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Jamizon Tour to Celebrate Urban Music

Pop music: Magic Johnson and Quincy Jones are the organizers of the proposed R&B, hip-hop extravaganza.


Two of the leading figures in sports and entertainment, Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Quincy Jones, are putting together an ambitious urban music concert tour patterned after the annual Lollapalooza rock 'n' roll extravaganza.

The two-month Jamizon tour, expected to start in June and run through August, will showcase mainstream R&B acts in a festival setting that will include lifestyle booths focusing on black history, fashion, sports and community outreach programs.

A second stage will feature local talent, including comedians and poets as well as musicians.

Details, including the names of the headliners, are expected to be announced Wednesday at a news conference at the Magic Johnson Theatres in the Crenshaw District. Among the headline acts believed to have been approached by concert promoters is Toni Braxton, one of the hottest figures in R&B.

"The tour is designed to celebrate urban music and the culture that inspires it," said a source close to Jamizon's sponsors, Vibe magazine and Miller Lite, and the tour's producers, Warner/Avalon.

According to the source, the three dozen concerts will be staged in arenas and amphitheaters that seat 12,000 to 20,000 fans--probably reaching Southern California in mid-July.

Another source said that Johnson has taken a hands-on approach to the tour, even personally selecting many of the performers.

"This is part of Magic's ongoing effort to highlight urban entertainment," the source said. "He was excited about being part of the first-ever event of this kind and to take it around the country for everyone to enjoy."

Coming on the heels of the success last summer of the rap-oriented Smokin' Grooves tour, the Johnson-Jones effort could be a major step in helping black music become a more potent force in the U.S. concert market.

"There has been a real lack of urban tours and it's encouraging to see promoters working to properly package and promote the music on a national basis--as evidenced by the Smokin' Grooves tour last year," Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of Pollstar, a trade publication that focuses on the concert business, said Wednesday.


The low profile of R&B music on the concert scene is underscored by Pollstar's list of the Top 50 U.S. tours during 1996. The box-office list, led by KISS and Garth Brooks, grossed nearly $750 million, but only two of the tours--R. Kelly's and Smokin' Grooves--were tied chiefly to R&B or hip-hop.

Together, they grossed only about $15 million. That included a total of $9.5 million by Kelly in 54 shows and $6 million by Smokin' Grooves in 34 shows. Lollapalooza '96, by contrast, garnered nearly $16 million in 22 cities.

That imbalance is even more striking when placed alongside figures showing the impact of R&B and rap music in the U.S. record market. The two styles accounted in 1996 for 21% of sales, or about $2.6 billion of the $12.5-billion industry, according to the Recording Industry Assn. of America.

Last year's House of Blues-sponsored Smokin' Grooves tour proved that it was possible to have a large tour with top-selling rap acts. The 34-date tour featured such acts as the Fugees and Cypress Hill. The tour will be expanded to 56 dates this summer, beginning in Boston on June 30 and ending in Montreal on Aug. 24. The lineup will include George Clinton & the P-Funk All Stars, Cypress Hill, Erykah Badu and Foxy Brown.

This year's Lollapalooza tour has rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg as one of its main acts.

Times staff writer Cheo Hodari Coker contributed to this article.

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