Viacom and One Africa Music Fest Host Employee Meet and Greet With Afrobeat Stars

Afrobeat exploded out of a combination of West African musical styles in the 1970s. From its original sounds exemplified by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti to the Nigerian, Ghanaian and South African artists blowing up the hottest radio stations and nightclubs across the U.S., Europe and Africa today, the Afrobeat movement is alive, well, and on fire!

The BEAT, Viacom’s black employee resource group, wanted to share the Afrobeat movement with its members and the rest of the Viacom family. On the eve of the second One Africa Music Fest in New York City, the BEAT hosted an Afrobeat listening session and meet and greet with two of Nigeria’s biggest Afrobeat artists.

(L to R) Praiz, Ezinne Kwubiri, Flavour Photo by: Oluwaseye

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Rita Ora Returns to Hometown London to Host the 2017 MTV EMA Awards

The 24th annual MTV EMA Awards will be an evening of world-class performances from some of the biggest music acts on the planet. For the first time since 1996, the festivities take place in London, home to iconic bands such as Oasis and the Spice Girls, as well as this year’s host: global superstar Rita Ora.

Ora’s EMA resume is robust. She opened the ceremony in 2012 with a performance of her hit song R.I.P.,  presented Eminem with his Best Hip Hop Award in 2013, and is an eight-time EMA award nominee.

The model, singer and dancer’s career began with a chart-topping debut album, Ora. She’s collaborated with stars like Charli XCX and Iggy Azalea for a number of hits, and was most recently a judge on The X Factor and the host of VH1’s America’s Next Top Model.

“Rita is a multi-talented star who’s been an MTV core artist for over half of a decade,” said Viacom International Head of Music and Talent Bruce Gillmer in a press release. “She’s the perfect hometown hero to lead the 2017 MTV EMAs, which promises to be the year’s ultimate global music celebration.”

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Eminem Drops Exclamation Point on Thrilling BET Hip Hop Awards

The BET Hip Hop Awards splashed down to the Sunshine State for its 2017 ceremony, taking advantage of South Florida’s tropical vibes, frenetic energy and vibrant music scene to honor hip-hop’s hustle. The show attracted a who’s who of hip-hop royalty, including Gucci Mane, Luke Campbell, Playboi Carti and Flo Rida, while transforming Miami’s Jackie Gleason Theater into a trendy South Beach nightclub with bursts of pyrotechnics, fog, and flashing lights.

Migos performs “Too Hotty” at the 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Hosted by Miami native and modern renaissance man DJ Khaled, the Hip-Hop Awards paid homage to both industry veterans like Eminem (who went viral with a politically-charged freestyle) and spunky newcomers like Hustler of the Year, Cardi B.

Check out these highlights from the hottest night in hip-hop:

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Cycling the Crossroads of the World with Cycle for Survival

Clockwise from top left: Cycle for Survival takes over Times Square; the author and intern Tatiana Cadet on their bikes; a Cycle for Survival bike; Cadet challenges herself to a great workout.

Times Square – the heavily nicknamed Crossroads of the World, Center of the Universe, or Heart of the World (among others) – draws an estimated 50 million annual visitors; more than 300,000 pedestrians pass through daily. It is also home to a pair of towers where Viacom keeps offices.

This bustling pedestrian and entertainment center provides the perfect backdrop for an annual Times Square Takeover by Cycle for Survival, the movement to beat rare cancers that is led by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC).

Earlier this year, I joined the battle alongside 60 employees across 23 departments in Viacom’s New York, Hollywood, and Paramount Pictures offices by participating in Cycle for Survival’s 11th year of rides. The energy was incredible, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to represent Team Viacom by participating in this year’s Times Square Takeover.

In late September, corporate communications intern Tatiana Cadet and I took to bikes smack in the heart of Times Square for an hour-long ride. We were there to support the cause and raise awareness and excitement among employees for our larger company-sponsored Cycle for Survival ride next spring. Jubilation, motivation, hope, and friendship filled the air.

Read Tatiana’s description of the event:

“It was the end of September, it felt like summer, and I was in the middle of Time Square on an exercise bike. My heart was racing, my legs were moving, and the sun was beaming on my face. I could feel the sweat dripping down, but the woman on stage motioning us to crank it up and keep pushing harder for the people that can no longer push kept me pedaling. It was my first time participating in Cycle for Survival, and I was amazed.

“At first, I was nervous because I heard about friends talking about extreme Soul Cycling classes that left them drained, but this was nothing like that. Cycling in the middle of New York City was enough to make it different, but the trainers from Equinox who led us on our cycling journey were great motivators. They reminded us that we weren’t just cycling to get some exercise for the day, but to be a part of a great cause.

“It felt good to be surrounded by so many people that care about making a difference. Between high-fiving my cycling neighbors and riding to positive music and motivating trainers, I left the event feeling really good and proud to be a part of Team Viacom, which shows a dedication to serving diverse communities and staying involved.”

Relive the experience as it appeared on @Viacom’s Instagram Story:

East Meets West in Art at Viacom’s Vibrant Exhibit by Ogulcan Kush

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The still paintings pulse with the hectic lifeforce of an animated GIF, seeming to burst from the walls of Viacom’s Times Square headquarters in a mesmerizing array of color and geometry.

“Kaleidoscope” by Ogulcan Kush. Photo by Studio Brooke.

The creation of Turkish-born, New York City based Ogulcan Kush (who goes by “OG”), the medley of precision-measured shapes and symbolism is a deliberate synthesis of Eastern, Islamic art and Western modern art. This fusion of artforms is both a tribute to OG’s principal influences and a therapeutic articulation of his frustration that his U.S. work visa will soon expire, forcing him to leave New York.

“I decided to be okay with leaving the U.S., and use whatever time I had left to react to the situation with my art,” OG told Art at Viacom, which is hosting the artist’s first solo U.S. exhibition, American Daydream.

“The American Daydream” by Ogulcan Kush at 1515 Broadway. Photo by Studio Brooke.

The exhibit is a nice compendium of OG’s work and style – it incorporates legacy pieces and several works created specifically for this exhibit, including a large piece that he painted live outside of Viacom’s cafeteria over several days.

I spoke to OG just after Art at Viacom unveiled his exhibition last month. The conversation below has been edited for clarity and length.

Stuart Winchester: How did you connect with Viacom?

Ogulcan Kush: Last year, I was working on Tahiti Pearson’s Art at Viacom installation, and I met the team at the press party afterward. We met for drinks one night and I showed them my  work, and they told me to come in for an interview. And I went in with my pitch ready and they were like, “So we would love to have you.”

SW: Take me through the process of working for Viacom from concept to actual installation.

OG: The people at Art at Viacom were super nice, super friendly. They couldn’t have been more helpful. After we booked the show, I finished two pieces specifically for the space. Then they wanted to incorporate a live painting into the show. They were really supportive of the art, not just established artists, but emerging artists doing a lot of work and trying to come up, so I really respect that.

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These Moments From the 2017 VMAs Are Guaranteed to Orbit the MTV Galaxy for Years to Come

Since 1984, some of pop culture’s most revered moments, quotes and gestures originated at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). Britney Spears’ sweeping, serpentine performance of I’m a Slave for You. Lady Gaga’s meat dress. Kanye West’s presidential bid. Miley Cyrus and the twerk heard ‘round the world. Michael Jackson’s moon-walking medleys. Hammer Time. Lil’ Kim, Diana Ross and one purple jumpsuit…these are images embedded in our collective social conscious, through memories and endless GIFs on our Twitter feeds.

Courtesy of GIPHY.

The 2017 VMAs, held at The Forum in Los Angeles in August, certainly spawned plenty of extraordinary moments.

Here were a few of my favorites:

Lorde’s silent, avant-garde performance of Homemade Dynamite

The pop star flounced around stage like a ballerina from Mars, which isn’t too unusual for the VMAs. Not singing (or even lip-synching) is, however, a bit unusual.

Courtesy of GIPHY.

Lorde tweeted a response to confused fans and reporters who covered the event, explaining how she had the flu and was on an IV drip just days before the ceremony.

I still think her modern, possibly interpretive dancing was sick (pun intended).

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RuPaul, Daily Show Bring Combined Four Creative Arts Emmys to Viacom

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Behind the dual cultural touchstones of VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Viacom tallied four wins at the Creative Arts Emmys earlier this week. Here’s a video round-up of the victors:

Viacom 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Wins from Viacom on Vimeo.

This is RuPaul’s second consecutive year taking the Outstanding Host of a Variety, Nonfiction or Reality Program honor – an outcome that was widely predicted after the show’s move from Viacom’s Logo to VH1 earlier this year.

Drag Race was already the best reality show on TV, and you’d have been hard-pressed to tell anyone within its community of loyal fans that its reach was niche, but the show’s move from the Logo network to Viacom neighbor VH1 proved that the ceiling on television’s premiere drag competition was even higher,” wrote Decider’s Joe Reid in July. “The show scored record ratings and was a massive hit on social media.”

Take one look at the host commanding the stage, and it’s clear why RuPaul repeated this top honor:

With the added exposure, the program racked up seven Emmy nominations this season, and one category remains undecided: RuPaul’s Drag Race is also nominated in the Best Reality Competition Series category, the winner of which will be announced at the primetime Emmys ceremony this Sunday, Sept. 17.

The Daily Show’s Emmy, for Outstanding Short Form Variety Series, celebrates Noah’s “Between the Scenes” takes, in which he riffs on prominent news stories. Here, the host breaks down the U.S. government’s bizarre tradition of perpetually threatening shutdowns over its own failure to raise the debt ceiling:

The Emmy win came on the same week that Comedy Central extended Noah’s contract through 2022. The move acknowledged the show’s incredible and consistent ratings and social engagement growth as the host nears his two-year anniversary at the helm. Vitally, The Daily Show is positioned to wrap this quarter as the most-watched daily, late-night show among millennials.

This is not Noah’s first trip to an awards podium – this past spring, he took Best Host at MTV’s reconfigured Movie and TV Awards.

Viacom Brands Unite for Hurricane Relief Telethon On September 12

After Hurricane Harvey left Texas residents reeling from one of the most devastating storms in U.S. history, CMT teamed up with other broadcast networks to air a benefit telethon on Sept. 12.

Since then, Hurricane Irma decimated entire islands in the Caribbean and left millions of Florida residents without power. The affected areas are still in “rescue mode” according to The New York Times, meaning we don’t yet know the full extent of damage caused by this colossal storm, but experts agree it will be extensive.

Now, the telethon has expanded to aid the victims of Hurricane Irma. Hand In Hand: A Benefit For Hurricane Relief also expanded its broadcast scope. Viacom networks MTV and BET will now join CMT in airing the special.

“Silence is overrated,” tweeted CMT. “Sometimes, music is the only thing that can get your mind off everything else.”

The hour-long special aims to do just that—use music as a way to bring peace of mind to those affected by the hurricane. And with BET, MTV and other broadcast networks now airing the event, Hand in Hand can reach as many homes as possible. This means more opportunity for people to make personal donations to assist hurricane victims. The telethon is predicted to be one of the largest benefit concerts in history.

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Viacom Employee Sweepstakes Winner Georgiana Bell and Her Granddaughter Experience a Night of Black Girl Magic

Viacom employee Georgiana Bell got the chance to attend BET’s Black Girls Rock! 2017 live special, along with her 12-year old granddaughter Nasir. Her thrilling experience came courtesy of Viacom’s Employee Events & Programs department, which offers an employee sweepstakes for our tentpole award shows.

Congratulations! Can you tell us a bit about your role at Viacom?

I’m a Viacom receptionist as well as a freelance talent escort for many productions, award shows and other red carpet events. I’ve worked at Viacom for 24 years.

Were you familiar with Black Girls Rock!?

Yes. In past years I’ve watched the special and worked the event as an usher, but to enjoy it as an audience member is a totally different experience, one that was well-appreciated. The atmosphere was great from where we sat. It seemed as though everyone was engaged, attentive and enjoying what they were seeing!

Nasir at the ceremony:

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P!NK Will Get the Party Started As Video Vanguard Winner for the 2017 VMAs

Michael Jackson earned his title as King of Pop for his mosaic of entertainment talent and ingenuity—especially when it came to creating iconic music videos. With Thriller, Jackson introduced cinematography into music videos, turning what used to be simple live recordings into fully-fledged short films. The 13-minute video (which I performed in a summer camp talent show as a teenager, and still remember most of the moves) was MTV’s first world premiere.

Courtesy of GIPHY.

Jackson’s musical mosaic of R&B, rock, pop, jazz and funk coupled with a repertoire of iconic dance moves made him the benchmark for artistic excellence in the entertainment industry.   The Weeknd, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey and Justin Bieber are just some of today’s most prominent stars entertainers who cite Jackson as inspiration.

The MTV Video Music Awards pay credence to this legacy with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award.

The award celebrates “forerunners in the music video sphere,” according to Slate.

“MTV is legitimately the definitive arbiter on such matters. And their track record with the Vanguard has reinforced their authority: The first recipients of the award, in 1984, were the Beatles and Richard Lester, for the trailblazing A Hard Day’s Night, and David Bowie, for his groundbreaking films from the late ’60s and ’70s.”

This year, pop star P!NK will receive the honor, joining the pantheon of esteemed winners from previous years. The gutsy songstress established a close relationship with MTV and the VMAs over the course of her 17-year career.

Watch some of P!NK’s greatest VMA moments:

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