LOS ANGELES — In a pre-Grammy event, Mariah Carey used the Recording Academy stage to speak about fighting against conforming to certain music industry standards in an effort to create her music that would eventually appeal to the masses.
“I was not encouraged to focus on my love for Black music,” Carey remarked Thursday night at the academy’s Black Music Collective event in Los Angeles, where she and Lenny Kravitz were given the Global Impact Award.
The honorees received the award for their personal and professional achievements in the industry.
“It took countless arguments, endless tantrums and mostly unwavering determination,” the five-time Grammy winner continued as she noted the first day of Black History Month. “But eventually, I was able to unveil my authentic self and create music from my heart. In doing so, I discovered a new sense of freedom and fulfillment.”
Stevie Wonder presented Carey with the award. But before he handed her the trophy, he serenaded to her with “Knocks Me Off My Feet” and a snippet from “All I Do.”
“Every time we meet up, talk and connect, for me it’s like having a brand new day,” Wonder said to Carey, who sat with her two children and Debbie Allen next to her. “I love you into forever. I thank you for our friendship. I thank you for your heart. Consistent spirit of love that you show. I’m here because I do love you.”
Along with Wonder, several others paid tribute to Carey by singing renditions of her songs. Tori Kelly sang “Vision of Love,” Yolanda Adams performed “Make It Happen” and Busta Rhymes rapped his portion of “I Know What You Want,” a song he did with Carey.
Babyface spoke about the first time meeting Carey and co-writing the song “Never Forget You.” The singer performed a few of his songs including “Every Time I Close My Eyes” before he told the audience the late Aretha Franklin once complimented that Carey was “one of the good ones.”
During her acceptance speech, Carey congratulated Kravitz, who was honored earlier in the show.
“I couldn’t be happier to be in the same room and honored on the same night as you,” she said.
H.E.R., who presented Kravitz his award, remembered as a kid when she told her father she wanted to be just like the musician one day.
“It made me at 6 years old say to my dad ‘I want to play the guitar, I want to be a rockstar. I want to be like Lenny Kravitz,’” she said as the audience applauded. “Lenny, you are the epitome of creativity without boundaries. You changed the way people around the world hear music and see artists. Your authenticity continues to inspire me and so many to be free in creativity. It makes me fall in love with music over, over, and over again.”
During his speech, Kravitz said he was influenced by some of the greats including Duke Ellington, The Jackson 5, Miles Davis, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Marvin Gaye, Rick James, Prince and John Coltrane.
“So many geniuses and so many genres informed my spirit,” he said. “I could go on all night about these musical masters who molded me. I love all of these musicians. I love this music because it feeds our hearts and strengthens our resolve to keep our hope. A healing to a wounded world. To be a part of the lineage is a privilege I cherish.”
After Kravitz stepped off stage, he was also honored by those who performed some of his greatest hits.
Funk musician George Clinton, rapper Quavo, Earth, Wind & Fire bassist Verdine White and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith joined together on stage to perform “Fly Away.”
Other show performers included singers Andra Day and Gabby Samone along with Erica Campbell of gospel group Mary Mary and Nigerian singer Davido.