The annual Spirit of Life gala, a prominent event hosted by the City of Hope organization, brought a big names in hip hop to the West Hollywood Pacific Design Center Wednesday evening. The gala honored the legendary music executive, Lyor Cohen. It included performances featured in DJ Cassidy’s “Pass the Mic Live!” showcase.
Lyor Cohen, known for his pivotal role in the rise of Def Jam and his current position as the global head of music at Google and YouTube, has been a guiding force in the music industry. The event drew luminaries such as Jay-Z, Ludacris, Jermaine Dupri, and Diddy, all of whom have, at various points in their careers, collaborated with Cohen. The evening’s primary focus was on supporting the City of Hope’s mission, which revolves around advancing research and treatment for cancer and diabetes within the United States. attention
Variety reports that Chuck D of Public Enemy presented Lyor Cohen the prestigious Spirit of Life award. Cohen, a New York native born to Israeli immigrants, used the occasion to address the global conflict between Israel and Palestine. He expressed his deep concern about the ongoing strife and called for an end to hatred and violence, advocating for peace and the return of captives to their families.
Cohen also took a moment to express gratitude for life’s simple joys, including the experience of watching his children grow. He extended his appreciation to his family, including his ex-wife, current wife, and his 93-year-old mother, Ziva, who was among the attendees. Cohen acknowledged industry figures such as Julie Greenwald, Craig Kallman, and Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons, who had made the journey from Bali to be part of the gala. Cohen humbly emphasized his role as a “servant” in the music industry, highlighting his commitment to nurturing talent and allowing others to shine.
In commemoration of this special occasion, DJ Cassidy, who began his career as an intern at Def Jam under Cohen’s guidance, curated a remarkable lineup of musicians for his “Pass the Mic Live!” series. Cassidy took control of the turntables and, alongside each artist, delivered a thrilling medley of hip-hop classics, celebrating the culture and paying tribute to Lyor Cohen’s impactful work behind the scenes.
The evening featured performances from iconic figures in hip-hop, all of whom had been influenced by Cohen’s mentorship. Slick Rick, Kurtis Blow, Warren G, Musiq Soulchild, MC Serch, EPMD, Nice & Smooth, Redman, Dru Hill, Sisqo, Ja Rule, T.I., Swizz Beatz, Domino, Onyx, and Public Enemy graced the stage with their talents. Public Enemy’s powerful performance of “Fight the Power” united many of these musicians on stage.
In a lighter moment during the event, rapper and “Drink Champs” host Noreaga engaged with the audience, sharing a playful exchange with Jay-Z that elicited laughter from the attendees. Despite the light-hearted atmosphere, the gala consistently acknowledged the significant issues at hand. Several cancer survivors and individuals treated by City of Hope shared inspiring testimonials. A silent auction was conducted to raise funds for the organization. The Coachella festival and Diddy each contributed $100,000, and in total, the City of Hope’s music, film, and entertainment industry group raised an impressive $4.3 million to support health equity in cancer care.
LL Cool J and DJ Jazzy Jeff also took the stage, delivering electrifying performances of hip-hop classics, including “I’m Bad,” “Mama Said Knock You Out,” and “Rock the Bells.” This finale served as a fitting tribute to the journey taken by all those present, with a respectful nod to Lyor Cohen, the man who played a pivotal role in their successful careers.