Source Photos (L-R): Taylor Hill/Getty Images for Governors; Kevin Kane/Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; Rich Fury/Getty Images; James Devaney/GC Images; Rick Kern/WireImage
5 Artists Fighting For Social Justice Today: Megan Thee Stallion, Noname, H.E.R., Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
As we close out Black History Month, GRAMMY.com has rounded up five established and emerging artists who are fighting for racial and social justice today and proving that giving back is central to their art and careers
Although they may be best known for their hit songs and lively concerts, many of today's biggest Black artists have dedicated their time off stage to philanthropic efforts focusing on racial and social justice. It makes sense, of course: Giving back to major causes is not an abstract concept when many of their fans face these very same issues in their everyday lives.
From access to life-saving healthcare to funding for college to bail reform, today's Black music icons are continuing the good fight their musical progenitors launched decades ago. It's proof that the ongoing fight for equality and equity is as inspirational and urgent as ever.
As we close out Black History Month, GRAMMY.com has rounded up five established and emerging artists who are fighting for racial and social justice today and proving that giving back is central to their art and careers.
Megan Thee Stallion
Music and philanthropy go hand-in-hand for this H-town Hottie. Megan Thee Stallion has lent a helping hand to many causes like COVID-19 relief efforts and affordable access to college. In April 2020, she partnered with Amazon Music to donate money, supplies and Amazon Fire tables to residents and staff of the Park Manor Skilled Nursing Home in Houston. In June 2020, during the height of the George Floyd protests, she donated $10,000 to Restoring Justice, a criminal justice organization based in Houston. Later, she partnered with Fashion Nova to launch the "Women On Top" fund, which promises $1 million in grants and scholarships to supporting women, women-owned businesses and women-focused charities.
But her largest project yet will be the Pete and Thomas Foundation. Founded in memory of Megan's late parents, Joseph Pete Jr. and Holly Thomas, the Pete and Thomas Foundation, which will focus on education, housing and health & wellness, will uplift women, children, senior citizens, and underserved communities in Houston and around the world. "My parents raised me to help others and give back," Megan said in a recent Instagram post on her birthday announcing the foundation this month.
Creating a book club in today's music world might seem unusual, but Noname has never been your average artist. In 2019, the Chicago-bred rapper launched the Noname Book Club after a fan mentioned that they were reading the same book as her:, Jackson Rising, about Cooperation Jackson, an emerging set of worker cooperatives in Jackson, Mississippi. Noname chooses two books per month for the so-called "radical curated book list," with some chosen by fellow artists like Kehlani and Earl Sweatshirt.
Noname Book Club encourages participants to support locally owned bookstores and includes a list of bookstores around the U.S. owned by people of color. They've also partnered with local libraries in Oakland, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles to help readers find their books. Last year, Noname celebrated the launch of the book club's physical headquarters in Los Angeles, which focuses on food drives, book drives and political education classes, among other activities.
Although she still maintains a level of mystery in her artistry, H.E.R. is not afraid to use her music as a means of expression about her beliefs in social justice. In June 2020, H.E.R. dropped the GRAMMY-winning song "I Can't Breathe," which she released during the height of the George Floyd protests. The video for the song, which also won the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards' Video for Good category, featured footage from global protests fighting against systemic racism and police brutality.
In 2021, she released "Fight For You" for the soundtrack for the film Judas and the Black Messiah, which chronicles the assasination of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton; the song won the Oscar for Best Original Song later that year. "Fight For You," which is currently nominated for multiple categories at the 2022 GRAMMYs show, including Song Of The Year, draws parallels between the fight for racial justice in the 1960s to struggles for racial justice in contemporary society.
He may release new music infrequently these days, but JAY-Z continues to stay active in his local communities. Some of his biggest philanthropic efforts date back nearly 20 years ago, including the Shawn Carter Foundation, which the rapper and entrepreneur founded with his mother to support students facing economic hardship through college.
Outside of these efforts, JAY-Z has also been a quiet supporter of victims and protestors of causes related to racial justice. Author dream hampton revealed that the rapper had established a trust fund for the children of Sean Bell, who, on the morning before his wedding, was tragically killed in 2006 by New York police officers who shot 50 rounds. JAY-Z and his wife Beyoncé have also reportedly donated to the bail funds for or bailed out protestors in cities like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore.
Since the beginning of her career, Alicia Keys has stayed active in supporting causes both close to home and around the world. In 2003, Keys co-founded Keep a Child Alive, an organization focusing on healthcare, housing and other services to communities affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India. In 2016, it was reported that Keep A Child Alive's annual Black Ball fundraiser had raised $2.4 million in 2018 alone and more than $28.7 million collectively by 2016.
Keys also supports HIV/AIDS efforts in the U.S. In 2013, the singer partnered with Greater Than AIDS to launch EMPOWERED, a public information campaign focused on addressing HIV/AIDS with women in the U.S. Her numerous philanthropic efforts have earned Keys multiple awards, including the BET Humanitarian Award in 2009 and the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award in 2017.
Photos Courtesy of the Artists
DJ Khaled To Perform “God Did” At 2023 GRAMMYs With Musical Collaborators Fridayy, Jay-Z, John Legend, Lil Wayne, And Rick Ross
The GRAMMY-nominated performer will perform at Music’s Biggest Night broadcast live from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles Sunday, Feb. 5.
GRAMMY-nominee DJ Khaled is set to appear on the 2023 GRAMMYs telecast with his musical collaborators Fridayy, Jay-Z, John Legend, Lil Wayne, and Rick Ross to perform “God Did”, his track nominated for this year’s Song Of The Year.
DJ Khaled is nominated for six GRAMMY Awards this year, with five of those nominations for “God Did” including, Song Of The Year ("God Did"), Album Of The Year (God Did), Best Rap Song ("God Did"), Best Rap Album (God Did), Best Rap Performance (“God Did”), and Best Melodic Rap Performance ("Beautiful").
Music’s Biggest Night will be broadcast live from Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles Sunday, Feb. 5 (8:00 - 11:30 PM, live ET/5:00 - 8:30 PM, live PT). It will air on the CBS Television Network, stream live and on demand on Paramount+.
Before, during and after the 2023 GRAMMYs, head to live.GRAMMY.com for exclusive, never-before-seen content, including red carpet interviews, behind-the-scenes content, the full livestream of the 2023 GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony, and much more.
Press Play On GRAMMY U Mixtape: New Year, It’s Poppin'! Monthly Member Playlist
The GRAMMY U Mixtape is a monthly, genre-spanning playlist to quench your thirst for new tunes, all from student members. GRAMMY U celebrates new beginnings with fresh pop tunes that will kickstart 2023.
Did you know that among all of the students in GRAMMY U, songwriting and performance is one of the most sought after fields of study? We want to create a space to hear what these students are creating today!
The GRAMMY U Mixtape, now available for your listening pleasure, highlights the creations and fresh ideas that students are bringing to this industry directly on the Recording Academy's Spotify and Apple Music pages. Our goal is to celebrate GRAMMY U members, as well as the time and effort they put into making original music — from the songwriting process to the final production of the track.
Each month, we accept submissions and feature 20 to 25 songs that match that month’s theme. This month we're ringing in 2023 with our New Year, It's Poppin'! playlist, which features fresh pop songs that bring new year, new you vibes. Showcasing talented members from our various chapters, we felt these songs represented the positivity and hopefulness that GRAMMY U members embody as they tackle this upcoming year of exciting possibilities.
So, what’s stopping you? Press play on GRAMMY U’s Mixtape and listen now on Spotify below and Apple Music.
Want to be featured on the next playlist? Submit your songs today! We are currently accepting submissions for songs of all genres for consideration for our February playlist. Whether you write pop, rock, hip hop, jazz, or classical, we want to hear from you. Music must be written and/or produced by the student member (an original song) and you must be able to submit a Spotify and/or Apple Music link to the song. Students must be a GRAMMY U member to submit.
About GRAMMY U:
GRAMMY U is a program that connects college students with the industry's brightest and most talented minds and provides those aspiring professionals with the tools and opportunities necessary to start a career in music.
Throughout each semester, events and special programs touch on all facets of the industry, including the business, technology, and the creative process.
As part of the Recording Academy's mission to ensure the recorded arts remain a thriving part of our shared cultural heritage, GRAMMY U establishes the necessary foundation for music’s next generation to flourish.
Not a member, but want to submit to our playlist? Apply for GRAMMY U Membership here.
Photo: Ralph Bavaro/NBC via Getty Images
Listen: Get Jolly With New Holiday Music From Dolly Parton, Phoebe Bridgers, Pentatonix, Alicia Keys & More
This year saw several new holiday albums and singles from artists of all genres, from Backstreet Boys to Gloria Estefan. Get in the spirit with this festive 30-song playlist.
As we're all stringing up colorful lights and scrambling to buy last-minute gifts, music shines as the one constant in our lives amid the rush of the holiday season.
Some playlists have been bursting with holiday music since early autumn, with releases such as Dolly Parton's "A Smoky Mountain Christmas" dropping back in August and Joss Stone's Merry Christmas, Love releasing in September. Since then, several more holiday albums arrived, whether they were new projects from artists such as Alicia Keys and Thomas Rhett or polished deluxe editions from the likes of Reba McEntire and Norah Jones.
Beyond releasing albums, many artists have also found their holiday spirit by releasing festive singles. Remi Wolf brings her bubbly personality to warm covers of "Last Christmas" and "Winter Wonderland," Dan + Shay remind us to throw a "Holiday Party" with loved ones, and Phoebe Bridgers shares her annual holiday cover, this year a rendition of the Handsome Family's "So Much Wine." And even stars such as RuPaul, Jimmy Fallon and Ryan Reynolds surprised with holiday singles this season.
Groups such as Pentatonix and Backstreet Boys joined in on the fun with their own cheery holiday albums, and Gloria Estefan and her family capture the joys of love in a snowglobe on Estefan Family Christmas. Collaborations sparkle with holiday magic as well; Ingrid Michaelson and A Great Big World team up for "It's Almost Christmas," and Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande perform "Santa, Can't You Hear Me" in a thrilling live version.
Photo: Rachel Kupfer
A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.
It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.
Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.
Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.
In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.
Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.
There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.
Say She She
Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.
While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."
Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.
Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.
Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.
Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.
L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.
During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.
Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.
Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.