meta-scriptACM Awards 2019 Announce "Party For A Cause" Events & Performers |
Lori McKenna

Lori McKenna

Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images


ACM Awards 2019 Announce "Party For A Cause" Events & Performers

As the April 7 ACM Awards approach, charitable music events surround the broadcast with insider tips and passionate performances

GRAMMYs/Mar 12, 2019 - 04:29 am

The 54th American Country Music Awards hosted by Reba McEntire is coming to Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 7, and surrounding the show are ACM's four "Party for a Cause" weekend events at the MGM Grand's Marquee Ballroom and Topgolf facility. GRAMMY winners including songwriters Shane McAnally, Lori McKenna, Josh Osborne, and singer/songwriter Darius Rucker are signed up to raise money for ACM's charitable arm Lifting Lives and to make the April 5–7 ACM weekend unforgettable.

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McAnally, McKenna and Osborne will be part of the performing panel on Friday, April 5 for "ACM Stories, Songs & Stars," along with GRAMMY-nominated songwriters Rhett Akins, Ross Copperman, Ashley Gorley, and Chase McGill. They'll be sharing the stories behind works such as McKenna's Best Country Song GRAMMY winners, "Girl Crush" performed by Little Big Town and "Humble And Kind" performed by Tim McGraw.

Rucker will co-host Saturday, April 6th's "ACM Lifting Lives Topgolf Tee-Off" with Scotty McCreery, who will also be among the event's musical performers. In addition to being a celebrity golfer, Rucker was recently named an official brand ambassador for the PGA Tour.

That night at the Marquee Ballroom, the "ACM Decades" concert will combine evergreen classics with new favorites including performances by GRAMMY nominees Tracy Lawrence, Jamie O'Neal and Michael Ray.

On April 7 itself, after the 2019 ACM Awards have all been announced, Big Kenny of Big & Rich will be hosting the official after-party with Shawn Parr. In addition to Big Kenny himself, GRAMMY nominated performers that night include AJ McLean of the Backstreet Boys, Cassadee Pope and Brett Young.

Additional details, tickets and special packages are available at the Party for a Cause website. A portion of all proceeds will be donated to ACM Lifting Lives, supporting music education and musicians-in-need initiatives including disaster relief, music therapy and more.

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Kane Brown performing in 2023
Kane Brown performing at the 2023 iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas.

Photo: Denise Truscello/Getty Images for iHeartRadio


A Brief History Of Black Country Music: 11 Important Tracks From DeFord Bailey, Kane Brown & More

While the world anticipates the arrival of Beyoncé's 'Act II: COWBOY CARTER' on March 29, revisit these 11 songs by influential Black country musicians throughout history, from a Charley Pride classic to a Mickey Guyton statement piece.

GRAMMYs/Mar 22, 2024 - 10:24 pm

In February, Beyoncé added to her record-breaking legacy by becoming the first Black woman to top Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart with her single "TEXAS HOLD 'EM."

"I feel honored," she shared on Instagram in a countdown post to her RENAISSANCE sequel, Act II: COWBOY CARTER, out March 29. "My hope is that years from now, the mention of an artist's race, as it relates to releasing genres of music, will be irrelevant."

Since she first dabbled in country music with "Daddy Lessons" in 2016, the icon has received consistent backlash about whether she belongs in the genre. That same year, audiences campaigned for a boycott against the Country Music Awards for her performance of the track alongside The Chicks, later resulting in its erasure from promotional advertisements. And eight years later, the conversation returns as radio listeners question if her music should air on country stations.

Ironically, if you look back through music history, you will quickly discover that Beyoncé isn't the first (and certainly not the last) Black musician doing country music. 

In fact, the genre plants its sonic roots in negro spirituals and field songs, written on slave plantations. African American Vernacular English continues to influence contemporary chart-topper's lyricism and vocal twang. The banjo, which descends from the West African akonting lute, remains one of the quintessential instruments of the genre. Whether Beyoncé or the many artists who came before her, nothing sits at the heart of country music more than Black art.

To understand the full scope of Black creatives' impact in country, examines some of the influential tracks and moments of those who have made their mark on the genre and the music industry — from DeFord Bailey's Grand Ole Opry debut in 1927, to Darius Rucker's post-Hootie & The Blowfish country foray in 2008, to Breland's 2021 fusion of country and hip-hop.

DeFord Bailey — "Pan American Blues" (1927)

Before there was Mickey Guyton, Darius Rucker, or even Charley Pride, there was DeFord Bailey, the "harmonica wizard" from Tennessee.

After performing locally, another musician introduced Bailey to Nashville powerhouse radio station WSM's manager, George D. Hay, who later invited him to join the Grand Ole Opry — making Bailey the first Black member. He quickly rose to become one of the program's highest-paid players at the time, largely thanks to his iconic instrumental tune, "Pan American Blues," which imitated the sounds he heard from the railroad during his childhood.

As of press time, the only other Black inductees in the Grand Ole Opry are Rucker and Pride.

Lead Belly — "In The Pines" (1944)

"My girl, my girl, don't lie to me/ Tell me, where did you sleep last night?/ In the pines, in the pines/ Whether the sun don't ever shine/ I would shiver the whole night through," Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter questions in the Appalachian folk song, "In the Pines."

Though Lead Belly isn't the original writer of the song, his chilling vibrato on the recording inspired singers for years to come, including Kurt Cobain, who later covered the track in Nirvana's 1993 MTV Unplugged performance under the title "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" and named the '40s country blues legend his "favorite performer."

Linda Martell — "Color Him Father" (1969)

In "Color Him Father," Linda Martell narrates the heartfelt tale of a stepdad who embraces his new paternal role to a widowed mother and her seven children. It's also the song that propelled her to stardom, landing her a historic performance as the first Black woman on the Grand Ole Opry stage and later opening the door for debut album, Color Me Country.

After the project was released, Martell stepped away from the limelight, but her impact lived on. She was the inspiration for contemporary luminaries like Mickey Guyton: "The fact that she was there was groundbreaking ... She gave me the courage to be here," Guyton told Rolling Stone in 2020.

Charley Pride — "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'" (1971)

Through his nearly seven decades-spanning career, Charley Pride became a certified hitmaker and one of the most renowned pioneers of his time. By 1987, he amassed more than 50 Top 10 hits on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, with 30 peaking at No. 1 — including his most notable single, "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'."

After Pride passed away from COVID-19 complications in 2020, the response to his death highlighted the magnitude of his legacy, receiving condolences from Dolly Parton, Billy Ray Cyrus, and perhaps the most personal from Darius Rucker.

"I couldn't have done what I do, I don't think, if there hadn't been Charley before me," Rucker said in an essay for Billboard. Pride served not only as an icon but also as a mentor to Rucker, and his kindness ultimately gave Rucker the courage to do the same for the next generation.

Cleve Francis — "You Do My Heart Good" (1992)

As a cardiologist and songwriter, Dr. Cleve Francis certainly knew a "good heart."

In his 1992 track, "You Do My Heart Good," Francis sings about a budding love that shows him how to see life in a beautiful light. The song eventually became the second single from his Liberty Records debut LP, Tourist in Paradise.

Francis later founded the now-defunct Black Country Music Association in 1995 to foster an inclusive environment in the Nashville music scene and provide resources to aspiring singers. Under his advisory, the BCMA, with the help of Warner Bros., produced From Where I Stand, a record book of Black artists' contributions to the genre.

Darius Rucker — "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" (2008)

Before 2008, many knew Darius Rucker better as Hootie, thanks to his remarkable '90s run as frontman of jangle pop band Hootie & the Blowfish. But with his second album as a solo act, 2008's Learn to Live, the world met Darius Rucker, the country artist.

Fittingly, he chose a heartbreaking ballad for his first country single — "Don't Think I Don't Think About It," a heartbreaking ballad about a man who wonders what could have been in a previous relationship. The choice resonated with country listeners:  "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, making Rucker the first Black country artist to have a chart-topper since Pride in 1983. 

Kane Brown — "Heaven" (2017)

Since his major label debut, Brown has possessed a unique boy-next-door charm, less "Western" than his peers. "Not laced up in a tight belt and buckle hat," but proof that "you can be who you want to be, and you can still listen to country music," his manager, Martha Earls, told Variety in 2018.

Take "Heaven," a romantic ballad with the Southern drawl and instrumentation of a classic country tune. But when you add Brown's R&B influence and natural swagger, the track invites audiences both in and outside of country.

Though Brown now has 12 No. 1 songs on the Country Airplay chart, "Heaven" is undoubtedly the country star's biggest song to date thanks to its crossover qualities and romantic resonance. And just last year, "Heaven" became only the seventh country artist in history to receive a diamond certification from the RIAA; Brown is the second Black country artist to achieve the feat, as Rucker's anthemic cover of "Wagon Wheel" reached diamond status in 2022.

Mickey Guyton — "Black Like Me" (2020)

In a 2020 interview with Rolling Stone, Mickey Guyton recalled that she wrote "Black Like Me" at a writer's retreat in 2019, thinking, "There is no way that anybody is going to accept this." But at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, there was no doubt that it was what the industry, especially the country genre, needed to hear.

"It's a hard life on easy street/ Just white painted picket fences far as you can see/ If you think we live in the land of the free/ You should try to be Black like me," she croons on the chorus.

The single made Guyton the first-ever Black woman nominated for Best Country Solo Performance at the 2021 GRAMMYs, and also helped her earn nominations for New Female Artist Of The Year and New Artist Of The Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards and the Country Music Association Awards, respectively, in 2021..

Guyton continues to use her voice for advocacy, from speaking out on racial issues to chronicling the Black experience on her 2021 album, Remember Her Name

Breland — "Throw It Back" (2021)

Since making his debut with "My Truck" in 2019, Breland has been praised for his innovative fusion of country, gospel, hip-hop, and R&B. But beyond his sonic landscape, he's also inviting some unlikely choreography into the genre: twerking.

"If she got a shot of whiskey, she know how to throw it back/ She turn up for Elvis Presley, told the DJ, 'Throw it back,'" Breland cheers in the chorus of the trap-infused track.  "If you sexy and you know it, make it clap."

"Throw It Back" features Keith Urban, whoappreciates Breland for his confidence to go beyond the mold of country music's expectations. "He's one of the only artists I've ever met that does not care at all what something sounds like or what box it fits. If he likes it, if it catches his ear, he wants to be a part of it in some way," Urban explained to Taste of Country in 2021.

The War and Treaty — "Blank Page" (2022)

The War and Treaty are making the most of their "Blank Page."

The husband-and-wife pair — Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Trotter — began their musical journey together in 2016.  Seven years later, thanks to their first major label EP, 2022's Blank Page, they also started making history. The War and Treaty became the first Black duo to receive a nomination for Duo Of The Year at the 2023 Academy of Country Music Awards, where they also delivered a stirring performance of the EP's title track, a heartfelt song about a new slate in love. 

Six months later, they made history again as the first Black pair nominated for Duo Of The Year at the 2023 Country Music Association Awards; they took the stage there as well, performing"That's How Love Is Made" from their 2023 album, Lover's Game

They added to their growing legacy at the 2024 GRAMMYs as well,  receiving their first GRAMMY nominations. "Blank Page" earned the duo a nod for Best American Roots Song, and they also were up for the coveted Best New Artist.

Tanner Adell — "Buckle Bunny" (2023)

When Beyoncé dropped "TEXAS HOLD 'EM" and "16 CARRIAGES" in February, country newcomer Tanner Adell readily tossed her cowgirl hat into the ring to become Queen Bey's next collaborator. "I hope Bey decides to sprinkle me with a dash of her magic," she pitched in a tweet that has now garnered more than four million views.

Adell's music is reminiscent of Beyoncé's own empowered narratives, particularly the 2023 single "Buckle Bunny," which even declares that she's "Lookin' like Beyoncé with a lasso." Like Breland, Adell brings a hip-hop flair to country music, exemplified by the thumping beats and rap-inspired singing of "Buckle Bunny."

As artists like Adell, Breland, Kane Brown, and more continue to push the boundaries of the country genre, they'll also remind listeners of its rich lineage in Black culture — past, present, and future.

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Theron Thomas
Theron Thomas attends the 66th GRAMMY Awards at Arena on February 04, 2024

Photo: Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy


2024 GRAMMYs: Theron Thomas Wins GRAMMY For Songwriter Of The Year

At the 66th GRAMMY Awards, Theron Thomas beat out Edgar Barrera, Jessie Jo Dillon, Shane McAnally, and Justin Tranter.

GRAMMYs/Feb 4, 2024 - 10:10 pm

Theron Thomas has won the GRAMMY for Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical at the 66th GRAMMY Awards. 

He beat out Edgar Barrera, Jessie Jo Dillon, Shane McAnally, and Justin Tranter, who hosted the 2024 GRAMMYs Premiere Ceremony, for the award. He was nominated for several hip-hop and R&B hits, including "Been Thinking" by Tyla and "All My Life" by Lil Durk featuring J. Cole. 

Thomas, a native of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, was extremely excited to win the award, shouting into the mic "Let’s go!" 

"My father told me when I was nine years old, Theron, you're gonna win a GRAMMY," he said. 

The win marks Thomas’ first GRAMMY win. He was previously nominated for his work on Lizzo’s "About Damn Time" and "Best Friend" by Saweetie

Jimmy Jam gave Thomas the trophy during the GRAMMYs Premiere Ceremony. Thomas is the second-ever winner in this category. Tobias Jesso, Jr. won the first-ever GRAMMY for Songwriter Of The Year last year. 

Keep checking this space for more updates from Music’s Biggest Night!

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Songwriter Of The Year nominees 2024
(From left) Edgar Barrera, Shane McAnally, Jessie Jo Dillon, Justin Tranter, Theron Thomas

Photo: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for T.J. Martell Foundation, ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images, Natasha Campos/Getty Images for Songwriters of North America; Amy Sussman/Getty Images


2024 GRAMMYs: Meet The Nominees For Songwriter Of The Year

The 2024 GRAMMY nominees for Songwriter Of The Year have arrived: Edgar Barrera, Jessie Jo Dillon, Shane McAnally, Theron Thomas, and Justin Tranter.

GRAMMYs/Nov 10, 2023 - 04:25 pm

It's GRAMMY nominations time! Among the all-genre categories for the 2024 GRAMMYs, songwriters Edgar Barrera, Jessie Jo Dillon, Shane McAnally, Theron Thomas and Justin Tranter round out the second-ever pack of nominees for Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical.

After being introduced for the first time in 2023, the Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical category was moved to the General Field this year along with Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical. It's a monumental change for the Recording Academy's Awards process, and as Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. said, an effort to "stay aligned with the ever-evolving musical landscape."

Tobias Jesso Jr. won last year's inaugural gramophone for Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical, and this year's batch of nominees represent excellence in songcraft across all types of genres — from pop and hip-hop to country, K-pop, Broadway and multiple flavors of Latin music. They've worked hand in hand with global superstars like Miley Cyrus, Bad Bunny, Niall Horan, and Jungkook, and also written earworms to help up-and-coming artists like Reneé Rapp, Rels B, Tyla and Megan Moroney introduce themselves to new fans.

Before finding out who will join Tesso Jr. as the category's second-ever winner, get to know more about all five of this year's nominees below.

Edgar Barrera

Edgar Barrera, also known by his moniker Edge, has been a longtime force in Latin music, with a total of 20 Latin GRAMMYs to his name. (Last year, the Miami-based producer even led the pack with the most nominations of the night at 13.) His success has also crossed over to the GRAMMYs, where he's been nominated 17 times since breaking out in 2013; he took home the golden gramophone for Best Tropical Latin Album in 2015 for his work as a producer and recording engineer on Carlos Vives' Más Corazón Profundo.

In the years since, Barrera has become a wildly in-demand songwriter and producer and helped bring subgenres of Latin music into the spotlight, from Karol G's Tejano-leaning "Mi Ex Tenía Razón" to the Spanish hip-hop of Rels B's "yo pr1mero." Of course, the grandest feather in his cap for the year might just be serving as a co-writer on "un x100to," Bad Bunny's foray into regional Mexican music with Grupo Frontera, which shot up the Billboard Hot 100 by landing at No. 5.

In an interview with Apple Music's Zane Lowe, Benito explained why the collab was so important to him. "It's very necessary because the world needed to know more about all culture, the Latin culture — another perspective [that] is not only reggaeton and perreo and urban music," he said. "There are also other very beautiful and very wild genres of Latin music."

Jessie Jo Dillon

One could say Jessie Jo Dillon's songwriting prowess might be hereditary. Her father Dean Dillon, after all, spent his career helping define the sound of '90s country by writing a plethora of songs for George Strait, Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney. The King of Country also gave Jessie Jo her first songwriting credit after she collaborated with her dad on 2009's "The Breath You Take," which was nominated for Best Country Song at the 2011 GRAMMYs.

Fast forward to more than a decade later and the younger Dillon has carried her family legacy into the 2020s, outlining the vast and varied sounds of today's country on songs like Jelly Roll's "Halfway to Hell," Old Dominion's "Memory Lane" and HARDY's "screen." A three-time nominee before the 2024 GRAMMYs (she also received Best Country Song nods for Cole Swindell's "Break Up in the End" in 2019 and Maren Morris' "Better Than We Found It" in 2022), Dillon's work with Brandy Clark helped her earn the Songwriter Of The Year nomination as well as her fourth Best Country Song nom, for Clark's "Buried."

Shane McAnally

Shane McAnally is both a titan and a trailblazer in the world of country music, as an eight-time GRAMMY nominee who is also openly gay. After starting out his career as a solo artist, the Texan transitioned to songwriting and producing full-time after writing "Last Call" by Lee Ann Womack in the summer of 2008 and later collaborating closely with Kacey Musgraves on her 2013 debut album, Same Trailer, Different Park. (His longtime partnership with Musgraves has won McAnally all three of his GRAMMYs, including Best Country Album for Same Trailer Different Park and Best Country Song for both "Merry Go 'Round" and "Space Cowboy.")

McAnally's talents gained wider recognition throughout 2019 and 2020 as audiences watched him mentor aspiring songwriters alongside Ryan Tedder and Ester Dean for two seasons on NBC's "Songland." His 2024 Songwriter Of The Year recognition both come from his continued work in the country world (Sam Hunt's "Walmart," Walker Hayes' "Good With Me") and the ways he's expanded the scope of his writing in pop (Niall Horan's "Never Grow Up"), contemporary Christian (Lauren Daigle's "He's Never Gunna Change") and musical theater (the music and lyrics for Broadway's "Shucked," including Alex Newell's barn-storming standout "Independently Owned").

Theron Thomas

A native of St. Thomas, Theron Thomas got his start writing songs and producing as one-half of R. City with his brother Timothy Thomas. The duo initially signed a deal in 2007 under Akon's KonLive Distribution after meeting the rapper in Atlanta and writing album cut "The Rain" for his 2006 sophomore LP Konvicted. By 2015, they'd landed a top 10 hit of their own, thanks to their single "Locked Away" featuring Adam Levine, and released their debut album, What Dreams Are Made Of. The whole time, Thomas and his brother were also writing for other artists, churning out bangers for the Pussycat Dolls ("When I Grow Up"), Rihanna ("Man Down"), Miley Cyrus ("We Can't Stop") and more.

In the past year, Thomas has brought his own hit-making pen to high-profile hip-hop collabs by Chlöe and Future ("Cheatback"), Ciara and Chris Brown ("How We Roll") and Lil Durk's and J. Cole ("All My Life"). He's also worked with rising stars like Ayla and Sekou and even segued into the world of K-pop by contributing to "Seven," Jungkook's Latto-assisted debut solo single.

"I always say I'm the Chick-fil-A of the music business," Thomas said in an interview with HOT 97 in February. "I'm here to serve and I'm here to bring something to the table."

Justin Tranter

Justin Tranter has been at the forefront of pop circles since the mid-2010s, when he pivoted from fronting NYC rock band Semi Precious Weapons to life as a full-time songwriter. By 2015, he'd been named one of Rolling Stone's "20 Biggest Breakouts" of the year and penned hits for the likes of Justin Bieber ("Sorry"), Selena Gomez ("Hands to Myself"), DNCE ("Cake By the Ocean"), Fifth Harmony ("Like Mariah"), and more.

In 2023 alone, his songwriting chops have helped establish Reneé Rapp as a rising voice to watch on pop-driven tracks like "Pretty Girls" and "Gemini Moon"; given Miley Cyrus a follow-up hit to her global (and now GRAMMY-nominated) smash "Flowers" in the form of the secretly raunchy "River"; and kept Måneskin's raucous party rolling with "Honey! (Are U Coming?)," the lead single off the reissue of their third studio album Rush!, retitled Rush! (Are U Coming?). Like McAnally, Tranter also expanded his resume into musicals by overseeing the original music for Paramount+'s Grease: Rise Of The Pink Ladies.

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Winners & Nominees List

Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic


GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

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He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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