Photo: Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images
8 Artists Who Were Inspired By Their Teachers: Rihanna, Adele, Jay-Z & More
In honor of Music In Our Schools Month this March, take a look at how teachers made a heartwarming impact on superstars like Katy Perry and John Legend.
Before Rihanna, Billy Joel and Jay-Z became some of the biggest names in music, they were students just like the rest of us. Without some particularly special teachers, they might not be the superstars they are today, and they all remember who first encouraged them.
Within the past few years, Rihanna made a special trip to a cricket match in England to reunite with her old P.E. teacher from Barbados, who she calls her "MVP"; Joel traveled back to his New York hometown to honor the teacher who said he should be a professional musician; and Jay-Z told David Letterman that his sixth grade English teacher made him fall in love with words.
In honor of Music In Our Schools Month — which raises awareness for supporting and cultivating worthwhile music programs in K-12 — GRAMMY.com highlights eight artists who have praised their teachers for making a lifelong impact.
After watching Joel tackle Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23, his high school music appreciation teacher Chuck Arnold suggested that he consider music as a career.
"He said to me, you should be a professional musician," Joel recalled of his Hicksville High School mentor during a 1996 event at C.W. Post College. "Now, for a teacher to say that, it's like condemning someone to a life of poverty, drug taking, alcoholism and failure.
"A teacher is telling me this," he added seriously. "It had a huge influence on me."
In 2022, Joel was on hand to congratulate Arnold during the dedication of the Charles "Chuck" Arnold Theatre at the school. "This is for the coolest teacher there ever was," he praised.
.@CBSSunday surprised Lizzo with her high school band director, who encouraged her to apply herself when she was learning to play the flute — and her reaction was priceless: “Wow, I did it, didn't I?” https://t.co/dwffNvYzpb pic.twitter.com/xp5kDK5pWB— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 6, 2019
In 2019, CBS Sunday arranged a surprise visit with the singer and Manny Gonzales, the former band director at her alma mater, Elsik High School in Houston. She told the network that Gonzales helped her get a scholarship to study classical flute at University of Houston.
"You told my ass!" Lizzo exclaimed as she squeezed him. "You were like, 'Get it together, girl, 'cause you are special. Apply yourself!' Those moments meant so much to me."
The Atlanta DJ/producer and king of crunk has done more than take parties to the next level — he has invested in the educational future of children in Africa by building two schools in Ghana with the non-profit organization Pencils of Promise. He credits a mentor at Frederick Douglass High School in Atlanta for sparking his brain when he was a teenager.
"It was my music teacher [who inspired me to dream bigger]," he said in a 2019 interview with Yahoo! "I wanted to play drums, and if I didn't play drums, I wouldn't make music, and drums are the foundation for what I do."
Roddy Estwick was Rihanna's P.E. teacher in Barbados and is now the assistant coach of the West Indies cricket team. The two had an emotional reunion at the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England.
"He made a lasting impact on my life and he really offered great advice to me and many others when we were at school at Combermere," she told Barbados Today amid their reunion. "I just wanted to let everyone know what he meant to me in my development and what he did for us back at school in Barbados." Essence reported that Rihanna described him as, "My mentor, my champ, my MVP" on her Instagram stories.
The Ohio native credits his English teacher Mrs. Bodey at North High School in Springfield for setting him on the path that culminated in his music career.
"Until her class, I hadn't believed in my ability as a writer," Legend shared in a 2017 op-ed for Huffington Post. "She recognized my potential and showed me that I could write with creativity, with clarity, with passion."
He continued, "Mrs. Bodey, along with a few other teachers, helped me gain confidence in my skills and pushed me to challenge myself. They pushed me to graduate second in my class. They pushed me to deliver the speech at our graduation. They pushed me to earn a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, to hone my writing as an English Major and, ultimately, toward a successful career as a songwriter."
The singer was reunited with the most pivotal teacher in her life during her "An Audience with Adele" concert special in 2021. While the singer took questions from the crowd, actress Emma Thompson asked Adele if she had a supporter or protector in the past.
"I had a teacher at [south London high school] Chestnut Grove, who taught me English. That was Miss McDonald," Adele said. "She got me really into English literature. Like, I've always been obsessed with English and obviously now I write lyrics… She really made us care, and we knew that she cared about us."
Miss McDonald then surprised Adele on stage, and the singer was brought to tears — a touching highlight of the special. She even told her former teacher that she still has the books from her class!
While Perry has admitted that she wishes she had a better overall education, her former music school teacher gave her confidence to pursue singing seriously.
"I'm kind of bummed at this stage that I didn't have a great education because I could really use that these days," she said in a 2014 interview with Yahoo! "There was a teacher named Agatha Danoff who was my vocal teacher and music teacher at the Music Academy of the West. It was very fancy and I didn't come from any money… and she always used to give me a break on my lessons. I owe her a lot of credit and I appreciate that she looked out for me when I didn't have enough money to pay."
Picture a young Shawn Carter — now better known as Jay-Z — with his head stuck in a dictionary.
"I had a sixth grade teacher, her name was Ms. Lowden and I just loved the class so much," Jay-Z said during his appearance on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman in 2018.
He later realized how much Renee Rosenblum-Lowden, who taught him at Intermediate School 318 in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, had an influence on his passion for language. "Like, reading the dictionary and just my love of words," he explained. "I just connected with her."
"I knew he was extremely bright, but he was quiet," Rosenblum-Lowden told Brut in 2019, sharing that he scored at the 12th-grade level on a sixth-grade reading test.
"He's been very kind," she added. "Every famous person has a teacher who probably influenced them, and I wish they would all shout out the way Jay-Z did."
Photo: Chris Putnam/Future Publishing via Getty Images
Billy Joel's Biggest Songs: 15 Tracks That Best Showcase The Piano Man's Storytelling And Pop Hooks
30 years on from Billy Joel's last mainstream pop album, 'River of Dreams,' GRAMMY.com digs into the best and biggest tunes from the ultimate Piano Man.
From 1973 to 1997, Billy Joel racked up nearly three dozen self-penned Billboard hits, tackling everything from adult contemporary pop and classic rock to smooth jazz and Broadway-ready showtunes. And although he's largely avoided the studio since, the legendary singer/songwriter has still very much been a fixture of the music scene thanks to his tireless work on the road.
This past March, for example, he launched a series of co-headlining dates across North America with another '70s icon, Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks. Then there's the residency at Madison Square Garden he's staged every month (bar the pandemic-hit period, of course) since 2014, while his In Concert tour has been ongoing for a similarly impressive amount of time, too.
However, with the former now officially coming to an end ("My team tells me that we could continue to sell tickets, but 10 years, 150 shows — all right already," he remarked in a June 2023 press release) and a March 2024 show at Arlington's AT&T Stadium looking like the final date of the latter, the proud New Yorker now appears to be gearing up to give those famous piano-playing fingers a well-earned rest.
As he plays his final run of shows (at least for now), Joel also celebrates the 30th anniversary of his final mainstream album, 1993's River of Dreams. (His thirteenth and final album, 2001's Fantasies and Delusions, was a surprising detour into classical music, perhaps inspired by his musical hero Paul McCartney's orchestral works.)
In honor of his latest milestones, GRAMMY.com delves into the biggest and most impactful tracks from one of pop's all-time great storytellers.
"She's Got A Way," Cold Spring Harbor (1971)
With its heartfelt melodies, textured piano arrangement and unabashedly romantic lyrics, the opening track from Joel's 1971 debut Cold Spring Harbor effectively set the template for the classic Billy Joel ballad. The man himself went on to dismiss "She's Got A Way" (and the rest of the LP) for a mastering error which made him resemble a chipmunk. But he eventually began to appreciate its simple charms: a performance of the track for seminal 1981 live album Songs in the Attic even resulted in a belated but deserved entry on the Billboard Hot 100.
Joel had added strings to the track during his iconic 1977 show at Carnegie Hall, but it's the stripped-back original — a dedication to his manager, and first of four wives, Elizabeth Weber — that pulls at the heartstrings the hardest.
"Captain Jack," Piano Man (1973)
"The song is sort of brutal, but sometimes it is good to be brutal and offend people," Joel once remarked about the song that ultimately launched his major label career. "It keeps them on their toes."
Listeners of Philadelphia station WMMR certainly seemed to appreciate such provocation. Following its debut at a competition winners' show, DJs were flooded with requests for its caustic tale of a suburban teen who develops a heroin addiction purely out of boredom.
Inspired by a real-life drug deal witnessed from Joel's Long Island apartment, "Captain Jack" subsequently attracted the attention of Columbia Records boss Clive Davis, too. The seven-minute epic — which boasts one of Joel's most rousing choruses and stinging lines ("Well, you're 21 and your mother still makes your bed") — later showed up on 1973's Piano Man, and in 2000 offended Rudy Giuliani after being accidentally played to celebrate rival Hillary Clinton's U.S. Senate campaign announcement.
"Piano Man," Piano Man (1973)
Although far from his biggest commercial hit — it peaked at a modest No.25 on the Hot 100 in the spring of 1974 — the title track from Joel's second album has undoubtedly become his defining.
Showcasing his remarkably concise ability to tell a story, "Piano Man" paints a vivid picture of the Los Angeles lounge he performed at while Columbia's lawyers were negotiating his freedom from first label Family Productions. Joel insists its parade of unfulfilled dreamers — Paul the real estate novelist, John the bartender/aspiring movie star — really were part of The Executive Room's Saturday night crowd; the waitress practising politics is definitely another reference to his then-other half Elizabeth.
But whether a genuine portrait of barroom demographics or work of pure fiction, this meeting point between folksy troubadour Harry Chapin and the theme to Cheers is always worthy of raising a glass to.
"New York State of Mind," Turnstiles (1976)
Following a three-year spell in the bright lights of Los Angeles, Joel gave the impression he needed to make amends with his beloved hometown. Not only did the six-time GRAMMY winner return to Long Island (a place he still owns a property at to this day, but he also dedicated much of his fourth album, Turnstiles, to the joys of New York.
Other than the ability to buy its newspapers fresh off the press, this slice of sophisticated jazz-pop doesn't pinpoint exactly why he feels such an affinity to the place. But genuinely conceived while "taking a Greyhound on the Hudson River Line," "A New York State Of Mind" still evokes a palpable sense of pride, placing it alongside Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind" and Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" in the holy trinity of Big Apple classics.
"Scenes from an Italian Restaurant," The Stranger (1977)
Clocking in at nearly 8 minutes, Joel's longest studio cut is also his most audacious: a mini operetta that segues from traditional piano ballad, to jaunty Dixieland jazz, to good old-fashioned rock and roll and back again.
Inspired by the second half of The Beatles' Abbey Road, the lyrical themes of "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" are similarly multi-dimensional. Joel starts out reminiscing with an old school friend at said Italian restaurant (reportedly Fontana di Trevi, a regular haunt during his Carnegie Hall residency), but the small talk and nostalgia later gives way to the poignant story of Brenda and Eddie, two high school sweethearts whose seemingly idyllic romance came unstuck by the pressures of adult life ("They started to fight when the money got tight/ And they just didn't count on the tears").
Although never released as a single, the standout from fifth LP The Stranger has become a firm favorite among both fans and Joel himself — only "Piano Man" has been played more frequently live on stage
"Just the Way You Are," The Stranger (1977)
Joel very nearly dropped "Just the Way You Are" from The Stranger tracklist, believing it may be just one sentimental spousal tribute too far. But thanks to some wise interference from studio neighbors Phoebe Snow and Linda Ronstadt, the wedding favorite made the cut and the rest is history.
Indeed, the Phil Ramone-produced track became Joel's first top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic, picked up Record and Song Of The Year at the 1979 GRAMMYs, and propelled its parent album to worldwide sales of more than 10 million. Joel once again gave the smooth soft rock standard the heave-ho in the wake of his 1982 divorce to Weber — but after returning to his setlists at the turn of the century, it's remained a much-loved ever-present.
"She's Always a Woman," The Stranger (1977)
"She's Always a Woman" initially sounds like your typical Joel love song, but lines such as "She is frequently kind and she's suddenly cruel" prove it's no rose-tinted deification. You can certainly hear its echoes in the earlier work of Ed Sheeran, a man who, at times, seemed determined to point out his lover's flaws in order to chivalrously claim he can look beyond them.
Thankfully, the fourth Top 40 single from sales juggernaut The Stranger isn't as graceless. Joel isn't referencing any physical attributes, but simply the complex mix of personality traits most of us possess. It's the most emotionally raw of the many tributes he penned for Weber, and perhaps the most obvious foreshadowing of the split that was to come.
"My Life," 52nd Street (1978)
"I don't care what you say anymore, this is my life/Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone." "My Life" may have been adopted as the theme tune to pre-fame Tom Hanks sitcom Bosom Buddies, but amid its jaunty piano melodies and peppy harmonies (courtesy of Chicago's Donnie Dacus and Peter Cetera), Joel instead appears to be taking his cues from All in the Family's grumpy old man Archie Bunker. Audiences still embraced this more irascible side of the singer/songwriter's personality, however, with the lead single from sixth LP 52nd Street equaling his then-highest Hot 100 peak of No. 3.
"It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," Glass Houses (1980)
Fans once again lapped up Joel in defensive mode on "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," the first of his three U.S. No. 1s. Taken from his seventh studio effort, Glass Houses, the rockabilly throwback was a direct response to those detractors who dismissed his adult contemporary sound as old hat.
Released in the same year Michael Jackson's "Rock With You," Lipps Inc.'s "Funkytown" and Blondie's "Call Me"also hit the top spot, the song's industry satire argued that the newly popular hot funk, cool punk, new wave and latest dance crazes were simply retreading what had gone before. You could argue it was a needless display of petulance, but you also can't deny it's one of his biggest earworms.
"Goodnight Saigon," The Nylon Curtain (1982)
Bookended by the Apocalypse Now-esque sound of chirping crickets and whirring helicopters, "Goodnight Saigon" finds Joel stepping into the military boots of a 19-year-old called up to fight in the Vietnam War. The Piano Man had been a conscientious objector himself, but on this occasion decided against politicizing the conflict ("And who was wrong? And who was right? It didn't matter in the thick of the fight").
Instead, drawing upon the tales of friends who did see battle, he offers an intimate portrait of the soldier experience, from the distractions of Playboy magazine and Bob Hope to the hardships of losing a comrade. The standout from his most serious-minded LP The Nylon Curtain, this is Joel at his most affecting.
"Tell Her About It," An Innocent Man (1983)
Joel loosened things up a little for his ninth LP, An Innocent Man, paying homage to the soul and doo-wop sounds he grew up with on this toe-tapping throwback. Buoyed by an equally playful promo in which the pianist lives out his The Ed Sullivan Show fantasy — pulling out some unexpected dance moves in the process — "Tell Her About It" became his second U.S. No. 1 in the summer of 1983.
Joel went on to disown his slightly wordy wingman anthem ("It's not automatically a certain guarantee/ To insure yourself/ You've got to provide communication constantly"), acknowledging it sounded more like bubblegum pop crooner Tony Orlando than the Motown tribute he intended. In fact, he hasn't played it live for 36 years!
"Uptown Girl," An Innocent Man (1983)
Joel's affectionate nod to the falsetto pop of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons has endured a little better: proving its cross-generational appeal, he invited Olivia Rodrigo to perform the track with him at Madison Square Garden in August 2022. (The pop superstar referenced "Uptown Girl" in her own monster hit "déjà vu.")
As with much of Joel's oeuvre, the tale of a working-class guy trying his luck with a woman way out of his league has autobiographical roots. It was inspired by the time Joel found himself in the company of Whitney Houston, Christie Brinkley and Elle Macpherson. And while he was dating the latter at the time, it was her fellow supermodel that ended up gracing the memorable "Uptown Girl" promo, and indeed, becoming the second Mrs. Joel.
"A Matter of Trust," The Bridge (1986)
Often his own biggest critic, Joel has been largely dismissive of tenth LP The Bridge, claiming it was hampered by both impatient record execs and the distraction of becoming a first-time father. You can briefly see baby daughter Alexa and then-wife Brinkley in the video for one of its saving graces.
Second single "A Matter of Trust" is a rare but convincing foray into Bruce Springsteen-esque arena rock in which the Piano Man becomes the Electric Guitar Man. It was also a highlight of Konsert, the following year's live album recorded during his historic tour of the Soviet Union.
"We Didn't Start the Fire," Storm Front (1989)
The hostile reaction to Fall Out Boy's recent update proves how hard it can be to namecheck 40 years of newsworthy events in just 4 minutes of anthemic pop-rock. From post-war president Harry Truman to the cola wars of the 1980s, the original "We Didn't Start the Fire" manages to throw in 118 references — and in mostly chronological order, too, without barely pausing for breath.
Inspired by a "my generation had it worse than you" conversation with a friend of Sean Lennon, Joel's rapid-fire alternative history lesson became his third and final No. 1, and picked up Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance nominations at the 1990 GRAMMYs. The lead single from 11th LP Storm Front didn't gain the seal of approval from its creator, however, with Joel comparing it to the sound of a dentist's drill.
"The River of Dreams," River of Dreams (1993)
Joel earned two more Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year nominations for River of Dreams' title track at the 1994 GRAMMYs. But despite an additional nod for Album of the Year, he still went home empty handed. (He also made headlines for pausing his live performance of the song in protest of producers' curtailing Frank Sinatra's Lifetime Achievement Award speech.)
In contrast to all the awards drama and soul-searching lyrics, "The River of Dreams" is one of Joel's most jovial hits, an uplifting blend of doo-wop and gospel vocals arranged by regular band member Crystal Taliefero. The last time the once-prolific hitmaker would grace the U.S. Top 20, it's a fine commercial swansong.
Photo: Andersen Ross Photography Inc
The 10 Most Controversial Samples In Hip-Hop History
The use of samples has influenced artists and DJs for decades. It's also been fodder for lawsuits and ire — read on for 10 of the biggest sampling controversies in hip-hop, from 2 Live Crew and the "Amen Brother" break, to Young Nudy.
Hip-hop would not exist without sampling. Over its 50 years of existence, rappers, producers, and DJs have taken old music and made it new again, remixing and reinterpreting the creativity of previous generations and folding it into the culture of today.
But not everyone is flattered when a rapper samples their song. The history of hip-hop is rife with legal battles over unauthorized samples — from the genre’s early wild west days to the modern era. Some of these controversies have had lasting implications for the entire industry.
Below, we take a look at some of the most controversial samples in hip-hop.
Sugarhill Gang – "Rapper’s Delight" (1979)
Before "Rapper’s Delight," hip-hop was predominantly a live art form. Rappers rarely recorded and preferred to perform for a live audience, improvising freestyle raps over funk and soul records spun by DJs. The use of samplers and drum machines was not yet widespread. Nevertheless, Sylvia Robinson, a singer and studio owner who wanted to take advantage of the trend. She assembled rap group the Sugarhill Gang and invited some studio musicians to record a sound-alike version of the instrumental from Chic’s "Good Times" for them to rap over.
The song hadn’t even reached the charts yet — though it would become the first hip-hop song to breach the Billboard Top 40 — before Nile Rodgers of Chic heard an early version at a club in Manhattan. Ironically, several members of the Sugarhill Gang as well as Fab Five Freddy had joined the band onstage at a show weeks earlier to freestyle during "Good Times." Rogers didn’t take kindly to the song being knocked off, and he and Chic bassist Bernard Edwards immediately threatened legal action, with a settlement leading to them being credited as co-writers.
The song broke hip-hop into the mainstream, but it also set the stage for many similar cases of producers asking for forgiveness rather than permission and facing the consequences.
Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force - "Planet Rock" (1982)
Another example of "sampling without sampling," "Planet Rock" wasn’t a straight re-recording of an earlier song like "Rapper’s Delight." After witnessing the popularity of songs by Kraftwerk in New York’s nightclubs, producer Arthur Baker and DJ Afrika Bambaataa decided to fuse the German group’s electronic music with hip-hop.
"Planet Rock" fuses the beat from "Numbers" with the melody from "Trans-Europe Express," with Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force rapping above, but Baker recreated both with his own instruments. They never asked permission from Kraftwerk, however, and when the band reached out to Tommy Boy Records, the label decided to give them a dollar for every copy sold, raising prices to recoup the cost.
The song birthed a genre, electro, and influenced everything from Detroit techno to Miami bass. Years later, Kraftwerk sued another musician over unauthorized sampling, a case that went all the way to Germany’s highest court in 2016.
The "Amen" Break (recorded 1969)
When Washington, D.C.-based soul band the Winstons recorded "Amen, Brother," they couldn’t have predicted the seven-second drum break played by Gregory Coleman would go on to become one of the most iconic, oft-replicated sounds in music.
And yet that’s exactly what happened: After being included in drum break compilations such as Ultimate Breaks and Beats designed for DJs to loop and sample, the "Amen Break" made its way into iconic hip-hop songs from N.W.A. ("Straight Outta Compton"), Mantronix ("King of the Beats,"), 2 Live Crew ("Feel Alright Y’all"), and eventually even the "Futurama" theme song. But the break really exploded in the UK, where British dance music producers, who needed faster tracks for the exploding rave movement, sped the break up. They chopped it until "Amen Brother" was barely recognizable, with other famous breaks like "Funky Drummer" and "Think" getting similar treatment.
Jungle, and its splinter genres drum and bass, and breakcore, resulted, and the breakbeat revolution it unleashed now influences modern pop acts such as PinkPantheress and NewJeans. According to WhoSampled, "Amen, Brother" has been sampled in 6,174 songs, which may be a low estimate.
As the saying goes, however, revolution eats its children. Gregory Coleman, the Winstons drummer who originated the break, never saw a cent of royalties from any of it. He was homeless at the time of his death in 2006, and according to Winstons bandleader Richard Lewis Spencer he had no idea the break had made such an impact. Spencer himself has run hot and cold on the break’s impact, sometimes calling its use plagiarism, but he at least was able to make some money from it: As the last living member of the Winstons, he received $37,000 from a 2015 GoFundMe campaign aimed at repaying some of the lost royalties before he died in 2020.
Biz Markie - "Alone Again" (1991)
In the late '70s and throughout the 1980s, hip-hop flourished creatively as a result of creative sampling. Producers such as Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad created records filled with dozens of samples — a collage-like approach that would influence artists like DJ Shadow and the Avalanches. And yet in 1991, a lawsuit over an uncleared sample threatened to snuff out the entire art form.
Biz Markie, famous for comedic songs such as "Just A Friend," had been dragged into federal court along with Warner Bros. Records for using a portion of "Alone Again (Naturally)," a nearly-forgotten pop song from the ‘70s by Gilbert O’Sullivan. The case was a disaster for Markie and for creativity in general. The court ruled that because the label had reached out to the sample copyright holders, who withheld permission to use the song, and then released it anyway, they were guilty of blatant and willful copyright infringement.
The defense’s argument that unauthorized sampling was widespread in the music industry was rebuffed by Judge Kevin Duffy. In his ruling — which opens by quoting the biblical commandment "Thou Shalt Not Steal" — Duffy wrote that: "The defendants...would have this court believe that stealing is rampant in the music business and, for that reason, their conduct here should be excused."
Markie was ordered to pay $250,000 in damages and referred to (but never charged by) a criminal court on grounds of theft, reeking of racist paternalism. Yet the primary upshot of the decision — that any unapproved sample constitutes copyright infringement — was even more damaging, creating a chilling effect across hip-hop that prevented artists from making full use of the practice’s creative potential. Warner Bros. took the song off Markie’s album, and the rapper famously titled his next record All Samples Cleared!
2 Live Crew - "Pretty Woman" (1989)
Is Luther Campbell, the don dada of Miami bass maestros 2 Live Crew, smarter than the entire Warner Bros. legal team that bungled the "Alone Again" case? Judging by the fact that he managed to drag an uncleared sample case from a much more famous artist than Gilbert O’Sullivan all the way to the Supreme Court — and win — the answer is yes.
Like Biz Markie, 2 Live Crew had asked permission to use a sample – in this case "Oh! Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison – and was rejected. Perhaps this came as a result of their less-than-family-friendly reputation, as the group had been in and out of the headlines fighting obscenity charges over best-selling album As Nasty As They Wanna Be. Nevertheless, they released the song anyway, and when Orbison’s label eventually sued, Campbell came up with a clever defense: fair use.
Campbell declared the 2 Live Crew song, "Pretty Woman," was a parody of Orbison’s original, and therefore the sample constituted a legal fair use. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which reversed an earlier appeals court ruling that said the song couldn’t have been a fair use because of its commercial nature. They also agreed with the initial federal district court ruling that said the 2 Live Crew song was not similar enough to Orbison’s to constitute wholesale infringement.
Jay-Z feat. UGK - "Big Pimpin" (2000)
Hov ended up regretting some of the sexist lyrics on this collab with Houston’s Bun B and Pimp C, but the reason he and Timbaland ended up in court over "Big Pimpin" was a contentious sample. The producer had already forked over $100,000 to sample "Khosara Khosara" by Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdi, but this wasn’t enough for Osama Ahmed Fahmy, Hamdi’s nephew.
Citing the Egyptian legal concept of "moral rights," Fahmy claimed in a 2005 lawsuit that the song was unlicensed because Jay-Z and Timbaland had failed to ask permission from Hamdi’s heirs. The suit was left in legal limbo for years before a California judge finally let Fahmy proceed, by which point Linkin Park had also been pulled in due to a mashup of "Big Pimpin" with their single "Papercut." During his testimony four years later, Jay-Z declared he had been unaware that there was even a sample in the song, saying "Timbaland presented me with a track. I didn’t even think about there being a sample."
The case was finally settled in 2018 when an appeals court upheld the original summary judgment in favor of Jay-Z, by which point the song was nearly 20 years old.
Kanye West - "Blood On The Leaves" (2013)
Quite a few of the samples used on Yeezus, Kanye’s incendiary, famously-rushed 2013 album, ended up being unauthorized. West fielded lawsuits from Hungarian prog rock band Omega (sampled on "New Slaves") and the Ponderosa Twins Plus One (sampled on "Bound 2") for using their music without permission. But it was "Blood on the Leaves" which attracted the most attention for its brazen (and fully authorized) appropriation of Nina Simone’s cover of "Strange Fruit," originally made famous by Billie Holiday.
That a famous anti-lynching anthem was used by a mega-famous rapper to decry the materialism and excess rife within hip-hop might have ruffled a few feathers — some conservative critics even argued it was an anti-abortion song — but the song received almost universal praise.
Robin Thicke ft. T.I. and Pharrell - "Blurred Lines" (2013)
True, "Blurred Lines" is not exactly a hip-hop track, but it does feature two rappers, and while not exactly a sample, Robin Thicke and Pharrell’s much-too-liberal "borrowing" of Marvin Gaye’s "Got to Give it Up" changed the music industry irreparably. Certainly, the song was hugely controversial, opening up a pre-#MeToo discourse over its objectification of women and glorification of rape culture that ultimately led to bans. But it was the similarities to Gaye’s song, flaunted by Willams and Thicke in the press, as well as a preemptive legal action against the Marvin Gaye estate, that had a more lasting, damaging impact.
Williams had argued in his initial complaint against the Gaye family that their claim was not based on specific musical elements, but on the face value similarity of the two songs. However, a jury ruled unanimously in favor of the family. The case essentially rewrote the legal precedents of musical copyright law overnight, broadening the scope by which a song might be considered infringement. Thanks to the "Blurred Lines" suit, a musician may live in fear of legal predation simply because their new song sounds vaguely similar to one from 30 or 40 years ago.
Meanwhile, massive investments are being made into older music, partially to make up for this creative chilling effect.
Juice WRLD - "Lucid Dreams" (2017)
There’s nothing particularly incendiary about the plaintive guitar sample from Sting’s "Shape of My Heart" that forms the backbone of Juice WRLD’s emo rap hit. When producer Nick Mira revealed that Sting had taken 85 percent of the rights for the song, however, it became a demonstration of how sampling has become a way for established artists to exploit newer talent.
It also attracted a lawsuit from pop-punk band Yellowcard, who cited similarities to their track "Holly Wood Died." Juice WRLD himself downplayed the situation, saying "There’s always more money to be made." The suit was later dropped after the 21-year-old rapper’s tragic early death in December 2019.
Young Nudy feat. Playboi Carti - "Pissy Pamper" (aka "Kid Cudi") (2019)
One of the most successful unreleased songs in recent memory is also a cautionary tale for keeping leaks under control. The song originally entitled "Pissy Pamper" was a Pi’erre Bourne-produced track originally meant for Sli’merre, his collaborative mixtape with Young Nudy.
With its prominent use of a loop from "Tasogare" by Japanese singer Mai Yamane (best known to anime fans for "Cowboy Bebop" ending theme), the track regretfully never made the record due to sample clearance issue. But somehow, a leaked file made its way onto Spotify, where its killer component, an evocative "baby voice" verse from Playboi Carti at the peak of pre-Whole Lotta Red hysteria.
The rest is history: internet memes, reuploads with Nudy’s parts removed, and so on. Thanks to social media, the song is a generational touchstone that shouldn’t legally exist.
Photos: Larry Busacca/Getty Images; Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy; Brian Ach/Getty Images for Something in the Water; Kimberly White/Getty Images for Hennessy; Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images; Bob Berg/Getty Images; Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images; Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images
A Guide To New York Hip-Hop: Unpacking The Sound Of Rap's Birthplace From The Bronx To Staten Island
The culture and art of hip-hop would not exist if not for NYC. Take a trip through Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island to learn how hip-hop developed sonically by the borough.
New York is indisputably the birthplace of hip-hop, but which of the city's five boroughs has dominated the genre continues to be a spirited debate among its scholars and natives.
The "Boogie Down" Bronx is the origin point of hip-hop history. It’s here Clive Campbell a.k.a. DJ Kool Herc threw a rec room party in 1973 that put hip-hop as we know it in motion. The city's northernmost borough is the home of groundbreaking artists from OGs Grandmaster Flash and Slick Rick, to contemporary stars including Cardi B.
Manhattan also plays a role in hip-hop’s evolution as a playground where rappers intermingled with punks, rockers and the thriving art scene throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s. Elements of each of these developing artforms culminating in the music of the Beastie Boys. And because he is so often referred to as a West Coast rapper, it’s easy to forget Tupac Shakur was born in Manhattan.
Staten Island is, of course, home to the one and only Wu-Tang Clan and its diverse cosmology. Even the suburbs can boast major contributions — Long Island is the home of Public Enemy and Erik B & Rakim; head north of the Bronx to Westchester County, and you'll enter the home of the late rapper DMX.
What’s clear when we look at each borough, is that the culture and art of hip-hop would not exist if not for New York. Without the contributions,style and unique cultures of neighborhoods within Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Staten, the artform would not have developed into the juggernaut it is today. Press play on the Amazon Music playlist below — or visit Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music — to take an auditory tour of the best of the boroughs.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, hop on the train and travel from borough to borough for its unique history and sounds.
As you examine the breadth of NYC hip-hop, you’ll find artists with a deep and complex relationship with the city. Biz Markie, for example, was born in one area of the city, raised in another, and claimed membership to a crew for a whole other borough. His story, and that of others who deserve many flowers, demonstrate that while hip-hop can be dissected by region and subway line, it’s the Big Apple's density, multiculturalism, an urban innovation that has made it arguably one of America's greatest art forms.
Mass immigration from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic in the 1950s made the Bronx the first majority Black and Latino borough in NYC by the mid-'70s. It’s not a coincidence that the Bronx was also woefully unserved by the city government, resulting in bleak economic conditions.
"Kids with little or no resources created something out of nothing," the Funky Four Plus One’s MC Sha Rock told ABC News said of hip-hop's origins. "No matter what was going on around us in New York City at the time, we looked forward to the park jams."
These jams featured breakdancing, DJs mixing, and MCing — all key elements of hip-hop that emerged from house parties and underground venues into a city-wide consciousness. "Hip-hop wasn't called hip-hop in the ‘70s, was called 'going to the jams,'" Sha Rock continued.
A few years before the park jams took off, DJ Kool Herc’s August 1973 rec room party put hip-hop as we know it on the map. Herc took classic records and popular hits, broke down the beats, and invited MCs to chime in over them invoking the Jamaican style of delivery, talking or chanting, usually in a monotone melody, over a rhythm known as "toasting" in reggae.
In 1975, the Bronx Boys Rocking Crew (or TBB) fostered another element of hip-hop when they organized late night tagging sessions. These young graffiti artists brought the color and life of their borough to the rest of the city, as painted subway trains provided moving canvases and controversy.
By the time the park jams were happening, some graffiti crews had expanded into competitive dance. With moves drawn from martial arts, gymnastics, and modern dance, "breaking, popping, and locking" would see b-boys and b-girls become as important as music to hip-hop as an art form. Breaking as an art has continued to flourish and will soon be an Olympic sport.
The borough would go on to boast Kool Keith, KRS One, Big Pun, Fat Joe, and Cardi B, among many others, as acts who have innovated the Bronx’s place in hip-hop culture. The borough is now home to the Universal Hip-Hop Museum and will host events at Sedgwick and a 50 Years of Hip-Hop concert at Yankee Stadium.
In 1990, Brooklyn was New York’s Blackest neighborhood, with 73.1 percent of its Black residents native born. The previous decade had seen Brooklyn rappers rise to prominence in hip-hop, by the end of the 1990s the world’s ear was tuned into Brooklyn.
Known for his use of three turntables, Cutmaster DC's early tracks "Brooklyn's in the House" and "Brooklyn Rocks the Best" were the first to mention Brooklyn as a force in hip-hop music. These early '80s tracks also featured DC's pioneering technique of cutting breaks over Roland TR-909 beats, a marked moment for hip-hop's technical advancement.
Combining speed, style and humor, few would influence hip-hop's syncopation and cadence like Big Daddy Kane. In their 2012 list of The Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time Rolling Stone called Kane "a master wordsmith of rap's late-golden age and a huge influence on a generation of MCs." Within a few years Brooklyn flow would be redefined by the slow deliberative annunciation of the Notorious B.I.G., whose delivery would become one of the most interpolated in rap history.
The styles of both would be emulated and refined by a young Brooklyn rapper named Shawn Carter. The artist later known as Jay-Z attended George Westinghouse High School in downtown Brooklyn, where his classmates included Busta Rhymes, Biggie and DMX — all of whom would play a critical part in the evolution of rap’s delivery styles.
The borough wasn’t only a boys club. MC Lyte, Foxy Brown, and new rappers like Young MA continue to put Brooklyn on the musical map.
The largest Borough by area, Queens boasts the Guiness World Record for most languages spoken and gained the nickname "The World’s Borough" for its diverse population. Whereas Bronx hip-hop was derived from Black American and Caribbean cultures, Queen’s hip-hop samples the world. While the 1970s saw the Bronx give birth to hip-hop, the 1980s saw the eastern borough of Queens mature the art form.
Queen’s hip-hop history has roots in two specific areas: the Queenborough Projects and Hollis. The Queensboro Projects, a.k.a. "The Bridge," were one of the few unsegregated projects in New York. It was also home to Marley Marl, who accidentally discovered sampling while working on a Captain Rock record as a studio intern in the early ‘80s.
"I was actually trying to get a riff off of a record. I made a mistake and got the snare in there before the sound came," he recounted to NPR. "The snare sounded better than the snare that I had from the drum machine when I was popping it…I was like, "Hold up!" This will enable me to take any kick and a snare from any record that people love and make my own beat." Marls’ use of the 808 pulse to trigger different samplers was revolutionary, and he would become a pioneer for his ability to blend sampled and 808 drum sounds.
Marl’s contribution would extend beyond the technical. As a member of the Juice Crew, he brought the voice of 14-year-old Roxanne Shanté to the world. She created a new lane for women in rap as well as the blueprint for the diss track on the seminal "Roxanne's Revenge."
About a half hour east on the F Train in Hollis, Queens, brothers Joseph and Russel Simmons (a DJ and promoter respectively) founded Run-D.M.C. with friends Darryl Mc Daniels and Jason Mizell. Run-D.M.C.'s sound featured a synchronized, aggressive delivery over simple but memorable rock hooks and beats. Later, the group established Def Jam Records, the label that would prove rap could sell millions of records to Top 40 audiences and bring rap to the mainstream as the first rappers to be featured on MTV.
As valuable as the musical contributions of Run-D.M.C are, they are equally vital to the development of fashion as an element of hip-hop. Street style, as it would come to be known, is born in Queens: Kangol hats, unlaced Addias, Carzal frames, and thick gold chains are now as synonymous with hip-hop as beats and samples. Today, fashion is so central to hip-hop, and vice versa, that New York's FIT Museum recently held an expansive exhibit on hip-hop style.”
Complex proclaimed Nas’ Illmatic "set off a seismic shift in rap geopolitics" and added that the 1994 record "galvanized Queensbridge hip-hop and by extension East Coast rap as a whole." His introspective and poetic approach to writing is credited for bringing the best out of his contemporaries and inspiring next generation rappers like Killer Mike and Kendrick Lamar, challenging them to meet his lyrical bar.
Though "The Fly Borough" is the most densely populated, the majority of its hip-hop history is concentrated in the northern Manhattan neighborhood of Harlem.
Home of the legendary Apollo Theater, the neighborhood was well rooted in Black music when World War II vet Bobby Robinson opened Bobby’s Records in 1946 — one of Harlems’ few Black owned businesses at the time. The record store would evolve as would Robinson’s involvement in music. He would become a producer and label head whose 1970 imprint Enjoy Records released music by hip-hop's earliest innovators, including Grandmaster Flash, the Treacherous Three, and Doug E. Fresh. The label would also feature Master Don, whose signature use of a "Funk Box" percussion synthesizer and its crispy digital hi hat is still heard in trap music today.
Harlem was also home to Dapper Dan, the first designer to "borrow" designer goods and modify them with hip-hop flair. His boutique operated from 1982-1992 and was essential to the merging of luxury brands and hip-hop culture. Although brands like Gucci first sued for copyright infringement, they eventually saw the value of hip-hop's branding power on high end fashion sales. In 2018, Dapper Dan and Gucci collaborated on a capsule collection.
Also during this ‘80s culture boom, three high schoolers from Manhattan applied the ethos of punk rock to the emerging street sounds of hip-hop.
The Beastie Boys began by pirating rap, self-admittingly "Rhyming and Stealing" for their 1986 Def Jam debut License to Ill, and went on to forge a new lane for the medium. They broke all the rules of sampling and production with their seminal Paul’s Boutique, which Rolling Stone noted is often dubbed "The Sargent Pepper of hip-hop" and lauded for its layer sampling technique. In their ranking of Paul’s Boutique Consequence of Sound wrote, "Paul’s Boutique sat at a finish line waiting for the rest of the world to catch up."
While the outer Boroughs would enjoy most of the attention musically throughout the '90s and 2000s, the 2010s would see Harlem again centered in hip-hop with the arrival of young rappers like Azealia Banks and the ASAP Mob collective.
RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard and later Cappadonna would find success as both a group and as solo artists. infiltrating the "big six" 1990s major record labels by design. You can also hear the influence of RZA on modern acts like El Michels Affair, which draws inspiration from Wu-Tang's melodic take on instrumentation and released two albums of instrumental soul covers of Wu-Tang Clan songs.
Their impact would go far beyond music however. Hip-hop biographer Will Ashon recounted Wu’s influence on fashion, noting that the group were part of a trend of simplification.
"Their whole modus operandi was to present themselves as real and unmanufactured, so their clothing choices had to reflect this. The rawness and directness of the music was supposed to be echoed in the rawness and directness of their clothing. They were a big part of the early 1990s move towards baggy and oversized clothes. Huge combat trousers or sweatpants, Timberland boots, hoodies, puffas, do-rags, gold fronts and so on. A ‘street soldier’ look."
As you’d expect, Wu’s presence looms large over future Staten Island artists, including G4 Boys and Killarmy. New artists like Cleotrapa, a spicy, no-holds-barred femme rapper, also counts Wu-Tang as an influence and is helping define Staten’s next chapter.
The history of the intersection of New York City and hip-hop culture is as big and diverse as the city itself. We could only touch on a handful of artists and creators in this piece, but the topic has been explored at length in books like Cant Stop Wont Stop by Jeff Chang and The Come Up: An Oral History of the Rise of Hip-Hop. Documentaries on hip-hop can be found on almost all streaming platforms Netflix’s notable Hip-Hop Evolution and Ladies First: The Story of Women in Hip-Hop.
Photo: Ollie Millington/Redferns
9 Songs You Didn't Know Jon Bellion Wrote & Produced: Hits By Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez & More
Pop superproducer Jon Bellion is the man behind Tori Kelly's new ep, 'tori,' but he's also been involved with countless hits for more than a decade. Check out nine of Bellion's biggest songs, from Eminem to Jonas Brothers.
If the name Jon Bellion sounds familiar, it's probably because of his 2016 single "All Time Low." With its relentless "low-low-low-low-low" chorus, the electronic-fused pop confection scored Bellion his first major hit — as a solo artist, that is.
Prior to Bellion's breakthrough with his debut solo single, he'd already made a name for himself behind the scenes by writing and producing songs for the likes of Eminem, Jason Derulo, Zedd and CeeLo Green. And in the seven years since "All Time Low" became a top 20 hit, he's celebrated plenty of other smashes with some of pop's A-listers from Christina Aguilera to Justin Bieber.
This year alone, he worked with the Jonas Brothers to executive produce their statement-making record The Album, helped shape Maroon 5's "Middle Ground" — which is expected to be the lead single off the veteran pop-rockers' forthcoming eighth studio album — and teamed up with Switchfoot for an orchestral 2023 update of the band's 2003 breakout single "Meant to Live."
Bellion's most recent work can be heard on Tori Kelly's new self-titled EP tori, which dropped July 28. Along with producing the project, Bellion joined Kelly for a magnetic, electro-tinged track titled "young gun." Upon the EP's release, Kelly herself noted Bellion's impact, calling their collaboration "the start of something really special."
In honor of Bellion's latest project, take a look at nine songs you may not have known contained Bellion's signature touch — a roadmap to his becoming one of the most in-demand producers of the moment.
Eminem feat. Rihanna — "The Monster"
One of Bellion's earliest smashes came courtesy of Eminem — well, and Bebe Rexha. The pop singer penned the track's dark hook while working on her debut album, but it later made its way to Eminem and eventually shapeshifted into his fourth collaboration with Rihanna. The song became the duo's second No. 1 collaboration following 2010's "Love The Way You Lie" and remains one of most monstrous hits in Bellion's career.
Jason Derulo — "Trumpets"
Jason Derulo worked solely with Bellion on this top 20 hit from his 2013 Tattoos, which was later re-packaged as 2014's Talk Dirty. Built around an irresistible horn line of, yes, literal trumpets, Bellion and Derulo concocted a bouncy, flirtatious symphony to smoothly objectify the R&B singer's lady love, and manages to name drop Coldplay, Katy Perry and Kanye West over the course of just three minutes and thirty-seven seconds.
Christina Aguilera feat. Demi Lovato — "Fall in Line"
Bellion handled production on Christina Aguilera's fierce 2018 team-up with Demi Lovato, "Fall in Line," off the former's 2018 LP Liberation. Behind the boards, Bellion effectively captured all of the feminist rage and empowerment that the two vocal powerhouses lit into their lyrics, pairing their sneering vocals with a vamping strings section, rattling chains and a robotic male overlord futilely demanding, "March, two, three, right, two, three/ Shut your mouth, stick your ass out for me."
"Fall in Line" scored a nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 2019 GRAMMYs, marking Aguilera's twentieth career nod and Lovato's second.
Maroon 5 — "Memories"
To kick off their seventh album, JORDI, Maroon 5 enlisted Bellion to co-write lead single "Memories." The gentle ballad found frontman Adam Levine mourning the loss of a friend, pouring one out over a lilting reggae-pop line that cleverly samples Johann Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major." While the heartfelt song is dedicated to the band's longtime manager (and namesake of the LP) Jordan Feldstein, who tragically passed away in 2017 due to a blood clot, the relatable sentiment of "Memories" helped it peak at No. 2 on the Hot 100.
In addition to "Memories," Bellion also worked with the band on two other songs from JORDI, co-writing fourth single "Lost" as well as Anuel AA and Tainy collab "Button." Three years later, he would reunite with the band to co-write and co-produce their latest, equally delicate single "Middle Ground" alongside the likes of Andrew Watt and Rodney Jerkins.
Miley Cyrus — "Midnight Sky"
Miley Cyrus came raring into her glam rock-inspired album Plastic Hearts on the back of "Midnight Sky," an unapologetic statement of independence following her split from longtime love Liam Hemsworth. Dripping in sultry synths, the power ballad took a page from '80s rock icons like Joan Jett, Debbie Harry and Stevie Nicks.
The sound was an entirely new one for Cyrus — which is one of Bellion's tools when working with a new superstar for the first time. In a 2023 Billboard interview, he likened his approach to inventing a new kind of ride for the given A-lister. "They have already built an amazing theme park: millions of people go to it and experience their roller coasters," he said. "They put me in charge of revamping or creating a new section of the theme park, and they let me be the foreman of it all." The new style worked in Cyrus' favor, and earned Bellion yet another top 20 hit on the Hot 100.
Justin Bieber — "Holy"
Bellion's fingerprints are all over Justin Bieber's 2021 album Justice, starting notably with its Chance the Rapper-assisted lead single "Holy," which he both co-wrote and co-produced. The superproducer contributed to six other songs on the pop-driven LP — including the pop radio No. 1 "Ghost," which was inspired by Bellion's late grandmother — as well as three deluxe tracks. And though Bellion didn't have any credited features, his voice can still be heard: he offered background vocals on seven of the songs.
Justice earned Bellion his very first GRAMMY nomination, as the project was nominated for Album Of The Year at the 2022 GRAMMYs (Bieber also received seven other nods).
Selena Gomez — "My Mind & Me"
Bellion first collaborated with Selena Gomez on Rare album cut "Vulnerable" alongside Amy Allen, Michael Pollack and The Monsters & Strangerz. Two years later, the entire team reunited for the title track to the pop singer's Apple TV+ documentary My Mind & Me.
Bellion and co. helped Gomez tap even further into the most vulnerable side of her psyche to date. "Vulnerable" saw Gomez letting her guard down with a new flame, but "My Mind & Me" allowed her to completely lay bare her mental health journey. "Sometimes I feel like an accident, people look when they're passin' it/ Never check on the passenger, they just want the free show," she sings. "Yeah, I'm constantly tryna fight somethin' that my eyes can't see," over spare guitar and piano.
Jonas Brothers — "Waffle House"
After the success of their 2019 comeback album Happiness Begins with producer Ryan Tedder, the Jonas Brothers recruited Bellion to helm the boards on their 2023 follow-up The Album. The producer helped the hitmaking siblings tap into a new facet of their pop-rock sound, finding inspiration in the '70s music their dad raised them on. (As Joe Jonas told GRAMMY.com upon the album's release, Bellion "was saying exactly what we were hoping for" when they first met to mull over ideas.)
While Bellion had a hand in every song on The Album, second single "Waffle House" is the latest to earn both him and Jonas Brothers a top 15 hit on pop radio. Bellion also serves as the one and only featured artist on The Album, coming out from behind the boards and into the vocal booth for bombastic closer "Walls."
Tori Kelly — "missin u"
Tori Kelly first linked up with Bellion thanks to Justin Bieber, as the pair worked together with the Biebs on tender bonus cut "Name" from the Justice sessions. So, when it came time to launch a new era with her self-titled EP tori, the songstress turned to Bellion to help bring her vision to life.
On lead single "missin u," the two-time GRAMMY winner throws the guitar-driven singer/songwriter vibes of her past work out the window in favor of a sleek R&B sound reminiscent of the early 2000s. The sonic gear shift is a natural fit for her lithe voice as she replays a romance that "was rainin' purple skies in my room." Somehow, Kelly even manages to outdo the vocal acrobatics of "missin u" with a deliriously brilliant "R&B edit" that adds even more layers, soul and vocal flourishes to the single.
"When I first started working with Jon Bellion, we were just beginning to scratch the surface on a new sound that truly felt like my own," Kelly explains in a video celebrating the release of her self-titled EP tori. "I know that I'm gonna look back on this collaboration as the start of something really special." As for Bellion's thoughts on his latest project? "Tori Kelly's the greatest vocalist of all time!"