Photo: Jackie Lee Young
Photo: Jackie Lee Young
Photo: Erika Goldring/FilmMagic/Getty Images
With songs like "Whip A Tesla" and "Gravy For Pope," Minnesota rapper Yung Gravy is continuing to grow a following for his humourus lyrics and rap beats.
The rapper, who released his debut album Sensational in May, spoke to the Recording Academy during his stop at Lollapoolaza in Chicago, which he calls his second home, to reminisce about his first show ever.
"One of my first shows ever was a grad party that someone hit me up on Facebook for when I had no numbers at all," he said. "Probably did a suburb of Chicago grad party, turnt up. 12 people in the crowd, it was sick."
Yung Gravy also shared what some of his favorite songs are on his debut.
"My song 'Gravy Train' is dope because I sampled 'Right Back Where We Started From' and I love that song, so that s*** gets me really hyped," he said. "My song 'Yung Gravity' is like this outerspace lowkey banger where it's chill, but then really goes hard and everyone knows the words and it's sick."
Cate Le Bon
Photo: Ivana Klickovic
After recording four studio albums, making a space for herself in the industry and gaining famous fans like Jeff Tweedy and St. Vincent, Welsh singer/songwriter Cate Le Bon was prepared to leave music behind. "I'm not doing this anymore," she thought at the time. "I'm going to quit. I don't feel the joy that I once felt." Her new start? Furniture school.
Enrolling in a "really intense" furniture school, Le Bon developed a new routine. But, after the indie-folk singer/songwriter found herself alone fitting together wood tables, chairs and stools, her plans unexpectedly shifted back to music. "I got myself a piano, and I just took refuge and played the piano and without realizing was writing the records really without that awareness of writing records, which probably hasn't happened since I was in my teens."
"Pouring her heart out" to her piano, Le Bon began the genesis of what would become her fifth and most personal album to date, Reward. "Music became my friend again," she told the Recording Academy over the phone. "It became my company." Released earlier this year, the album has now made it to Rolling Stone's "50 Best Albums Of 2019 So Far List."
Without knowing it or trying to, recording Reward reawakened Le Bon's love of music-making. As she prepped for the last days of her current U.S. tour, the Recording Academy spoke with the singer/songwriter about writing Reward, starting over, working with Phil Collins and more.
Reward is your fifth album. Where did you write the songs for it?
I took some time off music. I went to the Lake District in the North of England and knew that I needed a break from music to check in on my motives to making music, because I've been doing it for so long that I wanted to make sure that it wasn't just a habitual practice, that I was still invested. Because I suppose when you're making an album, or when you're making music you're asking people to invest in it and that's a wrong thing to do if you're not sure that you yourself are invested.
I took a year off and I enrolled in this really intense furniture school, because I mean I'd had to do something else in order to really give myself the time. I guess when you've been moving for so long and there hasn't really been a solid structure to all of a sudden find yourself alone in a pretty secluded part of the world, with this really strict and rigorous routine. It took it's toll mentally a little bit. So I took refuge, I got myself a piano, and I just took refuge and played the piano and without realizing was writing the records really without that awareness of writing records, which probably hasn't happened since I was in my teens.
Do you feel like that lack of awareness helped you find yourself wanting to do music again?
Yeah, absolutely. Music became my friend again. It became my company. It was cathartic, it became my hobby again. And especially, I don't know the presence of a piano in the spaces—it's hard to be in a room with a piano and not sit down for even 30 seconds and tinkle. Yeah. It was a really important year, I think for me.
I want to go back to that moment when you were like, "I'm going to enroll in school." Because I feel like sometimes people, when we've been doing things for so long and then start to realize "This is not for me." It can be a scary thing.
Yeah, but I was for a long time going, "I'm not doing this anymore. I'm going to quit. I don't feel the joy that I once felt," and felt like I was just going through the motions a little bit ... once you paint the exit door in your mind, that's always going to be there then. That's worse-case scenario. So it's worth then spending the time to figure out what the other possibilities are. And to take the time to reconfigure your relationship with music. And so I'm glad that that happened because I have never felt so happy making music as I am now. I was able to check in on my motives, check in on how they'd slid over the years, and just tidy everything up. And I guess doing that with 10 years of experience as well. It's a really great place to be in.
After you began writing again, do you feel you evolved into another part of yourself?
Yeah. It genuinely feels like... I don't know how to fully explain it but it feels like. It's like you've got nothing to loose, nothing to prove, nothing to... I just want to do things on my own accords, and do things to please myself. And I feel like the times when I've been most disappointed in myself, or apathetic about stuff is when I've tried to please other people, or I've imagined an audience. What you're doing is what you're doing. If you open the window to everyone then you compromise authenticity.
Sounds like you found a new sense of freedom?
Yeah. No, absolutely. And also having a joy for something else: furniture design which has led to a joy of architecture. It's really nice not to just have the onus, just be all on music. It gives you a freedom and a dual identity in a way that everything isn't just hanging in the balance of one.
My favorite song on the album is hands down is "Home To You. " I find the video very touching. How did the concept come out for it?
Well, I suppose I've worked very closely with Phil Collins who is just and exceptional visual artist, and artist. He's just an incredible human. It deals with feelings of alienation and strife to visible, and I guess this idea of what home is. I wanted him to make a video about it and for it. And he suggested going to Slovakia and working with a Roma community who have been subjected to routine discrimination for years. Yeah, I suppose it's just really important at the moment when there's such a divide. The politics of division are so rife at the moment that it's really important to stand in solidarity and to not pretend that we comprehend what these people go through but to make it visible and to care is what we can do. I just thought it was a really important time to making a video like that.
Right. I feel like we're more connected than ever in this world because of the internet and-
Yeah. But I feel like there's constant... I feel like we've become numb to it. And it's just important to keep looking, keep connecting, and not to fool ourselves that we understand. Because how can we understand? We can't.
But to care is something different, and I think that's what we have to strive to do, and to stand in solidarity.
And what I love most about the video is that with the song, I hear it and I think of my own home, I think of my own world, I think of my own bubble, but the video really opened me to someone else's home. It almost becomes a statement that challenges us to get out of our worlds.
Yeah. But there's such dignity and joy in that film. It's a real beautiful piece of work.
Going back to the album, it's gotten a lot of great reviews from music journalists here in the U.S. It's been on some of the "Best Albums In 2019 So Far" lists, including Rolling Stone. What do you think of the praise?
I don't know. I think you always hope that whatever you're doing at the moment is your best yet. It's a continuation isn't it of your body of work and so you hope that you get better, but at the same time I'm always weary about taking reviews and criticism, be it good or bad, you know we'll always have to be able to stand by something yourself before you can put it out into the world.
You're on your last dates of your U.S. tour. How has that been?
Oh, it's been, honestly one of the most joyful and fun tours that I have ever done. The band is incredible. I'm not playing the guitar as much, so that I can really concentrate singing and trying to I guess transfer the songs with as much emotion as I can to the audience. It's just been a really rewarding tour, I think. I just feel... I know it sounds really trite, but I just feel really grateful to still be doing this and do it with such wonderful people. I go into these incredible places, meeting and working with these wonderful people so it's been a great.
Do you find any particular about the U.S. audiences when you're playing here?
I guess it varies from city to city. Same in Europe. It's a strange alchemy, what makes a good show. It's just been wonderful and different and every city really.
What makes a good show?
I don't know what I like. I like it to be kind of dark.
Yeah. And just... I'm not sure really. It's hard to pinpoint what it is that makes a perfect show, but we've been having, it's probably a 90% success rate, with a few shows where we've gone, "Oh, that didn't feel right." It's been great.
How do you take care of yourself on tour? How do you make sure that you're able to perform at your best?
I mean it's something that you plan for. I take wellness tablets, and the mushroom complex, and you drink lots of water, but it's... inevitably you don't ever get enough sleep and just moving as much as you do takes its tolls, but... I've traveled with a group of favorite friends, and we all look after one another and if someone's exhausted and not feeling it then everybody else piles in and takes the weight for them. I mean, it's like any job you do. There's moments where you feel really exhausted by it, moments when you feel... you manage to get on top and you feel great.
Tyga's latest collab has him paying tribute to Los Angeles' large Mexican community. The rapper is featured on fellow L.A. rapper YG's leading single, "Go Loko" off his latest album 4REAL 4REAL and when asked about his take on the song, he says much of it was inspired by Mexico's cultural impact.
"Growing up in L.A., it's a really big culture here," he said. "Even YG could tell you, he grew up around all Mexicans, so we really wanted to do something to give back to the culture."
The video features visuals and symbolisms inpired by the Mexican community, including mariachi, but also by the Puerto Rican community (you'll easily spot the boricua flag). The song also features Puerto Rican rapper Jon Z. Tyga mentioned the diversity of Latinos on the different coasts and wanted to make a song that also celebrates the different Latin cultures in the country. "We wanted to do something different to kinda try to bring all Latins together," he said.
Watch the video above to hear more about the song and the vibe when he joins forces with other L.A. rapppers.
Photo: Nate Hertweck/The Recording Academy
If you haven't yet listened to singer/songwriter and producer Amber Mark's "Mixer," stop and do so now. While you're at it, press play on "Love Me Right" too.
The New York-based artist raised traveling the globe is showing her worldly musical inspirations through 3:33 am, greatly inspired by her mother's death, and 2018's Conexão EP. Her sound is a fresh mix of soul, bossa nova and R&B that she prodcues herself and the world needs to listen.
When she's not creating her own stuff, she's collaborating with creatives like GRAMMY-winning songwriter, musician and producer Andrew Wyatt, who won a golden gramophone at the 2019 GRAMMY Awards for Lady Gaga and Bradely Cooper's "Shallow."
The Recording Academy caught up with Mark at Governors Ball in New York City to talk her next single "What If," what soul music means to her, the advice she has for aspiring music artists and more.
It's your first time here. Tell me what your impression is of Governor's Ball.
This isn't my first time being here, but it's my first time performing, so it's been a whole new world for me. It's really exciting. We just finished performing and I'm still like high from it, from the adrenaline and stuff like that. It's been pretty amazing. We performed on the main stage and it was my first time having like back up dancers and stuff like that. We kind of did it big this time around and I really enjoyed it. I had a really good time. The audience really loved it and now I just got golf-carted here by Redman, so I'm having a really good time.
That's amazing. It sounds surreal. It sounds like a dream that you have.
It's very surreal. I don't feel like I'm actually doing this right now, at all.
"Mixer" is everywhere now and you just released a visual for the acoustic version. Tell us about that song. What does it mean to you and why was it important for you to give it so much love?
It's one of my favorite kind of dancey songs that I've put out ... I'd always put a lot of meaningful songs out and stuff like that and I really kind of just wanted to have fun, kind of like a jam ,vibe song out as a single. Andrew Wyatt approached me with it and said that he thought this song was perfect for me and that he kind of wrote it after he had seen me perform. And that inspired the whole lyrics behind it and stuff like that. I heard it immediately and was like yes, I'm so down, let's do it. And then one thing lead to another you know?
It's a tough act to follow... what's next for you, musically?
I was actually working on a visual for a new song that's coming out called, "What If." It's going to be out next week, it's really exciting. It's like my baby. I love that song. I've been working on it for two years now. So I'm glad it's finally out ... Or will be out. We were working on the visual for that, and I've just been rehearsing like non stop for this show. I've never like done choreographed dance before. So it was a lot of that. It just was a lot of me dancing and rehearsing with the band and visual shooting and all of that stuff.
You've had a huge year since we first saw you last year on tour. What for you personally and artistically has changed in the past year the most?
I think the performances have been like a huge change for me and just how I go about putting out music, I think understanding the flow of that more and my knowledge of production and stuff like that. I think I'm still pretty slow when it comes to that because I really like to take my time with lyrics and stuff like that. But, as far as just not being as nervous of being in the studio and not being as nervous about putting music out and what people will think about it, and all that stuff, really just kind of going from inside and what feels good to me, .I think I've really learned a lot from.
You're such a soulful artist - I'm curious what "soul" means to you. Not as a genre, but just as a term or a concept.
That's a good question... I think soul to me personally is more just expressing what is inside of you, what you're really feeling strongly. A lot of the time for me, personally, I've always had a hard time expressing myself because I wasn't really sure that what I was feeling was the right feeling, or I wasn't really sure what I was feeling at all. That's why I kind of turned to music. I think it's just really gaining understanding of what you feel inside and really just believing in that and being passionate about that, no matter what it is. It could be being a janitor, it doesn't matter. As long as you put soul into it.
Do you have any advice for anybody that's getting into this world? Maybe what you wish you knew?
I think you should really follow your heart. I think that's really important because I think that's what people will really direct towards, is you being yourself. I think just put your music out there, don't feel like you need to go to a label and stuff like that. I just put my stuff out there after waiting years and years and realized that I don't need to rely on people. And that's when people started coming to me. So, I think that's the most important part, and just always believe in everything that you do.
Anything else you wanted to mention, or talk about that's coming up?
Redman is driving a golf cart, so if you're here, you probably won't know this because I don't know when this is coming out. But he's driving a golf cart here, and it's pretty insane. And I'm freaking out!