For our final group of awards, we found ourselves running out of time but long on flavor as we recognized another multiple winner, Wave Music. Although François was unable to attend, the women behind your CHOICE for Best Independent Label Aurelie Cotugno (Label Manager) and Jodi Blea (Promotions Manager) took the chance to accept the kudos for all their hard work and to say thanks to their loyal fans. Representing double winner Dance Tracks, retail veteran Phil D stopped by to accept the awards for Best Dance Retail/On-Line store for the establishment whose global love and respect helps the music thrive. Accepting the awards for Producer and DJ of the Year were Mr V and Robbi returning to the stage for Little Louie Vega and Timmy Regisford, respectively. We appreciate them helping us say thanks to two of the industry’s best veteran talents. Last but certainly not least, was the presentation of Song of The Year honors. Just barely beating out Mondo Grosso’s fantastic “Star Suite”, Solu Music’s Howie & Dano along with vocalist KimBlee, came up to say a few words about penning and performing the little song that could. Debuting her new Wil Milton collabo and bringing down the house with “Fade,” KimBlee showed why she’s in the running for Artist of the Year 2002! Thanks to Doug Merriweather for his interpretative dance number during her set and to all those who attended, participated and supported our debut. We look forward to seeing you next year!
Kicking off the next group of presentations was Maggie Stein who accepted the Best Dance Writer award for Billboard colleague and winner Michael Paoletta. Worn out from producing the Billboard Dance Music Summit happening throughout the week, we forgave him for not staying but definitely respect his commitment to representing as much true underground soul as he can in the industry’s mainstream music bible. The most poignant part of the evening came as Mel Cheren (thanks Uncle Mel) presented multi-CHOICE Award winning duo Blaze their four big awards (Best Producers/Remixers/Artists/Album) with a touching intro that recognized their talent, spirit and promise. Dressed to the nines for the occasion and to show their genuine respect for the honors, Josh Milan and Kevin Hedge graciously thanked the crowd individually before Kevin presented your CHOICE for Best Promoter to Robbi. Thanks to Hedge’s speech which chronicled the beginning of a beautiful relationship between the city’s hardest working promoter and it’s most enduring club event (Shelter), by the time Robbi took the stage, it was clear this was the evening’s most well-deserved win. The minute-long clapping and cheering ovation for our homegrown hero was beautiful and our favorite ham enjoyed every second of it. Keep it moving Robbi!
Next up, was Maestro documentary Associate Producer Kervyn Markwho presented the Best Radio show award to DeeJay True, who’s weekly Deeper Than Disco program won the category with a commanding lead. To celebrate his win he brought a thank you list and his mother adding a very classy touch to the honor. Who says true grass roots promoting can’t make a difference? Closing out the first segment was Lil Ray (can I get you another drink?) presenting the Best Website award to Timmy Richardson accepting on behalf of the Deep House Page massive. My sincere congratulations to them for having one of the most globally recognized places to hear and feel great dance music – PERIOD. Then song-stress Mia T delivered a powerful rendition of her Wave single, “Man Enough” which had the guys in the room answering a resounding YES to her musical query. Not bad for a singer/songwriter only just sticking her head up in the underground scene. Better make sure to watch out for what’s next from her.
When the doors opened at 7pm (I was late of course… still working and taking phone calls up until the last moment), the early supporters got started on the open wine bar while hot-girl, Donna Edwards began the musical journey on the ones and twos – making sure to pay aural homage to the night’s winning projects. Upon arrival, the event was in full-swing with many bold-faced names getting their drink and dance on in one of the swankiest mid-sized rooms in the city. Live painter Jackson Brown had his work displayed and was finding inspiration in his usual corner to round out the main room flavor. A mere hour late, the official show started at 8pm with an opening performance/benediction from Conrad Neblett, who brought us 'Together in Spirit' and set the tone of the show on the highest level. Our first category was presented by Mr Speed Garage (or is that BounceFm.com now?) himself – Muema and was accepted by your CHOICE for Best Emerging Talent, the ever-controversial E-Man. Never one to mince words, his acceptance speech cut to the heart of minimizing the hating and increasing participation within the scene as only he can. (Thanks for keeping it real even with all the cursing!)
To say we were nervous about how our inaugural presentation would turn out is an exercise in understatement. But like all great events, everything falls into place at the last possible second and that’s when the magic really happens anyway. Before we go any further, we have to thank our core UA.com team without whom, none of this would be possible:
Cheryl & Nathan (Team Zuna Media, you rock and are more than simple web masters; thanks for all you do), Jemal C, Lola Rephann (for helping me tweak all the hard parts and then some), Marty White @ DRA Graphics (for helping me get everything just right on the graphics tip), Robbi and Rene Hewitt (for helping to spread the word), Joann Jimenez (for bailing me out with the best door-person she could find), Luis Kee (for being that door-person, you really took a load off), Donna Edwards (for blessing the room with your delightful mix), Ricky for donating Opaline and providing the open bar (don’t ever say there’s no love in the underground), super-sound man Jack who rocked the PA and the lights just right (two mics were definitely better than one) and our Executive Planning Committee who’s detailed responses helped ensure only the best of the best found their way on to our initial list. Further, I give thanks and praise to the presenters and winners (more about them later) who took time out to participate and show much respect for the little event that could. Smiles and smooches to our participating artists Jackson Brown, Jemal C and the original Photo-Chick, Tina Paul as well. You proved why you are productive members of the scene and give inspiration for where we are headed. 'Nuff respect right back at you.
Ahem… now on to the night.
Accepting the Best Compilation Series award was Danny Krivit for his winning Body & Soul Vols. 1-4. With the abrupt closing of the influential soiree earlier in the year, it was nice to celebrate another of the culture’s most influential parties as well as host one of the members of that powerful triumvirate. Much respect to Joe Claussell and François K in absentia. Next we welcomed Jeannie Hopperto present the award for Best Annual Event to SummerStage’s former executive producer Erica Ruben. In her final year with Manhattan’s premiere free festival, Ruben single-handedly brought veteran underground talent to the world stage of SummerStage with spectacular results. Her passion, creativity and unique ear will be sorely missed in the festival but look for bigger and better projects from this independent spit-fire who is also a new member of the Liquid Sound Lounge radio team (DJ Rubrica can you hear me?). Reaching back for an OG performance to close this segment, Keith Thompson took the stage – and the floor – for a rousing performance of his classic smash “Break 4 Love” and a listen to his new release “Love Supreme” (out on his own Waking Monster Media imprint). Speaking for myself if not most of the ladies present, that was definitely a highlight of the evening. Dance music is nothing without the sexy beats and lyrics to keep it hot and we are pleased that Thompson still knows how to serve it while keeping it very clean – at least sort of.