Photo: Nicole Hernandez
Baby Rose On Making Music Amid Protests
The new era neo-soul singer opens up about resilience, inspiration, peace and creativity during the pandemic: “Life doesn’t stop, man. I’m still a Black woman. I’m still going through my own s**t"
It's June 11, 2020, and Baby Rose is present. Not just in her apartment; not just on the phone with me; not just in her own skin. She’s present in the times that have bound the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. The public plundering of Black lives; the tears of crying souls taking shape as flames of burned businesses; the protests. Rose is present in it all by not letting her aching heart find shelter in ignorance and knowing she plays a part in the healing of the world.
“As a creator, I agree with Nina Simone who said, ‘An artist’s duty is to reflect the times,” Rose told GRAMMY.com.
When civil rights activist Medgar Evers was assassinated outside of his Mississippi home on June 12, 1963, and four Black girls were murdered by a racist bombing in Birmingham, Alabama three months later, Simone composed her first civil rights song, “Mississippi Goddamn,” in an hour. Yet, when I first spoke with Rose last month, and as late as a week and a half before our second chat on July 2, she hadn’t been in the studio let alone write a song. “You don’t feel encouraged to really create if you feel the whole system is against you. It’s like, what is the fking point?” Rose asked rhetorically.
During both conversations, Rose spoke openly about how she’s been coping during the pandemic, the struggles with making protest music, and the balance she must maintain between being a Black woman and being an artist of the times.
“As an artist, I did face that type of ‘what is it worth’-type st,” Rose explained. “I understand people want things to go back to business as usual, but there’s another part of me that’s resilient and knows that I, as an artist, have a responsibility to express how I feel and speak to the times around it and not ignore it or make it business as usual; use my voice for a tool of change.”
In the course of one year, her unique voice went from obscure to in-demand. In 2019 alone, she was featured on the GRAMMY-nominated, platinum-selling Revenge of the Dreamers III compilation from J. Cole’s Dreamville label, toured with Ari Lennox and Snoh Aalegra, and dropped her critically acclaimed debut album To Myself, setting the stage for her to headline her own international tour in 2020. Now, she’s exalted as one of the leaders of the new era of neo-soul and has a growing fanbase eager to hear her thoughts on anything and everything.
But, if and when Rose addresses the current social upheaval, it won’t be new to her. Not at all.
In 2017, before she was selling out venues across America, Rose released a three-track playlist of songs over J. Dilla production. One of the songs on the set was “Victoria,” where Rose urgently shoots off the lyric, “Trying to turn my cheek like King but fk it. Somebody gotta say something. Somebody gotta do something.” As with Simone’s “Mississippi Goddamn”, “Victoria” was more compulsory than calculated.
“That was the beginning of Trump’s presidency. That was when the Muslim ban happened. I was in awe like most people. It was like, ‘What the fk is happening? What type of dystopian society are we in right now? Are y’all not seeing this?’,” Rose said, referring to the President's executive order restricting entry into the United States from citizens traveling from six predominantly Muslim countries.
These days, she’s been consuming music rather than making it. Simone’s Young, Gifted, and Black, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, and music from Gil Scott Heron have been her soundtrack. She’s been reading Black literature from Zadie Smith and Toni Morrison, as well as listening to these brilliant women speak, along with James Baldwin, speak [check out her full list of recommendations at the end of this article]. For Rose, “it’s like food to consume that,” because these present-day injustices are only new in execution, not in design.
“When I do come and speak, I’m coming with not only this present mindset but also with all the knowledge of generations prior that were fighting the same fight and had the same complex feelings,” she asserted.
Every new ear that finds its way to Baby Rose's music invariably affixes itself to her voice – a smoky and smoldering sound nestled comfortably in registers low enough to connect to depths of the soul seldom reached by modern-day artists. In its sweet bellow, heartache becomes enjoyably palpable and happiness sounds as delightfully raw as honey ripped straight from the honeycomb. Her song “Ragrets” starts with her singing “I’m getting by but I’m damaged,” with the temerity of a woman reclaiming her time and the ghostly echo of a woman still digging her way out of her past. Rose sounds like hope and despair existing simultaneously, a feeling that pervades a country trying to heal while it burns.
From the outside looking in, this pandemic is ostensibly a dream breeding ground for artists to sprout new ideas and music. No tours, no club appearances, no distractions. Artists as emotionally driven as Rose aren’t machines, though, and churning out protest music doesn’t just require free time, space and calamity as if they’re settings on an air fryer. For Rose, the chaos around her has inspired her to find a place of peace more than a creative vessel for her soul to scream through.
“I just take my shoes off and go outside in the grass. I go out to a park in the sun, just stand in the grass, and chill. If I want to talk to God, I’ll talk to God. If I just want to be quiet and listen to the trees, I do that,” Rose explained with calmness to her voice. “I can literally find that anywhere, and that’s my place of peace. It reminds me society is one thing, humanity is a ‘whole other thing. God has the last say over everything.”
She has yet to release any music addressing the protests or injustices, but she finally returned to the studio with her bandmates for the first time during the pandemic in the last week of June. Tim Maxey, her longtime producer who produced 70 percent of her To Myself debut album, compared the first few sessions back to “jumping in the pool for the first time and people being apprehensive.”
Rose agreed revealing the collective had “this collective weight on us,” with the recording process now being more cathartic. “Since I’ve been in the studio, it has been like a purge,” Rose said.
Maxey said Rose has recorded a lot of songs and is working on her new album since returning to the studio. The futurist producer claims Rose’s next project is going to “push the envelope sonically on how people make music going forward,” yet doesn’t know if there will be any protest music coming from those sessions.
“I think it’s a different time. Throughout time we’ll see what the soundtrack of the times are. It may not be about protesting, marching in the street, 'What’s Going On,' and 'I Can’t Breathe,'” Maxey said referring to the classic Marvin Gaye song and Black Lives Matter rallying cry, respectively. “I think we need to wait until we back up off the moment to understand what it is. As a Black man, I haven’t felt like making music.”
When we do hear Rose’s new music, it’ll be rooted more in live instrumentation than before and dig even deeper in her seemingly endless reservoir of emotions. “I’m pulling more from myself than I ever have. I want that for others, because it’s therapy. Put it out and you never know how many people might feel you on that st,” Rose said.
She may or may not ever put out another song that can be traditionally classified as “protest music,” but she’ll always be present in the times and hope her fellow artists will do the same.
“It would be a shame if whatever comes out next, for any artist, didn’t have remnants of what has happened over the past few months," said Rose. "It would be a shame if there was no reflection on that or evolution from that. I hope the music has more depth to it and not just surface-level type candy,”
Baby Rose's pandemic recommendations:
- Swing Time by Zadie Smith
- White Teeth by Zadie Smith
- To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
- Young, Gifted, and Black by Nina Simone
- What’s Going On? By Marvin Gaye
- Mordechai by Khruangbin
- Untitled (Black Is) by Sault
- "Midnight Gospel" on Netflix
Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards
Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category
The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.
Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville
Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.
Championships – Meek Mill
In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.
i am > i was – 21 Savage
Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.
IGOR – Tyler, The Creator
The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.
The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae
Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.
Photo: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images
Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream
Proceeds from the event will be go toward loans to small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses, via Accion Opportunity Fund
This Saturday, June 20, artists including Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz and more will come together for Small Business Live, a livestream fundraiser event for small businesses facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Proceeds from the livestream will go to Accion Opportunity Fund to support small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses.
“Entrepreneurs of color are denied credit more often and charged higher rates for money they borrow to fund their businesses. We need to accelerate support to underserved businesses in order to reach our full potential,” Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia said. “We have to decide what we want our Main Streets to look like when this is over, and we must act decisively to keep small businesses alive and ready to rebuild. This is a fun way to do something really important. Everyone’s support will make a huge difference to small business owners, their families and employees who have been devastated by this pandemic, the recession, and centuries of racism, xenophobia and oppression.”
Tune in for Small Business Live Saturday, June 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. EDT on smallbiz.live. The site also provides a full schedule of programs and links to watch the livestream on all major digital platforms. To learn more about Accion Opportunity Fund, visit the organization's website.
DJ Khaled, Samantha Smith and John Legend
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DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs
DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle and John Legend take home Best Rap/Sung Performance at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards
DJ Khaled, featuring Nipsey Hussle and John Legend, has won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher" at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards. The single was featured on DJ Khaled's 2019 album Father of Asahd and featured Hussle's vocals and Legend on the piano. DJ Khaled predicted the track would win a GRAMMY.
"I even told him, 'We're going to win a GRAMMY.' Because that's how I feel about my album," DJ Khaled told Billboard. "I really feel like not only is this my biggest, this is very special."
After the release of the song and music video -- which was filmed before Hussle's death in March -- DJ Khaled announced all proceeds from "Higher" will go to Hussle's children.
DJ Khaled and co. beat out fellow category nominees Lil Baby & Gunna ("Drip Too Hard"), Lil Nas X ("Panini"), Mustard featuring Roddy Ricch ("Ballin") and Young Thug featuring J. Cole & Travis Scott ("The London"). Hussle earned a second posthumous award at the 62nd GRAMMYs for Best Rap Performance for "Racks In The Middle."
Along with Legend and DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG paid tribute to Hussle during the telecast, which concluded with "Higher."
Check out the complete 62nd GRAMMY Awards nominees and winners list here.
Fleetwood Mac in 1975
Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Poll: From "Dreams" To "The Chain," Which Fleetwood Mac Song Is Your Favorite?
"Dreams" experienced a charming viral moment on TikTok after a man posted a video skateboarding to the classic track, and now it's back on the charts, 43 years later
In honor of Fleetwood Mac's ethereal '70s rock classic "Dreams," which recently returned to the Billboard Hot 100 thanks to a viral TikTok skateboard video from Nathan Apodaca, we want to know which of the legendary group's songs is your favorite!
Beyond their ubiquitous 1977 No. 1 hit "Dreams," there are so many other gems from the iconic GRAMMY-winning album Rumours, as well as across their entire catalog. There's the oft-covered sentimental ballad "Landslide" from their 1975 self-titled album, the jubilant, sparkling Tango in the Night cut "Everywhere" and Stevie Nicks' triumphant anthem for the people "Gypsy," from 1982's Mirage, among many others.
Vote below in our latest GRAMMY.com poll to let us know which you love most.