Photo: Alison Buck
Avril Lavigne at the GRAMMY Museum
Avril Lavigne Has Always Known Exactly Who She Is
At the GRAMMY Museum last night, the eternal punk princess reflected on her musical beginnings, unyielding self-confidence and the impact of her music
17 years ago, a Canadian teen named Avril Lavigne skated her way into our hearts with her debut album, Let Go, along with unforgettable hit singles like "Complicated" and "Sk8ter Boi." She was just a teenager when the GRAMMY-nominated LP was released in June 2002, but she already knew who she was and felt ready to share her punk-rock style and sensibilities with the music world.
As she recounted to 250 lucky fans at her GRAMMY Museum event last night, Lavigne famously dropped out of high school at 16 to move to Los Angeles and pursue a music career. Clearly things went her way, as she is now one of the most recognizable names in pop—and through all the pressures that come with being a young woman in the music industry, she never lost sight of who she was.
Photo: Alison Buck
Speaking to Scott Goldman in the Museum's Clive Davis Theater, the eternal punk princess, rocking all black with punky suspender pants, reflected on her musical beginnings, that unyielding self-confidence and the impact her music has had on the next generation of female alt-rockers. They also discussed her sixth studio album, Head Above Water, which she released earlier this year. To close, she brought out two of her bandmates to share a few songs they've been rehearsing for her upcoming tour, her first one in five years.
Looking back on her initial experience with the L.A. music industry, she explains that they didn't quite get her at first. "The music was too soft and fluffy for me… I just wanted to hear guitars, even though I was only 16," Lavigne said. "The label saw me as a pop star," she added, musing that pop-rock wasn't so much a thing yet, in the early part of the millennium. She knew she had to be clear with who she was in order to prove herself to those who didn't understand it.
"I'd show up to a high-fashion shoot with a book bag of neckties," she explained, a testament to her confident demeanor and edgy style. Sharing some wisdom on how she managed to be so much of herself at such a young age, she said, "You have to love yourself and find your confidence."
When Goldman asked what her early music, specifically her first two albums, sound like to her when she listens now, Lavigne replied that she was proud of what she wrote as a teen and hears "variety and a lot of depth."
Goldman also asked what it felt like to be a role model for the next generation of guitar-loving women, citing rising alt-rockers Soccer Mommy and Snail Mail, who've named those early albums as major influences to their own music. "It's so cool…to know that my music inspired or influenced anyone," the "Complicated" singer beamed.
Avril Lavigne al Grammy Museum cantando in versione acustica la sua Hit “Girlfriend”pic.twitter.com/LuxscYJeH4— AvrilBestItalian (@AvrilBestItalia) September 6, 2019
The much-anticipated performance included two songs from the new album, opening with the title track and closing with the anthemic "Warrior," as well as two of her '00s hits. After serving up a powerful rendition of "Head Above Water," Lavigne went into one of her "favorites to perform," "My Happy Ending," from her second album, Under My Skin. Before breaking into the chorus, she asked the audience to join her. She asked the crowd what they wanted to hear next, and over a dozen selections from her discography were shouted out.
Lavigne gave the audience a chance to be heard, listening, before responding, "'Girlfriend' should be fun." She was right.
Finally, in an epic act of on-stage cuteness, as Lavigne got up from her stool to exit the stage, the suspenders hanging from her pants got stuck, evoking a laugh. This was the perfect time for the crowd to request an encore, and she left everyone on a high note with "Warrior," even getting fan-assistance with a lyric she forgot on the new song.
As the fans filed out of the theater, a teen with hot pink hair and a cutoff plaid shirt turned to her dad and said with wide eyes: "I'm seriously shaking."
Photo: Focus On Sport / Contributor / Getty Images
The GRAMMY Museum Announces 'Shakira, Shakira: The GRAMMY Museum Experience,' Honoring Her Creative Legacy; Opening March 2023
To showcase Shakira's enduring career, the GRAMMY Museum presents 'Shakira, Shakira: The GRAMMY Museum Experience,' opening on Saturday, March 4, as part of the Museum's permanent Latin Music Gallery
On Saturday, March 4, The GRAMMY Museum will open Shakira, Shakira: The GRAMMY Museum Experience, showcasing Shakira's enduring creative legacy spanning more than three decades as a singer, songwriter, producer, dancer, visual artist, philanthropist, and global icon.
Visitors can see the exhibit on display in downtown Los Angeles at the Museum's permanent Latin Music Gallery.
A multi-GRAMMY-winning and Latin GRAMMY Award-winning artist, Shakira has sold more than 85 million records worldwide and has won numerous awards in addition to those from the Recording Academy. Her albums and releases consistently break records, and she is the most-viewed and -streamed Latin female artist of all time on YouTube and Spotify. She was also honored as the Latin Recording Academy’s Person of the Year in 2011 for her artistic achievements in the Latin music industry as well as their humanitarian efforts.
"It's an honor to have the journey of my career displayed at the GRAMMY Museum," Shakira said in a statement. "These pieces are a testament to so many indelible moments that I cherish, and I'm so happy to be able to relive these memories with those who have and continue to support me as an artist."
Shakira, Shakira explores the artist's musical evolution, from her origins as a Latin rock-loving singer/songwriter in Barranquilla, Colombia, to a global superstar whose catalog spans multiple genres, from bhangra and bachata to rock and reggaetón.
Early in her career, Shakira began fusing elements of her ethnicities and multicultural roots to construct a richly layered sonic universe that allowed her to grow as a creator while appealing to a worldwide audience. Partly by incorporating her Lebanese heritage on her father's side — along with Arabic dancing and the mainstream pop rock that she grew up with — she achieved international crossover success and broke boundaries for Latin artists.
To deepen visitors' appreciation and understanding of how these cultural elements have shaped every aspect of her songs, music videos, performances, and world tours, the first museum exhibit about Shakira features interactive features that provide fresh insights into her creative process.
It also includes a songwriting notebook with handwritten lyrics from her personal archive along with 40 other artifacts, acoustic and Swarovski-studded electric guitars, iconic outfits from her performances and album covers, three original films, and an immersive space that draws inspiration from her El Dorado tour.
Highlights from the Shakira, Shakira: The GRAMMY Museum Experience include:
Forty artifacts from Shakira’s personal archive
Shakira’s two 2020 Super Bowl LIV outfits (one red, one gold) and her Gibson Firebird electric guitar, covered with 70,000 black Swarovski crystals
Taylor acoustic guitar that Shakira uses for songwriting
Fender Stratocaster, covered with pink Swarovski crystals, that Shakira played on her Oral Fixation tour (2006-2007)
Gold Yamaha Revstar electric guitar Shakira played on her 2018 El Dorado tour
Iconic outfits from Shakira’s 2018 El Dorado tour
Leaf-covered bikini Shakira wore on the cover of her 2005 album, Oral Fixation, Vol. 2
Songwriting notebook with handwritten lyrics
This announcement comes on the heels of Shakira's latest release with Argentinian producer and DJ Bizarrap, "SHAKIRA || BZRP Music Sessions #53," which has made history in its own way. With the most streams in a single day for a Spanish-language song, it raked in more than 14 million streams in the first 24 hours and became the fastest Latin song to reach 100 million streams. Another historic moment for Shakira, the song debuted at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first solo woman to reach the Top 10 on the chart with a song recorded in Spanish. She has also broken the all-time record for most monthly listeners for a Latin artist in Spotify history. The video amassed 160 million views on YouTube in the first week.
"Shakira is the rare superstar who has discovered a way to keep evolving as an artist while growing her expansive audience along with her," said Jasen Emmons, Chief Curator & Vice President of Curatorial Affairs at the GRAMMY Museum. "She's a serious student of music, and the GRAMMY Museum is excited to offer a dynamic exhibit that reflects her intelligence and artistry."
Photo: Jill Furmonvsky; courtesy of THE-DREAM
The GRAMMY Museum Announces Official GRAMMY Week 2023 Programming Schedule
Join in on the GRAMMY Museum's GRAMMY Week 2023 education programs and panels ahead of Music's Biggest Night. Here's the lineup for the upcoming, can't-miss events from Jan. 30 - Feb. 3.
Flush with unique education and community engagement programs, the events offer conversations, live performances and exclusive content from GRAMMY Award-winning and -nominated musicians and industry professionals. From panels discussing what it takes to have a career in the music industry to a celebration of GRAMMY nominee Muni Long, you won't want to miss the GRAMMY Museum’s GRAMMY Week programming.
Join in on these GRAMMY Week festivities from Monday, Jan. 30, to Friday, Feb. 3, with the full lineup as listed below.
Watch the 2023 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 65th GRAMMY Awards, on Sunday, Feb. 5, live on the CBS Television Network and live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.
Mon, Jan. 30:
EVENT: Careers in Music: Music Producers Panel with Isla Management
WHAT: A conversation with GRAMMY® Award-winning and -nominated producers Boi-1da, Jahaan Sweet, Sevn Thomas, Leon Thomas, and Isla Management Founder and Manager Simon Gebrelul on the creative process, working with artists, and what it takes to have a career in the music industry as a music producer.
WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
REGISTER: Click here.
EVENT: Careers in Music: Latin Music Panel
WHAT: A conversation celebrating the culture and impact of Latin Music with singer-songwriter, Gaby Moreno, Vice President of Latin Division at Peermusic, Yvonne Drazan, and Founder and President of Cosmica Records, Gil Gastelum.
WHEN: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.
REGISTER: Click here.
Tues, Jan. 31:
EVENT: Backstage Pass: Global Music Panel
WHAT: A conversation celebrating music from around the world with GRAMMY-nominated artist Zakes Bantwini, CEO of Creative Agency GridWorldwide Adam Byars, TV/Radio personality and entrepreneur Anele Mdoda, Talent Manager and Music/Entertainment Executive Sibo Mhlungu, and Entrepreneur CEO & Founder of Bathu Sneakers Theo Baloyi. This program will also include a live performance by Zakes Bantwini and Nomcebo Zikode.
WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
REGISTER: Click here.
EVENT: Backstage Pass: LGBTQ Panel & Performance presented by the Ally Coalition
WHAT: Backstage Pass is a career exploration program that gives students a first-hand look at what it takes to get a job in the music industry. This Backstage Pass program will consist of a question-and-answer session with music industry professionals from the LGBTQ community.
WHEN: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.
REGISTER: Click here.
EVENT: Celebrating GRAMMY® Nominee: Muni Long
WHAT: Join us for this exclusive GRAMMY Week event to celebrate this year’s three-time GRAMMY nominee, Muni Long, just ahead of GRAMMY Sunday. Nominated for Best New Artist, Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance, Long was an in-demand songwriter for Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Madonna, Ariana Grande, and more before breaking through as a solo artist.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m.
TICKETS: Click here.
Wed, Feb. 1:
EVENT: Careers in Music: 1500 Sound Academy
WHAT: 1500 Sound Academy is a trailblazing music education institution that strives to produce passionate sound creators through mentorship, positive mindset and professional development. Join us for a moderated Q&A with founders of the 1500 Sound Academy and of the legendary musical ensemble, 1500 or Nothin', GRAMMY Award winners James Fauntleroy and Larrance "Rance" Dopson.
WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
REGISTER: Click here.
EVENT: Live Out L!ve Presents: Beyond the Mainstage – Black Professionals in Live Music
WHAT: Join us as we go beyond the mainstage and explore the success, challenges and reality of being a Black professional in the live entertainment industry. In this conversation, we will hear from professionals of color who are leading innovation and change in their respective roles. Our panelists will share their journey of becoming a live industry leader and resources for breaking into the industry, and answer questions from the next generation of music industry leaders.
WHEN: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.
REGISTER: Click here.
Thurs, Feb. 2:
EVENT: Backstage Pass: Hawaii Day w/ Bobby Moderow, Jr. & Kawika Kahiapo
WHAT: A celebration of the music and culture of Hawaii, this Backstage Pass program will consist of a question-and-answer session as well as a live performance of two to three songs.
WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
REGISTER: Click here.
Fri, Feb. 3:
EVENT: Careers In Music: Merck Mercuriadis, Nile Rodgers and 2023 Six-Time GRAMMY®-nominated Singer/Songwriter/Producer THE-DREAM
WHAT: A conversation with Merck Mercuriadis, Nile Rodgers and The-Dream discussing their background in the music industry, the importance and power of the songwriter, sustaining a career, and celebrating the songs past and present that have led to The-Dream having more than 20 GRAMMY nominations and five wins throughout his career. The-Dream is one of the first nominees for the inaugural Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical Award and we are here to celebrate his achievements and those of the other great songwriters being honored including his collaboration with Nile Rodgers, Beyoncé and others on "CUFF IT."
WHEN: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.
REGISTER: Click here.
Photo: Zhang Yixing Studio
Global Spin Live: LAY Combines East And West With A Magnetic Performance Of "Veil" At The GRAMMY Museum
Chinese rapper LAY combines traditional Chinese instruments with contemporary Western choreography in this live performance of "Veil."
With every release, singer/songwriter LAY has paid homage to his Chinese heritage. His latest EP, West, is no different, as he croons over the sounds of traditional instruments.
Released as a sequel to his 2021 EP, East, West continues LAY's global exploration and comprehension of western culture through the lens of his upbringing in China. "I'm a proud Chinese person first before an artist," LAY detailed in a media conference. "I just want to share the good things about my culture. I hope it inspires others to do the same."
In this episode of Global Spin Live, LAY offers a highly energetic performance of West's lead single, "Veil," at the GRAMMY Museum. He smoothly transitions between English and his native language, Mandarin.
It's a metaphor for LAY's multicultural mindset that's not only manifested in his lyricism, but additionally in the song's choreography and production; he balances contemporary hip-hop moves with the soft tapping of the Chinese erhu.
Though West presents two versions of "Veil" — one in Mandarin and one predominantly in English — LAY performs the latter on the GRAMMY Museum stage. "'Veil' is [asking listeners to] be more real. Take off your mask and show me the real you," he shares, further emphasizing the message of "Veil" that encourages listeners to share our most authentic selves.
Global Spin Live is held in conjunction with GRAMMY Museum and GRAMMY.com as a live event extension of the popular online series, Global Spin, showcasing Global Music artists. Press play on the video above to watch LAY's suave performance of "Veil," and check back to GRAMMY.com for more episodes of Global Spin.
Photo courtesy of the artist
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Kabaka Pyramid On Embracing His Voice & The Bold Future Of Reggae
Kingston-born reggae star Kabaka Pyramid is one of a handful of artists bringing positivity back into the genre. His messages of consciousness are more powerful than ever on his third album, 'The Kalling' — and now, he’s a GRAMMY nominee because of it.
Kabaka Pyramid answers to a higher power — and his third album, fittingly titled The Kalling, is a testament to his beliefs.
The Kingston-born rapper, singer and producer is one of a handful of artists bringing positivity back into reggae, often channeling the empowered, political, and spiritual vibes of roots artists. Kabaka Pyramid is often labeled a "reggae revivalist" for this reason, but The Kalling manages to be both classic and incredibly of the moment. And while his previous albums Victory Rock and Kontraband are testaments of lyrical and genre-blending prowess, Kabaka's latest is a notable ascension.
One of five nominees for Best Reggae Album at the 65th GRAMMY Awards, The Kalling showcases Kabaka's passion for using hip-hop, soul and dancehall to iterate on the sound of conscious reggae. The record also overflows with messages of growth, contemplation of addiction, and gratitude — an antidote to some of the more crude attitudes present in Kabaka's favorite genres.
"The older I got, the more I felt responsible to represent myself in a certain way," Kabaka tells GRAMMY.com from his home in Miami. “I wanted to inspire, like how artists like Sizzla and Damian Marley inspired me. I wanted to have a similar effect, and I knew I needed to put out positive music to do that.”
Kabaka called upon his community to achieve this vision. The Kalling was produced by the reggae scion also known as Jr Gong, and features the late icon Peter Tosh in addition to Buju Banton, Jesse Royal and fellow 2023 nominee Protoje. Together, they created an album that pulls from contemporary pop, rap and '80s era reggae, with songs that are meditative ("Stand Up"), club-ready ("Energy" and "Mystik Man"), and fit for a kickback ("Mary Jane").
Ahead of the 2023 GRAMMYs, the first-time nominee spoke to GRAMMY.com about inspiring higher vibrations through music and action.
Was the GRAMMY nomination a milestone you were working towards, or one that caught you by surprise?
I was shouting, screaming, everything; a couple tears of joy. I'm probably the only person on my team and label that it kind of caught by surprise. I just always thought that the GRAMMY was just this huge thing and something that is best if I don't think about it too much, because I feel like that can lead to disappointment.
So I was just more focused on putting in the work and really representing myself with the music, and then let the awards come. But it's definitely a huge achievement for me. I wouldn't have dreamed of it when I was back in high school, but here I am now, so I have to give thanks.
It's cool to reflect on how far you've come — like, man, I'm living out my dreams from high school or dreams you didn't even know you had.
I'm 37 now, so it's been a 20-year journey since I first started to pencil down some lyrics. And most people start super early, whether they're in the church, or in the choir, or whatever it is. Or they come from a musical family, so they watch their parents do it or whatever. But for me, it wasn't that.
I always loved music, particularly hip-hop and dancehall. So I was just inspired by music, but I never thought of it as something I'd actually be doing until around 17, 18. That's when I realized that I have a talent for actually writing lyrics. And from then it was just working on my voice. A lot of self recording at home, home studios over the years, different places.
Tell me a bit about the creation of the album; what was going on in your life at that time?
The recording and writing and stuff was mostly throughout the pandemic. For the first few months, I was in Jamaica; Damien was sending me beats that he was working on from his studio in Miami. And eventually, I flew up and we started just going at it together in studio and from just jam sessions with me, him and his musicians, just coming up with ideas from scratch.
There were some conversations about what we want to do differently from the last album and what kind of song we wanted to go for, what kind of vibe. We wanted some traditional reggae, we wanted some hip-hop vibes in it, wanted to sample some classic reggae records as well as some soulful stuff. "Grateful" was a soul record that was sampled, and of course, "Mystik Man" [featuring] Peter Tosh is originally "Fade Away" by Junior Byles, a classic reggae record too.
Over two years, it just slowly but surely started to shape itself. We did "The Kalling" and Protoje and Jesse came to studio while Stephen [Marley] was recording, and they ended up dropping their verses that night. And I knew from that night that this would end up being the title track for the album. And we just kind of themed the whole album around "The Kalling." Having a higher calling, a higher purpose to the music, tying it into the teachings of Rastafari and what it means to me. It was just a beautiful process.
What do those Rastafari teachings mean to you and how are they presented on this album?
For me, Rastafari is first and foremost about knowing where you come from, seeing yourself as royalty, as kings and queens — especially for Black people who have been through slavery and coming to the West by force. So it's really a reconnection to Africa, but it applies to anybody that wants to reconnect with who they are, where they're from, and their identity.
We practice a vegan diet, ital, and man and woman relationships — being wholesome, the family unit. These are all Rastafari is and is coming from his Imperial Majesty, the emperor of Ethiopia. Ethiopia being the country that was never colonized in Africa, that really maintained their identity. That's really where Rastafari culture and expression stems from.
This record also has a lot of messaging around being aware of yourself and your addictions, and things that you're doing in your daily life that might not be so healthy. Was that something that you've been thinking about for a long time, or was it something that came to you during this production process?
As Rasta, we reason about these things all the time. It's all about looking at how we live, what's our mentality towards life. And a song like "Addiction" just came out of countless reasonings about social media, about our phones, about the radiation and our phones give off. I don't sleep with my phone near me because I wake up with headaches.
I felt like that song was so important because with the pandemic, we're taught to social distance, we're taught to stay inside and we just turned to our phones and our devices. So we're even more technologically oriented now after the pandemic than even before. It’s kind of continuing from a song I did from Kontrabrand called "Everywhere I Go."
The Kalling is much more centered in traditional reggae, though "Energy" is sort of pop and R&B, and the opening track from your last record is a pop tune. Yet you're branded as this revival reggae artist. What are your thoughts on that?
The whole revival thing came about in like 2011, 2012 when my first reggae project came out; Protoje's album was out, Chronixx [had] transitioned from being a producer/songwriter to being a recording artist, and he took Jamaica by storm. We started going to Europe with our bands, and I think that is what really cemented the whole idea of a revival, because …there was kind of a dying down of Jamaicans coming with their bands. And you had [Jamaican artists using] these backing bands that were local in Europe because it was more economical. And then a lot of artists couldn't travel anymore because of what I consider their freedom of speech being questioned and violated. So you had a lot of key artists that couldn't travel.
So because of that, when we came on the scene, it was very refreshing for people to see these young acts in their 20s coming with their bands and sacrificing where we could have made more money if we went with backing bands, or with track shows or whatever. And then not only that though, we were sampling Black Uhuru records and Sly and Robbie bass lines, and drum and bass.
If you check my song "Revival," "Here Comes Trouble" [by] Chronixx, and Protoje's "Kingston Be Wise," all of these tracks kind of brought back an '80s vibe. And then when we translate them on stage with the bands, people felt like it was a revival of the '70s and '80s.
Musically we definitely fuse a lot of the sounds. There's modern elements, there's hip-hop elements, R&B, pop elements to it too, because we're all influenced by that. We're in an era where artists kind of have more creative control with their sound — it's not like you just go to one producer that has one sound. We can call on different producers, we produce ourselves and the stuff that we are influenced by, that's what we try and recreate.
So it's partially a revival of sound but also a revival of style and performance.
Are there any tracks on The Kalling that you're particularly proud of?
"Mystik Man," I’m really proud of that, especially with the whole Peter Tosh family behind the song. We were able to list it officially as featuring Peter Tosh, so I have a song with one of my idols. Overall, his life, what he represents, his mission — him and Sizzla are right up there in terms of who inspire me the most. "Addiction" from a songwriting perspective, I'm really proud of that one.
I'm proud of the fact that I stuck to my roots. When I was early in my career, I couldn't sing to save my life; rapping was easier for me to do. I was working on my reggae, but I wouldn't let anybody hear those songs. So doing a song like "Kontraband pt. 2" where I'm rapping with this Jamaican accent, [or] "Mystik Man," — being able to represent that and still maintain my identity as a Jamaican [and] as a reggae artist, and to get nominated, is a great achievement for me.
I read in Dancehall Magazine that you think that the subject of a lot of Jamaican music is holding artists back. How did you try to combat that notion on The Kalling?
I think my music is naturally more wholesome. It's more readily accessible to older and the young. Maybe it can be a bit too deep for some people, but just generally speaking, I don't put a bunch of slack lyrics or derogatory lyrics to women or violence, gun violence. And that's kind of typical for Jamaican music. But I feel these younger artists are kind of pushing the limits of it. There's a lot of talk about drug use now in songs, and scamming, and all of them kind of things.
I've seen artists that are on the verge of breaking into mainstream do collaborations with other mainstream acts, but then it's just crazy curse words in the song and super derogatory lyrics. I could see somebody at a radio station like, "no, I can't playlist this because it's too difficult." Especially, being an international artist. So it's trying not to shoot ourselves in the foot by having too extreme lyrics.
How did you meet Damien Marley and what did he bring to this project?
I met him at the Bob Marley Museum, I think it was around 2013. He was shooting some videos with Nas for Distant Relatives.
The first time working with him, he sent me a riddim that he wanted to do a juggling [on]. It was originally a Wayne Marshall record, but he wanted to voice some other artists on it and Chronixx, Juliann Marley, others are on it too. I wrote the song "Well Done" on it, and we all loved the song. I was there when the song was being mixed and prepared, and that's when we really bonded, and we started to just hold our vibe, reason about music.
We played football at the field at his house. And it just felt like a brother kind of relationship from early. He's like a mentor to me; I ask him advice and everything musically. And just being with him, I learned so much about sharpening up my songwriting skills and making my lyrics more potent and more absorbable for people. From there, we just grew to the point where we had a discussion about doing two albums at minimum, and we did Kontrabrand.
He produced five of the tracks [on The Kalling], but it was all put together in his studio, [and] he executive produced the project. I wanted to give him the chance of doing a whole entire album. I felt like there was enough versatility with his production style to do it. I think he really did an excellent job. It's almost like it doesn't make sense to not do an album with him anymore.
Is there somebody who gave you props about this record that were really meaningful?
I just got a very long voicemail from Pressure Buss Pipe, who is an artist I'm really inspired by. He was telling me how much I stepped up with this album, and I'm just in the right gear now. It was really a heartfelt voice note. He's somebody that I listen to a lot, and his vocal ability inspires me, and his songwriting. I have five, six, maybe seven songs with him too.
I should say Protoje was one of the first people to call me when I got nominated. And obviously, I congratulated him as well. And even how excited Damian is [means a lot], because he's not somebody that gets excited very easy. There’s not many others who can impress you more than Damian Marley, you know what I mean?
Why did you want to feature Protoje on The Kalling and, together, what are you guys showcasing about contemporary Jamaican music?
Protoje is somebody I always want to collaborate with. He was instrumental in the start of my career; most of [my 2011 EP] Rebel Music was recorded at his home studio. About four of the beats were beats that he gave me and from other producers. Europe knew about me because Protoje kind of helped me to get my name out there. And I respect him so much.
We're all about innovation. I think Protoje's [nominated] album is super cool. The intro and "Family" and "Hills" kind of go back to his original, more hip-hop flavor. Both of us have evolved so much vocally; I love the vocal tones that he experimented with on his album. And sonically, he's always pushing the genre further and I really appreciate that about him. And similar with me, there's so much versatility around the album, but still rooted in reggae.
The two of you are nominated in a category that has a next generation artist and very established musicians. How do these nominees reflect the state of reggae?
It means a lot for everybody now because of who won last year. Big up to SOJA; I really think they put in a lot of work in this music industry, especially in the U.S. And they unified the whole U.S. reggae industry on their album; they featured all of the major acts in the U.S. and I really think it was effective.
But people see it and say, "Oh, reggae is being taken away from Jamaica" and there was a lot of backlash for that. Based on that, it's very refreshing to see an all-Jamaican lineup of artists; artists that have done so much for the industry who have been on the frontline internationally, who put out wholesome music too. It's not like any real slackness is being represented.
I would hope that this lineup of artists inspires the younger generation that you can do music without all of the negativity and it can reach the highest level. It's not that the U.S. is greater than any other nation, but it's our biggest market for the music. So to be recognized within the U.S. with this GRAMMY Award is tremendous, and everybody feels it and appreciates it.
There’s so much versatility represented: Shaggy, did a Frank Sinatra cover album. Sean Paul is modern dancehall pop. Koffee is kind of similar, but there's so much fusion going on there and she's so lyrical and so young and, just blowing up all over the place. Me and Protoje are kind of in a similar bracket. It's an interesting group.
Speaking of the next generation, who or what are you listening to these days that's giving you life? Anybody you want to big up?
There's a bunch of artists, Medicine, who actually did some songwriting on my album. Irie Soldier, Nattali Rize, Runkus, Royal Blue, Blvk H3ro, Imeru Tefari, Five Star. There's a bunch of artists out there that's doing good music, and I'm always here to support them and want to do some more production with them as well. The future is bright, for sure.