meta-scriptApple Music To Celebrate 25th Anniversary Of Selena's 'Dreaming Of You' With Radio Special Featuring Demi Lovato, Karol G, Becky G And More | GRAMMY.com
Selena

Selena

 

Photo: Pam Francis/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

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Apple Music To Celebrate 25th Anniversary Of Selena's 'Dreaming Of You' With Radio Special Featuring Demi Lovato, Karol G, Becky G And More

Airing Friday (July 17), the one-hour special, which will discuss Selena's life and impact on the Latin and pop music worlds, will also feature interviews with the late singer's surviving family members

GRAMMYs/Jul 17, 2020 - 11:08 pm

Apple Music has announced a one-hour special in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Selena's final album, Dreaming Of You, Rolling Stone reports. The radio special will feature a diverse cast of guests including Demi LovatoKarol G, Becky G, David Byrne and producer Keith Thomas as well as interviews with the late singer's surviving family members, including her siblings and former bandmates Suzette Quintanilla and A.B. Quintanilla and father Abraham Quintanilla. 

Hosted by Apple Music's Sandra Peña, the special will discuss Selena's "life and legacy," according to Rolling Stone, as well as her influence on the Latin and pop stars she inspired. 

The special will air Friday (July 17), one day before the album's 25-year anniversary, starting at 6 p.m. EST via Apple Music's global livestream.

Released posthumously in July 1995, nearly four months after the beloved singer was murdered by the former manager of her chain of boutiques that July, Dreaming Of You marks Selena's fifth and final studio album. The release fully realized her mainstream crossover appeal: Debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in the U.S., Dreaming Of You became the first predominately Spanish-language album to accomplish that feat.

"Her album Dreaming Of You is a gem, and those songs are timeless," Apple Music's Marissa Gastelum told GRAMMY.com in a special tribute in honor of the 25th anniversary of Selena's passing.

"She was a Mexican-American female musician dominating the Tejano, regional Mexican music scene, and at the same time, you could hear in her voice that American R&B style that I would hear later in the [1995 album], Dreaming Of You. That's what made her so special to me and such an inspiration," Marisol "La Marisoul" Hernandez, lead vocalist of GRAMMY-winning Los Angeles band La Santa Cecilia, added. 

Earlier this year, Selena's family had plans for a special tribute concert, dubbed Selena XXV - Veinticinco Años, to honor the 25-year anniversary of her death. Produced by the family's own Q Productions and originally scheduled for May, the event was rescheduled in March and ultimately canceled in May, both due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Selena Forever: Remembering The Latin Pop Icon 25 Years Later

Normani in 2023
Normani attends Elle's Women In Hollywood event in 2023.

Photo: MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images

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Breaking Down Normani's Journey To 'Dopamine': How Her Debut Album Showcases Resilience & Star Power

The wait for Normani's first album, 'Dopamine,' is officially over. Upon the album's arrival, reflect on all of the major moments that have happened in the six years since she made her solo debut.

GRAMMYs/Jun 14, 2024 - 09:39 pm

All eyes are on Normani as her long-awaited debut album, Dopamine, arrives to eager fans and critics alike on June 14. It arrives more than six years after Normani made her solo debut post-Fifth Harmony — and though she has released a number of singles since, even her most loyal listeners were bewildered by the delay of her debut project. But the 28-year-old has been strategic in building something timeless.

"I took the time to learn and develop my sound. I wanted to be different and create a body of work that's unique but still fresh and exciting," Normani tells GRAMMY.com. "There were many days of trial and error trying to perfect something that embodies who I am and the type of artist I wanted to be. I always knew that I had to trust myself even when others doubted me and questioned my hunger."

On the highly anticipated Dopamine, Normani's womanhood and artistic breadth effortlessly glides across its 13 tracks. She makes no apologies for her sexier image and music after years of "feeling safe with being seen, but not too seen," as she told Teen Vogue in 2020. That newfound confidence translates into a musical paradise that's a far cry from her Fifth Harmony days. Up until now, the world has only received Normani's talent in snippets here and there; Dopamine finally gives us the full dose.

As you dig into Dopamine, take a look at a complete breakdown of every major moment that's led to Normani's long-awaited debut project.

2018: She Re-Introduced Herself As An R&B Star

A mere month prior to Fifth Harmony's hiatus announcement, a then 21-year-old Normani teamed up with Khalid for her first-ever single as a solo act, "Love Lies." Penned for the Love, Simon soundtrack, the sultry R&B number foreshadowed Normani's imminent success outside of Fifth Harmony; not only did it crack the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it hit No. 1 on both Billboard's Mainstream Top 40 and Radio Songs charts.

At the tail end of 2018, Normani delivered another R&B jam, the hazy, slow-burning duet with 6lack, "Waves," which found success on multiple R&B charts. Though somewhat forgotten compared to "Motivation" and "Wild Side" (more on those later), "Waves" shows off Normani's vocal range as she laments over an on-again, off-again relationship.

2019: She Celebrated A Global Smash & Massive Opening Act Slot

Normani struck gold again in 2019 when she teamed up with Sam Smith for "Dancing With a Stranger," which became the most-played radio song in the world that year, according to Forbes. Sonically speaking, the disco-tinged oasis marked new territory for Normani — and it paid off in a big way as it boasts over a billion Spotify streams and remains her biggest single to date.

The singer's star continued shining bright into that summer, when she served as the opener for the North American leg of Ariana Grande's Sweetener Tour. The arena trek marked her first opportunity to show off her performing skills, and further prove her prowess as a solo act.

On the heels of the international success of "Dancing With a Stranger" and touring with Grande, Normani released her first fully solo single, "Motivation." The bubbly track presented a poppier side and offered a fun moment with its Y2K-inspired video, even igniting a viral dance challenge. But it seemingly wasn't indicative of the direction she was headed; at the time, Normani admitted to The Cut that she "didn't feel like it represented" her as an artist.

Still, "Motivation" served as a pivotal moment for Normani. It became a top 20 hit on Billboard's Mainstream Top 40 chart, and she delivered a showstopping performance of the song at the MTV Video Music Awards — which even earned the title of 2019's best performance from Harper's Bazaar.

2020 & 2021: She Teamed Up With Two Of Rap's Biggest Female Stars

The next couple of years saw Normani continue linking up with several of her peers. She first joined forces with Megan Thee Stallion for the anthemic "Diamonds" — which brilliantly samples Marilyn Monroe's "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" — off the Birds of Prey soundtrack. Soon after, she teamed up with Megan again — this time, for a jaw-dropping cameo in the video for the chart-topping smash "WAP" with Cardi B.

"WAP" drew criticism for its sexually explicit lyrics (and equally racy video), but the message aligned perfectly with Normani's mission to champion and represent Black women in and outside of the music industry. 

"The 'WAP' video I was really, really excited to be a part of, just because I feel like we're in a time in music where women — and Black women — are really on top, which is something I feel like we haven't seen in a very, very long time," she told Teen Vogue. "Where I come from, we were all about female empowerment. The fact that I could be a part of such a special moment embracing our sexuality, in which I definitely think there's a double standard, [was exciting] to be a part of it."

In 2021, Normani took her turn with Cardi B on another fiery track, "Wild Side," which saw her return to her R&B foundation while also continuing her artistic evolution. From sampling Aaliyah's "One in a Million" to executing the intricate choreography seen in the Tanu Muino-directed video, the '90s-inspired slow jam — which closes out Dopamine — whet fans' appetite and established Normani as a force to be reckoned with in R&B and beyond.

2022: She Traversed Several Different Musical Worlds

Keeping fans on their toes, Normani veered away slightly from her signature R&B sound by incorporating synth-pop into the one-off single "Fair." The mid-tempo track put the spotlight on her vulnerability; the lyrics deal with watching a past lover move on as if you never existed.

"This one is really unique and different for me. Probably not what everyone is expecting," she said in an Instagram story ahead of the release.

A few months later, Normani dove deeper into the dance genre by lending her light and airy vocals to Calvin Harris' "New to You," a collaboration that also featured Tinashe and Offset. But she never strayed too far from her R&B stylings, as she also teamed up with childhood friend Josh Levi for a remix of his song "Don't They" that summer.

2023: She Ushered In A New Era

Though 2023 didn't see any new music from Normani, she made some business moves that indicated she was ready for a reset. That May, Normani parted ways with S10 Entertainment and Brandon Silverstein after signing a new management deal with Brandon Creed and Lydia Asrat — signifying a new chapter and much-needed change in direction. 

"The transition signified a new beginning, filled with hopes of  moving forward and getting things done that were important to me," Normani tells GRAMMY.com. "I was faced with many obstacles over the years, some that you would not believe. But through it all, my faith in God kept me aligned with what I felt was right for me."

A couple months later, Normani launched a partnership with Bose that saw her give a first preview of the assertive Dopamine track "Candy Paint." She also offered some insight to the album delays, which partially stemmed from her parents' health struggles.

"It was hard feeling misunderstood because of the lack of knowledge people had for my circumstances in real-time. I don't even know if I had the energy to explain — my emotional, spiritual and mental endurance was really tested," she explained to Dazed. "When my parents got sick, I didn't have the mental capacity to even try to be creative, but I pushed myself anyway. If it weren't for them, I probably wouldn't have, but I know it's what got them through such a tough time — they needed to see me persevere and push through and continue to move forward."

As she shared with Bose, crafting Dopamine ended up being a creative outlet for Normani and offered a sign of hope for her and her parents during their respective treatments.

"(When my mom was going through chemo) the thing that really kept her going was getting on FaceTime and being like, 'How are the sessions going?' She's always so eager to hear the new records we've been working on," she said. "And then a year later, when my dad ended up being diagnosed, he would say mid treatment, 'I'm ready for you to take over the world.'"

2024: She Completed A Hard-Fought Journey

By the beginning of 2024, even Normani couldn't help but acknowledge how long fans had been waiting for her debut LP. She facetiously launched a website called wheresthedamnalbum.com — but it actually served as the official kickoff to the album campaign.

Two months after she shared the album's title and stunning cover art on the site, Normani delivered the guitar-driven lead single "1:59" arrived, as well as a release date for Dopamine.

Despite a series of false starts and personal challenges, Dopamine is proof that Normani is as resilient as they come — and this project was well worth the wait. Opening tracks "Big Boy" and "Still" flex her swag, whereas Janet Jackson-coded tunes like "All Yours" and "Lights On" (co-written with Victoria Monét) ooze sensual vibes. While the album mostly caters to her R&B foundation, she touches on her dance music dabblings with the house-leaning"Take My Time." 

Dopamine even offered a full-circle moment for Normani, who has cited Brandy as one of her biggest musical inspirations. The R&B trailblazer lends background vocals to "Insomnia," which also features hypnotic production from Stargate

As Normani embraces her close-up, she's keenly aware that the stakes are high, but it's a moment she's been ready for all along.

"I hope [fans] see the passion and the hard work that I have put into creating something so special," she tells GRAMMY.com. "I love my fans and how they have been patiently waiting and supporting me over the years. I hope the wait was worth it for them and they are proud of what we have accomplished together."

8 Ways Aaliyah Empowered A Generation Of Female R&B Stars

Angélica Garcia's Intuition: How 'Gemelo' Was Born
Angélica Garcia

Photo: Shervin Lainez

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Angélica Garcia's Intuition: How 'Gemelo' Was Born By Embracing L.A., Ancestry & Spanish Language

When creating her new album, 'Gemelo,' Angélica Garcia relied on her "spirit self" for guidance. The Los Angeles native details how she arrived at her first Spanish-language release by following her intuition and embracing her family history.

GRAMMYs/Jun 13, 2024 - 01:05 pm

Early in the spring of 2020, Angélica Garcia felt like she was being called back home. The singer/songwriter had spent the last three years in Richmond, Virginia, but her roots were firmly planted in California.

She’d spent most of her life in El Monte — the city in the San Gabriel Valley just 20 20 minutes east of downtown L.A., where she was raised by her parents and grandparents. (Her mother, also named Angélica, was a singer who had grown up performing rancheras with her siblings at rodeos around L.A. and Mexico.) Angélica spent most of her childhood moving around the city, learning how to fit in each time she enrolled in a new school. At 17, she followed her parents across the country to Accomac, Virginia — a tiny rural town on the state’s eastern shore. 

"It was challenging, but I tried to always see the positive side of those experiences," she tells GRAMMY.com. "In some ways it was like traveling back in time to live there, but I also just thought, Wow, this is a whole different culture that I get to be a part of." 

After high school, she moved to Richmond and fell into the city’s indie scene, performing in several bands while recording and releasing her own solo music. Her semi-autobiographical track "Jícama" made it onto President Obama's 2019 year-end music list, giving her a boost of recognition just before she released her 2020 album, Cha Cha Palace. The album was a celebration of her Salvadoran-Mexican heritage, bursting at the seams with influences from across the Latin American diaspora, merging cumbia, ranchera, and reggaeton with psychedelic rock and pop.

Just before the pandemic, Garcia felt as if she "was being called to start over in L.A." With COVID-forced closures throughout the city, it wasn’t quite the return Garcia had hoped for. It did, however, present an opportunity for grounding and reconnection — not just with Garcia's hometown, but with roots, culture, and voice.

She turned inward, dredging up gnarled, complicated feelings about her identity. She’d started to find success writing music that she felt deeply connected to, but Garcia was also grappling with the realization that it was written in a language neither of her grandparents spoke. She turned to poetry, trying to work through her feelings of grief and disconnect. 

Slowly but surely, those words became the first inklings of Gemelo. Produced by Chicano Batman’s Carlos Arévalo, the 10-track album explores duality and belonging, following Garcia’s journey of acceptance from the ethereal musing of opener "Reflexiones," to the wild joy of closer "Paloma." 

Her first album sung almost entirely in Spanish, Gemelo is Garcia triumphing over her doubts, following her intuition into an otherworldly pop soundscape that transcends borders. 

Ahead of her upcoming tour dates opening for IDLES, Garcia spoke with GRAMMY.com about processing grief, writing in Spanish, and finding inspiration in her ancestors. 

This conversation has been condensed and edited.

What inspired your move back to California?

I loved living in Richmond, but I was having a really hard time towards the end. Moving kind of felt like something that I had to do. That was one of the difficult things that I was navigating around the time of writing Gemelo

The album touches on the concept of grief and loss, but also discovery. What was going on in your life as you were writing it?

The record feels like traveling through grief. In real life, I was processing some really difficult changes and adapting as a person. I felt like there was a version of me who was going through the motions and phasing in and out of grief. My body was there, but my mind was somewhere else. I felt like I was almost in a dissociative state. 

How does that sense of self you were grappling with tie into the album’s title, Gemelo?

It’s funny, it almost feels like the album revealed itself to me over time. I was maybe three or four songs in before I really started to see a through line between them. I wasn’t sure they were going to turn into an album, but they started to feel like part of a body of work. 

In the beginning, I think I kept noticing these themes of reflection, the idea of past lives, all these emotions that kept coming up. Later, I was searching and searching for a record title, and I kept seeing the word "twin." I hadn’t actually tried translating it into Spanish, but when I did, it was like a light bulb went off. I heard "gemelo," and everything made sense. 

What about the concept of twins were you drawn to?

I often felt like I had this intuition guiding me and helping me through some of these decisions, and helping to protect me. That, to me, is my gemelo. We have the version of ourselves that exists in the physical world, and then we have an intuitive self, a spirit self, that’s guiding us, even when our tangible self is too confused to really understand everything. 

Most of this album is in Spanish. What’s your relationship to the language? Did you grow up speaking it?

It’s always been a very core part of my childhood and my formative memories. Most of the people that I love speak Spanish. So even if I wasn’t always exercising it every day, anytime I spoke to the core people in my life — my grandparents, my mom, or my dad — I was always hearing Spanish. It’s also some of the first music that I learned how to sing, so it felt very natural to me to have it in my mouth and on my tongue. 

I just realized I’d never actually tried to express myself as a writer, creatively, in this language. I really wanted to honor that side of myself and my family lineage, and give it a shot. 

Would you say you express yourself differently in Spanish than in English?

I feel like maybe it was almost easier to write in Spanish. I’ve been a musician for so long that it can be really easy to be like, "Oh, this is how a song should go," or "I should have a chorus that sounds like this." In some ways, because I didn't have the same framework or rules with Spanish, I was leaning a lot on imagery and on concepts in a way that was a very fun and refreshing challenge. 

I think it brought out a little bit more of my philosophical side, because I didn't feel the same pressures that sometimes I feel when working on music in English. 

Did exploring that side of yourself also help you connect on a different level with your family and your roots?

I always felt a deep connection to my roots. It can be so easy to just get caught up in everyday life, so it's really fascinating when you look back, and you see the similarities between you. It really makes you wonder how much of it is nature and how much of it is nurture? And how many of these things I do were literally inherited, you know? 

How did that seep into your writing for this album?

It’s funny, before I moved back to California, a really good friend of mine in Richmond got really into looking up their ancestry. We would just dedicate time to researching our family histories, and things like that. It was nice to do it with a friend, because you had somebody to talk to about it. 

As I was learning, I was writing down the names of my relatives and putting them in a specific area in my room where I would meditate a lot. I would journal with the candles lit, and one day, I was sitting in front of that area and the song "Juanita" just poured out of me. The name came out so clearly. 

Some songs you labor over for months, or even years, and they might not come out. This one just poured out like it was raining from the sky. Later, I was sitting around a coffee table with my mom and my grandma, and she was like, "Oh, yeah, your great great grandma, Mama Juana. Juanita …" and I was just thinking, Wait, what? My grandma was telling me how Juana was this mystical woman, and I thought, Wow, she really wanted a song.

In addition to "Juanita," your songs really tap into the stories of strong women, feminine joy, and feminine anger. How have the women in your family influenced your music?

I love the perspective of the women in my family because there’s so much personality and resilience. They’re badass. My grandmother would tell me stories about being a little girl in El Salvador selling coffee, and her whole journey to work at the U.S. embassy, which is eventually how she got to the U.S. And my mother, being a child performing rodeos, told me stories about walking from one gig to another in Mexico with my grandpa because the van had broken down. 

Sometimes I feel like people like to focus on their material accomplishments, like money or degrees. But the story of my mom walking from a gig as a child in her rodeo outfit, or the fact that my grandmother went from selling coffee in the jungle in El Salvador to L.A.? That's an accomplishment. That's resilience. 

They’re full of these vibrant stories, because they had to navigate through so many trials. Because of them, I experienced a lot of love and magic, care, and nurturing. It’s unfortunate to me that those traits are sometimes seen as soft instead of strong, when it’s both. They redefined strength for me.

Gemelo’s final track, "Paloma," feels like such a triumphant celebration. What significance does that song have for you?

I wanted to end with gratitude. "Paloma" is a song about seeing the divine reflected in each other, in the people you love, and how, even when we're extremely critical of ourselves, we all hold the divine within us. We’re all walking this earth with the power to do incredible things. That outlook has really gotten me through so much in life. It can be so easy to get lost in the grief, but the light is what cuts through all of it for me. 

The Marías Plunge Into The Depths On 'Submarine': How The Band Found Courage In Collective Pain

Lil Wayne performing at Roots Picnic 2024
Lil Wayne performs at Roots Picnic 2024.

Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images for Live Nation Urban

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9 Lively Sets From The 2024 Roots Picnic: Jill Scott, Lil Wayne, Nas, Sexyy Red, & More

From hit-filled sets by The-Dream and Babyface to a star-studded tribute to New Orleans, the 2024 iteration of the Roots Picnic was action-packed. Check out a round-up of some of the most exciting sets here.

GRAMMYs/Jun 3, 2024 - 09:02 pm

As June kicked off over the weekend, The Roots notched another glorious celebration at West Philadelphia's Fairmount Park with the 16th annual Roots Picnic. This year's festival featured even more activations, food vendors, attendees, and lively performances.

On Saturday, June 1, the action was established from the onset. October London and Marsha Ambrosius enlivened the soul of R&B lovers, while Method Man and Redman brought out surprise guests like Chi-town spitter Common and A$AP Ferg for a showstopping outing. 

Elsewhere, rappers Smino and Sexyy Red flashed their St. Louis roots and incited fans to twerk through the aisles of the TD Pavilion. And Philly-born Jill Scott's sultry vocals made for a memorable homecoming performance during her headlining set. 

The momentum carried over to day two on Sunday, June 2, with rising stars like Shaboozey and N3WYRKLA showing the Roots Picnic crowd why their names have garnered buzz. Later in the day, rapper Wale brought his signature D.C. swag to the Presser Stage. And while Gunna's performance was shorter than planned, it still lit the fire of younger festgoers. 

Closing out the weekend was a savory tribute to New Orleans courtesy of The Roots themselves, which also starred Lil Wayne, acclaimed R&B vocalists, an illustrious jazz band, and some beloved NoLa natives. 

Read on for some of the most captivating moments and exciting sets from the 2024 Roots Picnic. 

The-Dream Serenaded On The Main Stage

The-Dream performing at Roots Picnic 2024

The-Dream | Taylor Hill/Getty Images for Live Nation Urban

After years away from the bright lights of solo stardom, The-Dream made a triumphant return to the festival stage on Saturday. The GRAMMY-winning songwriter and producer played his timeless R&B hits like "Falsetto" and "Shawty Is Da S––," reminding fans of his mesmerizing voice and renowned penmanship.

His vocals melted into the sunset overlooking Fairmount Park Saturday evening. And even in moments of audio malfunctions, he was able to conjure the greatness he's displayed as a solo act. Although, it may have looked easier than it was for the Atlanta-born musician: "Oh, y'all testing me," he said jokingly. 

The-Dream slowed it down with the moodier Love vs. Money album cut "Fancy," then dug into the pop-funk jam "Fast Car" and the bouncy "Walkin' On The Moon." He takes fans on a ride through his past sexual exploits on the classic "I Luv Your Girl," and closes on a fiery note with the "Rockin' That S—." While even he acknowledged that his set wasn't perfect, it left fans hoping to see more from the artist soon. 

Smino Rocked Out With His Philly "Kousins"

Smino performing at Roots Picnic 2024

Smino | Shaun Llewellyn

Despite somewhat of a "niche" or cult-like following, Smino galvanized music lovers from all corners to the Presser Stage. The St. Louis-bred neo-soul rapper played silky jams like "No L's" and "Pro Freak" from 2022's Luv 4 Rent, then dove into the sultry records from his earlier projects.

"Klink" set the tone for the amplified showcase, with fans dancing in their seats and through the aisles. His day-one fans — or "kousins," as he lovingly refers to them — joined him on songs like the head-bopping "Z4L," and crooned across the amphitheater on the impassioned "I Deserve." 

Under Smino's musical guidance, the crowd followed without a hitch anywhere in the performance. It further proved how magnetic the "Netflix & Dusse" artist is live, and how extensive his reach has become since his 2017 debut, blkswn.

Nas Took Fans Down Memory Lane

Nas performing at Roots Picnic 2024

Nas | Taylor Hill/Getty Images for Live Nation Urban

The New York and Philadelphia connection was undeniable Saturday, as legendary Queensbridge MC Nas forged the two distinctive cities for a performance that harnessed an "Illadelph State of Mind."

The "I Gave You Power" rapper played his first show in Philadelphia as a teenager, when he only had one verse under his belt: Main Source's 1991 song "Live at the BBQ." Back then, Nas admitted to underplaying the city's influence, but he knew then what he knows now — "I had to step my s— up." And he did.

The rapper played iconic songs like "Life's a B–" and "Represent" from his landmark debut Illmatic, which celebrated 30 years back in April. He even brought out Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah to add to the lyrical onslaught, and played records like "Oochie Wally" and "You Owe Me" to enliven his female fans.

Sexyy Red Incited A Twerk Fest

Sexyy Red performing at Roots Picnic 2024

Sexyy Red | Frankie Vergara

Hot-ticket rapper Sexyy Red arrived on the Presser Stage with a message: "Make America Sexyy Again." And as soon as Madam Sexyy arrived, she ignited a riot throughout the TD Pavilion aisles. Twerkers clung onto friends and grasped nearby railings to dance to strip club joints like "Bow Bow Bow (F My Baby Dad)" and "Hood Rats."

Red matched the energy and BPM-attuned twerks from her fans, which only intensified as her lyrics grew more explicit. Sexyy encouraged all of the antics with a middle finger to the sky, her tongue out, and her daring lyrics filling the air. Songs like "SkeeYee" and "Pound Town" added to the nonstop action, leaving fans in a hot sweat — and with their inner sexyy fully unlocked.

Jill Scott Delivered Some Homegrown Magic

Jill Scott performing at Roots Picnic 2024

Jill Scott (left) and Tierra Whack | Marcus McDonald

To close out night one, the Roots Picnic crowd congregated at the Park Stage for a glimpse of Philadelphia's native child, Jill Scott. The famed soulstress swooned with her fiery voice and neo-soul classics like "A Long Walk" and "The Way." Fans swayed their hips and sang to the night sky as Scott sprinkled her musical magic.

Scott, wrapped up in warm, sapphire-toned garments, was welcomed to the stage by Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle L. Parker. The newly elected official rallied the audience for a "Philly nostalgic" evening, and the GRAMMY-winning icon delivered a soaring performance that mirrored her vocal hero, Kathleen Battle. "Philadelphia, you have all of my love," Scott gushed. "I'm meant to be here tonight at this Roots Picnic."

"Jilly from Philly" invited some of the city's finest MCs to the stage for the jam session. Black Thought rapped along her side for The Roots' "You Got Me," and Tierra Whack stepped in for the premiere of her and Scott's unreleased rap song, a booming ode to North Philly. 

Fantasia & Tasha Cobbs Leonard Brought Electrifying Energy

Fantasia performing at Roots Picnic 2024

Fantasia | Taylor Hill/Getty Images for Live Nation Urban

Led by the musical maestro Adam Blackstone, singers Tasha Cobbs Leonard and Fantasia set the warmness of Sunday service and their Southern flare with a "Legacy Experience." And as the title of the performance suggests, their fiery passion was a thread of musical mastery.

As fans danced across the lawn, it was just as much a moment of worship as it was a soulful jam — and only the dynamic voices of the two Southern acts could do the job. "Aren't y'all glad I took y'all there this Sunday," Blackstone said.

The sanctity of Tasha Cobbs Leonard's vocals was most potent on "Put A Praise On It," and Fantasia's power brought the house down even further with classics like "Free Yourself" and "When I See U."

"I wasn't supposed to come up here and cut. I'm trying to be cute," Fantasia joked after removing her shoes on stage. The North Carolina native's lips quivered and her hands shook in excitement, as she continued to uplift the audience — fittingly closing with a roaring rendition of Tina Turner's "Proud Mary."

Babyface Reminded Of His Icon Status

Babyface performing at Roots Picnic 2024

Babyface | Marcus McDonald

There are few artists who could dedicate a full set to their own records, or the hits they've penned for other musicians. And if you don't know how special that is, Babyface won't hesitate to remind you. "I wrote this back in 1987," he said before singing the Whispers' "Rock Steady."

Throughout the legendary R&B singer's 45-minute set, he switched between his timeless records like "Every Time I Close My Eyes" and "Keeps on Fallin'," and those shared by the very artists he's inspired — among them, Bobby Brown's "Don't Be Cruel" and "Every Little Step," 

Fans across several generations gathered to enjoy the classic jams. There was a look of awe in their eyes, as they marveled at the work and memories Babyface has created over more than four decades. 

André 3000 Offered Layers Of Creativity

Andre 3000 performing at Roots Picnic 2024

André 3000 | Marcus McDonald

Speculation over what André 3000 would bring to his Sunday night set was the buzz all weekend. Fans weren't sure if they were going to hear the "old André," or the one blowing grandiose tones from a flute on his solo debut, 2023's New Blue Sun.

The former Outkast musician went for the latter, and while some fans were dismayed by the lack of bars, hundreds stayed for the highly rhythmic set. "Welcome to New Blue Sun live," André said. The majestic chimes and flowy notes of his performance reflect a new creative outlook, and as the performance went on, there was a cloud of coolness that loomed over the amphitheater.

His artistic approach is new to many fans, but he never stopped showcasing the personality they have grown to love. After delivering a message in an indistinguishable language, he panned to the crowd with a look of deep thought and said, "I just want y'all to know, I made all that s— up." It's the kind of humor fans have admired from him for decades, and moments like those are one of many reasons they stayed to watch the nuances of the MC's set.

Lil Wayne & The Roots Gave New Orleans Its Magnolias

Trombone Shorty and Black Thought at Roots Picnic 2024

Trombone Shorty (left) and Black Thought | Taylor Hill/Getty Images for Live Nation Urban

The sound of jazz trombones and the gleam of Mardi Gras colors transported West Philly to the bustling streets of New Orleans for the closing set of Roots Picnic 2024. The ode to the Big Easy featured natives like Lloyd, PJ Morton and the marvelous Trombone Shorty, all of whom helped deliver a celebratory tribute that matched the city's vibrance.

Lloyd floated to the stage singing The Roots' "Break You Off," and delved into his own catalog with "Get It Shawty" and "You." Morton soon followed with a soulful run of his R&B records, including "The Sweetest Thing" and "Please Be Good."

With anticipation on full tilt, Black Thought welcomed the festival closer to the stage with a message: "It's only right if Philly pays homage to New Orleans that we bring out Lil Wayne." And right on cue, Wayne drew a wave of cheers as he began "Mr. Carter."

Wayne strung together his biggest Billboard-charting and street hits, including "Uproar," "Hustler's Muzik" and "Fireman." The performance was a rousing cap-off to the weekend — and it clearly meant a lot to the rapper to rep his city in such grand fashion.

"This is a dream come true," Wayne said. "It's a motherf–ing honor."

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Jasmine Cephas Jones Press Photo 2024
Jasmine Cephas Jones

Photo: Lauren Desberg

interview

Jasmine Cephas Jones' Lifelong Journey To 'Phoenix': "It's The Album I've Always Wanted To Make"

You might know Jasmine Cephas Jones for her dual role as Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds in the Broadway adaptation of 'Hamilton.' On her debut album, 'Phoenix,' she's ready to unmask who she is beyond the stage.

GRAMMYs/May 30, 2024 - 06:17 pm

For years, Jasmine Cephas Jones never saw herself as a recording artist.

As a teen, she attended multiple meetings with producers, but nothing felt authentic. In her twenties, she went the Broadway route, securing the dual role of Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds in the original cast of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton. And even after she created her debut EP, Blue Bird, in 2020, Cephas Jones' future was still uncertain; the pandemic happened, and a string of hard moments left her wondering what would be next — and what would become of her music. 

Even so, her creativity was booming. She wrote and recorded an entire album's worth of music alongside seven trusty collaborators, including Blue Bird producer Zach Golden and Samora Pinderhughes, who co-wrote a track on Blue Bird and produced Phoenix. Nearly four years later, that project finally gets to see the light of day: her debut album, fittingly titled Phoenix

The 13-track LP started as a story of romance. But as Cephas Jones sat with the songs, she discovered her most fulfilling relationships were found in her family, friends, collaborations, and artwork, offering an entirely new meaning of connection and perseverance. As a result, Phoenix is a patchwork of her life, and every formative moment in her musical upbringing: It's her mother's love of Stevie Wonder's witty lyricism on "Bad Habits," her father's penchant for Prince's genre-bending production on "Fade in the Water," and her years of opera training on "Cali." As Cephas Jones puts it, it "just sounds like me."

Before Phoenix arrived on May 30, Jasmine Cephas Jones sat down with GRAMMY.com to discuss how she grew from the bluebird into the phoenix, and to revisit the moments throughout her career that cultivated into her first full-length studio album.

What does the title, Phoenix, mean to you?

I wrote this album about three and a half years ago. I rented out an Airbnb, and seven of us worked on it. We made two studios in two different rooms. I remember telling everyone that I wanted a transformation in my sound.

As an artist, everyone goes, "Well, who do you sound like?" Or, "What genre are you?" Musically, I'm just trying to sound like me.

My first EP, Blue Bird, was very melancholy. It has that blue color feeling to it. But with [Phoenix], I wanted it to have a lot of confidence. That was the only thing I said. The music could be love or breakup songs. We can write whatever it is that moves us, but it has to have some confidence in it.

Towards the end of that week-long writing group, I was like, "Wow, I really changed musically." This sounds like it has my stamp on it, but it's like a level up. That's initially why I did it.

Life happened. I went through a lot of really hard moments, and the album shifted. It became a metaphor for what was going on. For a long time, I didn't know how I was going to put out Phoenix since everything changed. I didn't know what the story would be, but in reality, it was all right there in front of me. I'm a person going through a difficult time and coming out stronger. Someone who has grown and learned.

How would you say that growth is represented throughout this album — is it in the songwriting? The visuals?

All of it! It's almost like Shakespeare, where everything is written for you. You know, you don't have to do much with Shakespeare.

I was trying to find answers to how the music represented me for so many years. Like I said, I wrote it three years ago. What am I doing putting it out when I am a completely different person? 

I knew it was the album I've always wanted to make. And honestly, now, some of the songs hit harder or mean something else. It strikes a different chord, but that is what makes music so beautiful. If it's done in the right way, with emotion and passion, it's the type of album you can listen to, no matter what decade you're in. It'll still move you, make you dance, make you cry. I'm excited to perform it and have it out because it's going to be such a great release for me.

A tour, maybe?

Yeah, yeah. In the future for sure.

When you listen to it, it's really important that you hear these incredible musicians. Samora Pinderhughes really goes in on a lot of these tracks. Beautiful outros. We've got horns on some of them.

It's an album that feels alive. I remember thinking how much I would enjoy performing it with the live instruments and a full band. That's what excites me as an artist.

The lead single, "Brighter," features Kevin Garrett. How did that come about? And why did you think that track would be the perfect song to lead the new era?

Kevin was a part of the writing camp that was there for seven days, and "Brighter" was one of my favorite songs off that album. I wanted to create a super funky beat. I got this rimshot that reminds me of some track on D'Angelo's Voodoo. It's got this kind of classic, in-the-pocket, fun moment to it. Musically, aesthetically, it was one of the songs that made my neck pop every time I would listen to it. I wanted to start the era with something that brought me so much joy.

In the music video, I'm on a horse. Then, people's flip phones blow up, and I leave the party. Eventually, I turned into a phoenix. The party represents my old life — I left to come to Los Angeles. Running into the streets and turning into a phoenix is the journey of healing and growth.

Stylistically, the music video for "Brighter" is very similar to your other single, "Baby I Can't Give You Up." Is there a connection between those two songs? Are the women in those music videos the same character?

"Baby I Can't Give You Up" is a love story, but it changed for me.

Listen, you can hear the songs and interpret them any way you want. That's what it's for. But in a music video, you see what it meant to me at that moment. Yes, it did start as a love song, but then it became a love letter to my family and friends.

I'm walking around London, which is where I was born. I'm half English, and a lot of my family lives there. I'm reminiscing through the hard times and who was there for me. Who poured me with so much love. At the end, there's a beautiful montage of my father, who passed away last year. Then, I hop on the train to my next journey.

You could say it's the same character, but she represents all the different points in my life.

Though this album is described as neo-soul and R&B, I hear influences of jazz, country, and more. How did you develop this unique fusion of genres?

I listen to so many different types of music. If you look at my saved songs on Spotify, it's Beyoncé, Solange, Radiohead, Enya, Stevie Wonder, and Prince. It's never-ending.

How I write my music… I don't really come up with a melody or lyrics first. I like to start from the beginning and be there throughout the whole process. So, I listen to the sound first, whatever it is that starts — a piano line, bassline, trumpets, or guitar. We come up with that, then the music. And that could be anything. Maybe, a chord strikes me. Like, Oh my god, I love that. Stay there.

I remember when I was 10, listening to Voodoo on my Walkman while I rode the school bus. People would be like, "What are you listening to?" It's D'Angelo. No one knew who that was because we were so young. I've always taken a different path when it comes to music. Again, it goes back to me trying to find my sound and what I like. That's really important to me. 

I have so much respect for music and musicians. That's why Prince is one of my favorite artists because he might be listed under R&B or pop, but we know he's more than that. He's his own genre. That's how I looked at this album — we didn't have to fit into any box. 

That was the beautiful thing about that writing camp was because we were like, "Whatever comes out, just let it come out." If I like it, I like it. If I don't, I don't, and we can move on or try to work with it. But I'm not trying to put anyone into a box. It's one of my favorite ways to write. I don't know how I'll go back to a regular day of writing in the studio. 

I recommend [any artist] to go somewhere, get up early in the morning, and write until like 2 or 3 a.m. Then, you do it again. It was so fulfilling to go back and forth between those two rooms. You're just leaning on each other. That journey to getting to where it is now was awesome.

How does 10-year-old Jasmine discover D'Angelo?

My parents! My mom is a jazz singer. My dad was a jazz aficionado. I grew up around a lot of musicians in my life. I was in theater because my dad was an actor, and I would go to my mom's gigs. I found out a lot through my parents. 

I also always listened to the radio. So, I would still know what's going on as a kid, but my mom had the dopest music setup in her house. She had shells and shells of records, cassette tapes, and CDs. And she had a piano with these speakers from the '80s that were amazing. She had headphones you could plug into them, so I would come home every day, do my homework, and sit in that corner for hours, going through her collection.

I went to performing arts school starting in middle school. I remember trying to figure out what to use as my audition song, and I found Stevie's Innervisions. At 11, I decided that "Living for the City" would be my audition song. I used that in middle school, at LaGuardia High School for vocal, and for the Berklee College of Music. And I got into all of them. All of that happened because I just saw and discovered on my own, which I thought was really cool.

In middle school, I sang Ella Fitzgerald's scat song, "Rockin' in Rhythm," and I remember the music teacher being like, "Wait, what? Where did you learn this?" I've always been an oddball, or whatever you want to call it. I just had a love for great music. So, when it comes to my music, I want to put out everything I've been influenced by. That's why some of the songs go on longer than usual. They'll have these amazing transitions, kind of like Earth, Wind & Fire or Prince, and that brings me joy.

You've experimented with so many different lanes, from musical theater to opera. But did you always want to try songwriting?

I didn't consider myself a songwriter for a long time because I didn't do it. As a teenager, I met with a couple of producers, and they'd always ask, "Who do you want to sound like?" It was more their project, so they wanted me to sound a certain way. Because of that, it didn't speak to me.

It wasn't until I was with Samora [that I had the freedom to express my ideas]. We wrote this song "Wild Thing" that is on my EP, Blue Bird. If I'm trying to fit somebody else's box, I'm not going to be able to write. But Samora taught me that I do have melodies and ideas for basslines — and I do have a lot to say.

Did that level of trust also introduce you to producing?

One of my favorite things to do after I finish the melodies and songwriting is sit with the producer. We go through everything. 

"Cali" started with my idea for a bassline and a horn section. So, I sat with my producer and gave them ideas and my input. If I can be there. I want to see it all through.

Does your vocal performance differ when you're auditioning and acting as a character versus your original music?

In musical theater, you're always playing a character. Whoever that character is, you're embodying that and decide what sound comes out of your mouth. On top of that, you're projecting and using your diaphragm differently because a packed theater of 1,300 people has to hear you.

When I sing my music, I get to be more vulnerable. I'm not embodying anyone but myself, so I get to experiment. In a lot of those songs, I go into the stratosphere with my head voice because in high school, I was training to be a coloratura soprano opera singer and learned how to sing crazy high in the clouds, like in my song "Cali."

It's fun to record and explore the different parts of my voice that I wouldn't normally use in a musical theater setting. All the different tones, tambours, and colors in my voice. I get to decide what I can do.

Is there a track on Phoenix that's particularly special to you?

There's an interlude called "Phoenix," and my dad is on it. Before he passed, I randomly asked, "Hey, could you send me a voicemail of what 'phoenix' means to you?" He sent me a three-minute voicemail, and we chopped it up into an interlude. He got to be a part of it, which is so beautiful.

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