Rihanna’s Super Bowl LVII pregame concert and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction event both received Emmy nominations for the multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer.
In order to commemorate his departure from the music industry, Jay-Z is organizing a last performance at Madison Square Garden before he leaves in 2003.
He can’t get his bassist, though. Adam Blackstone is more than willing to step in because he is a musical jack-of-all-trades who plays bass, drums, piano, organ, tuba, and sousaphone in addition to being a writer, producer, composer, and everything else under the sun.
Blackstone, now 40, and Jay-Z, both Emmy finalists for last year’s Super Bowl halftime show that had a significant hip-hop component, are still closely collaborating today. And the performer who has aided in the success of stars like Rihanna and Justin Timberlake is now coming into the spotlight on his own.
Blackstone is nominated once more after winning an Emmy for music direction in 2022. He is a double nominee this season, though. Not only is he up for recognition for his work on Rihanna’s electrifying Super Bowl performance (a nomination he shares with Omar Edwards), but he is also up for the position of musical director for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2022, when Dolly Parton, Eminem, Carly Simon, and Lionel Richie will receive the organization’s accolades.
According to Blackstone, who has served as musical director for the Grammys, The Voice, The Oscars, The BET Awards, and The Masked Singer, “I want to be going versus self a total of five times next year.” And I don’t mean it as a slight to any other shows; rather, I’m just trying to elevate myself so that I can get noticed.
Blackstone claims that receiving an Emmy nomination for the 2022 Super Bowl halftime performance including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, and 50 Cent “validated hip-hop.” He goes on to say, with reference to himself, that it “validated a young African American male who is sometimes deemed ‘hip-hop.'”
The sound and artistic vision that I delivered to the football game absolutely pervade the world on a scale of Kennedy Center honors, on the level that of the Oscars, on the way of the Grammys, on the level the Friday Night Live, and on the level of Tony Bennett,” he continues. “The culture won,” one would say.
Adding “Emmy winner” to Blackstone’s resume came after he had already been booked and busy, but he claims the distinction has “brought more eyes and attention” to the show.
Four halftime performances including Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Lopez, and Shakira were among those for which he served as musical director. He also collaborated with Rihanna on her tours, all four of her Savage X Fenty television specials, and her performance at the 2023 Oscars. Along with Nicki Minaj, Janet Jackson, Chris Stapleton, the Jonas Brothers, Kanye West, and Demi Lovato, he has shared the stage with him. He additionally composed songs for Usher, Al Green, The Roots, Mary Mary, Kem, and Vivian Green. For co-writing the 2007 R&B song “teachme” by Musiq Soulchild, he received his first Grammy nomination. And on albums by Alicia Keys, Corinne Bailey Rae, Joss Stone, Marsha Ambrosius, and Estelle, he contributed on bass or keyboards.
Blackstone was contacted when Pasek and Paul, the Grammy, Tony, and Oscar-winning songwriting pair, sought to add a unique touch to the soundtrack for the mega hit The Greatest Showman. “They knew my music arranging skill set and loans, wether that be or Rihanna or Justin Timber Lake or no matter what, and we wanted to translate that to the movie screen,” he claims.
Following The Greatest Showman, none other than Barack Obama was on the track where Blackstone was standing. Obama, Christopher Jackson, and BeBe Winans are all featured on the song “One Last Time (44 Remix),” which is from the Hamilton-inspired album Hamildrops. Blackstone was called in to work on the song. The former US president reads George Washington’s farewell speech on the track.
Blackstone describes the song, which propelled Obama to No. 22 on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs list in 2019, as having “that soulful church swag,” as saying, “They wanted that.”
He has previously collaborated with 44. Blackstone served as the White House’s musician for two of his goodbye events. He claims that getting ready for Obama’s parties was always fun.
What mood do you want to set tonight? Will we fully participate in the Essence Festival? Do we dance? We slide electric? Are we going to stick to the past more? Nt King Cole? Or will we adopt a more hip-hop approach? Blackstone remembers asking. He is a fan of The Roots. He adores Erykah Badu, Common, and Jill Scott. We performed everything, including gospel and Usher.
His associations with Obama don’t stop there. Blackstone’s “‘Round Midnight,” a joint effort with Jazmine Sullivan from his debut album, Legacy, published in September 2022, was included on the politician’s widely read playlist of favorite songs last year. Years later, he couple Michelle are still listeners of my music, he exclaims with pride.
Another full-circle experience occurred when Blackstone was allowed to play the Obama favourite on tour as Jill Scott’s opening act. Blackstone attributes his first job as a musical director to the Grammy-winning soul singer.
Adam was a regular sight around the studio, simply a simple bassist with a kind demeanor. His work appeared to be something he enjoyed. I enjoyed the enthusiasm he possessed and had heard that he was “really good at that thing.” The rumors were accurate, and I appointed Adam as my music director,” remarked Scott, who has also collaborated with Blackstone on tracks for her solo albums. “What I cherished most about Adam was that anything was impractical for him. In order to realize my goal, he may make up any crazy concept or dream. The renowned music director Adam is now on his own. His wonderful future makes my heart sing. My colleague makes me so proud, and I adore my pal.
Blackstone’s success was aided by Legacy, as seen by the Grammy nomination for best contemporary R&B performance for “‘Round Midnight” in 2018. Although he adds, “As an artist my abilities, Adam a billionaire [to win] is [certainly] a goal of mine,” he claims, “I [have] been [part of] four Grammy-winning songs.”
His jazzy album has duets with Scott, Queen Latifah, John Scofield, Leslie Odom Jr., Robert Glasper, Mary Mary, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Kirk Franklin, while Simone Boseman pays tribute to her late husband Chadwick Boseman with a cover of Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal’s “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Blackstone first encountered Simone in 2021 when she sang “I’ll Be Seeing You” in Chadwick’s honor during the Stand Up to Cancer show.
That is why the New Jersey native who had also made Philadelphia his home was so prepared when he received the call, thanks to a recommendation from The Roots’ Questlove, to play bassist for Jay-Z twenty years ago.
And now, 20 years later, I’m just so grateful for it,” he adds. Because of that concert, I met young Mary [J. Blige], young Kanye, and young Beyoncé, all of whom I now consider to be friends. And during the course of my career, I was able to collaborate with all of them because to the ethics I upheld to maintain that music.