meta-scriptBlackbear Talks New EP ‘Misery Lake,’ Dream Collab With BTS, Making Music For His Mental Health & Fatherhood | GRAMMY.com
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Blackbear Talks New EP ‘Misery Lake,’ Dream Collab With BTS, Making Music For His Mental Health & Fatherhood

The Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter blackbear caught up with GRAMMY.com ahead of his new six-song project, 'misery lake'

GRAMMYs/Aug 12, 2021 - 11:47 pm

Like many of us, blackbear spent the seamless string of early pandemic-filled months holed up indoors, battling the feelings of isolation and anxiety brought on COVID-19. Unlike many of his fans, though, the Los Angeles-based artist, singer and hit songwriter emerged from last year's quarantine period with two new projects: his fifth studio album everything means nothing and new EP misery lake, which he's releasing tomorrow, August 13.

"It's about isolation–it's basically about quarantine and how you can feel loopy and you can feel happy and you can feel horrible all at the same time," he told GRAMMY.com over the phone.

blackbear spent the weeks leading up to the August release of everything means nothing surfing through Los Angeles Airbnbs, where he wrote and recorded what would turn out to be his two latest projects. Creating music at those rental homes became the mental health escape he needed from the pandemic, he explained.

"We recorded the whole everything means nothing album at probably three different [Airbnb] houses and then, for my mental health, I was like I need to just keep getting houses and keep recording," he said. "So I was like, let's do another project; what could it hurt?"

The result was misery lake–a six-song EP that encapsulates the feelings of loneliness and longing of 2020 in the melancholy-drenched yet undeniably catchy way that only blackbear's music can.

Now, arriving in a post-quarantine world, the EP translates into heartbroken bangers with edgy-pop production that fans will soon be screaming back to blackbear as he tours the U.S. this fall. The 33-stop trek with Maroon 5, which kicked off in Washington earlier this week, is just one of the positive things 2021 has brought the 30-year-old. Earlier this year, blackbear became engaged to his girlfriend Michele Maturo and in January, the couple celebrated their son Midnight's first birthday. The tot's voice can be heard on the outro of misery Lake's "bad day."

"It wakes me up in the morning," blackbear said of being a first-time dad. "It's a reason to keep going and to keep showing up for myself and to be a good example for my son."

Speaking with GRAMMY.com a week before releasing misery lake, blackbear opened up about writing and recording music to protect his mental health, how fatherhood inspires him, his love for BTS, recent cross-genre collaborations and more. After linking back up with his Mansionz collaborator Mike Posner for their single "Jealousy" earlier this year, blackbear also offers fans an update on what's next for the duo. Read his full interview below.

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misery lake is your first project since last year's everything means nothing and it's your first EP since 2017's Salt. Did you set out to make an EP or did it start with "u love u" with Tate McRae and kind of build from there?

 After everything means nothing, I kept wanting to get these writing houses. We kept recording in Airbnbs in L.A. County because my studio is under construction right now, so we were getting Airbnbs and just setting up speakers and microphones in there. [They were] pretty nice places, too. We recorded the whole everything means nothing album at probably three different houses and then, for my mental health, I was like I need to just keep getting houses and keep recording. So I was like, let's do another project; what could it hurt?

Was writing and recording music a good mental health release for you during the weirdness of quarantine?

For sure. The whole underlying theme of the EP is isolation and just feeling so alone. The first track is called "alone in a room full of people" to give you an idea, and it's just kind of a lonely EP, but it actually makes me feel good, too, at the same time.

What was that experience like, recording music in these different houses? I know a lot of artists usually like recording at home or in their studio where they feel most comfortable. Was it different being in these new places?

Yeah, at every house, we just had to kind of feel it out. You can't really tell from the pictures–every house looks nice on Airbnb.com. And then when you get there, you find a good couple houses and you stick to those. We had like two houses that we really liked, where we made everything means nothing in and all of misery lake in.

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Where did the title misery lake come from?

It's about isolation–it's basically about quarantine and how you can feel loopy and you can feel happy and you can feel horrible all at the same time. I really felt like I was in this imaginary place and I started tagging [the location of] my photos on Instagram as "Misery Island," "Misery Lake" and stuff like that, and I was like, you know what? I love that for a title. Maybe my next EP will be called Sorrow Forest.

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"@ my worst" has to be my favorite song on the project. What was the story behind that track?

It was one of our writing trip days and I think we were writing for other artists; I don't think we were writing for blackbear at the time. It just came out, and it was the first time I sat with [the song's co-producer] Andrew [Goldstein] and just really let it all come out. I was feeling a lot at that time. A lot of mental health [stuff] going on, a lot of anxiety.

It came out in a really beautiful way. Like you said, the EP is a lot of isolation and heartbreak, but you've been celebrating lots of good things this year. Your son turned 1 and you recently became engaged. How does your family and being a dad impact your music?

It wakes me up in the morning. It's a reason to keep going and to keep showing up for myself and to be a good example for my son. I just want to be the kind of dad that shows him how to be a man and how to take care of business and really just trust in yourself and trust in the process. I wanna set a good example, and I think that's what it's done for me.

You can hear your son cry at the end of "bad day," which is really cute. What made you want to add that to the track?

We heard him downstairs and he was crying in-key. I was like, "He's going to be a singer." I went down there with my phone and recorded an audio note and that ended up making it onto the song. We didn't autotune it at all. He sang a perfect A major.

That's so cute! Is he already dancing or responding to music?

When we get in the car all he says is, "Dada. Dada. Dada." And he'll cry until Dada's music comes on. He doesn't wanna hear any other artist, it's insane. He's my biggest fan.

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misery lake has that classic blackbear sound, but you've been having a lot of success lately crossing into other genres. For example, what was it like working with Kane Brown on "Memory"?

It was so fundamental for me to work with Kane Brown. I just wanted so badly to work with him. He's my favorite country artist out – besides Sam Hunt. I really like Sam Hunt as well. But Kane Brown especially because he's so versatile, and I love the direction he's moving in with his music. He's open to pop records and he's very open to experiment. He doesn't mind being the different one in the crowd and I love that.

Jungkook from BTS also recently covered your song "smile again" and I saw you gave him a shoutout for the cover on Twitter. Would you be open to collaborating with him or BTS?

I keep sending songs for BTS to cut. That's all I want! All I want is for them to take one of my songs, but I guess I just haven't written the right one yet. I'm just gonna keep trying, 'cause I've already sent them like three songs. I'm really trying really hard. Besides Ariana Grande, BTS is the other artist that I really wanna write for.

Read: Annika Wells On Writing For BTS, Her Advice For Singer/Songwriters & The Secret Value Of Making People Mad

Earlier this year you and Mike Posner reunited to drop "Jealousy." Have you guys been working on anything else lately? Maybe a Mansionz Part II?

We have been working on Mansionz music but not Mansionz Part II officially yet. We've been sending ideas back and forth and when the time's right, when I'm off tour and he's done climbing whatever mountain he's on now. He already summited Mt. Everest; I think he's on another mountain now. He was also talking about going to space. So, as soon as he's done with those endeavors, we'll probably find some time. Both of our schedules have to pan out and we both have big dreams – they're very different dreams, but they're big dreams.

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Like you said, you're getting ready to head out on tour for what will be your first string of shows since before the pandemic. Are you excited to get back out there?

I'm so worried that I'm not in shape enough, but yes. I've been running three miles a day and singing my set and just trying to prepare. Getting IV drips at the house with all the vitamins and everything, just trying not to get sick. My son has the stomach flu, so you know. I've just been in total preparation-mode, like really eating right and drinking my protein shakes. I'm just trying to be prepared for this tour because it's gonna be a big stage and it's gonna knock the wind out of me.

Have you been prepping with Maroon 5 at all? What's that like to get ready to go on tour with them?

I've been prepping over text with Adam Levine. He's been sending me his outfits back and forth so we can coordinate to not dress too similar. And we're making sure that we don't have the same color hair on tour–that's a big thing. [Laughs.] I think he has green hair right now, so I'm not gonna go green. I told him I might want to do pink and he was like, "I want pink." So, I'm just gonna stay blonde.

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You collaborated with Maroon 5 on their album JORDI too, so there's got to be a good chemistry there already.

Yeah, JORDI was such a great album. There's no skips for me.

Earlier this summer you also partnered with the CBD beverage company VYBES to release your own drink that you've said helped you cope with symptoms from your chronic pancreatitis. How have you been doing health-wise?

I get flare-ups a couple times a week and I get an attack probably once a month, but I've been managing it to the best of my ability. I've had to cancel a couple [recording] sessions, but everybody's been really cool. Benny Blanco understood. He was really nice and he rescheduled [our session] about a month later and we made an amazing song together. It's just about managing it and managing my stress because stress is a really big trigger for pancreatitis. So, I've just been trying to keep my stress down and live a stress-free life.

Has it been challenging preparing for a physically-demanding tour?

For sure, there's been a lot of days where I couldn't get out of bed to go work out. So, it's been challenging for sure. But hopefully I can inspire somebody else with chronic illness.

Your fans will definitely appreciate finally getting to see you perform again, too!

That's the first thing I'm gonna say on stage, "I'm back fu**ing outside!"

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Chief Keef press photo 2024
Chief Keef

Photo: Casimir Spaulding

interview

Chief Keef On 'Almighty So 2,' His Long-Awaited Return To Chicago & Why He's "Better Now Than I Ever Was"

More than a decade in the making, Chief Keef unveiled the second installment of 'Almighty So.' The rapper details why the new album is not a sequel to his 2013 mixtape, but rather another symbol of his artistic evolution.

GRAMMYs/May 14, 2024 - 02:51 pm

Chief Keef fans have been awaiting a sequel to his influential mixtape Almighty So since he released it in 2013. The project came out in the midst of a magnificent and experimental run for Keef, when he was changing his style seemingly at will from Almighty's almost avant-garde soundscapes to woozy, autotuned melodies (Bang Pt. 2) to stoic street tales (Back From the Dead).

Keef, now 28, has been well aware of the anticipation for a follow-up to Almighty So, teasing the project since 2019. Five years later, it's finally here — but it might not quite be what fans were expecting.

In keeping with Keef's mercurial and exploratory artistic nature, Almighty So 2 has very little to do with its predecessor, save that comedian Michael Blackson does skits on both. In fact, Keef tells GRAMMY.com that the title of the project does not mean that he views it as a sequel to Almighty So.

"There's no connection at all," he asserts. Almighty So is his nickname, and one of his many alter egos; it stems from "Sosa," the Scarface-inspired nickname he's been using since the beginning of his career. The title, he says, "is not just a project that I dropped years ago. It's me. I'm still almighty."

Almighty So 2, released May 10, is indeed very different. It boasts a Keef who is nearly free of vocal doublings and ad libs, ready to let his voice clearly be heard on a wide range of subjects, including some introspective and emotional looks at himself, going all the way back to his childhood.

Several days before the project's release, GRAMMY.com caught up with Keef while he was at home in Los Angeles. Below, the Chicago-born rapper breaks down the album's lyrics and music, its most surprising guest appearance, how he views his own legacy, and his return to his hometown for the first time in over a decade.

This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

You've been talking about this record since 2019, and originally you were saying it's going to have a lot of melody. The album I heard is very different from that. Can you tell me how and why the vision changed?

I just wanted to do something I never did. A couple of songs is stuff that you probably would never hear me do.

What's different about those songs?

Just more rapping about real things instead of flexing or talking about cars and weed. I'm rapping about real stuff in my life — in life, period.

"Believe" is like that. 

Oh yeah, "Believe," I forgot about that. You really know these songs. Okay, that's dope.

I heard that song as being about wanting and trying to change. Can you tell me about writing that and deciding to open up a little bit?

When I was making that beat, it gave me that feeling of, let some stuff out. That's all.

There's a line on there that really grabbed me. You're talking about growing up and you say you had to be an "evil kid." The word "evil" really struck me. What do you mean by
"evil"?

Because I was always smart — brilliant, intelligent. My circumstances had to be different, though. There wasn't a way for me to really show…I had to do the streets thing. I had to be a gangbanger. I had to grow up doing all that stuff instead of my potential that I know that I have, that I'm using doing all this stuff like designing. I can do everything. Really, literally. I probably could fly a plane, too.

Before I get into my ideas about it, what's different about your rapping on this album?

I feel like I'm just old. I'm 28, I'm finna be 29 now, man. I'm not the same young boy that grew up in Chicago on 54th and 61st. I guess you can call it growth.

I still got some stuff on there like the regular Sosa — the turn up, the fight-in-the-club or whatever you want to call it. Jump around, mosh pit music. I still got that. 

I was thinking more about just the sound of your rapping. There was almost no doubling, almost no ad libs. Your voice is very clear. Can you tell me about that creative decision?

I haven't been doubling like that. I don't know why I stopped it. You're right, I wanted to be more clear. 

Once I do a song, if I didn't do the ad libs, it must have not needed ad libs. When I do ad libs, it's like, I gotta do these ad libs. And if a song doesn't have ad libs on it, probably I can't really say the stuff that I want to say on the ad libs, or I didn't know how to put it. So I just said, scratch the ad libs and it's good like that. It's perfect. You don't need it, or the doubles. 

You have two songs on this record, "Runner" and "1,2,3," where you do that Dipset thing of talking back to the vocal sample. Why'd you do that?

I grew up on Juelz [Santana] and Cam'ron and Jim Jones. On 61st, we was a clique called Dipset, which comes from them. That's where I come from, so that's what I know. I guess I'm still living that right there.

Tell me about making beats for this album. There was some sampling in there, which is something you haven't done too much of.

I started sampling in probably 2019, 2020, or something like that. A lot of my producer friends, even my rapper friends, be like, "I love the way you sample. Damn, how do you sample like that?" Even though sometimes, I'll just let a sample play — it won't even be a chopped-up sample. 

If you get a beat from someone else, do you go in and add stuff to it?

Yeah. I can't take a beat and not put my stuff on it. Because it might be a dope beat, but if I feel like it need a couple more snares or a snare roll or some extra high hats or a bridge, I'll add my stuff in.

The album has some introspective lyrics, but it's also very funny.

I want to have some fun with it. A lot of people just drop projects and be regular degular. I wanted to do different. 

Like one song on the album, it takes four minutes to come on. It's just a beat and there's a skit playing of a dude in heaven talking. It's for car rides or trips. I don't know, I just wanted to do something different than what's regularly done all the time.

What's the connection between this album and the first Almighty So? Why call it Almighty So 2?

There's no connection at all. It's just, Almighty So, that's me. It's not just a project that I dropped years ago — it's me. I'm still Almighty So. I might not call myself that all the time, but it's forever me because when I did come out, it's something that I made and I stuck with it. 

It's just a name that everybody know. It's going to go down in the books. Forever, I'm Almighty So. I just had to do a number two, as in growth. It's the growth version of me.

I'm trying to display that I'm not the same 16, 17, 18-year-old that was running around Chicago with a gun on his hip. I'm far away in Los Angeles, California in a big, stupid-ass house with nine bathrooms and eight bedrooms. I got 12 cars outside my house, and they all mine. I don't have to have that gun on my hip. I ain't gotta watch my back all the time. 

I'm not the same. I'm a different guy. I feel like I'm better now than I ever was. I'm a better individual: the way I think, the way I talk. I'm more talkative now. At first, I wasn't even f—ing talking, bro. At first, you couldn't get me to say s— but a couple words.

When was the last time you listened to the first Almighty So?

I don't listen to that thing. Everybody else around me do. From friends to fans, everybody still listen to it, but I don't listen to it, barely ever. Every blue moon, I might end up playing it somehow. Because don't forget, I was listening to that s— nonstop when I made it. And I had to perform a lot of it too. So I know it by heart. I don't need to listen to it.

You have your first performance in Chicago in many years coming up at the Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash in June. How are you feeling about it?

It's been a while, man. I ain't gonna lie, it's gonna be like I'm a tourist when I go there. 

It's been a long, long time. It's been like 11, 12 years since I touched the pavement in Chicago, or Illinois, period. I'm ready. I know it's going to be a big thing. A lot of new people probably think I'm a ghost. There probably be teachers like, "Yeah, he went to this school," [and the students will be like,] "No, no, he ain't real." 

So a lot of people are going to be excited, just knowing I'm from there and I ain't been there in so long. People that's not in even Chicago — all them surrounding cities gonna show up [too], because Sosa has not been home. And they know it's gonna be big.

Given what happened back in 2015, when the cops shut down your hologram's concert, are you worried that the authorities will be looking for an excuse to shut it down?

Hopefully they won't shut it down. I ain't been there in 11 years. I ain't done nothing to no-motherf—ing-body, man. I ain't in no cases, no RICOs, no murders, none of that s—. Leave me the f— alone, man. 

I've been chilling, making clothes and making music. Don't shut me down. And even if they did, I don't care. I'm going home. Back to L.A. I go. At least y'all know that I tried.

From the beginning of your career, you've had this association with the word "turbulence." You use Turbo as an alter ego.

[Laughs] How do you know all this? This is some Nardwuar s— right now, man.

When did that start? Do you remember the first time you were like, "Oh, that word, that's me?"

You said, when did it start? It's my alter egos I just make in my damn head. That's all. I'm versatile, so I never make the same sounding s—. Every song you listen to of mine, it's not going to be like, "That sounds like the last one I just played."  

I just got my alter egos, and I just make names. And then Turbulence, Turbo, that just came with one of my alter egos from 2017. Every other year I got a new name and a new ego.

Lately I haven't done it, though. I've been chilling, on some grown man ish. I feel like [making alter egos is] more the young Sosa. Like I said, this was in 2017 when I made that name. I haven't really been doing it lately. No new aliases.

You talked earlier about designing clothes and doing other creative stuff. When you're making art or graphics, or designing clothes, what feels the same as making music to you, and what feels different?

It's the exact same thing. S—, just like I make a beat, making a shirt takes the same creativity. It's just in a different form. Instead of melodies, you're using pictures and s—. You're drawing stuff. Instead of drawing that melody in FL Studio, you're drawing an angel for a shirt.

It's the exact same thing. Even the colors. The colors are like the EQ on the beat or on the song — it brings out the light in the stuff. 

So yeah, it's actually the same thing to me. And I've been doing this same s—. All the clothing, the beats, I've been doing the exact same thing that I'm doing now since 2008. How many years is that? That's a long time.

Like the Glory Boys logo: I made that logo in late 2009. I was what, 13, 14? I was doing this s— since I was 10, 11. It started when my momma bought me a computer. She bought me a computer when I was like 6. And then I was doing unbelievable things, unimaginable things. 

When I was doing that, I knew that this is my calling. Like, you real good with computers, if you're not good with nothing else. Anything with a screen, I could do it my sleep. If I show you the s— I can do, you'd be like, what in the f—? I'm talking coding — I can code some s— up. Your mind would be blown.

One of the things that does connect this album to the first Almighty So is you have Michael Blackson come back. Why?

Because he was on the first one. I'm just like, I got a skit or two for him. I got a couple of different skits from a couple different people. I got Fabo from D4L on there. He's on "Almighty" the song, talking. I got Donterio from my city, a funny dude I mess with. He be like, "On baby, on baby" — he famous for saying that. 

I got Michael Blackson. I wanted to make it fun and funny, so it ain't just like you're riding around listening to regular music. I wanted to make it a type of movie, but just in the music form. 

One of the guest appearances that really got my attention was Tierra Whack. I thought she was great.

Yeah, me and Tierra, we're real friends and we talk. And I love the way she do everything, so I had to put her on my s—, man. Just on some random s— — like, they won't expect no damn Tierra Whack, you know? So I had to do that. And I got my little weird ways, I'll tell you that.

I wouldn't have guessed she would be on this album.

Yeah, I know you wouldn't. Nobody would. Chief Keef and Tierra Whack? How and where and when? I wanted her to do something different than what she do. I was like, "I got this song I want you to do, but it ain't nothing like you always do. It's different." And she's like, "Hell yeah, come on, let's do it." That's my dog, for real for real.

A lot of critics talk about how influential you are. Are you aware of people saying that stuff about you?

Everywhere! If I had 500 M's every time [I heard that], I'd be Jeff Bezos. The f—? I think I'd probably be bigger. I would be more rich!

I be hearing that a lot, though, man. I be tired of hearing that s—. I be like, we know. Me, you, and God know that. It's okay. Let people do what they do, man. I was a big fan of Gucci [Mane] and Lil Wayne. Still am. So if I got people who love me like that, s—, man. 

I used to get mad about it, but I don't give a f—. I'm a big fan of those two boys I just said. Even to this day, we still ride around listening to the old Gucci. If you get in our car and we on tour, all you going to hear is Gucci Mane from 2006, 7, 8, and 9, 2010, 2011. And we still even sometimes take our raps [from that]. The old Lil Wayne, I still even rap like that. If you listen to "Jesus," I got his flow — some Lil Wayne, the old Wayne, inspiration. So I guess I inspire, the way they inspire me.

Are you still determined to change your style frequently? That used to be a thing about you: every year you'd have a whole new approach to music.

You hip, bro. You smart as hell, I ain't gonna lie. That's why I'm talking to you like I am. But anyway, you're right, I don't necessarily. 

How I am, though, I never do the same s—, like I told you. You'll never say, "This sounds exactly the same as the other one." I probably got, like, two songs [that sound alike], and that's just if I'm messing with the same producer. 

So I can't say that every year I take that approach. But I guess every day I take that approach, or any time I pick up the damn microphone. I'm just trying to think, I want to do something different, or at least try.

Do you think of yourself primarily as a rapper? A producer? A person who's good with computers?

What I say is I got angles like Kurt. You know Kurt Angle? Jack of all trades. 

Call me Jack, don't call me Sosa. I guess I got a new alias today — we made one.

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Gunna in Rome, Italy in April 2024
Gunna in Rome, Italy in April 2024.

Photo: Ernesto Ruscio/WireImage

list

Gunna Is Defiantly 'One Of Wun': 5 Takeaways From The New Album

Amid legal drama and rap feuds, Gunna dropped his fifth studio album — and showed that none of the negativity is going to drag him down.

GRAMMYs/May 10, 2024 - 08:38 pm

A new album from Gunna is bound to be notable and controversial. Many in the rap world had strong feelings about how the racketeering case against many members and affiliates of his label YSL Records — including, most notably, him and Young Thug — worked out for the Atlanta star. After Gunna took a plea deal in December 2022, the word "snitch" was thrown around not infrequently; he was rumored to have tensions with rappers including his close collaborator Lil Baby and, unsurprisingly, Young Thug.

Gunna's 2023 album, a Gift & a Curse, released about six months after his plea, seemed to be his attempt to move past all of that. In some ways, it worked. The album was a success, containing his highest-charting solo hit to date with "fukumean." 

But still, the negative image followed him around. Despite his chart success — along with a few notable Afrobeats songs that brought attention from a whole new market — Gunna's controversial past was brought to light yet again when he was referenced in Kendrick Lamar's recent Drake diss track, "Euphoria," in a less-than-flattering way.

Now, Gunna has made his latest big statement with his fifth album, One of Wun, where he addresses both his feelings about the public response to his plea, and what his life has been like since it occurred. The new LP finds Gunna unbowed, positive and defiant. It's a fascinating project, with themes that anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the rapper's career to date will find timely and relevant. 

As you dig into One of Wun, take a look at five major takeaways from Gunna's new album.

Gunna Remembers What His Haters Said

One of Wun features many references to people who hated on or didn't believe in Gunna. Rarely is this explicitly tied to blowback from the YSL case, but it doesn't need to be: "I swear I don't want no apology," he says on "whatsapp (wassam)." But it's not that he doesn't feel he deserves one.

Throughout the album, Gunna makes it very clear that he is aware of all the criticism. "Heard all about how they want me to lose, but I'm W, here for a win," he spits on the title track; the first verse of "on one tonight" echoes that sentiment, "They hope I fall off, ain't no way." Gunna knows, as he says on the nautically themed "neck on a yacht," that his haters want him to sink like the Titanic, but he'll never give them the satisfaction.

The most explicit reference to the YSL situation is on "prada dem," where he disposes of any controversy with a simple pun: "I'm not a rat — still getting cheddar."

He Loves Women A Lot, But Not Deeply

It's not all just clapbacks on One of Wun; there is a lot of rapping about women and sex, too. The aforementioned "neck on a yacht," for example, is about exactly what the title might lead you to think it to be. So is "treesh," named after New York slang for a person with lots of partners. Even "clear my rain," musically one of the most adventurous tracks on the project with its Afrobeats-esque feel, is lyrically in this vein as well.

However, it's clear this album wasn't inspired by romance. Gunna never gets personal, and "Body right, she a ten in the face/ F— her all night and all through the day" is about as specific as he ever gets. This is not out of line in Gunna's catalog, and this consistency provides proof that his lyrics about standing his ground are accurate both inside the recording booth as well as the world outside. 

Emotion And Vulnerability Ultimately Make The Album Memorable

Gunna may not be in his feelings about women, but he certainly is in other ways. The times where he moves past his triumphing-over-the-haters stance and lets his guard down are the most effective moments of the whole album.

Exceptional in this regard is the track "conscience," in which he admits that the people who betray him are making him "feel low." "I'm fed up with this nonsense," he says. "Lotta s—, and it's weighing on my conscience." 

That bit of vulnerability adds a tremendous amount of context to his talk of his determination — and the spiritual and material victories that come because of it — throughout the rest of the record. The very album title tells you of Gunna's uniqueness, and the record's glimpse at his vulnerabilities make the case for that even more than his boasts. 

There are musically exceptional moments as well — a kind of aural equivalent to his lyrical openness. Much of the album is mid-tempo and trap-inflected, but it ends with an ambitious six-and-a-half minute, two-part epic called "time reveals, be careful what you wish for." It would be wonderful to see more songs with this scope in the future.

He's Back To Collaborating

a Gift & a Curse had no guest appearances at all, marking the first time Gunna had ever gone completely solo on any of his five albums. Whatever the reason for Gunna's decision for no features on his previous project — whether it was an artistic choice, the swirling talk around his guilty plea, or something else — he's back to collaborating on One of Wun. The rap star recruits Normani ("$$$") and Leon Bridges ("clear my rain"), as well as two fellow rappers, Offset ("prada dem") and Roddy Ricch ('let it breathe").

That said, Gunna has never been one for a ton of guest features, particularly in comparison to most big-name rap releases. And with regular standbys Lil Baby and Young Thug off the table (the latter was in jail), the return of Gunna's "Cooler Than a Bitch" collaborator Roddy Ricch seems to indicate that at least some of his rap pals are willing to work with him again.

He's Placing Emphasis On Being A Musical Rapper

With 20 songs on the track list, One of Wun gives Gunna plenty of time to experiment — to try different vocal approaches, melodies and rhythms. While there is plenty of rap's tried-and-true triplet rhythm across the album, he goes far beyond it as well.

He adjusts his rapping approach not only to fit the music of the song, but also the subject matter. He's straightforward, repetitive and aggressive when the subject matter calls for it, like on the defiant "whatsapp (wassam)"; elsewhere, he tries different musical ideas on songs like the more introspective "conscience." This makes the album feel like a true body of work, one where his defiance comes to life not only in his words, but in sound as well.

Gunna released One of Wun into a climate with a lot of questions. The record succeeds in not only talking about his recent worries and conflicts, but dramatizing them in lyrics and music. He's using the raw material of his life — and the media narratives around it — to sculpt a coherent narrative, where every aspect of the album has a part to play in telling his story. He delves deep into his defiance, and his worries, and converts them into a real artistic statement. 

"Independence weighing on my conscience hard," he raps on "conscience." Gunna makes sure not only that he says that theme in words, but expresses it in every aspect of this record. That vision and ability makes him truly one of one.

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Japanese duo Creepy Nuts stand against a blue backdrop
Creepy Nuts

Photo: Courtesy of Creepy Nuts

video

Global Spin: Creepy Nuts Make An Impact With An Explosive Performance Of "Bling-Bang-Bang-Born"

Japanese hip-hop duo Creepy Nuts perform their viral single "Bling-Bang-Ban-Born," which also appears as the opening track from the anime "Mashle: Magic and Muscles."

GRAMMYs/May 1, 2024 - 03:39 am

On their new Jersey club-inspired single "Bling-Bang-Bang-Born," Japanese hip-hop duo Creepy Nuts narrate the inner monologue of a confident man, unbothered by others’ negativity and the everyday pressures of life.

In this episode of Global Spin, watch Creepy Nuts deliver an electrifying performance of the track, made more lively with its bright flashing lights and changing LED backdrop.

"Before I show them my true ability/ My enemies run away without capability," they declare in Japanese on the second verse. "Raising the bar makes me very happy/ ‘Cause I’m outstanding, absolutely at No.1."

"Bling-Bang-Bang-Born" was released on January 7 via Sony Music and also serves as the season two opening track for the anime "Mashle: Magic and Muscles." The song previously went viral across social media for its accompanying "BBBB Dance."

"Basically, the song is about it’s best to be yourself, like flexing naturally. Of course, even though we put effort into writing its lyrics and music, it’s still a song that can be enjoyed without worrying about such things," they said in a press statement.

Press play on the video above to watch Creepy Nuts’ energetic performance of "Bling-Bang-Bang-Born," and don’t forget to check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Global Spin.

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Rapper Anycia On 'Princess Pop That'
Anycia

Photo: Apex Visions

interview

On 'Princess Pop That,' Rapper Anycia Wants You To Feel Like "The Baddest Bitch"

"It's a no judgment zone," Anycia says of her new album. The Atlanta rapper discusses the importance of maintaining individuality, and using her music for healing.

GRAMMYs/Apr 29, 2024 - 01:25 pm

Twenty-six-year-old rapper Anycia truly lives in the present. The Atlanta-born artist describes her most viral hits as if they were everyday experiences — she's simply going out of town on "BRB" and mad at a partner in "Back Outside" featuring Latto

Despite her calm demeanor and cadence, Anycia is a self-proclaimed "firecracker" and credits her success to her long-held confidence. 

"I [command] any room I walk in, I like to introduce myself first — you never have to worry about me walking into the room and not speaking," Anycia tells GRAMMY.com. "I speak, I yell, I twerk, I do the whole nine," adding, "I see tweets all the time [saying] ‘I like Anycia because she doesn’t rap about her private parts’... are y’all not listening?" 

With authenticity as her cornerstone, Anycia's genuine nature and versatile sound appeal broadly. On her recently released sophomore LP, Princess Pop That, Anycia's playful personality, unique vocal style and skillful flow are on full display. Over 14 tracks, Anycia keeps her usual relaxed delivery while experimenting with different beats from New Orleans, New York, California, and of course, Georgia. 

"I'm learning to be myself in different elements. I'm starting to take my sound and make it adapt to other beats and genres," she says. "But this whole album is definitely a little showing of me dibbling and dabbling.

The rising hip-hop star gained traction in June 2023 with her sultry single, "So What," which samples the song of the same name by Georgia natives Field Mob and Ciara. When Anycia dropped the snippet on her Instagram, she only had a "GoPro and a dream." Today, she has millions of views on her music videos, collaborations with artists like Flo Milli, and a critically acclaimed EP, Extra. On April 26, she'll release her debut album, Princess Pop That, featuring Cash Cobain, Luh Tyler, Kenny Beats, Karrahbooo and others. 

Ahead of the release of Princess Pop That, Anycia spoke with GRAMMY.com about her influences, maintaining individuality, working with female rappers, and using her music as a therapeutic outlet.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Where did the title Princess Pop That come from?

Princess Pop That is my little alter ego, and my Twitter and finsta name. It's kind of like a Sasha Fierce/Beyoncé type of situation. 

The cover of your album gives early 2000 vibes. Is that where you draw most of your inspiration from?

Yeah. My everyday playlist is literally early 2000s music. I even still listen to [music] from the '70s – I just like old music! 

My mom is a big influence on a lot of the music that I like. She had me when she was like 19, 20. She's a Cali girl and has great taste in music. I grew up on everything and I feel like a lot of the stuff that I'm doing, you can kind of see that influence.

I grew up on Usher, Cherish, 112, Jagged Edge, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Teena Marie, Luther Vandross and Sam Cooke. Usher was my first concert, ever and actually my last concert — I went to his residency in Vegas with my mom. That's like our thing.

I know you had your hand in many different professions — including barbering and working at a daycare — how did you get into rapping?

I always liked music, but [thought] girl, we need some money right now. Rapping and music is cool, but I always had one foot in and one foot out. When I was [working] my jobs, it was more this is what I need to be doing right now — but I wasn't happy. 

It got to a point where I noticed that I was doing all these things, and it worked but it wasn't working for me. I didn't want to get caught up; I didn't want to be stuck doing something just because it works. I wanted to do something that I actually love to do. I decided to quit both jobs because I was literally making me miserable. 

I feel like that's what happened with a lot of our parents — they lose focus of their actual goals or what they actually wanted to do, and they get so caught up in what works in the moment. One thing about me, if I don't like something I'm done. I don't care how much money I put into it, if I'm not happy and it doesn’t feed me spiritually and mentally I'm not doing it. Right after [I quit] I was in the studio back-to-back making music. It eventually paid off.

Walk us through your music making process. 

A blunt, a little Don Julio Reposado, a space heater because I’m anemic. Eating some tacos and chicken wings or whatever I’m feeling at the moment. It’s not that deep to me, I like to be surrounded by good energy in the studio. 

People like to say female rappers aren’t welcoming or don’t like to work with each other. You’re clearly debunking this myth with songs like "Back Outside" featuring Latto and "Splash Brothers'' featuring Karrahbooo. What was it like working with them and how did these collaborations come about? 

Karrahbooo and I were already friends before we started rapping. It was harder for people to get us to do music because when we were around each other we weren't like, "Oh we need to do a song together." We had a friendship. 

Working with Latto, we didn't collab on that song in the studio. I did the song myself after being really upset at a man. I made the song just venting. I didn't even think that I was ever gonna put that song out, honestly. Latto ended up hitting me up within a week's span just giving me my flowers and telling me she wanted to do a song [together]. I ended up sending her "Back Outside" because I felt like she would eat [it up] and she did just that. 

She did! Are there any other female rappers you’d like to work with?

I really want to work with Cardi B — I love her! I'm also looking forward to collaborating with GloRilla

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Many female rappers come into the industry and feel like they have to start changing themself to fit a certain aesthetic or archetype. However, everything about you seems super unique — from your voice to your style and appearance. How do you maintain your individuality? 

Being yourself is literally the easiest job ever. When you're doing everything you're supposed to be doing, you're being genuine while you're doing it and you’re just being 110 percent authentically yourself — I feel like everything works out for you perfectly fine. 

I haven't had the urge to change anything or do anything different. The reason people started liking me was because I was being myself. Even if it wasn't accepted, I'm not going to stop being myself. I do what works for me and I feel like everybody should just do what works for them and not what works for the people outside of them. 

That's what creates discomfort for yourself, that’s how you become a depressed artist — trying to please everybody [but] yourself. I feel like people lose sight of that fact. Aside from this being a job or a career for me now, it’s still my outlet and a way I express myself;  it's still my form of art. I will never let anybody take that from me. It's intimate for me. 

Speaking of intimacy, what was the inspiration behind "Nene’s Prayer"? I want to know who was playing with you.

I was just having a little therapy session in the booth and everyone ended up liking it. Instead of getting mad, flipping out and wanting to go to jail I just put in a song. Even though I said some messed up things in the song, it’s better than me doing those messed up things. 

Have you ever written a lyric or song that you felt went too far or was too personal?

Nope. A lot of the [topics] that I [rap about] is just stuff girls really want to say, but don't have the courage to say. But me, I don’t give a damn! If it resonates with you then it does, and if it doesn't — listen to somebody else. 

Exactly! What advice would you give to upcoming artists trying to get noticed or have that one song that pops?

If you got something that you want to put out into the world, you just have to have that confidence for yourself, and you have to do it for you and not for other people. I feel like people make music and do certain things for other people. That's why [their song] doesn't do what it needs to do because it’s a perspective of what other people want, rather than doing [a song] that you're comfortable with and what you like.

How do you want people to feel after listening toPrincess Pop That?’

I just want the girls, and even the boys, to get in their bag. Regardless of how you went into listening to the album, I want you to leave with just a little bit more self confidence. If you’re feeling low, I want you to feel like "I am that bitch." 

It's a no judgment zone. I want everybody to find their purpose, walk in their truth and feel like "that girl" with everything they do. You could even be in a grocery store, I want you to feel like the baddest bitch. 

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