meta-script"Black Power Live" To Feature Performances From Miguel, Dev Hynes, Ne-Yo, Kamasi Washington, Denzel Curry And More | GRAMMY.com
Miguel performs at the 2019 Latin GRAMMYs

Miguel performs at the 2019 Latin GRAMMYs

Photo: Lester Cohen/Getty Images for LARAS

news

"Black Power Live" To Feature Performances From Miguel, Dev Hynes, Ne-Yo, Kamasi Washington, Denzel Curry And More

Hosted by Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, the one-day event, happening Saturday, June 27, will also feature performances from Jessie Reyez, Vagabon and Twin Shadow as well as interviews and conversations with Emma González & Dream Hampton

GRAMMYs/Jun 26, 2020 - 12:14 am

Black Power Live, a music- and conversation-based online livestream benefit, has announced the lineup for its upcoming event. Miguel, Dev Hynes, Ne-Yo, Doja Cat, Jessie Reyez, Aloe Blacc, Vagabon, Twin Shadow and others are among the musical acts confirmed. The event, produced by FORM and Jammcard, will also include the debut of Terrace Martin's new composition, "Racism on Trial," featuring Kamasi Washington, Robert Glasper, Denzel Curry, Alex Isley and other special guests. 

The event will also feature interviews and discussions with Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, who's also hosting the event, alongside Democratic candidate for Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón; activist and Parkland survivor Emma González; "Dear White People" creator Justin Simien; filmmaker and activist Dream Hampton; and others. 

Taking place Saturday, June 27, from 5 p.m.—midnight PST and streaming exclusively on Twitch, Black Power Live will raise funds for "organizations across the movement for Black lives," according to a press release announcing the event, including Crenshaw Dairy Mart, Trap Heals, Transgender Law Center, Sankofa and Black Men Build.

View the full music and conversation lineup below. 

Los Angeles funk band The Brandon Brown Collective will perform Black Power anthems as well as new songs alongside some of the event's confirmed guests, according to the Black Power Live event page. The event will also feature readings from poets Aja Monet and Yrsa Daley-Ward, accompanied by Dev Hynes on solo piano. Rap/hardcore punk duo Ho99o9 will perform two new songs alongside Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker

Black Power Live will be a "celebration of the incredible work done by organizers and activists around the world and will be a chance to reflect, regroup, and talk about next steps," according to a press release. 

Want To Support Protesters And Black Lives Matter Groups? Here's How

Photo of Eminem performing at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony in 2022.
Eminem performs at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony in 2022

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic via Getty Images

list

New Music Friday: Listen To New Albums & Songs From Eminem, Maya Hawke, ATEEZ & More

Dive into the weekend with music that’ll make you dance, brood and think — by Jessie Reyez, Ayra Starr, Adam Lambert, and many more.

GRAMMYs/May 31, 2024 - 04:11 pm

After the cookouts and kickbacks of Memorial Day weekend, getting through the workweek is never easy. But you made it through — and now it's time for another weekend of however you decompress. As always, killer jams and musical food for thought have arrived down the pipeline.

As you freshen up your late-spring playlist, don't miss these offerings by artists across generations, moods, genres, and vibes — from K-pop to classic country and beyond.

Eminem — "Houdini"

It looks like Dua Lipa isn't the only artist to name-drop Erik Weisz this year. In a recent Instagram video with magician David Blaine, Eminem hinted at a major career move, quipping, "For my last trick, I'm going to make my career disappear," as Blaine casually noshed on a broken wineglass.

With Em's next album titled The Death of Slim Shady, fans were left in a frenzy — was he putting the mic down for good? If "Houdini" is in fact part of Eminem's final act, it seems he'll be paying homage to his career along the way: the song includes snippets of Em classics "Without Me," "The Real Slim Shady," "Just Lose It" and "My Name Is."

The superhero comic-themed video also calls back to some of the rapper's iconic moments, including the "Without Me" visual and his 2000 MTV Video Music Awards performance. It also features cameos from the likes of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, and Pete Davidson — making for a star-studded thrill ride of a beginning to what may be his end. 

Read More: Is Eminem's “Stan” Based On A True Story? 10 Facts You Didn't Know About The GRAMMY-Winning Rapper

Maya Hawke — 'Chaos Angel'

"What the Chaos Angel is to me," Maya Hawke explained in a recent Instagram video, "is an angel that was raised in heaven to believe they're the angel of love, then sent down to do loving duties."

Chaos Angel, the third album by Maya Hawke, out via Mom+Pop Records, is an alt-rock treasure with a psychologically penetrating bent. Smoldering tracks like "Dark" and "Missing Out" plumb themes of betrayal and bedlam masterfully.

Jessie Reyez & Big Sean — "Shut Up"

Before May 31, Jessie Reyez's 2024 releases have come in the form of airy contributions for Bob Marley: One Love and Rebel Moon. And for the first release of her own, she's bringing the heat.

Teaming up with fellow rapper Big Sean for "Shut Up," Reyez delivers some fiery lines on the thumping track: "They b—es plastic, that b— is a catfish, oh-so dramatic/ And I'm sittin' pretty with my little-ass t—es winnin' pageants." Big Sean throws down, too: "B—, better read the room like you telepromptin'/ And watch how you speak to a n—a 'cause I'm not them."

Foster the People — "Lost In Space"

Indie dance-pop favorites Foster The People — yes, of the once-inescapable "Pumped Up Kicks" fame — are back with their first new music since 2017's Sacred Hearts Club. The teaser for their future-forward, disco-powered new song, "Lost in Space," brings a psychedelic riot of colors to your eyeballs.

The song is equally as trippy. Over a swirling, disco-tinged techno beat, the group bring their signature echoing vocals to the funky track, which feels like the soundtrack to an '80s adventure flick. 

"Lost in Space" is the first taste of Foster The People's forthcoming fourth studio album, Paradise State of Mind, which will arrive Aug. 16. If the lead single is any indication — along with frontman Mark Foster's tease that the album started "as a case study of the late Seventies crossover between disco, funk, gospel, jazz, and all those sounds" — fans are in for quite the psychedelic ride.

Arooj Aftab — 'Night Reign'

Arooj Aftab landed on the scene with the exquisitely blue Vulture Prince, which bridged modern jazz and folk idioms with what she calls "heritage material" from Pakistan and South Asia. The album's pandemic-era success threatened to box her in, though; Aftab is a funny, well-rounded cat who's crazy about pop music, too. Crucially, the guest-stuffed Night Reign shows many more sides of this GRAMMY-winning artist — her sound is still instantly recognizable, but has a more iridescent tint — a well-roundedness. By the strength of songs like "Raat Ki Rani" and "Whiskey," and the patina of guests like Moor Mother and Vijay Iyer, this Reign is for the long haul.

Learn More: Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer & Shahzad Ismaily On New Album Love In Exile, Improvisation Versus Co-Construction And The Primacy Of The Pulse

Willie Nelson — 'The Border'

By some counts, Willie Nelson has released more than 150 albums — try and let that soak in. The Red Headed Stranger tends to crank out a Buddy Cannon-produced album or two per year in his autumn years, each with a slight conceptual tilt: bluegrass, family matters, tributes to Harlan Howard or the Great American Songbook. Earthy, muted The Border is another helping of the good stuff — this time homing in on songwriters like Rodney Crowell ("The Border"), Shawn Camp ("Made in Texas") and Mike Reid ("Nobody Knows Me Like You.") Elsewhere, Nelson-Cannon originals like "What If I'm Out of My Mind" and "How Much Does It Cost" fold it all into the 12-time GRAMMY winner's manifold musical universe.

Explore More: Listen To GRAMMY.com's Outlaw Country Playlist: 32 Songs From Honky Tonk Heroes Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard & More

ATEEZ — 'GOLDEN HOUR : Part.1'

South Korean boy band ATEEZ last released new material with late 2023's The World EP.Fin: Will. Now, they're bringing the K-pop fire once again with their 10th mini-album, GOLDEN HOUR  Part.1.

Released in a rainbow of physical editions, the release was teased by a short clip for "WORK," where ATEEZ pans for gold like old prospectors in an off-kilter desert scene, then proceeds to throw the mother of all parties. As for the rest of GOLDEN HOUR, they bring flavors of reggaeton ("Blind), wavy R&B ("Empty Box") and reggae ("Shaboom") — further displaying their versatility as a group, and setting an exciting stage for Part.2.

Learn More: Inside The GRAMMY Museum's ATEEZ & Xikers Pop-Up: 5 Things We Learned

Ayra Starr — 'The Year I Turned 21'

Beninese-Nigerian singer and GRAMMY nominee for Best African Music Performance Ayra Starr pays homage to the big two-one with her second album, The Year I Turned 21, which she's been teasing all month. We've seen the crimson, windswept cover art; we've soaked up the 14 track titles, which reveal collaborations with the likes of ASAKE, Anitta, Coco Jones, and Giveon. Now, after small tastes in singles "Commas,""Rhythm & Blues" and "Santa" (with Rvssian and Rauw Alejandro), we can behold what the "Rush" star has called "excellent, sonically amazing" and "unique, because I've been evolving sonically."

Watch: Ayra Starr’s Most Essential “Item” On The Road Is Her Brother | Herbal Tea & White Sofas

Adam Lambert — "LUBE" & "WET DREAM"

The "American Idol" and Queen + Adam Lambert star is turning heads — for very good reason. He's going to release AFTERS, a new EP of house music and an unflinching exploration of queerness and sex-positivity. "I throw many house parties and my aim was to create a soundtrack inspired by wild nights, giving a voice to our communities' hedonistic desires and exploits," Lambert explained in a press release.

The first two singles, "LUBE" and "WET DREAM," achieve exactly that. From the pulsing beat of "LUBE" (along with the "Move your body like I do" demand of the chorus) to the racing melody of "WET DREAM," it's clear AFTERS will bring listeners straight to a sweaty dance floor — right where Lambert wants them.

Wallows Talk New Album Model, "Entering Uncharted Territory" With World Tour & That Unexpected Sabrina Carpenter Cover

Machinedrum
Machinedrum

Photo: James King

feature

Machinedrum's New Album '3FOR82' Taps Into The Spirit Of His Younger Years

For his 15th album, Machinedrum drew inspiration from his early productions and ventured into the Joshua Tree desert. There, he collaborated with Tinashe, Mick Jenkins, Duckwrth and more, alongside his longtime friend and collaborator Jesse Boykins III.

GRAMMYs/May 28, 2024 - 01:20 pm

“If you were able to go back and hang out or collaborate with your younger self, what would you say to them? What advice would you give them?”

That question fueled Machinedrum’s new album, 3FOR82, out May 24. 

Unlike most people, the prominent electronic producer, real name Travis Stewart, has a direct line to his younger self through the music he’s made. He still has hard drives with productions from his teenage years, and on his new album, he sought to create with that same spirit. He wanted to hang with his younger self who was nothing but a kid who loved music with big dreams.

“In that early period where everything is just so free, there's nothing like it,” Stewart said. “I think, as creatives, we all try to find different ways to tap back into that.” 

By tapping back into that freedom, Stewart made 3FOR82 into a diverse and exciting body of work. On his 41st birthday (the album title 3FOR82 reflects Stewart’s birthday of March 4, 1982), he started exploring his older recordings, collaborating with his younger self. The result is an album that is more than the sum of its parts. Weaving a wide palette of genres together, including alternative hip-hop, drum & bass, and UK garage — along with a long list of collaborators — it has an experimental hunger to it as well.

Stewart worked with more vocal collaborators than on any past album, featuring artists including Tinashe, Mick Jenkins, and Topaz Jones on 11 of the 12 tracks. With this stronger external input, each track has a unique identity. While “HON3Y,” the only solo production, harbors Stewart's talent for erratic sonic motion, “KILL_U” with Tanerélle is a minimalist soul tune.

Clearly, when Stewart was just starting he wanted to make anything and everything. He started releasing music as Machinedrum in 2000. Since then, he has shared 15 albums and launched various aliases including Tstewart, his atmospheric side project, J-E-T-S, the club-focused collaboration with the respected house artist, Jimmy Edgar, and Sepalcure, his duo with Praveen Sharma that focuses on dubstep and UK garage.

After so much experience, he knows the music industry very well. The good parts and the bad. 

“Once you've released a few projects, this new pressure comes along with what your fans expect from you,” Stewart said. Conversely, his early recordings offered a window into an era without any pressure or expectations. 

Read on to learn more about where he found the biggest inspiration when he took a trip down musical memory lane during the making of 3FOR82

Impulse Tracker: His First Production Software

Every artist has to start somewhere, and Machinedrum started with Impulse Tracker, the music production software released in 1995. Stewart is now using industry-standard programs like Abelton, but when he was using Impulse Tracker during his early days, his music was imbued with a kind of youthful optimism that only comes when you’re starting something new. 

"For me it was going into these old Impulse Tracker sessions and finding these little nuggets of ideas that I didn't really know what to do with at the time."

When he was working in Impulse Tracker, he only had the skills to make cursory musical ideas, but when he listened back he was really proud of those ideas. “I was just so excited about music. Not to say that I'm not now, but when I listen to electronic music now, I can't help but think about how it was made. Think about what kind of numbers they're doing. Who produced it? What label released it?” Stewart said. “Whereas back then, I would listen to things for the pure sake of listening to them and just be so inspired.”

Finding Freedom In Rules

Stewart often suffers from what he likes to call “choice paralysis.” If there are too many options it can be difficult for him to make a decision. Well, music production presents endless choices. How much reverb to use? Whether or not to use samples? What plugins will make this track sound its best? So, when he was making 3FOR82 he laid down specific parameters to limit his choices.

First, he was only allowed to use sounds that he drew from his Impulse Tracker recordings. He spent a month going through the old pieces of music and created a sound library from them. Those sounds became the album. “That whole process of creating the sound library was incredibly inspiring. Being a digital archaeologist,” Stewart said.

He had two rules if he wanted to sample something outside those old files. One, he had to run the sound through Impulse Tracker so it maintained the same aesthetic. Two, he had to sample music from his birth year of 1982.

“That was one of the parameters that actually made it a lot of fun to explore what music came out the year of my birth and see what things resonated with me. I was finding a lot of interesting synchronicities of stuff that I didn't realize came out in 1982 that I'm actually a huge fan of,” Stewart said. 

The Legacy Of Joshua Tree Continues

Plenty of artists have found musical inspiration in the vast deserts of Joshua Tree National Park. Josh Homme founded The Desert Sessions there back in 1997. RÜFÜS DU SOL recorded their live album, aptly titled Live From Joshua Tree among the desert rocks in 2019. Now Machinedrum has joined the musical legacy of Joshua Tree by making 3FOR82 there as well.

He always had a great time there when he visited with friends and family in the past, but he also found a profound sense of clarity during those trips.

“Ideas come to me. I just feel so separated from the chaos of the world,” Stewart said. “I had always wanted to come to Joshua Tree for the pure reason of doing something creative.”

He set up a mobile studio in an Airbnb and invited myriad guest artists to join him in this temporary creative atmosphere and share in the clarifying experience.

His Dear Friend Jesse Boykins III

Jesse Boykins III is a vocalist who has collaborated with Stewart since the 2000s. He was also a groomsman at Stewart’s wedding. When Stewart was out in Joshua Tree, he spent an hour on the phone with Boykins discussing his idea of revisiting the past to make the album. During that conversation, he realized their long history together could further fuel the creative process.

Stewart made Boykins a co-executive producer, and Boykins brought in numerous vocalists Stewart had never worked with such as Duckwrth and aja monet. Stewart instructed Boykins to find seasoned artists when he was courting collaborators so they could bring their own past into the music. 

He asked each of the collaborators the guiding question at the beginning of each session: “If you were able to go back and hang out or collaborate with your younger self, what would you say to them? What advice would you give them?”

Sometimes Stewart sampled their responses and added them to the music like with Mick Jenkins’ track, “WEARY.” Other times, the question was meant to inspire trust between Stewart and the collaborators Boykins introduced to him.

“Just having him there, understanding the concept behind the album, and making sure that we're all keeping within the theme, whether literally, or in more of an abstract way, that was super important,” Stewart said of Boykins. “I'm super grateful for his involvement on the album and all the inspiration he gave me. Being there along my side throughout the process. It's very cool working like that with someone. I had never done that with an album in the past.”

Healing His Inner Child

When Stewart was producing 3FOR82 from songs he made as a teenager it was just as spiritual for him as it was technical. During those early years as an artist, Stewart felt very isolated. There was no community around the music he loved growing up in North Carolina in the 90s. Even when his preferred sounds migrated from the UK to the US, it was in cities like Miami and New York, far away from him. In his loneliness, he struggled to believe his dream of being a professional electronic musician was possible.

Well, over two decades later, Stewart has accomplished his dream and then some. By working with music from his past, he was assuring his younger self that everything was going to be OK. “This whole process of collaborating with my younger self on these new songs was so healing for me. It was like a way of me sending a message to my younger self. ‘You're gonna do all these amazing things. You're going to travel the world. You're gonna work with amazing artists. So keep your chin up. Don't worry so much about the future.  Just keep going. Keep doing what you're doing,’” Stewart said.

6 Reasons Why Fred Again.. Was Dance Music's Rookie Of The Year

Leon Michels, center, poses with Black Thought, Kirby and members of El Michels Affair backstage at "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon."
Leon Michels, center, poses with Black Thought, Kirby and members of El Michels Affair backstage at "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon."

Photo: Rosalind O'Connor/NBC via Getty Images

interview

Behind Leon Michels' Hits: From Working With The Carters & Aloe Blacc, To Creating Clairo's New Album

Multi-instrumentalist turned GRAMMY-nominated producer Leon Michels has had a hand in a wide range of pop and hip-hop music. Read on for the stories behind his smash hits with Norah Jones, Black Thought, Kalis Uchis, Aloe Blacc, and others.

GRAMMYs/May 27, 2024 - 03:17 pm

A child of New York’s ultra-niche soul revival scene of the early 2000s, multi-instrumentalist turned producer Leon Michels has had an extensive reach into global pop music. As both producer and session man, Michels has worked with the Carters, Norah Jones, Black Thought, the Black Keys, Kalis Uchis, and Aloe Blacc — to name a few.

He has held to a specific creative vision for more than two decades, first through his heavily sampled El Michels Affair projects and a healthy schedule of releases through Truth & Soul records and later, Big Crown, the label he co-founded with DJ Danny Akalepse in 2016. He runs a studio in upstate New York called the Diamond Mine North, where he does most of his work since relocating from New York City in 2017. He has two GRAMMY nominations to his name, for Mary J. Blige’s Good Morning Gorgeous and Lizzo’s Special.

Trained originally on piano, he took up drums and eventually saxophone through the guidance of his high school music teacher, Miss Leonard. "[She] is actually the person I owe it all to. She started this jazz band when I was in fifth grade, and there's no drummer, so she asked me if I would learn drums," he tells GRAMMY.com. "I did that, and she would give me Duke Ellington cassettes, Sydney Bichet, Johnny Hodges. She would just feed me music."

Daptone Records co-founder Gabe Roth recruited and mentored Michels while he was still in high school, and the teenager soon became a regular touring member of what would become the Dap-Kings, backing singer Sharon Jones during an early run of success in the mid-2000s. " I joined Sharon Jones when it was the Soul Providers. We went on tour in Europe with them. Somehow my parents let me do it. I don't even understand. Gabe came over and sweet-talked them."

Michels left the group in 2006 after seven intense years, wanting to spend more time recording than enduring the grind of touring. His chosen timing caused him to miss out by mere "months" on the group’s recording sessions for Amy Winehouse’s four-time GRAMMY winner Back To Black. Despite what appeared to be a major missed opportunity, he turned his focus to his group El Michels Affair after initial encouragement from the 2005 album Sounding Out The City, released on Truth & Soul, the label he had co-founded. 

Finding his inspiration in the intersections of soul and hip-hop, as a fully committed instrumentalist producer, he was able to develop an analog soundscape that quickly caught the ears of artists including Raekwon and other Wu-Tang Clan alumni, with whom he toured in 2008. This led to the follow-up album Enter The 37th Chamber in 2009. Samples from El Michels Affair, including those by Ghostface Killah, Jay-Z, Just Blaze, J. Cole, and Travis Scott quickly proliferated and opened doors. Via the Lee Fields album My World, Michels' work caught the attention of Dan Auerbach, with whom he and his longtime collaborator and bassist Nick Movshon toured from 2010 to 2012.

Producing the Aloe Blacc song "I Need A Dollar" in 2010 further enhanced his credentials and provided the financial stability to allow him to be true to his creative spirit, which he has done successfully over the last decade.

Leon Michels spoke to GRAMMY.com about some key career recordings, including his latest release with singer Clairo.

Clairo – "Sexy to Someone" (Charm, 2024)

I met Clairo almost three years ago. I made a record with her that took three years to complete, which is actually one of the longest stretches I've ever spent on a record.

She’s made two records before this. Her first record, Immunity, came out when she was 19. It's a pop record, and it was very successful. But she's a total music nerd like me. She’s constantly scouring the Internet for music. The way people, especially young people, ingest music these days is just insane. She's got great taste.

Her first record was super successful. She made her second record, Sling, with Jack Antonoff, and it was an ambitious folk record, and a huge departure from her first record. I think it caught her audience off guard, but it was kind of a perfect move because now she can make whatever she wants. 

When she came to me, I was excited but slightly confused. What do I do? Because in those situations, you think, well, I need to facilitate a successful pop record, but she just wanted all the weird s—.

It’s this cool mix of pop elements, but some of the music sounds like a Madlib sample. All of it is steeped in pretty cool references and older music, but her perspective is a 25-year-old’s, and she’s an incredible songwriter. It's a really cool mix.

Norah Jones - "Running"  (Visions, 2024)

Norah used to hit up me and Dave Guy, trumpet player in the Menahan Street Band and the Roots, if she needed horns.

As we were coming out of the pandemic, she hit me up and wanted to make some music. We made a few songs and then after that, she asked me to produce her Christmas record, which was super fun because I've never listened to Christmas music. I started to enjoy it, which was weird because I had thought I hated Christmas music. I mean, once you start to dig for Christmas records, pretty much all of your favorite artists have them. I was listening to Christmas music from March to October the entire year. 

After that, we made Visions, which is all original stuff. Norah's just so talented. Her musicianship is actually some of the most impressive I've ever seen or worked with. She's so good that when I play with her, I get intimidated and I forget basic harmony and music theory!

Read more: 5 Inspirations Behind Norah Jones' New Album 'Visions': Nightly Dreams, Collabs, Harmony Stacks & More

We cut that record,  mostly just the two of us. There's a couple of songs where we got a band, but most of it was in my upstate studio. She would just come over from nine to three. She would come after she dropped her kids at school and then have to leave to pick them up. It was super fun to make, essentially just jamming all day.

[Overall] it’s not a huge departure for Norah, but sonically it is a departure, and it's got this very loose, "un-precious" quality. That's maybe a little different from her other stuff.

"Running" was her choice as a single. When it comes to singles — the songs that have actually been most successful — I've wanted to take those off the record. I have no idea what's going to be the hit or not.

Black Thought - "Glorious Game" (Glorious Game, 2023)

That was a total pandemic record — at the start of the pandemic when everyone was completely locked in, we had no idea what was going on.

Black Thought texted me out of the blue, and I think he was just trying to stay busy. So he just said, "Can you send me songs?" I sent him maybe two songs and then he sent back finished verses three or four hours later. Most of that record was just me sending him s— and him sending it back, and then going like that. We had probably 20 songs. 

The time I did spend in the studio with him was, he's a total savant. He sits there while you're playing a song, and it kind of looks like he's on Instagram or f—ing around, you know what I mean? Does this guy even like this song? And then 45 minutes later, he’ll be like "Aight, ready." And he goes in there and, and he'll rap four pages of lyrics in one take. It's insane. He remembers everything;  we'll do a song and then three years later, he'll have to redo it, but he'll know the lyrics from memory.

There's a couple of things that I figured out on that record. One: The thing I love about sampled hip-hop production the most is it's almost always pitch-shifted, which makes a giant difference in the sound. And if the piano has decay or vocals have vibrato, when you pitch it up, it becomes something that is so uniquely hip-hop. The second thing was, with hip hop, one of the best parts about sampling is the choices a producer has to make when they are limited to chopping a two-track mix.  If you have multi-tracks, there are too many options. 

I think that record resonated with people who are hip-hop aficionados who really love the art of emceeing. 

Aloe Blacc - "I Need A Dollar" (Good Things, 2010)

We had just recorded the Lee Fields record, My World. Eothen Alapatt, who used to be a label manager at Now Again, was a friend of mine. [Jeff Silverman and I] started Truth & Soul, but we had no infrastructure. We thought My World would have a bigger reach if Stones Throw took care of the press and distribution. And so Eothen said "Yeah, we can do that, but instead of paying us, just make a record with this artist we have, Aloe Blacc."

I had no idea who he was. And so that was the business deal. We didn't get paid for the record initially. The payment was that they were going to promote Lee Fields record for us. So [Aloe] came to New York, and I did it with my partner at the time, Jeff Silverman, also Nick Movshon, who played on the entire record.

He wanted to do this Bill Withers thing. "I Need A Dollar" was probably my least favorite song on the record. I think I have this aversion to anything that's slightly cheesy, but I've gotten better at it. But at the end of the day, it's just a good song. It got picked up as the theme song to an HBO pilot called "How To Make It In America." And then, it just blew up in Europe. It was No. 1 everywhere. But it never hit in America.

It kind of set me off on a weird path for a minute, because I got a taste of success. And made some poor career decisions. I tried to a do lot of songwriting sessions with strangers.  It was maybe four years until I decided to just make El Michels Records.  

The Carters - "SUMMER" (EVERYTHING IS LOVE, 2018)

At the time, I was making these sample packs and sending them out to producers. One of them was this slow jam, and so the producers called me up and said "We used one of your samples. It's for a giant artist. We can't tell you who it is. You have to approve it now. And you can't hear it, but it's going to change your life." That’s what they kept saying to me. Then they said "It's coming out in two weeks."

So I figured they used one of my samples and chopped it up and did their thing to it.  And so when the record came out, it was Beyoncé and Jay-Z. It was the first track on that record they did together, the Carters. And it was mostly just my original sample with some new bass and string section. So basically it was just Beyoncé and Jay-Z over an El Michael's Affair track. The track was called "Summer," and my original never came out. 

So just hearing Beyoncé, hearing these giant pop voices that I associate with absolute hits, over my song, that was pretty cool.

Liam Bailey - "Dance With Me" (Zero Grace, 2023)

Me and him just have a very crazy chemistry when it comes to music, because it all happens super fast and with very little thought. Sometimes I'll listen to Liam's stuff, and I actually don't know how we did it. That is actually the goal. That’s why Lee "Scratch Perry" is the greatest producer of all time, because he could access that instant input, instant output type of creativity. It just passes through him and then it's on the record. Making music with Liam is like that; I'll make some instrumental, or I'll have an idea and then he'll freestyle lyrics one or two times.

To me, it sounds gibberish, but then he'll go through it and change one or two words and all of a sudden has this crazy narrative, and it's about his childhood [for example]. When I’ve worked with him, he has this same process where it's just kind of "hand to God" s—, just let it happen. I was trying to make something the way Jamaicans did, [like] that brand of Jamaican soul from the mid-'60s. 

Brainstory - "Peach Optimo" (Sounds Good, 2024)

I met those guys through Eduardo Arenas, who's the bass player from Chicano Batman, and he had recorded a couple of demos from them. And they had one song in particular that really caught my attention, which made it onto their first record called "Dead End."

They’re three jazz kids. Their dad was a gospel singer and loved soul and Stevie Wonder. So they grew up on all that stuff as well. Producing a band like Brainstory is super easy, because they rehearse all the time. Most of their songs are written; all I have to do is maybe shuffle around sections or just essentially cut stuff out. Because a lot of times when bands write music and rehearse every day, they just love to play, so sections are endless. 

I'll…have a sound in mind for the record, some reference for me and the engineering hands to kind of work from. And in the case of Sounds Good, the reference for the whole sound of the record was that this is Gene Harris song called "Los Alamitos Latin Funk Love." This is kind of the vibe of the entire record. We just cut that record over the course of a year, but it was two sessions that were maybe six days each. 

Kevin is the main vocalist and he's amazing. He can do that sweet soul background stuff perfectly. And when he does [his own] background vocals, it's this thing that not a lot of people can do where he changes his personality. So he becomes three different people. Then the background sounds like an actual group. 

Behind Mark Ronson's Hits: How 'Boogie Nights,' Five-Hour Jams & Advice From Paul McCartney Inspired His Biggest Singles & Collabs

A graphic with showing (Clockwise from bottom left): Kamasi Washington, Mdou Moctar, Billie Wilish, Arooj Aftab, Zayn, Twenty-One Pilots, Dua Lipa
(Clockwise from bottom left): Kamasi Washington, Mdou Moctar, Billie Wilish, Arooj Aftab, Zayn, Twenty-One Pilots, Dua Lipa.

Photos: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella; Ebru Yildiz; Kelia Anne MacClusky; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images; Ashley-Osborn; Kevin Winter/Getty Images For The Recording Academy

list

15 Must-Hear Albums In May 2024: Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, Sia, Zayn & More

A fresh crop of spring releases is on the way in May from much-loved pop, rock, and alternative artists. From Dua Lipa's 'Radical Optimism,' to Sia's return on 'Reasonable Woman,' read on for 15 thrilling May releases.

GRAMMYs/May 1, 2024 - 02:18 pm

As a month that welcomes rising temperatures and blooming flowers, May will also bring a flurry of new albums. In its first week, Dua Lipa will put forth her third LP and inject the world with a good dose of Radical Optimism. She will be joined by Sia and her tenth album, Reasonable Woman, and by R&B newcomer 4Batz, who will debut with the mixtape U Made Me St4r.

On May 17, it's Billie Eilish's turn to drop the much-awaited Hit Me Hard and Soft, as well as the return of Cage the Elephant with Neon Pill, and former One Direction member Zayn experimenting with new sounds on Room Under the Stairs.

Later on, Twenty One Pilots drop their final concept album, Clancy, and Sam Tompkins and Tems will both make their studio album debuts with hi my name is insecure and Born in the Wild, respectively. The month will close off with Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab's Night Reign, but before that, there's plenty of other releases to explore.

GRAMMY.com compiled a list with 15 must-listen albums dropping in May 2024 so that you can take a stroll at this month's burgeoning, diverse garden.

Dua Lipa - Radical Optimism

Release date: May 3

"A couple years ago, a friend introduced me to the term 'radical optimism'," said Dua Lipa in a press statement about her upcoming third album, out May 3. "It struck me — the idea of going through chaos gracefully and feeling like you can weather any storm."

This perspective on life inspired the British-Albanian singer both personally and musically. Radical Optimism comes brimming with the "pure joy and happiness of having clarity in situations that once seemed impossible to face." With 11 tracks and production by Danny L Harle and Kevin Parker, the record spins psychedelia and Britpop into a "tribute to UK rave culture," as Lipa described it in an interview for Rolling Stone.

Read more: Dua Lipa Danced The Night Away with "Training Season" & "Houdini" | 2024 GRAMMYs Performance

A preview of the sounds she will approach in the successor of 2020's Future Nostalgia can be seen through singles "Houdini," "Training Session," and "Illusion." Starting June, Lipa will perform a string of concerts in Europe and headline Glastonbury Festival in the U.K.

Kamasi Washington - Fearless Movement

Release date: May 3

It's been six years since jazz virtuoso Kamasi Washington released his latest album, 2016's Heaven and Earth. Hence, his return is highly anticipated: Fearless Movement will come out on May 3, and is described in a press release as Washington's first "dance album." 

"It's not literal," he explained. "Dance is movement and expression, and in a way it's the same thing as music — expressing your spirit through your body. That's what this album is pushing."

Fearless Movement was also inspired by the here-and-now, and the changes that Washington went through since the birth of his first child. "Being a father means the horizon of your life all of a sudden shows up," he shared. "My mortality became more apparent to me, but also my immortality — realizing that my daughter is going to live on and see things that I'm never going to see. I had to become comfortable with this, and that affected the music that I was making."

Washington's daughter also earned songwriting credits in "Asha The First," after coming up with a melody while playing on the piano. In addition to her, the LP also features appearances from André 3000 on the flute, Terrace Martin, Thundercat, Patrice Quinn, George Clinton, BJ The Chicago Kid, and more.

Soon after the release, Washington will kick off a North American tour throughout June, and then head over to Europe and the U.K. in October and November.

Charlotte Day Wilson - Cyan Blue

Release date: May 3

Following her acclaimed 2021 debut LP, Alpha, Canadian multihyphenate Charlotte Day Wilson dives into Cyan Blue for her sophomore release. "You passed through me like a light, but part of you would always remain," she shared about the record on Instagram. "Imprinted, stacked, a palimpsest of love and pain that left me with a world of blue. These are the stories and the palette I was given to paint them with."

Read more: Press Play At Home: Watch Charlotte Day Wilson Perform A Lithe Version Of "I Can Only Whisper"

Day Wilson has a gift for turning intimate reflections into timeless artwork, and this album sees her experimenting with a more carefree approach. "Before, I was extremely intentional about creating music with a strong foundation, a bed of artistic integrity…" she shared in a press release. "But that was a bit stifling, like, ‘Let me just make a great piece of art that will stand the test of time, no pressure.' Now, I think I'm getting out of this frozen state of needing everything to be perfect. I'm more interested in capturing feelings in the moment as they happen and leaving them in that moment."

Cyan Blue will feature 13 tracks, including singles "I Don't Love You" and "Canopy." For those lucky to experience Day Wilson's inimitable voice live, she will be touring North America from May through July.

Mdou Moctar - Funeral for Justice

Release date: May 3

"This album is really different for me," shares Mdou Moctar, the band's namesake, singer, and guitarist, in a press release about their upcoming release, Funeral for Justice. "Now the problems of terrorist violence are more serious in Africa. When the U.S. and Europe came here, they said they're going to help us, but what we see is really different. They never help us to find a solution."

Funeral For Justice doesn't hold back on examining the struggles of Niger and of the Tuareg people (of which Moctar, guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane and drummer Souleymane Ibrahim belong.) Recorded during the two years that the band spent touring after the release of 2021's acclaimed Afrique Victime, it is described as "louder, faster, and more wild," with fiery guitar solos and "passionately political" lyrics that permeate nine meteoric tracks.

"Mdou Moctar has been a strong anti-colonial band ever since I've been a part of it," adds bassist and producer Mikey Coltun. "France came in, f****d up the country, then said ‘you're free.' And they're not." So far, the band shared lead single "Funeral for Justice" and the mesmerizing "Imouhar" — an elegy to their Tamasheq language, which is at risk of dying out. "People here are just using French," said Moctar. "They're starting to forget their own language. We feel like in a hundred years no one will speak good Tamasheq, and that's so scary for us." 

After performing at Coachella in April, the band is set to tour the U.S. in June and Europe and the U.K. in August. The run includes several festival appearances, like Bonnaroo, Green River, and Glastonbury.

4Batz - U Made Me A St4r 

Release date: May 3

Viral R&B and hip hop singer 4Batz initially announced his debut mixtape, U Made Me A St4r, for April, but the release was postponed for a month. "Been making some of the best s**t of my life the last couple weeks," he shared on Instagram. "So ima push the mixtape to 5.3.24 so it can be perfect for yall." 

The contrast between 4Batz's tough appearance and high-pitched love songs propelled him to the stars. He garnered the attention of artists like Kanye West, Robin Thicke, and Drake — who ultimately signed him to his record label OVO in order to release this mixtape. Drake also featured on a remix of 4Batz's 2023 hit, "act ii: date @ 8."

Although there's not much info on the tracklist or any upcoming activities, the Dallas-born singer is excited by the mystery: "I'm really in love with this EP," he told Billboard in a recent interview. This EP's gon' break the f**kin' internet, world, all this s**t."

Sia - Reasonable Woman

Release date: May 3

Since the release of lead single "Gimme Love" in September 2023, fans have been eagerly awaiting for Australian superstar Sia's new album. Titled Reasonable Woman and set to drop on May 3, this is her 10th studio release overall, and her first proper pop solo LP since 2016's This Is Acting.

Anticipation only grew as Sia shared a number of lofty singles in past months, including the Kylie Minogue collaboration "Dance Alone," "Incredible" featuring Labrinth, and the recent "Fame Won't Love You," with Paris Hilton. Through the LP's 15 tracks, the singer collaborated further with Chaka Khan, Tierra Whack, Missy Elliott, Kaliii and Jimmy Jolliff.

Behind the scenes, Reasonable Woman also held a star-studded list of producers, engineers, and writers, such as Greg Kurstin, Jesse Shatkin, Benny Blanco, Bülow, Cashmere Cat, Mark "Spike" Stent, Rosalía and more.

Billie Eilish - Hit Me Hard and Soft

Release date: May 17

In April, when a series of billboards and posters with lyric snippets and Billie Eilish's signature "blosh" logo appeared in major global cities, fans knew that her anticipated third LP would be announced soon. A few days later, the GRAMMY and Oscar-winning artist shared a video teaser for Hit Me Hard and Soft, set to release on May 17.

Eilish took it to Instagram to disclose her excitement, and that she is "not doing singles i wanna give it to you all at once." As usual, the record was written by herself and brother, producer, and musical collaborator Finneas O'Connell. According to a press release, Hit Me Hard and Soft includes ten tracks, and "does exactly as the title suggests; hits you hard and soft both lyrically and sonically, while bending genres and defying trends along the way." The album launch also focuses on sustainability by using "the most sustainable practices available" with a page on her website dedicated to ecological production details. 

In an interview with Apple Music's Zane Lowe, the musician teased title track "Hit Me Hard and Soft" and b-side "Chihiro," which references the main character in Studio Ghibli's 2001 animation, Spirited Away. "I feel like every time you put anything out, it feels like your nudes leaked a little bit, and I think this [album], specifically, is like that," Eilish added. "Something that Finneas and I said to a couple of people when we were starting to play it for people was that we kind of made the album that if somebody had said, you know, ‘I want you to make an album, and no one is gonna hear it'... We pretty much, with exceptions, made that album. We made an album without really any — or much — thought of other people."

Of Montreal - Lady on the Cusp

Release date: May 17

Lady on the Cusp is the 19th album from of Montreal, the band project of multi-instrumentalist and singer Kevin Barnes. Inspired by a relocation from Athens, GA — where Barnes lived for nearly three decades — to Vermont together with his partner, songwriter Christina Schneider (aka Locate S,1), Lady is shaped by his reflections on that experience.

According to a press statement, the album is a "reintroduction" to of Montreal, comprising 10 "funny and sad, sexy and brooding, playful and serious" tracks. This carefree approach can be seen on lead single "Yung Hearts Bleed Free," which was influenced by Leos Carax's 1984 film Boy Meets Girl and by Bootsy's Rubber Band, as well as on the laid back "Rude Girl on Rotation."

Two weeks after dropping the album, of Montreal will embark on a major tour across the U.S., starting in Athens, GA, and wrapping it up on July 2 in Asheville, NC.

Cage the Elephant - Neon Pill

Release date: May 17

After winning Best Rock Album at the 2020 GRAMMYs for Social Cues, Cage the Elephant went through a rough patch. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, lead vocalist Matt Shultz weathered a mental health crisis, and the band lost several close family members and friends, including Matt and Brad Shultz's father.

Five years later, the alt-rock sextet is ready to reemerge with their sixth studio album, Neon Pill, out May 17. "To me, Neon Pill is the first record where we were consistently uninfluenced, and I mean that in a positive way," said Matt in a statement. "Everything is undoubtedly expressed through having settled into finding our own voice. We've always drawn inspiration from artists we love, and at times we've even emulated some of them to a certain degree. With this album, having gone through so much, life had almost forced us into becoming more and more comfortable with ourselves… We just found a uniqueness in simply existing."

Produced by John Hill, the record spans 12 tracks that "alchemized a season of tragedy and turbulence" into a whirlwind of riffs and emotions. A preview of Neon Pill can be seen through the title track and singles "Out Loud" and "Good Time." To celebrate their return, the band will tour North America throughout the summer, including performances at Bonnaroo, Hangout Music Festival, and Oceans Calling.

Zayn - Room Under the Stairs

Release date: May 17

For his fourth full-length album, Room Under the Stairs, British singer and One Direction alum Zayn enlisted an unforeseen co-producer: Dave Cobb. Known for his work with Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Bruce Springsteen, and Lady Gaga, Cobb is responsible for aiding Zayn to step into a new musical direction.

Swiping his signature moody R&B, Zayn dives into country and adult contemporary for the upcoming release, as can be seen in debuted singles "What I Am" and "Alienated." In an interview for the Call Her Daddy podcast last year, the singer shared, "I'm doing a record I don't think people are really gonna expect. It's a different sound for me. And it's got some more narrative going on, like real-life experiences and stuff. My daughter's mentioned in there a couple of times".

"I think the intention behind this album fully is for the listener to get more insight on me personally as a human being," Zayn explained in a teaser video. The 15-track collection follows up 2021's Nobody Is Listening, and was written over the course of several years at Zayn's home in rural Pennsylvania. "That's why it's raw," he added. "It's just me writing this. I didn't want anybody else to be in between me and the music and the music and the people listening to it."

Twenty One Pilots - Clancy

Release date: May 17

On May 17, 2015, Twenty One Pilots released their breakthrough LP, Blurryface. The record also marked the beginning of an intricate concept album series — which is due to come to a conclusion almost a decade later, on May 17 of this year.

Titled Clancy, the final piece of the puzzle states that "a new chapter begins," while making several references to the GRAMMY-winning duo's past works. On lead single "Overcompensate," for example, they mirror the outro of "Levitate" and rehash lyrics from "Bandito," both tracks off their 2018 LP, Trench. Clancy was produced by frontman Tyler Joseph and Paul Meany, and contains 13 tracks.

Most recently, TOP shared the single "Next Semester," alongside dates for an extensive world tour that will cross North America, Australia, New Zealand, The U.K., and Europe.

Sam Tompkins - hi, my name is insecure

Release date: May 24

"I really like being in the company of my friends," shared rising British singer Sam Tompkins in a press statement. "But if you take me out of my comfort zone, and have me hang out at a party or an event or whatever, I just go inside myself and I find any excuse to get out of it."

That statement helps explain why Tompkins titled his anticipated debut album hi, my name is insecure, set to drop on May 24. Despite a genuine talent to produce stirring songs, the Brighton native still struggles with social anxiety and depression — themes that appear often in his lyrics, and contribute to his global resonance.

Tompkins is "championing authenticity without taking himself too seriously," and that might be why his work is so relevant. A tracklist for the LP has yet to be revealed, but Tompkins's sensitive writing can be seen in a slew of singles, including "phones in heaven," "someone else," and "see me."

Tems - Born in the Wild

Release date: TBA 

Nigerian singer Tems earned the eyes and the ears of international media with her Afrobeats-infused R&B. First raising attention with her feature in Wizkid's 2020 single "Essence," she later built up a devoted fandom through two EPs: 2020's For Broken Ears and 2021's If Orange Was a Place. In 2022, she was credited as a featured artist in Future's "Wait For U," which led her to win a GRAMMY for Best Melodic Rap Performance.

This month, Tems will finally release her long-awaited debut album, Born in the Wild. The official announcement came with a teaser video for the title track, disclosed one day after her Coachella set in April. "It's all over the news, all over the news, I know this/ Under the sun, struggling to find my focus/ When I was young, younger then/ I was always running away," she sings, reflecting on her childhood in Lagos. "I grew up in the wilderness/ Didn't know much about openness." 

Born in the Wild follows Tems' 2023 singles, "Me & U" and "Not an Angel." The singer has yet to reveal further info about the record, as well as a definite release date.

Kameron Marlowe - Keepin' the Lights On

Release date: May 31

Powerhouse country singer Kameron Marlowe is gearing up to release his sophomore effort, Keepin' the Lights On, at the end of May. "The namesake of the album came from a conversation with my dad over the holidays about how he's always thanking the man upstairs for keeping it all together, especially when times get tough," he shared in a statement.

"For me, this record is a reminder of hard work, dedication and keeping the promises that we make," he continued. Featuring 16 tracks, including previously released singles "Quit You," "Strangers" with Ella Langley, and "Tennessee Don't Mind," Marlowe stated that the LP "explores everything from loss to love, depression to joy, and overcoming the voices in your head telling you you're not good enough."

"It's still crazy to me that people are listening to a small town boy from Kannapolis, North Carolina, but here I am releasing my second album. I can't wait for y'all to hear it," he added. Marlowe is currently on his Strangers 2024 North American tour, where he plays some of his new tracks. 

Arooj Aftab - Night Reign

Release date: May 31

Just like the night, Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab's voice is deep and mysterious. Unsurprisingly, the night is also her "biggest source of inspiration," as she shared in a recent press release about her upcoming record, Night Reign, out May 31. 

Following 2021's Vulture Prince (from which single "Mohabbat" won Best Global Music Performance at the 2022 GRAMMYs), the album is a nine-song compilation about how "some nights are for falling in love, some are for solitude and introspection, some are to be annoyed at a forced social gathering — and so go the stories of Night Reign." The list of collaborators include the soulful Cautious Clay, musical ensemble Chocolate Genius, jazz artist James Francies, and more.

Aftab shared the single "Raat Ki Rani" as a preview of the album, and announced a North America, U.K., and Europe tour throughout the rest of the year. She will also support Khruangbin for a run of fall shows in Washington, DC, St. Louis, MO, and New Orleans, LA.

Inside Neil Young & Crazy Horse's 'F##IN' UP': Where All Nine Songs Came From