FILL YOUR GLASS: No music brand, at present, has the power of a hip-hop brand. The dominance of the music, the swagger of its biggest acts, the importance of the connection to the culture—these have all contributed to enormous opportunities across the economy. At the top of this blingy mountain of cash stands Jay-Z, whose entrepreneurial acumen is unrivaled; his latest conquest is a pact with fashion and spirits giant LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) for his Champagne brand, Armand de Brignac, home of Ace of Spades. The deal is said to be worth north of $250m. His Roc Nation’s hugely profitable arrangement with the NFL has also vastly increased Jay’s cultural influence. He’s lately pursued forays into cannabis and cryptocurrency. And on 3/4 it was announced that he'd sold a majority of his DSP, Tidal, to Jack Dorsey's Square for close to $300m in stock and cash. The estimable Mr. Carter is also nominated as the first living solo rapper to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which would only add luster to an already brilliant brand.

Insiders are also keeping an eye on another rap-driven brand, Verzuz, as its old-school battles provide new opportunities for veteran artists (which include singers as well as MCs). With its Apple deal expiring, the platform—developed by hip-hop luminaries Timbaland and Swizz Beatz—will soon be announcing a new home. Tesla’s latest campaign with Saweetie and Doja Cat is a further illustration of hip-hop’s weight in the marketplace.

#1 “PHONE”: It was another week, another chart-rocking Ron Perry phenom, as "Calling My Phone" by Columbia’s Lil TJay f/6LACK debuted as the #1 streaming song and the #1 thing everywhere; it has racked up some 1.5m in project ATD. Now Perry has signed old pal Miley Cyrus, whose deal was up at RCA. What’s more, Ron was wearing hoodies and sweats to work long before the pandemic.

SEARCHING QUESTIONS: In a “virtual town hall” on 3/1, Grammy interim chief/Board Chair Harvey Mason Jr. said the search for a permanent CEO was ongoing, having been narrowed down from 100 or so candidates to a handful, and that he expected his successor to be named “sometime around May.”

The Academy’s committee is being assisted in the winnowing of this field by Chicago-based recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles, having fired the previously retained Korn Ferry, where partner William D. Simon had overseen the process. The Grammy Powers That Be blame the latter company for the Deb Dugan debacle.

Is the new executive search intended to remedy the current malaise, including but not limited to the bruises resulting from the last executive search and its aftermath? Do the candidates for the gig know what they're getting into, and do they realize that the last two CEOs were run out of town? Speaking of L’Affaire Dugan, what’s the status of her arbitration settlement? It would appear she'd gotten a good look at the backroom double-dealing that was very much in evidence with the latest nominations and the smoking gun of a cover-up. She’s been muzzled by her NDA as the Grammy legal team tries to outspend her on legal fees—evidently hoping to grind her into accepting a paltry settlement and ensuring that she can’t spill the beans.

FLAG ON THE PLAY: Grammy has its biggest nominations mess in years—and a chilling example of its lack of transparency—in the blackballing of The Weeknd by an internal cabal who agreed in theory to let him do both the Super Bowl and the Grammys—then pulled the rug out. Insiders continue buzzing about the legendary call with the NFL, Pepsi, CBS, Roc Nation, Academy reps and the artist’s team, during which it was established that he could do both events. This was followed by perhaps the biggest Grammy fuck-you ever, as he was zeroed out of the nominations. How could this have happened, and why? It’s believed the process was manipulated by people who wanted to see him do the Super Bowl exclusively. How this was achieved—and who else was complicit in it—remains a mystery.

What was the quid pro quo for allowing the deck to be stacked against Abel and Sal? Did the conspirators really believe this would go unnoticed? Explosive on-the-record reporting on this is inevitable, as no denials are issued by the Academy apart from the claim that The Weeknd “didn’t get the votes,” which nobody believes—and is unverifiable.

CBS’ Jack Sussman and producer Ben Winston were undoubtedly blindsided by the episode and would’ve preferred the opportunity to feature The Weeknd prominently, though buzz around the upcoming telecast remains impressively strong.

This is far more appalling than the bullshit we’ve seen in the genre categories, notably from the Nashville chapter, where the nominations continue to be controlled by a small group of insiders who have too many axes to grind and enough conflicts of interest to choke the horse they rode in on. But it’s a larger symptom of the same rot. After endless promises of change, it’s an insult to the entire business, as the cabalists remain under their cloak of secrecy. And who enables all this to happen? Who is the puppet master executing the wishes of the Academy, whose job security is preserved by the secrets he keeps for the powers that be? That would be Chief Awards Officer Bill Freimuth.

Once the Grammys moved to 3/14, of course, the whole tempest in a teapot over scheduling became moot.