A who’s who of black entertainment and tech filled the Beverly Hilton Hotel ballroom on June 22 for the 4th annual Culture Creators Innovators and Leaders Awards brunch. Honorees included Byron Allen, who received the Icon Award; actress and executive producer Marsai Martin, who was named Innovator of the Year; and Quality Control Music founders Pierre “P” Thomas and Kevin “Coach K” Lee for their contributions in Music.
Variety spoke with Coach K during the ceremony about the recent anti-abortion laws affecting his hometown of Atlanta.
“It’s already started taking money and business away,“ said Lee. “A woman should have a right to do whatever she wants to do. I have a mom. I don’t have any girls, but it’s ridiculous. The film business that was creating all these jobs in Atlanta and in Georgia, they’re starting to bail out. They need to fix that.”
During the brunch, Motown Records president Ethiopia Habtemariam presented the award to the label execs and digital strategists best known for running Quality Control — home to Cardi B, Migos, City Girls Lil Yachty, Lil Baby, and more.
“I want to first thank Joi Brown, for creating a space and place for community and inspiration we all need and look forward to,” said Habtemariam before turning it over to “her boys” and reminiscing of first linking with the two. “Five years ago, I was appointed President of Motown Records. At the time, it was the hardest thing in my career. All of a sudden, there was this black-and-white image of this legacy. … We touched pop culture. There was conversations around value of our executives and our worth.”
P accepted the award first, stating: “I really want to give thanks to my partner Coach K. A lot of people don’t give him the credit he deserves. This is an amazing man, he saved my life. I came to this man six years ago [and said], ‘Hey bro, if you don’t get me out these streets, I’ma die. I’ma go to jail.’ I came from a very bad background from the hood in Atlanta, just trying to survive the streets and do something positive. I’m, like, ‘Bro, I need some help. Trying to get into this business and do something legit. I just need your guidance, if you could just help me.’ I had this studio I built, had these artists, but shit wasn’t going how I wanted. I got the money, just need the guidance.”
Six years later, the two were still standing side by side. P continued: “Thanks you to Coach, because God put you in my life to get to where I’m at. I’m just trying to return the favor by continuing to help other people. We need more CEOs out here. We need more people that’s helping other people. If you get in position, do something to help others. If God gives you the opportunity to help your family, return the favor by helping someone else.”
Next, Lee took the microphone. “I’m one of those guys I just put my head down at work,” he said. “To get recognized, Culture Creators is very big. I’ve been in the business 15 years, I’m just started getting acknowledged for my work years ago. I always felt like I went in circles. I came to him, ‘Listen man, I’ve been in this game a long time. Had my ups and downs, but I believe in me. If you believe in me, we gon’ be No 1. Trust me.’ We locked in. We’re just getting started. What you see now, this ain’t nothing. Give us a few years.”
Lee also thanked Habtemariam, recalling, “ I said, ‘Give us that chance, you gon’ look like a genius.’”
Eleven-year-old Martin also had inspiration to share. Accepting her Innovator of the Year award, she said: “I’m grateful to be seen and awarded by the Culture Creators. I dedicate this award to all the young girls of color who don’t feel like they don’t belong or just are not seen. I want you to know I see you and as long as I’m pushing the narrative, the world will see you also.”
See the full list of 2019 honorees below:
Founder, Chairman and CEO, Entertainment Studios
Innovator of the Year
Actress, Film Director, Producer
Social Action “GAME CHANGER”
David Gross and Steve “O” Carless for Nipsey Hussle
Film & Television
President, Will Packer Productions
Senior VP, Chief Diversity Officer for Omnicom Group
Morgan DeBaun, Founder & CEO Blavity Inc.
Iddris Sandu, Architect & Entrepreneur
Founder & CEO of Xtreme Solutions, Inc. and Founder of ShoulderUp
Pierre “P” Thomas and Kevin “Coach K” Lee
CEO and COO, Quality Control Music
Vice President, Brand and Culture Engagement, GUCCI
Senior Director Player Development, NBA