Photo: Esteban Calderon
Bootsy Collins, Carla Morrison, Rico Nasty & More: GRAMMY.com's Favorite Conversations Of 2020
While 2020 was an incredibly difficult year, it was also filled with poignant dialogue and tons of great new music. To close out the year, GRAMMY.com is looking back on our favorite interviews and stories, which collectively captured the defining music and moments of 2020. It's impossible to choose all our favorites from the plethora of engaging and informative conversations we've had with artists this year. Instead, we're highlighting some of the standouts for you.
Here are some of our favorite conversations and stories from 2020, hand-picked by the GRAMMY.com editorial team.
Rico Nasty | Photo: Jason Carman
Senior Editor John Ochoa's Picks
The Maryland-born rapper spoke to GRAMMY.com about her debut album, Nightmare Vacation, the evolution of her sound, the cultural connection between her music and fashion and the new era of women-led rap music.
"I feel like life is dated by what a person thinks they should be. They find themselves in a 'nightmare vacation.' They find themselves surrounded by a bunch of the stuff that they thought they would love once they got it, but they realized that that wasn't what they wanted—it was what somebody else wanted ...
"A woman's voice, it is what it is. Whether it's rap or whatever it is, the confidence that women give other women, it's unmatched ... I feel like the world needs women's music to heal as well. The early 2000s had so much women's music and girls were so powerful, and the world just felt better. I'm praying for that." —Rico Nasty
On the 25th anniversary of her passing, GRAMMY.com honored Selena in an industry round-table tribute featuring the artists, creatives and journalists she inspired through her music and art.
"While Selena's music traveled internationally, her real influence lies in her impact within the United States. Because she was a homegrown star, she was widely recognized both by Latin and non-Latin fans. Selena was an anomaly: Bilingual and bicultural, she not only looked like her fans, she was like them. That relatability was transformative for Latin pop culture.
"Thanks to Selena, for the first time, perhaps ever, U.S.-born Latinas had a role model they could aspire to be. Two generations later, Selena's impact is tangible. Dozens of prominent figures—from Becky G to Jennifer Lopez to Leslie Grace to Selena Gomez—point to Selena as their direct influence. Selena's legacy has been fundamental in creating a new movement of U.S.-born Latin artists who today, 25 years after her death, are collectively reaping success and still naming her as the precursor of their achievements" —Leila Cobo, VP Latin Industry Lead at Billboard
EXCLUSIVE: Wale Pens Personal Letter About His Powerful "Sue Me" Video: "There Are Two Different Americas"
To highlight the urgency and underlying message of change within the timely visual, the GRAMMY-nominated rapper called out the "two different Americas" and explained why he continues "rooting for my people" in his own words.
"It's not that we predicted this racist world with [the] 'Sue Me' [video], because it's been happening for years. We just highlighted it before the sh*t really hit the fan a couple of months ago. Right now, it seems like, as Black people, we are learning to love ourselves a little bit more. I'm reminding myself that I'm good enough. It's been crazy for so long. We lost a lot of hope and too many people. At the same time, a lot of human beings are finally coming together now. That's one thing I am grateful for.
I'm still rooting for us." —Wale
J-Pop Legends ARASHI Talk New Single "Whenever You Call," Working With Bruno Mars And The Exploding Asian Entertainment Industry
ARASHI's Jun Matsumoto told GRAMMY.com about the group's expansion into the U.S. and Western markets and the "mini-reinventions" that have evolved the band for more than 20 years.
"The song ["Whenever You Call"] actually really speaks well to people who are stuck in those [quarantine] situations that, no matter what, there is a way to transcend those barriers, transcend physical distance, transcend racial divides and all of the things that are troubling people around the world. The spirit of togetherness and the spirit of being willing to actually come together is something that is universal," —Jun Matsumoto
From Clueless to Dangerous Minds, soundtracks were big business in 1995, but the year's hits offered no clear formula for success.
Batman Forever (1995) epitomized the big-budget, mass-appeal mid-'90s soundtrack. Spanning PJ Harvey to Method Man, the 14-track set employed some tried-and-true tactics. First, only five songs on the track list appear in the movie itself, ushering in a rash of "Music From And Inspired By" soundtracks …
As 1995 taught us time and time again, nothing traps a year in amber quite like a movie soundtrack.
(L-R): Johnny Ventura, Lido Pimienta & Jean Dawson
Staff Writer Jennifer Velez's Picks
Jean Dawson, Lido Pimienta, Johnny Ventura and others talked anti-Blackness in the Latinx community and how music can be one of the greatest catalysts for change.
"Whatever is closest or with more proximity to whiteness in sound, in look, in aesthetic. That's the person that we want, and that's the person that's going to get the platform," Lido Pimienta says of the media and entertainment mindset in Colombia, where roughly 10 percent of the population is Black, and traces of the country's only Black president, Juan José Nieto Gil, have been erased from history, including in books and portraits.
The cover of her recently released album, Miss Colombia, dismantles these notions of white supremacy, targeting beauty pageants (which are highly regarded in the country), where only two Black women from the country have won a Miss Universe title. Pimienta protests that reality when she, a Black, indigenous Colombian, stands front and center wearing a crown.
In honor of the band's decade-long anniversary, GRAMMY.com spoke to guitarist Chad Gilbert and vocalist Jordan Pundik, who said they're feeling closer than ever.
"[Neal Avron is] a massive producer now, but we were his first punk band. We were his first band. Then when Fall Out Boy worked with him, they wanted it to sound like the records we did with him. Then they're a massive arena band, so it's pretty crazy. So that was working with Neal, it was our first time working with a real producer. So that was interesting and we learned a lot from him. I was still in high school … I remember making [New Found Glory] and all my high school friends were still in high school and I was going into the recording studio. It was awesome." —New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert
The "Te Regalo" singer/songwriter detailed her journey inward and discussed how she hopes her new project is a mirror for people.
"I've always felt like if my music has a purpose, that's the only way it can exist. I love it when my music can give something to people. Ever since day one, when I decided to make music, it was always to give voice to the voiceless. It was always for people to feel like, 'Oh, my God. She just said what I've been wanting to say and I didn't know how to articulate'—kind of like that. And so Renacimiento comes from that and also from telling the story of how, when I went through a very dark time, I still came out in a better way." —Carla Morrison
The Argentine singer talked to GRAMMY.com about her eclectic album, Calambre, her sound and her Latin GRAMMY debut.
"Being an immigrant, I linked up with many [other] immigrants who brought me closer to salsa, for example, Colombians. Many Colombian friends taught me to dance salsa. I had the opportunity to be in a Cuban choir for many years, learning from Cubans. Then my schooling was at Alicia Alonso's high school, who was a well-known Cuban dancer, and all my teachers were Cuban, too.
"It gave me the rare opportunity, because I was in Spain, to connect with a deeply rooted Latin world because the people who had left their [countries had] roots and had to promote them elsewhere. I learned a lot about the Latin culture and it made me look for a great friend, a great partner in music. Perhaps for a girl emigrating, it is something a bit difficult. Having music always accompanying me [was] like having a faithful friend who never left me." —Nathy Peluso
The renowned rock frontman talked to GRAMMY.com about opening up on Deftones' ninth studio album, how isolation is treating him, 20 years of White Pony and more.
"I was dealing with a lot of feelings of isolation and working through all that stuff … I'd spent about five or six years living out in the country, away from all my friends and all the people that I've made music with. Before that, I was living in Los Angeles. I was always around music or my friends who make music and I was constantly always filling that creative void.
When I went on my own, I was like, 'OK, well, I'm just going to sit here and I'm going to make a bunch of music,' and I didn't make any music. I literally just—I'd go out to the mountains by myself and I'd hang out, and I liked it at first. But there was no balance there. At some point, I started to long for connection and conversations and just being a part of society again. And so a lot of that stuff made its way into the lyrical content of the record." —Chino Moreno
Bootsy Collins | Photo: Michael Weintrob
Staff Writer Ana Monroy Yglesias' Picks
On his new album, The Power Of The One, released Oct. 23 on his own Bootzilla Records, the 69-year-old funk legend thrives in his musical playground.
"It's like everybody's around that one wall and everybody gets that certain frequency all at the same time and that wall will come down. That's the Power of the One. We just have to realize that that's what we got to do, everybody's got to be in sync with each other. Once we began to be in sync with each other, all of this mess that we're going through falls down. I want to get people to realize that we do have that power within ourselves.
"It's really about us getting along and getting together while we're here. This is the opportunity for us. It's just like this album. This album was the opportunity to put all these beautiful people together that are not necessarily supposed to be together on a record. I'm just crazy enough to believe that if we can do it on an album, we can certainly do this in a world like we have today." —Bootsy Collins
Busta Rhymes On Being In A "Beautiful Space" & Bringing Together Generations Of Hip-Hop Artists On Extinction Level Event 2
With Extinction Level Event 2: The Wrath Of God, Busta Rhymes' first album in 11 years, the world has finally begun to process what his music has been telling us all along.
"I think for the first time in this career of mine, I've gotten to a place of comfort where I've been able to feel good enough about sharing things on a personal level and in a vulnerable way that I've never had prior to this album. It took years for me to get to that place and once you find that it's a very fulfilling thing to be able to share. You help remind people that they're not alone in these realities that a lot of us are never and will never be exempt from going through. It also reminds people that it's OK to talk about it. I think a lot of the times, especially as Black men, we don't get the opportunity to really be allowed to share when we're hurting or when we are afraid or when we are in need of help.
"I think even more so now than ever, with everything that everybody is going through, we need to make a conscious effort to show people it's OK to say, 'I need somebody to help what I'm going through right now.' Or 'I just need some support. I'm a little insecure about something. I just need someone to listen.' I wanted to share a lot of that. I think that comes with maturity, with growth, with being a man, and understanding what it is to be a man as opposed to thinking you're one." —Busta Rhymes
"If it's good enough to be appropriated, then it's good enough to be listened to in its original form and by the original creators," Aluna told GRAMMY.com in a powerful interview.
"I would like every platform and organization that categorizes music to reanalyze what they consider to be dance music. When they're considering that, they need to look at globally and culturally, what do people dance to? The answer is dancehall, Afrobeat, reggaetón, house music and the subgenre of those as well. I think that'll go a long way in bringing people who make dance music around the world together, because at the moment it's really segregated. Really what it comes down to is the listener is being made to jump and go down the back alleys of these platforms.
"This music should be put in the position where they're able to get access to the mainstream ear, because it is mainstream music. The evidence is in the pop songs that use those types of music as their complete fundamental foundation. The evidence is also in white producers using those beats to freshen the sound of dance music at the moment. If it's good enough to be appropriated, then it's good enough to be listened to in its original form and by the original creators." —Aluna
The Sudan-born, Twin-Cities-based artist Dua Saleh released their second EP, ROSETTA, executive-produced by Psymun, on June 12.
"I feel like people needed a reminder to recenter, and a reminder to sit with art and to let that flow through their body … There's just been so much death and turmoil that I think people needed a source of healing. Sister Rosetta Tharpe is a huge source of healing for me personally—the person that music historians credit as the inventor of rock 'n' roll is a Black queer woman. Finding her music was a huge source of my personal healing in my journey towards lifting the burdens of life off of my own shoulders. And I wanted to use the narrative of her legacy to entrench into this project [ROSETTA]," —Dua Saleh
Seven months after releasing the far-reaching Miss Anthropocene, the pop experimentalist talked to GRAMMY.com about her 2020 experience, the frustrating paradoxes of pregnancy and motherhood, humane technology and more.
"I was trying to be provocative at the time I made the album. Because I made it a lot more in 2018, 2019. When I started making it, I was still like, 'Why don't we care about the environment?' And in [the] time since I made it and released it, the world totally changed.
"I still actually like it. When I think about the anthropomorphic goddess of climate change and the anthropomorphic goddess of addiction, those things are compelling to me. I even kind of get anxiety talking about it. To myself, I feel like I made something effective, but I get why people found it to be kind of cruel now. But that's art. It goes back and forth." —Grimes