meta-scriptAre NFT Record Labels The Future Of Music? |
Are NFT Record Labels The Future of Music


Are NFT Record Labels The Future Of Music?

NFTs present a new method for artists to build a community around their music — all while potentially earning more than they would through traditional record sales. unpacks the potentialities and pitfalls behind NFT record labels.

GRAMMYs/Jun 7, 2022 - 06:14 pm

NFTs have taken the internet by storm and becoming increasingly mainstream: A recent report found that there were over $86 million worth of NFT sales made in 2021, and trading skyrocketed to over $17 billion the same year. As the market for and creation of NFTs continue to boom, both independent and signed artists are flocking to the medium.

NFTs present a new method for artists to syndicate, sell and build a community around their music, all while potentially earning more than they would through traditional record sales. Electronic music DJ and producer 3LAU sold $18 million of NFTs, while deadmau5 racked up $2.7 million in NFT sales, and raised a seed round for his web3 music metaverse platform Pixelynx. As tokens, NFTs allow artists to have complete ownership over their music, often bypassing the common means of distribution and rights associated with traditional record labels.  

During this digital revolution, entrepreneurs and many established musicians are flocking to the space and creating NFT record labels to capitalize on this proclaimed gold rush of opportunity. With this comes the question — are these NFT labels viable, or just another way that brands and entrepreneurs are trying to cash in on the NFT craze?

What Is An NFT?

An NFT, or non-fungible token, represents a unique asset on a blockchain. An NFT has a distinctive identifying code that is documented on a distributed ledger, allowing anyone to see this public information from the point of creation to the most recent sale price. The Recording Academy recently got into the NFT ring, hiring three prominent artists to commemorate The 64th GRAMMY Awards with unique NFT content.

Fans can buy and sell their NFTs, and may own specific pieces of content without having physical copies. This means that an artist's copy is not one they possess physically; instead, it exists solely on the blockchain where anyone with access can see it at any time.  NFTs are one aspect of Web3 — the next version of the internet, which will be built on decentralized blockchain technology.

Are NFT Record Labels Actually Viable?

"I think NFT record labels are the future of music," says Wellington Lora, founder of music library The Cueniverse, which works with NFTs. "Can you imagine an artist releasing music directly to their fanbase, with no middlemen and all proceeds going directly to the artist? This is especially exciting for indie artists in helping to crowdfund their music career."

The NFT space is still being explored and interpreted by developers and users. But as more people become involved in creating NFTs for music-based purposes, there’s potential for this business model to quickly gain popularity.

"The NFT record label industry is still in its infancy," says Josh Neuman, President of metaverse development studio MELON. "When Snoop Dogg bought Death Row Records earlier this year, he said he plans to make it into the first NFT major record label, which would enable fans to buy and sell ownership of recordings, artwork and other digital assets from their favorite artists signed to Death Row. There’s also MoonwalkerFM, an NFT record label for the lo-fi genre."

Their sentiments were echoed by David Beiner and Jay Stolar of Hume, a metaverse record label. The two believe that the viability of web3 record labels will be dictated by how they use NFTs to engage with fans. "It’s not about the NFTs, it’s about building new fan relationships," Beiner and Stolar told via email.

"The best way to think of music NFTs is as a new form of media. With 8 tracks, cassettes and CDs, people asked how these new formats would change the dynamics of the music industry for fans," Beiner and Stolar say. "As a fan, you could now play music in your car and your music was more portable. A fan’s relationship with music became even more tied to their lifestyle and became something they could easily bring with them wherever they went. MP3s streamed across the internet were the next evolution of this."

This next evolution has major companies — from Facebook to Spotify — as well as labels and indie artists all vying for their slice of the metaverse pie.

"Music NFTs will similarly change how fans interact with music and how music integrates into our lives," continue Beiner and Stolar. "Labels can create new relationships where fans either have financial upside and/or creative input into the creation of music [by] their favorite artists."

As with any new format or culture shift, it’s difficult to say how they will change things, if at all, but NFTs could be primed to be the next big progression in music.

What Does Signing With An NFT Record Label Look Like?

It’s still uncharted territory, but many artists are already rolling the dice and signing with these futuristic metaverse labels. The number of NFT record labels currently in existence has yet to be reported.

"Blockchain/NFT record labels are not only viable, but will play a major role in flipping the music industry on its head in the coming years," says Thomas Pipolo, artist and Founder of Cotton Candy Records, who recently sold $20,000 worth of his music in a matter of hours as NFTs. Cotton Candy Records offers 80 percent of revenue to the artist, keeping 20 percent for itself.

"What artist, songwriter, producer wouldn't want to keep 80 percent of the pie? In today's music industry, labels and streaming platforms are the modern music industry's funding mechanisms," Pipolo tells "Record labels ask artists for 70–80 percent of the pie, while major streaming platforms pay artists .004 cents a stream. Both are not viable."

Web3 platforms like NFT record labels are more viable and encourage a "work as play" mindset for fan communities, says Obie Fernandez, CEO of RCRDSHP, a digital collectibles platform built by and for the electronic music industry

"The prime motivation for participants is fun, but they can band together to form entities that look and behave kind of like record labels in that they take on A&R and marketing roles," he continues. "These entities may or may not eventually challenge the supremacy of traditional labels, but should certainly pull them in the direction of encouraging additional, authentic engagement between artists and their fan base."

Traditional record labels are already making the jump into the metaverse. In August, Sony backed NFT marketplace MakersPlace in a $30 million Series A round.

"As a music label, our number one goal is to support our artists — both in their artistic growth as well as new business opportunities. To that end, we are constantly aiming to stay ahead of the curve and support our artists in new ways of cross-collaborating between music, art and tech. NFTs are one example in this space," says Mahsa Salarvand, VP Head of the Global Business Office at Sony Music.

Head For The Future, But Tread Cautiously

Though a potentially great way for artists to prosper, the metaverse and NFTs are ripe with scams and companies attempting to take advantage of artists

Before committing to an NFT record label, artists should do their research to see if the firm has market traction, vet the leadership behind the project and verify any claims that certain artists have purchased their NFTs and are involved in the project. NFTs can be sent to anyone’s wallet address — just because an artist has an NFT in their wallet does not mean they are involved in the project. 

As with any new technology, it's up to content creators and consumers to determine the viability of NFTs. The more artists and labels engage with NFTs, the more they evolve and become valuable. The more they evolve and become valuable, the more artists and labels will entice others to use them.

"I do think there are some interesting issues that arise from the concept of NFT labels, governance being one of them," continues MELON'S Nueman. "It’s so interesting to consider the potential implications of a large group of owners voting on things like marketing and promotion spends. There are some incredibly interesting companies providing new ways to connect artists with their fanbases, while incorporating all the components of the music ecosystem. As the adoption of digital wallets becomes more mainstream, all of this is going to be a very exciting space to watch." 

The metaverse is a replication of our current habits without the constraints of physics. Within this interactive virtual space, Beiner and Stolar believe fans will have "the opportunity to enjoy music experiences in an entirely new way." They envision flying through a virtual concert or listening to the music in a variety of surreal environments; the possibilities seem endless.

"On the interaction side, mechanics like holding four of the artist’s music NFTs may allow you to choose the next song being played. When you go to play a game, maybe you’ll be able to set the music of the game based on music NFTs you own. You may also collect concert tickets, but the tickets will be digital and stored in your digital wallet as memorabilia. Perhaps having a certain number of digital concert tickets will unlock unreleased songs," they continue. "The level of fan interaction will go deeper, and the way in which we move about spaces will look much different; but at the end of the day, we’ll still be going to concerts and listening to music." 

Certain things won’t, and perhaps shouldn’t, change. After all, who doesn’t want to experience live music? While the future of the metaverse is unknown and exciting, it’s also clear that not all artists see it as something that will hit mainstream adoption.

"I think that there will be a big opportunity for artists to get placements in these different metaverses and play some virtual concerts, but I think the metaverse is so far away from being something that is mainstream," continues Pipolo. "I could be wrong, but it's not my thing."

Can NFTs Help Labels Stay Ahead Of The Curve?

"The market is down," says rapper, actor and entrepreneur Ja Rule, who recently put his focus into the metaverse. In March 2021, Rule sold a $122,000 NFT of a painting of the logo for his disastrous Fyre Festival. "I [first] heard about NFTs maybe like, a couple of weeks ago," he told Forbes at the time. "I wasn't too educated on them, and I’m still learning a lot about it...I think people got a little bit tired of the regular stocks-and-bonds way of investing."

In any business, stagnation will see you left behind and out of the game. This has been true throughout the history of the music industry, but is doubly so in its current climate — particularly for artists. Artists and labels that don’t continue evolving, pushing their creativity and embrace of technology, risk falling by the wayside.

As the landscape of music changes, so do its practices. NFTs may be the next big change the music industry and its artists have been waiting for. When asked if record labels in the metaverse were viable, Ja Rule reminds us that "anything is possible in the metaverse."

We're Probably On An Irreversible Course Into The Metaverse. What Role Will Music Play In It?

REZZ performs
REZZ performs at Escape Halloween 2023

Photo: Tessa Paisan


REZZ Is Ready To Be Seen On New Album: "It Just Feels More Evolved"

Electronic producer and DJ REZZ has arrived in a new headspace, but a familiar place. Recorded in her hometown of Toronto, her new album, 'CAN YOU SEE ME?,' is the experimental, sonically far-out result of a much more chill outlook.

GRAMMYs/Mar 13, 2024 - 01:43 pm

REZZ thought she was going to die on her last tour.

The prominent electronic producer and DJ born Isabelle Rezazadeh was traveling through North America in support of her 2022 album, Spiral, when all of a sudden, insomnia reared its ugly head. 

She was sleeping two hours a night at most, which caused severe anxiety that prevented her from eating. But she was forced to repeat the cycle of getting on a plane the next day and playing headlining gigs. It was traumatizing. 

"It makes me laugh all the time because the title of the last album was Spiral, and ironically, I spiraled out of my mind that year," REZZ tells "After I experienced such a terrible time, I really have changed." 

Now REZZ is settled into her hometown of Toronto, truly appreciating the little things in life. Getting a good night’s sleep. Taking a hot shower. Eating a solid breakfast. Most of all, she appreciates having time for her craft. "I am much happier being at home and making music," she says. "I feel normal. Every day is just chill."

In this happy and chill headspace, REZZ made her new album, CAN YOU SEE ME?, out March 14 on her label, HypnoVizion Records. Ironically, the record does not sound chill at all.

Where Spiral was more radio-friendly and featured vocals from pop star Dove Cameron, CAN YOU SEE ME? is decidedly experimental. REZZ buries the melodies underneath gruesome sound design and explores a wide variety of BPMs, combining "a lot of my main inspirations. Fusing bass music with industrial sounds. Mixing crazy noises and crazy rhythms," she says. 

"DYSPHORIA" is a stuttering, slow-moving production that flaunts massive low-end frequencies. REZZ takes the tempo even slower and makes the bass even deeper on "CUT ME OUT"; in an experimental move, she goes double-time into a house music break at the end of the track. 

"The inspiration was super high. [CAN YOU SEE ME?] just feels more evolved," she continues. spoke to REZZ about how her artistry has evolved on CAN YOU SEE ME?, trusting her fans through this evolution, and how she plans to approach touring to maintain her chill state of mind.

The title of this album is CAN YOU SEE ME? Do you feel like you’re finally being seen as an artist?

That title came from the track on my album, "CAN YOU SEE ME?" I do like that interpretation of it, though. It could be perceived as a flex of "Check this production out. Can you see me now?" I’m super down for it to be perceived that way. 

I really like the music on this album. I think it’s really representative of where I’m at currently with my music production. It really capitalizes on the instrumentation. 

I realized that my favorite music I’ve ever made is definitely instrumental music. Sometimes that type of music isn't the most streamed or the most popular. But for me, to my core, my favorite stuff is instrumental, and I think this album is really reflective of that. 

One key difference between this album and your previous releases is that there are no tracks within the 90–100 BPM range. Why is that tempo absent from this album?

There are no mid-tempo songs on this album in terms of what I'm notorious for: the 85, 90, and 100 BPM range. But what I did try to do was execute some of the feelings of my previous instrumental music. The same feeling, but in a different BPM range; that was really refreshing. With that came some new styles for me. 

But I do think that while there's no particular mid-tempo on the project, I truly believe that my fans are going to connect with it super hard. I don't even think they will notice the difference in terms of the BPM. I think people will be like, This definitely still sounds like her, just a little bit different. A little bit heavier. A little bit darker

I plan to create more stuff that's around the 140–150 BPM range. It's a new pace for me. It allows for new ideas and new arrangements.

My favorite artists are the ones who are so fearless. They'll make whatever they want to make, even if it's the weirdest thing you've ever heard in your entire life. That, to me, is a true artist. I want to continue down that path and make whatever I want.

What song on this album do you think will challenge your fans the most?

Out of all of them, I think "Exorcism" will. I'm stoked, though. I made "Exorcism" with this amazing artist named Kavari. She is insane with her sound design.  

The sound design on "Exorcism" is so out there. It's so ear-catching. It's one of those songs that you almost don't know if you hate it or love it. I don't even know if I can call it a song. I don't know what it is. It's like a terror, horror track. 

Kavari already has the support of Aphex Twin. She's amazing; she's the epitome of artistic integrity. She's up and coming, but I really believe in her project. I feel really lucky to have worked with her in her, I suppose, early-blooming career.

What is it like for you to take younger artists under your wing?

It's awesome. It benefits everyone involved, but I don't care how big or small an artist is. It doesn't matter what their monthly listeners are or how popular or famous, or not famous [they are]. It just matters to me if I like their stuff. 

I love working with newer artists because their drive is so sharp. As an artist, when you start your journey, usually you're so fast. You're so quick. You're responsive. My personality is very much like that. I'm very impatient with making music. I love working with other people who are like that as well. 

I find sometimes, when people have been at it for a really long time, there’s a little bit of laziness going on. They've done it all, so they don't have that same hunger and desire to get the song done.

Deadmau5 took you under his wing; he signed some of your first releases and you produced "Hypnocurrency" together in 2021. Now your collaboration has reached new heights with your shared project, REZZMAU5, which has a song on CAN YOU SEE ME? What has it been like to take your working relationship to the next level?

There are no words. It genuinely is so insane to fathom. I know I've said this a million times in so many interviews about him being the reason that I started. But I really think that should never go unnoticed. 

It's the craziest thing when the reason you started doing something is because of someone that you perceive as a legend. You admire their art so much. Then to have a whole project [with them], it’s unbelievable. 

I remember the first show that we played. We headlined Veld Music Festival in Toronto. When I was 16, I attended that festival. I saw [deadmau5] perform there. It was unbelievable. Very inspiring. To then headline that stage in front of 60,000 people. It's just completely shocking. I cried a little bit in my room before I went on stage because I was just so overwhelmed by emotion.

How has your relationship with deadmau5 changed in terms of making music, if it has changed at all? 

He definitely respects me a lot. He doesn't love a lot of electronic music and a lot of electronic music artists. So it feels really special to me to feel his respect. He definitely cares a lot about my opinions when we're working together.

He's very honest with me, too, which is amazing. If I have an idea that he doesn't like for a track to be included in our set, he'll very quickly tell me, "I don't like this. This is trash." But I really respect the honesty. 

How are you going to approach touring for CAN YOU SEE ME? so that issues like insomnia and anxiety don’t arise?

Well, first of all, there isn't actually going to be a whole album tour. That experience was so traumatizing that I changed the trajectory of my touring. I'm not spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on production. I'm not doing any of that. 

I picked select CAN YOU SEE ME? themed shows, and it's going to be sprinkled throughout the year. There's going to be Red Rocks. There's going to be one in Phoenix, Miami, and New York. But these are all spaced out. It's not within one month. 

For someone else, [a larger tour] would have been easy. But for me, it is what it is. You can change a lot about yourself, but some things are not so natural to be changed.

As the Serenity Prayer goes, "Give us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

So true. If I had a choice, do I want to love touring all the time? I'd say yes because that would just mean more shows and more success. But I don't have that choice. I prefer to be home. The nature of my being is different. 

It's like forcing an introvert to constantly go to parties every weekend. They don't want to do it. You can't force that. It's going to cause them a lot of damage because they're trying to mold and shape themselves into something that they're not.

It’s impressive that you were able to become more self-aware from that experience.

It’s not always easy to do. Certain circumstances will traumatize you and keep you traumatized for a long time. That's totally understandable. But in my specific case with that experience, I'm so grateful it happened, even though it was single-handedly the worst thing I have ever experienced in my life. 

I felt totally out of control. It felt like something had taken over me that I couldn't fix. Once you experience a situation where your life feels like it’s out of your hands, that's when you get slapped and you realize what's really important. 

So was the new album made after you realized what’s really important?

Absolutely. This album came together very quickly for me. Very effortlessly. There was no strain. There was no stress. There was no overthinking. It was very smooth because my brain had space for it. My brain had the clarity and the vision.

I think that's why I love this album so much, too. It's very representative of where I'm at. It's really high-quality stuff. Being in this headspace has a lot to do with the project and the way it's turned out.

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Musician Camden Cox
Camden Cox

Photo: Jeff Spicer / Stringer / Getty Images


How Singer/Songwriter Camden Cox Brings Lyrical Integrity To Dance Music

The multi-hyphenate has worked with some of dance music’s biggest acts — including John Summit, deadmau5 and Kaskade — and is on a mission to "write from the soul" in a genre where lyrical depth is often underappreciated.

GRAMMYs/Dec 15, 2023 - 04:24 pm

Underneath much of dance music’s beat- and melody-driven landscape is shallow lyrical content — unless Camden Cox is holding the pen. 

The 30-year-old singer/songwriter’s philosophy — write not just from the heart, but also from the soul — is a defining aspect of her fan-first artistic identity.  This deeply personal creative process has also enabled her to transcend the genre’s vacuous, garden-variety lyricism. 

Cox’s voice quivers as she recalls the start of the songwriting session that would spawn John Summit’s "Where You Are," a song that embodies this ethos. "I was going through a breakup and I was wondering if they were thinking about me as much as I was thinking about them. I take myself back to that moment and I get emotional talking about it," she says. "I just love putting emotions into my lyrics — it’s such an incredible feeling."

"Where You Are" is not the only dance/electronic consensus hit to which Cox lent her lyrical muscle this year. The British songstress also co-wrote "Escape," the single with which  Kaskade and deadmau5 debuted their joint project, Kx5, in 2022. Penned by Cox, Hayla (who vocalizes its ruminative lyrics), Eddie Jenkins, and Will Clarke, the song was released on Kx5’s eponymous LP, which has been nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Music Album at the 2024 GRAMMYs. Fellow nominees in the category are Playing Robots Into Heaven from James Blake, the Chemical Brothers' For That Beautiful Feeling, Skrillex's Quest For Fire, and Fred again..'s Actual Life 3 (January 1 - September 9 2022)

Beyond her indomitable collection of writing credits for esteemed producers like Eli & Fur and Dombresky is a repertoire of work that’s entirely her own. Cox's recent work includes a solo single, October’s "Touching Me," and a just-dropped collab with Summit and Mathame called "Hungover" in which Cox is the featured singer.

In an interview with, Cox details her refusal to write anything "half-ass," subverting dance’s often tepid interest in lyrics, and how her time behind the decks has informed her approach to singing, songwriting, and DJing.

"Escape" and "Where You Are" were two of the biggest dance records this year. What about these songs caused them to skyrocket?

We followed the same formula. We wrote "Escape," and we had no idea that deadmau5 or Kaskade were going to get their hands on it. It was just a normal, ordinary session. 

We wrote this song, knew it was amazing, and then nothing happened with it for a year or two. Then, all of a sudden, I heard this random demo from deadmau5; he'd done a version of it. Once Kaskade got involved, they revamped the whole song. 

John Summit heard it and absolutely loved it; he was playing it out everywhere and he also did the official remix for it. His team reached out to us and said, "Can you write something similar?"

Deadmau5 has been an incredible influence on you, how did the song find its way to him?

Eddie Jenkins also wrote both of these songs with Hayla, and his management knew deadmau5’s management. He sent the song to deadmau5 and was like, "Hey, this your comeback, I think." It wasn't very deadmau5 [at that point]; it was a lot darker and a lot more progressive. 

I've based my entire sound and influence around that [deadmau5 type of] sound...It was so validating because I spent my entire career, my childhood, and my teens listening to Random Album Title by deadmau5. As a writer, you write what you are inspired by because it's just in your blood, in your mind, in your soul. 

So, it goes to show how much I did listen to Kaskade and deadmau5 to be able to get a song to them, however many years later. 

There will always be a place for beat-driven tunes in dance, but do you also get the sense that people are looking for a little more emotional resonance from dance music now?

Yeah. What I love about these two records is they can be stripped to piano and they're literally like ballads. They're so meaningful and they’re so from the heart. We wrote them with absolute integrity — they’re not just something you throw away. 

When  you do these sessions where the writing just takes more time and effort, it's so worth it when you get the final outcome. I think people love that because you not only can rave to it, but you can cry to it as well.

How do you balance your lyric-forward approach in a genre where lyrics aren’t always as appreciated as they are in other genres?

It's such a tricky one because I've been in sessions where the songwriters have been like, "It doesn't matter what the lyrics are as long as the melody is good," but lyrics are my thing. I love writing lyrics. I always dig deep and take my time. I’ll have rhyming dictionaries open; it's an operation for me. 

Even though lyrics can take a backseat, I don't let that affect the way I write. Even if people don't listen, I'm still going to write it from the soul, because you will get those musical people that want to break it down and hear the story, and they're the people who are really going to appreciate it. If one person can listen and appreciate it, that's good enough for me.

Do you often find yourself pushing back in these situations?

As I've grown in confidence and experience, I push back more and more. Whereas a lot of producers will say "Oh no, this is fine," I'll say, "No, I've heard it before." I've heard it a million times and I want it to mean something to me and to whoever gets to listen. Eventually, they just give in because they know that I'm not going to settle. So, I'll hone in on the lyrics, and then I'll send them a new version with better lyrical content.

You grew up in a very musical home; your dad loved rock and your mom, drum ‘n’ bass. How you made your way to dance music is clear, but what’s kept you here?

It's the one genre I just don't ever get bored of it. It's in my blood; I grew up on drum ‘n’ bass music, so I just love heavy, heavy beats and big basslines. As a little girl, I used to prance around singing along to the Prodigy and stuff like that, so it's in my soul.

I find that dance music is the most timeless genre. Pop is pop, and you’re always going to get songs that stick around for years, but those dance tunes that came out 20, 30 years ago that are absolute classics. In the dance world, when a song hits, it will stay with ravers forever, and I just think there's something really special in that. I listen to dance in my spare time when I'm not even working or writing. All I really listen to is dance. 

You used to start your songs as poems. Tell me how that started; did you read a lot of poetry when you were younger?

I didn't read it, but when I first started writing, I struggled with lyrics. I remember the first song I wrote. I said to my mom, "Can you write me a poem and I'll make it into a song?" And she did. Then I asked my dad, and he did the same thing. I made them into a song, and that unlocked a part of my brain. After that, I just started writing the poetry. 

Now, the melodies usually come before the lyrics, but if I have a sentence or something in my head that I think is really inspiring, I'll write it down. I never go full poems anymore. I go for a quote, for example. I recently found one, something "like remember when this all seemed impossible?" and I had a session with John Summit and I was like, "I wanna write that concept." So, I went in and sang something to those words. There’s no rules, and that’s what I love about it.

You’ve said you’ll often go into the studio and freestyle since the first take is often the best. 

It's my favorite way to write. When I freestyle, I always do it with a handheld mic, because I just feel like I can be a bit freer; I can walk around, I can sit down. The trick is to put autotune on pretty full blast, with loads of nice reverb and delays and compression, so it almost sounds ready when you hear it back. 

It'll all be a bit messy, but then you'll hear it back with the tuning on and you're like, Yeah, that's what I was trying to do. I just love working like that. I find it the most creative and the most productive because you come out with so much stuff and then you just narrow it down until you get the best three sections.

Learning how to DJ has to be transformative when it comes to conceptualizing new songs.

It’s helped me even further. Now being the one in control of the decks and understanding what keeps a crowd has unlocked a whole new world. It's crazy because I thought I knew everything that you could know about dance music — I grew up on it, I write it, I live and breathe it — but there's a whole other perception with DJing, and it's really helped me with my writing.

It's also hard to get a booking as a singer on a dance song. One of the reasons why I wanted to start DJing was because I knew I could probably get some bookings out of it. Two was because I'm writing all these dance songs, and all these DJs are playing them out and no one knows I've written them. I just wanted to get behind the decks and play my portfolio. It's opened up a whole new fan base for me.

Speaking of, you recently wrapped your first residency in Ibiza. How was that?

I go to Ibiza every year anyway, being a dance head, and I've been to all the clubs. I've gone and watched my songs being played out, but I just never envisioned myself doing it. And then this year, all these bookings flooded in because I started DJing. 

I've only been DJing for a year and a half, but because I had already made a bit of a name for myself in the dance world as a singer when people started to realize I was DJing, I was getting bookings a bit easier. I started suddenly seeing my name on some posters and it all became very real. 

I had the time in my life, but I also did find it very exhausting because there's so much traveling. Tour life is actually quite hectic, and it really hit me, but it was also very incredible and such a learning curve. Each gig, you learn something. 

Now that you’re doing the singing, the songwriting, and the DJing, how do you find balance? 

I'm a machine. I think I'm a bit of a workaholic because I just love it so much. I genuinely know how lucky I am that I get to do what I love for a living. But I found the more gigs I did, the more traveling I did, I knew that as much as I wanted to be in the studio — and I was getting offered good sessions — I'd have to turn them down because I knew I'd need a couple of days to recover. 

I did my last show, and it felt so fulfilling. Now, I'm back in the studio, and I built up so much inspiration over the summer because I couldn't write as much as I wanted to, so I was bursting at the seams. I'm going like 100 miles an hour right now, writing five days a week. I'll be doing this until I burn out.

Given that you’ve been writing so frequently, what has the process of shaping your musical identity been like these days?

I feel like I'm starting to find a few identities in my writing. There's a darkness to what I'm writing, but there's a good balance between brightness and darkness, as in this raw emotion that will come out in a really pretty melody. I'm good at finding that balance where you could cry and dance to it. 

Thinking about how this relates to your music, where do you hope to take your artist project next?

Getting nominated for a GRAMMY for something of my own is the dream. Getting nominated as a writer is such a big tick for me. So now, I want to aim for the next level, which is maybe getting nominated for something that I'm singing on, and eventually getting nominated for a GRAMMY for something that is just mine.

I've also got some really exciting collabs coming up. Me and John [Summit] have a song coming out together in two weeks. Right now, I'm establishing myself in London, in the UK a little bit, but it just takes a lot of time. 

Some people have one song and then that's it — they're blowing up in the charts. It's not happened like that for me; I've been working away behind the scenes. I'm just hoping that through some collaborations, I will be introduced to new audiences who will then discover my music, which will allow me to keep releasing.

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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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Steve Aoki & Pete Wentz in 2014
(L-R) Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy and Steve Aoki in Las Vegas in 2014.

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images for iHeartMedia


8 Times Dance Stars Channeled Their Inner Punk Kid, From Deadmau5 & Gerard Way To Rezz & Silverstein

With the release of Rezz's new emo-loving EP, 'It's Not A Phase,' dig into eight songs that saw the dance and rock worlds collide.

GRAMMYs/Jul 27, 2023 - 08:53 pm

At first glance, the worlds of rock and dance music might appear diametrically opposed. Dig a little deeper, though, and the two genres share more than just a love for all-black outfits.

In recent years, a wave of dance stars have embraced their inner mosher by collaborating with their favorite metal, post-hardcore, emo, and pop-punk artists, creating a mutant sound with a foot in both spaces. Just this month, Canada's dark bass maestro Rezz released a winkingly titled EP, It's Not A Phase, which channels the punk and metal she loved as a teen. (On release day, she posted an old photo in front of a My Chemical Romance poster, with the caption, "this one's for everyone who had an emo phase.") 

The EP followed Illenium's self-titled album in April — which features several of the Denver producer's rock heroes — while the likes of Marshmello, Kayzo and Excision have also tried their hands at rock/dance collaborations. For DJ-producers who grew up on raw guitars and tear-the-house-down vocals, it's a natural next step. 

Of course, this mixing of worlds is not just a recent phenomenon. For decades, dance artists have remixed, borrowed from, and occasionally collaborated with their rock counterparts. From the punkish ferocity of the Prodigy's 1997 album The Fat of the Land to Justice's Slipknot-sampling "Genesis" ten years later, the examples are endless. 

In the decade since the EDM boom minted a new generation of superstars, crossover collaborations have increasingly positioned the dance artist in the lead. In honor of this phenomenon, we're head-banging our way through eight of the best. 

deadmau5 feat. Gerard Way — "Professional Griefers" (2012)

Back in 2012, as EDM was taking over America, deadmau5 was busy touring an early iteration of his eye-popping 'Cube' show and preparing to release his sixth studio album, > album title goes here <. Ahead of the LP, the producer born Joel Zimmerman released "Professional Griefers," a hard-charging dance-rock stomper featuring My Chemical Romance vocalist Gerard Way.

While fans had already heard an instrumental version of the track in deadmau5's live shows, Way's vampy vocals brought the rock swagger, even as the production remained resolutely electronic. To celebrate the release, the collaborators appeared as gamers piloting a UFC battle between two giant mau5-headed robots in what Zimmerman told SPIN was "one of the highest-budget electronic music videos of all time." And yes, it's as extra as it sounds. 

Steve Aoki feat. Fall Out Boy — "Back To Earth" (2014)

Steve Aoki is one of dance music's most voracious collaborators, teaming up with everyone from to Louis Tomlinson to Backstreet Boys. He's also a punk rocker from way back, having jumped between hardcore bands as a singer and guitarist in his pre-fame life.

These passions have intersected throughout Aoki's DJ/producer career in his collaborations with Linkin Park and blink-182, as well as Rifoki, the straight-up hardcore band he formed with Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo of the Bloody Beetroots. 

In 2014, Aoki joined forces with pop-punk favorites Fall Out Boy on "Back To Earth," which featured on his collab-stacked album, Neon Future I. In an interview with Billboard, Aoki explained that the band worked on their live instrumentation in a separate studio before he added the dance elements, and the result was "one of my favorite rock collaborations." 

The Bloody Beetroots feat. Jason Butler — "Crash" (2017)

Like his friend and collaborator Steve Aoki, the Bloody Beetroots' masked leader Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo is a punk at heart. That raucous spirit was present on the breakout Aoki/Beetroots team-up, "Warp 1.9" (2009), then turned up to 11 in their aforementioned hardcore band, Rifoki.

In 2017, after a few years away from the limelight, Sir Rifo delivered the third Bloody Beetroots album, The Great Electronic Swindle, featuring guests like Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, GRAMMY-nominated singer-songwriter Greta Svabo Bech, and Australian rock band Jet. 

On "Crash," the Italian producer hooked up with post-hardcore singer Jason Butler, of Letlive and Fever 333, to make a heavy, distorted and shouty head-banger that honors both of their styles. In true punk fashion, it's over and out in just over two minutes. 

Kayzo & Underoath — "Wasted Space" (2018)

Few DJ-producers relish the opportunity to slam together dance music and rock quite like Houston-born Kayzo. For his 2019 album, Unleashed, the rising star secured some of his favorite metal, hardcore and pop-punk acts as guests, including Of Mice & Men, Boys of Fall, Blessthefall, and Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low.

One of the album's standouts, "Wasted Space," pairs Kayzo with Underoath, the Florida metalcore outfit who previously collaborated with Rezz on her 2019 release, "Falling." The collaboration is equal parts metal — with dueling vocalists Aaron Gillespie and Spencer Chamberlain at full-tilt — and shuddering bass drops built for an EDM main stage. 

Marshmello feat. A Day To Remember — "Rescue Me" (2019)

Perma-helmeted producer Marshmello has enjoyed a whirlwind decade, with a famously prolific output that includes several dance and pop hits. In 2019, he surprised fans by announcing a team-up with Florida four-piece A Day To Remember, whose metalcore meets pop-punk sound is a far cry from Marshmello's usual vibe.

Their collaboration, "Rescue Me," finds an easy middle ground between crunching rock guitars, frontman Jeremy McKinnon's impassioned vocals, and Marshmello's skittering trap-pop beats. In an interview with Kerrang! Radio, McKinnon recalled his surprise at how quickly Marshmello shared the chorus on socials, adding that he wishes rock artists could be as spontaneous. 

Illenium and All Time Low — "Back To You" (2023)

Hot on the heels of his first GRAMMY nomination in 2022, Denver-based phenom Illenium got back in the studio to make another album straight from the heart. The producer's self-titled fifth LP took inspiration from his teenage years listening to the likes of blink-182 and Linkin Park, while staying true to his own bass-heavy aesthetic.

Thanks to his stadium-filling stature, Illenium assembled a starry lineup of guests, including pop-punk royalty Avril Lavigne and Travis Barker on "Eyes Wide Shut" and metalcore band Motionless in White on "Nothing Ever After." Early fan favorite "Back To You" features the full force of pop-punkers All Time Low going up against Illenium's furious drops — and achieving perfect harmony. 

Excision, Wooli, and The Devil Wears Prada — "Reasons" (2023)

Fellow bass lovers Excision and Wooli are frequently paired, whether they're going back-to-back as DJs or co-producing EPs like 2019's Evolution and 2023's Titans. This time around, the collaborators decided to try something outside their comfort zone, calling up Ohioan metalcore band The Devil Wears Prada to bring their distinctive grit to "Reasons."

In contrast to more pop-leaning entries on this list, "Reasons" is unapologetically heavy from the halfway mark, morphing back-and-forth from metalcore theatrics to hard-hitting wubs. In a statement, The Devil Wears Prada described this team-up as "uncharted territory" for the band, and their gamble paid off. 

Rezz, Tim Henson, and Silverstein — "Dreamstate" (2023)

In a statement accompanying her new EP, It's Not A Phase, Rezz notes that she "grew up listening to bands exclusively, and over time developed an understanding of what it was about those songs that I loved." 

That innate grasp of rock dynamics is on full display throughout Rezz's most vocal-driven release to date, with guest turns from the likes of Alice Glass, Johnny Goth, and Raven Gray. On "Dreamstate," Rezz embraces her inner emo kid with the help of Canadian post-hardcore band Silverstein and metal guitar prodigy Tim Henson, undergirding her guests' contributions with dark, stabbing bass.

"I listened to a bunch of Silverstein growing up, so it felt nostalgic to me," Rezz told Front Row Live Ent., before admitting that it was "the hardest song I've ever mixed." The extra sweat resulted in a one-of-a-kind collaboration, proving once again that dance music and rock are a potent mix — one with plenty of fuel left in the tank.

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