, P-Valley

OUTSTANDING ANIMATED SERIES

Big Mouth
Central Park
Doc McStuffins
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
Star Trek: Lower Decks

OUTSTANDING CHARACTER VOICE-OVER PERFORMANCE (TELEVISION)

Aisha Tyler, Archer
Courtney B. Vance, Hollywood’s Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story
Dawnn Lewis, Star Trek: Lower Decks
Deon Cole, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts
Laya DeLeon Hayes, Doc McStuffins

OUTSTANDING SHORT FORM SERIES – COMEDY OR DRAMA

#FreeRayshawn
CripTales
Lazor Wulf
Mapleworth Murders
Sincerely, Camille

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE IN A SHORT FORM SERIES

Giancarlo Esposito, The Broken and the Bad
J.B. Smoove, Mapleworth Murders
Jasmine Cephas Jones, #FreeRayshawn
Laurence Fishburne, #FreeRayshawn
Stephan James, #FreeRayshawn

OUTSTANDING SHORT FORM SERIES – REALITY/NONFICTION

American Masters – Unladylike2020
Benedict Men
Between The Scenes – The Daily Show
In The Making
Inspire Change Series

OUTSTANDING BREAKTHROUGH CREATIVE (TELEVISION)

Katori Hall, P-Valley
Keith Knight, Woke
Ramy Youssef, Ramy
Raynelle Swilling, Cherish the Day
Teri Schaffer, Cherish the Day

Recording

OUTSTANDING NEW ARTIST

Chika
Doja Cat
D Smoke
Giveon
Skip Marley

OUTSTANDING MALE ARTIST

Big Sean
Black Thought
Charlie Wilson
Drake
John Legend

OUTSTANDING FEMALE ARTIST

Beyoncé
H.E.R.
Jazmine Sullivan
Ledisi
Alicia Keys

OUTSTANDING MUSIC VIDEO/VISUAL ALBUM

“I Can’t Breathe” – H.E.R.
“Anything For You” – Ledisi
Black is King, Beyoncé
“Brown Skin Girl” – Beyoncé feat. WizKid, SAINt JHN and Blu Ivy Carter
“Do It” – Chloe x Halle

OUTSTANDING ALBUM

Alicia, Alicia Keys
b7, Brandy
Bigger Love, John Legend
Chilombo, Jhené Aiko
The Wild Card, LEDISI

OUTSTANDING SOUNDTRACK/COMPILATION ALBUM

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Music from the Netflix Film)
Insecure: Music from the HBO Original Series
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Soul Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The First Ladies of Gospel: The Clark Sisters Biopic Soundtrack

OUTSTANDING GOSPEL/CHRISTIAN ALBUM

Chosen Vessel, Marvin Sapp
Gospel According to PJ, PJ Morton
I Am, Koryn Hawthorne
Kierra, Kierra Sheard
The Return, The Clark Sisters

OUTSTANDING GOSPEL/CHRISTIAN SONG

“All in His Plan” – PJ Morton
“Never Lost” – CeCe Winans
“Something Has To Break” – Kierra Sheard feat. Tasha Cobbs-Leonard
“Strong God” – Kirk Franklin
“Touch from You” – Tamela Mann

OUTSTANDING JAZZ ALBUM – INSTRUMENTAL

Be Water, Christian Sands
Music From and Inspired By Soul, Jon Batiste
Omega, Immanuel Wilkins
Reciprocity, George Burton
The Iconoclast, Barry Stephenson

OUTSTANDING JAZZ ALBUM – VOCAL

Donny Duke and Wonder, Nathan Mitchell
Holy Room – Live at Alte Oper, Somi
Pulling Off The Covers, Mike Phillips
Stronger, Jeff Bradshaw
The Eddy (From The Netflix Original Series), The Eddy

OUTSTANDING SOUL/R&B SONG

“I Can’t Breathe” – H.E.R.
“Anything For You” – LEDISI
“B.S.” – Jhené Aiko feat. H.E.R.
“Black Parade” – Beyoncé
“Do It” – Chloe x Halle

OUTSTANDING HIP-HOP/RAP SONG

“Deep Reverence” – Big Sean feat. Nipsey Hussle
“Savage Remix” – Megan Thee Stallion feat. Beyoncé
“Cool Off” – Missy Elliott
“Laugh Now, Cry Later” – Drake
“Life Is Good” – Future & Drake

OUTSTANDING DUO, GROUP OR COLLABORATION (TRADITIONAL)

Alicia Keys feat. Jill Scott – “Jill Scott”
Chloe x Halle – “Wonder What She Thinks Of Me”
Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis feat. Babyface – “He Don’t Know Nothin’ Bout It”
Kem feat. Toni Braxton – “Live Out Your Love”
Ledisi and PJ Morton – “Anything For You”

OUTSTANDING DUO, GROUP OR COLLABORATION (CONTEMPORARY)

Alicia Keys feat. Khalid – “So Done”
Big Sean feat. Nipsey Hussle – “Deep Reverence”
Chloe x Halle – “Do It”
Jhené Aiko feat. H.E.R. – “B.S.”
Megan Thee Stallion feat. Beyoncé – “Savage Remix”

OUTSTANDING INTERNATIONAL SONG

“Blessed” – Buju Banton
“Lockdown” – Original Koffee
“Pressure (Remix)” – Original Koffee feat. Buju Banton
“Tanana” – Davido feat. Tiwa Savage
“Temptation” – Tiwa Savage

OUTSTANDING PRODUCER OF THE YEAR

Donald Lawrence
Hit-Boy
Jathan Wilson
Sean Keys
TM88

Literature

OUTSTANDING LITERARY WORK – FICTION

Black Bottom Saints – Alice Randall
Lakewood – Megan Giddings
Riot Baby – Tochi Onyebuchi
The Awkward Black Man – Walter Mosley
The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett

OUTSTANDING LITERARY WORK – NONFICTION

A Black Women’s History of the United States – Daina Berry
A Promised Land – Barack Obama
Driving While Black – Gretchen Sorin
Long Time Coming: Reckoning with Race in America – Michael Eric Dyson
We’re Better Than This – Elijah Cummings

OUTSTANDING LITERARY WORK – DEBUT AUTHOR

A Knock at Midnight – Brittany Barnett
Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World – Cole Brown
Lakewood – Megan Giddings
The Compton Cowboys – Walter Thompson-Hernandez
We’re Better Than This – Elijah Cummings

OUTSTANDING LITERARY WORK – BIOGRAPHY/AUTOBIOGRAPHY

A Most Beautiful Thing: The True Story of America’s First All-Black High School Rowing Team – Arshay Cooper
A Promised Land – Barack Obama
Olympic Pride, American Prejudice – Deborah Draper
The Dead Are Arising – Les Payne, Tamara Payne
Willie: The Game-Changing Story of the NHL’s First Black Player – Willie O’Ree

OUTSTANDING LITERARY WORK – INSTRUCTIONAL

Do Right by Me: Learning to Raise Black Children in White Space – Valerie Harrison
Living Lively – Haile Thomas
The Black Foster Youth Handbook – Ángela Quijada-Banks
The Woman God Created You to Be: Finding Success Through Faith–Spiritually, Personally, and Professionally – Kimberla Lawson Roby
Vegetable Kingdom – Bryant Terry

OUTSTANDING LITERARY WORK – POETRY

Homie – Danez Smith
Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry – John Murillo
Seeing the Body – Rachel Eliza Griffiths
The Age of Phillis – Honorée Jeffers
Un-American – Hafizah Geter

OUTSTANDING LITERARY WORK – CHILDREN

I Promise – LeBron James, Nina Mata
Just Like a Mama – Alice Faye Duncan, Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice – Nikki Grimes, Laura Freeman
She Was the First!: The Trailblazing Life of Shirley Chisholm – Katheryn Russell-Brown, Eric Velasquez
The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver – Gene Barretta, Frank Morrison

OUTSTANDING LITERARY WORK – YOUTH/TEENS

Before the Ever After – Jacqueline Woodson
Black Brother, Black Brother – Jewell Parker Rhodes
Dear Justyce – Nic Stone
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You – Jason Reynolds
This is Your Time – Ruby Bridges

Motion Picture

OUTSTANDING MOTION PICTURE

Bad Boys For Life
Da 5 Bloods
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
One Night In Miami

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE

Anthony Mackie, The Banker
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods
Forest Whitaker, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Will Smith, Bad Boys For Life

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE

Issa Rae, The Photograph
Janelle Monáe, Antebellum
Madalen Mills, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Tracee Ellis Ross, The High Note
Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE

Aldis Hodge, One Night In Miami
Chadwick Boseman, Da 5 Bloods
Clarke Peters, Da 5 Bloods
Colman Domingo, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Glynn Turman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE

Anika Noni Rose, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Gabourey Sidibe, Antebellum
Nia Long, The Banker
Phylicia Rashad, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Taylour Paige, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

OUTSTANDING INDEPENDENT MOTION PICTURE

Emperor
Farewell Amor
Miss Juneteenth
The 24th
The Banker

OUTSTANDING INTERNATIONAL MOTION PICTURE

Ainu Mosir
His House
Night of the Kings
The Last Tree
The Life Ahead (La vita davanti a se)

OUTSTANDING BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE IN MOTION PICTURE

Dayo Okeniyi, Emperor
Dominique Fishback, Project Power
Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Charm City Kings
Jahzir Bruno, The Witches
Madalen Mills, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE CAST IN A MOTION PICTURE

Da 5 Bloods
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Soul
The Banker

OUTSTANDING ANIMATED MOTION PICTURE

Onward
Over the Moon
Scoob!
Soul
Trolls World Tour

OUTSTANDING CHARACTER VOICE-OVER PERFORMANCE – MOTION PICTURE

Ahmir-Khalib Thompson aka Questlove, Soul
Angela Bassett, Soul
Chris Rock, The Witches
Jamie Foxx, Soul
Phylicia Rashad, Soul

OUTSTANDING SHORT FORM (LIVE ACTION)

Baldwin Beauty
Black Boy Joy
Gets Good Light
Home
Mr. & Mrs. Ellis

OUTSTANDING SHORT FORM (ANIMATED)

Canvas
Cops and Robbers
Loop
The Power of Hope
Windup

OUTSTANDING BREAKTHROUGH CREATIVE (MOTION PICTURE)

Loira Limbal, Through the Night
Melissa Haizlip, Mr. Soul!
Nadia Hallgren, Becoming
Radha Blank, The Forty-Year-Old Version
Remi Weekes, His House

Documentary

OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY (FILM)

All In: The Fight For Democracy
Coded Bias
John Lewis: Good Trouble
Mr. Soul!
On the Record

OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY (TELEVISION – SERIES OR SPECIAL)

And She Could Be Next
Black Love
Enslaved: The Lost History of the Transatlantic Slave Trade
The Last Dance
Unsung

Writing

OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A COMEDY SERIES

Issa Rae – “Lowkey Feelin’ Myself” (Insecure)
Lee Eisenberg, Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon – “The Rock” (Little America)
Michaela Coel – “Ego Death” (I May Destroy You)
Mindy Kaling, Lang Fisher – “Pilot” (Never Have I Ever)
Rajiv Joseph – “The Manager” (Little America)

OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A DRAMA SERIES

Attica Locke – “The Spider Web” (Little Fires Everywhere)
Erika L. Johnson, Mark Richard – “A Wicked Plot” (The Good Lord Bird)
Jessica Lamour – “Love Hurts” (Little Voice)
Katori Hall – “Perpetratin'” (P-Valley)
Tanya Barfield – “Shirley” (Mrs. America)

OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A TELEVISION MOVIE OR SPECIAL

Diallo Riddle, Bashir Salahuddin, D. Rodney Carter, Emily Goldwyn, Rob Haze, Zuri Salahuddin, Bennett Webber, Evan Williams, Will Miles, Sherman’s Showcase Black History Month Spectacular
Eugene Ashe, Sylvie’s Love
Geri Cole, The Power of We: A Sesame Street Special
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
Sylvia L. Jones, Camille Tucker, The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel

OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A MOTION PICTURE (FILM)

David E. Talbert, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Kemp Powers, One Night in Miami.
Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
Pete Docter, Kemp Powers, Mike Jones, Soul
Radha Blank, The Forty-Year-Old Version

OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A DOCUMENTARY (TELEVISION OR MOTION PICTURE)

Mary Mazzio, A Most Beautiful Thing
Melissa Haizlip, Mr. Soul!
Nile Cone, The Beat Don’t Stop
Royal Kennedy Rodgers, Hollywood’s Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story
Yoruba Richen, Elia Gasull Balada, Valerie Thomas, The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show

Directing

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING IN A COMEDY SERIES

Anya Adams – “Hair Day” (Black-ish)
Aurora Guerrero – “The Jaguar” (Little America)
Eric Dean Seaton – “Our Wedding Dre” (Black-ish)
Kabir Akhtar – “…started a nuclear war” (Never Have I Ever)
Sam Miller, Michaela Coel – “Ego Death” (I May Destroy You)

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING IN A DRAMA SERIES

Cheryl Dunye – “Strange Case” (Lovecraft Country)
Hanelle Culpepper – “Remembrance” (Star Trek: Picard)
Misha Green – “Jig-a-Bobo” (Lovecraft Country)
Nzingha Stewart – “The Uncanny” (Little Fires Everywhere)
Steve McQueen – “Mangrove” (Small Axe)

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING IN A TELEVISION MOVIE OR SPECIAL

Beyoncé Knowles Carter, Emmanuel Adeji, Blitz Bazawule, Kwasi Fordjour, Black Is King
Christine Swanson, The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel
Chuck Vinson, Alan Muraoka, The Power of We: A Sesame Street Special
Eugene Ashe, Sylvie’s Love
Kamilah Forbes, Between The World And Me

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING IN A MOTION PICTURE (FILM)

David E. Talbert, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
George C. Wolfe, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Gina Prince-Bythewood, The Old Guard
Radha Blank, The Forty-Year-Old Version
Regina King, One Night in Miami

OUTSTANDING DIRECTING IN A DOCUMENTARY (TELEVISION OR MOTION PICTURE)

Keith McQuirter, By Whatever Means Necessary: The Times of Godfather of Harlem
Muta’Ali, Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn
Sam Pollard, Maro Chermayeff, Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children (Ep. 1 & 2)
Simcha Jacobovici, Enslaved: The Lost History of the Transatlantic Slave Trade
Yoruba Richen, The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show

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Celebs

Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall” Goes 9x Platinum

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An album that spawned 4 Top 10 hits, 2 going #1 (Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough/Rock with You), has reached a new milestone. Michael’s first “big” album, Off The Wall, has reached 9x Platinum in the United States of America.

The album had been 8X platinum since its last update in August 2009, shortly after Michael’s death. Diamond is right around the corner. Stream the album below.

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Celebs

Brandy is heading to The Voice

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The Voice Season 20 is almost here — and returning coach John Legend has some serious star power on his side.

The performer revealed on Monday that his celeb mentor for the upcoming season will be none other than… Brandy!

Her track record as a successful artist speaks for itself and we’ve been loving her and cherishing her as an artist of our culture for such a long time,” Legend raved when the two sat down with ET.

What I tell her and what is so resonant to me about her is not only has she had a great career and had lots of hits, but singers love Brandy,” he added. “They all look up to her and she’s so influential to other singers. For a show like ours where it’s all about mentoring singers, for them to see her when they walk in the room… it’s just a magical moment every time.

The Voice Season 20 premiers March 1, 2021.

In other Brandy news, she will be appearing on The View this Thursday.

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