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Reel To Reel: Godfather of Harlem

Featuring an Exclusive Screening of the Godfather of Harlem Season Three Finale followed by a Conversation with Executive Music Producer Swizz Beatz, Music Supervisor Stephanie Diaz-Matos, and Executive Producers Chris Brancato and Paul Eckstein

Moderated by Rico Love

In conjunction with the Recording Academy’s Black Music Collective, the GRAMMY Museum is thrilled to host a special screening of an episode from the MGM+ series Godfather of Harlem, followed by an intimate conversation with GRAMMY-winning Producer Swizz Beatz who serves as Executive Music Producer, Music Supervisor Stephanie Diaz-Matos, and Executive Producers and Co-Creators Chris Brancato and Paul Eckstein. View the trailer for the new season here.

Inspired by actual persons and events, Godfather of Harlem reimagines the story of infamous crime boss Bumpy Johnson (Academy Award®- winner Forest Whitaker), who in the early 1960s returned from ten years in prison to find the neighborhood he once ruled in shambles. With the streets controlled by the Italian mob, Bumpy must take on the Genovese crime family to regain control. During the brutal battle, he forms an alliance with radical preacher Malcolm X (Jason Alan Carvell) – catching Malcolm’s political rise in the crosshairs of social upheaval and a mob war that threatens to tear the city apart. Godfather of Harlem is a collision of the criminal underworld and the civil rights movement during one of the most tumultuous times in American history and features additional key cast members including Vincent D’Onofrio, Giancarlo Esposito, Ilfenesh Hadera, Whoopi Goldberg, and more.  

 

ABOUT SWIZZ BEATZ:

Whether it be in music, fine art, sports, business, or culture, Swizz Beatz consistently challenges and changes the status quo.

You can hear revolution brewing within his original keyboard-laced intro on “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem.” You can see revolution on the walls of his No Commission art shows where artists enjoy exhibition space for free and receive 100% of their sales. You can feel revolution in every episode or live engagement of VERZUZ, which he and Timbaland turned into “the most successful livestream music platform in history” and was acquired by Triller Network. You can even experience revolution in the success of his camel racing team Kaseem Abu Nasser, cementing him as “the first African-American and first Westerner to own a camel racing team in the Middle East.

He never stops disrupting though…

“I follow the universe the whole time,” he explains. “I was always very curious about things outside of my box—whether that was living in The Bronx, living in America, or living in my own mind. I always knew the sky is not the limit. There are galaxies out there, so why should we confine ourselves? I love being a disruptor. How can I disrupt with creativity in a positive way?”

The Bronx native started disrupting back in 1998. Straight out of the gate, he produced “All for the Love” from The Lox’s seminal Money, Power & Respect before cooking up the beat for one of the most popular hip-hop songs in history: DMX’s double-platinum “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem.” Since the turn-of-the-century, he has fueled total sales of over 350 million albums worldwide with a bulletproof discography highlighted by classics such as JAY-Z’s “Jigga My N****” and the GRAMMY® Award-winning “On To The Next One,” Beyoncé’s “Ring the Alarm,” Kanye West’s “Famous,” Chris Brown’s “I Can Transform Ya” [feat. Lil Wayne], Lil Wayne’s “Uproar,” and dozens of others. Billboard touted him as one of the best of “The 50 Greatest Producers of the 21st Century,and Kanye West went as far as to christen him, “The best rap producer of all time.He’s the rare force of nature you can catch on the Summer Jam stage or DJ-ing a party for President Barack Obama. An accomplished solo artist in his own right, Pitchfork hailed his 2018 album, Poison, as “a shrine to the art of producing.Plus, he serves as Executive Producer of the music for the hit EPIX Series Godfather of Harlem.

“On any track, the first thing I notice is the risk the producer took,” he reveals. “It could be a different sound or drum pattern. Everybody walks across the street when the light is red. I love it when people take risks.”

His biggest risks have happened naturally. In the middle of the Global Pandemic, he and Timbaland hopped on Instagram Live for a gentlemanly showdown between old friends to settle who had the most hits. It morphed into the cultural phenomenon we now know as VERZUZ. After a year of record-breaking battles between rap and R&B titans, the series garnered a Webby Award in the category of Special Achievement – “Break the Internet” as it crushed the Instagram record for livestreaming. Timbaland and Swizz received the “Shine A Light Award” at the 2020 BET Awards, while Bloomberg Businessweek included them among, “The 50 Most Influential People: ‘The People Who Changed Global Business” in 2020. Within a year, VERZUZ also won a NCAAP Image Award for “Outstanding Show (Series or Special).

Vice President Kamala Harris and Stacy Abrams would make their presence known on the platform, while dozens of television shows, a Billboard cover, and more have chronicled and studied “The VERZUZ Effect.

“It’s the new ecosystem for creativity,” smiles Swizz. “We represent and welcome all ages, but we’ve been able to really make a difference for those timeless artists who started this. It’s enhanced their streams, brought them back out on the road, and gotten them deals in some cases. I love seeing that. VERZUZ is something the world had never seen before. We needed a partner who loved placing bets and could pivot as we moved. We found that in Triller. We don’t need 1,000 signatures to make a move on a Tuesday. We need one, two, or just a phone call. We react and move quickly.”

That extends to the art world. Founded by Swizz and his wife Alicia Keys, The Dean Collection stands out as the largest private collection of Gordon Parks art in the world as well as over 1,100 pieces from Kerry James Marshall, Kehinde Wiley, KAWS, Jeffrey Gibson, Ansel Adams, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Deana Lawson, Deborah Roberts, and more. Underneath this banner, Swizz and The Dean Collection curate the live art and music festival No Commission—an innovative art fair where artists receive space free of charge and reap the entirety of their sales.

Art has been entwined with music since his childhood though.

“Growing up in the South Bronx, art was always around me just like music was,” he says. “It was second nature. I appreciated it more when I moved out of The Bronx and started exploring different things, visiting galleries, and doing my homework. When I bought my first home, I wanted to hang some art on the walls, and the journey began there. Now, I have the opportunity to reshape the culture and the way people rethink art with a new entry point through No Commission. I’m not a gallerist; I’m a collector and an advocate for the creator, so we don’t charge commissions. People were scared at first, but it changed the whole scope. It gives the artists strength and freedom. That’s amazing to me.”

You may even catch him listening to music, smoking a cigar, and painting…Not for sale, those works find their way to hospitals and the homes of friends.

Among other distinctions, Swizz graduated from Harvard Business School’s OPM Program and made history as New York University’s first “Producer in Residence.Along the way, he has also collaborated with household name brands, including Bacardi, Aston Martin, Reebok, and American Express.

In the end, Swizz Beatz’s biggest revolution may very well loom on the horizon.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” he leaves off. “Everybody will tell you what you can’t do. Show them what you can do and take the risk. They want you to catch the goldfish, but you can buy the goldfish at the store. Challenge yourself to catch the whale. That’s what I do. I’m a serial entrepreneur. I’m a major disruptor. I’m a master prankster. I’m globally minded. I’m a family man. I’m in a happy space.”

ABOUT CHRIS BRANCATO:

CHRIS BRANCATO is a prolific showrunner who has co-created NARCOS (seven seasons) GODFATHER OF HARLEM (currently three seasons) and created MGM+‘s new drama HOTEL COCAINE (October 2023). He’s a writer/producer with hundreds of hours of television credits, among them award-winning and hugely popular shows like X-FILES, LAW AND ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT, HANNIBAL, and BEVERLY HILLS 90210 (the original). Additionally, Chris wrote the features HOODLUM starring Laurence Fishburne, SPECIES II for MGM and SHERLOCK 3 for Team Downey and Warner Brothers. 

He’s won the Peabody award (BOOMTOWN), two Saturn awards (HANNIBAL), Golden Globes and BAFTA nominations (NARCOS) and a Writer’s Guild award for his work on one of the Hundred Best Television Series (X-FILES).  From 2006 to 2011 he was President of the Writers Guild Foundation. He works closely with Autism Speaks and other charities. 

ABOUT PAUL ECKSTEIN:

Paul Eckstein is a Brooklyn-born writer, producer, and actor. After graduating from Brown University with degrees in International Relations and Creative Writing, he went on to immerse himself in New York City Theater, where he was a founding member of the Naked Angels Theater Company and featured on Broadway, Shakespeare in the Park, and Minnesota’s Guthrie Theater. 

Paul went on to act in television and film, and was featured on Star Trek eight times.

As a film producer, Paul co-produced the MGM/UA film Hoodlum (1997) starring Laurence Fishburne and Andy Garcia. He is the co-creator of Godfather of Harlem (2019), starring Forest Whitaker and Giancarlo Esposito. Prior to that, Paul led the writer’s room on the first year of the Netflix hit drama Narcos (2015). Paul also wrote and produced the Disney/ABC biblical epic Of Kings and Prophets (2016) on location in South Africa. His other writing credits include: Street Time(2002) (Showtime), Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2001) (NBC), The Dead Zone (2002) (USA).

When Paul is not creating shows that highlight history, high stakes, and stories from people of color, he is mentoring and championing a new generation of diverse storytellers and trying to be a dad. 

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Show Time: 7:00pm

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