meta-script"Wake Up" With Bloody Civilian: How Owning Her Perspective & The Support Of Women Allowed The Afrobeats Artist To Thrive | GRAMMY.com
Bloody Civilian holding a guitar
Bloody Civilian

Photo: Dan Mbonu

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"Wake Up" With Bloody Civilian: How Owning Her Perspective & The Support Of Women Allowed The Afrobeats Artist To Thrive

The Nigerian singer and songwriter contributed to the GRAMMY-nominated 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' soundtrack — but Bloody Civilian's contributions to the ever-expanding world of Afrobeats go far beyond the Marvel Universe.

GRAMMYs/Jan 9, 2024 - 02:25 pm

Emoseh Angela Khamofu began crafting beats at age 12 and wrote her first song on a piece of tissue paper. This innocuous interest quickly developed an obsession with music that, later, propelled her to incredible heights. 

Within a year, the 25-year-old singer and songwriter now known as Bloody Civilian released two EPs: Anger Management and a remixed version, Anger Management: At Least We Tried, and signed to 0270 Def Jam. Her song "Wake Up" featuring Rema is on the GRAMMY-nominated Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack. 

Bloody understood early on that she'd have to approach her career holistically. Across her body of work, Bloody uses her "unparalleled” storytelling ability and lyrical dexterity to take listeners through personal and societal hardships. 

The moniker Bloody Civilian refers to the struggles encapsulated by the often-derogatory term directed at Nigerian citizens by the military, and is also a poignant homage to a challenging chapter in her life. Born into a religious family in northern Nigeria, a young Bloody and her family relocated to the national capital, Abuja, due to unrest; she later moved to Lagos to pursue music. 

"Growing up as a female in Nigeria is unnecessarily hard. It's unnecessarily complicated, especially when you do something unconventional," Bloody Civilian tells GRAMMY.com. "I had to fight for a lot of the leniences that I experienced."

Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, Bloody Civilian discusses pursuing music as a girl in a religious home, becoming a serial entrepreneur just to buy recording equipment, and the art of production. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You gravitated toward music started at such a young age. What was it like charting a path that went against the pious, conservative norm you were born into?

It was a difficult process. Stopping making a beat to go wash plates just doesn't bang. As a Nigerian female, my brothers don't have the same home experience as I did. They had enough time to cultivate various skills and for me — if not for the level of obsession that I had for what I was doing — this could have been impossible. The chances of you being distracted at home as a female, is way higher than as a male. 

Your dad played as a bassist in a band. Surely, you wanting to be an artist could have been seen as following in his footsteps… 

But he's a man, so no one told him what to do. Whereas in my case, having that same creative hunger as the person that gave birth to me wasn't an easy journey. I had to fight for a lot of the leniences that I experienced. I had to rent things out and sell merch, to raise enough funding to buy equipment. I was a serial entrepreneur due to circumstance. 

I understand that your parents didn't support you financially until further into your career. What was their reaction to you doing all you had to do to pursue what they probably thought was a hobby? 

At the beginning, the little wins that I'd get and the little bit of popularity — people in the church saying "We saw her content from my daughter's phone" or one thing or the other — I think that's when my parents had an element of there's something to be proud of rather than be ashamed of me as a daughter. It became easier along the way. 

But it definitely was tough. Very tough. Especially production; beat making, they really couldn't fathom or understand. It came to a point where they understood that I wanted to become a singer but this beat making thing, why not go and work with a producer? 

And did they take you to a producer?

Yes, the first producer my mother took me to and paid for a session, I did most of the work. And I could tell that it wasn't easy taking instructions from a 12-year-old. I could see how hard it was. But I think in that session, him trying the things I asked for and seeing that it worked out, and he'd kind of give me this look of she knows

I went to the studio, didn't know much. I was fascinated by the mic — stared at it for, like, a while [laughs]. I still remember looking around. The deafening sound of a studio; I was just taken back by it. Everything was just so fancy. Production started out as equal parts bad belle [Nigerian slang for resentful, jealous or bitter] and equal parts necessity. 

**On "Family Meeting” off Anger Management, you sing: "Before you return me back to God, I think I'm going to pack my s— and run” hinting at how you moved to Lagos. Did you really run to Lagos?** 

Something like that, yeah. I had to leave Abuja…urgently. And ending up in Lagos was definitely something that was a do or die, but not necessarily die. More like do or nothing. 

It's been two years since you moved to Lagos from Abuja. How much of an adjustment was that move for you?

When I came, I was slightly more impressionable and very gullible. Typical JJC ["Johnny just come," a Nigerian term for a newbie/ novice to a place or situation]. And that's something about my psychology that really shocks me. I have a chameleon-like ability to evolve over a short period of time. The last two years of being in Lagos, I'm almost unrecognizable to my old self. 

When I came to Lagos, I was the person I needed to be. I connected with different creatives. I went to people with experience and a good heart to get advice. I knew where to go to listen, I knew where to go to record. I knew different things because I explored a lot. And the reason I'm not in a screwed up situation is that I went and got advice from Osagie [Osarenz, Director of A&R and Operations at ONErpm]. It is because of her that I didn't sign a contract that I'll be crying about today. She basically told me "don’t sign anything, make sure you show me." 

Honestly, I was just lucky. I didn't have anything that differentiated me from anyone. I'm just lucky I met the people I met and was coincidentally lucky to listen when they spoke. 

How did you get signed to 0270 Def Jam?

I got signed off of a demo tape. A bunch of songs I wanted to sell to other artists. I wrote "How To Kill A Man" to sell [and] a lot of the tracks on the EP [like] "Escapism" to sell. I wanted to kind of just write for other people. But because of the way I put the tracks together, people felt, this is an EP and you're an artist

I just kept getting nudged to take the artist route. And I always wanted to be an artist even prior to coming to Lagos because when I write songs, I write from my perspective; it's my voice, it's my music. Someone else could sing it out, but it's my story. I was pretty ready to become a writer-producer, but the way things panned out, [the EP] kind of sent my name around town. 

But two women put me here. Remove those two women, I'm in the trenches. 

The second woman was in the creative scene, high up. She was at an event with top executives and sent my music to multiple people, hoping a few would respond. Well, pretty much everyone she sent it to was sending me offers. My life changed [snaps fingers] in that instance. That's when I shut down all conversations with everybody in Lagos. I said, "I'm definitely not signing my deal here" because it was hard to get people to see the value in what I was doing. We're here today because two women decided let me clear some time in my schedule to talk to this girl

Take us on the journey of how your song "Wake Up," which is featured on the GRAMMY-nominated Black Panther: Wakanda Forever album, came to be.

Since the film is about Africa and had a very women-led cast, they really wanted to portray the strength of women in general. So, even with the way they made the music, they wanted it to involve women creatives. They wanted female songwriters, producers, and when you run a search for female producers in Nigeria, there's very few that come up. I just happened to be one of them. 

Got in the studio, met [composer] Ludwig [Göransson], played beats for him. He took the one that you hear and worked on it, added some cool synths and stuff. They had brought instrumentalists, and they spent a year sampling traditional music, so they pretty much had a bunch of sounds that he was playing with. He took it from what the demo beat was to what it is now. 

What ranks higher for you, producing or creating your own music?

Producing, then music. You wouldn't even have me if I couldn't produce. Maybe now in Nigeria, you can go 'round and find people that are experimenting outside of the norms [of conventional music]. Now it's a better time. These songs were made years ago. I was there before everyone else. 

My first viral video on Instagram was because I carried a Travis Scott-type melody loop, and I put on Afrodrums. It went viral because, one, no one does this combo — and then a girl did it. I had a hunger; I wanted to create a specific sonic, and I was just struggling to piece it together. 

I can tell you that production came first. It was when I put that part of my artistry together that my lyrics started to shine. 

You've spent years crafting your sound we hear today. There's a trend of Afrobeats artists trying to break away from the label and form subgenres, like Burna Boy with Afro fusion and Rema with Afro rave. Is "Afro-escapism" your attempt at that break away? 

[Laughs.] Why are they attacking me with that Afro-escapism? It's weird, I love the different Afro subgenres: Afro-depression, Afro-escapism, Afro-sapa. There are no bad songs. I hate it that we eat away at each other.

There's so many styles of intelligence. You can't come and say this person's music is more deep or profound than another person's music. Everyone has their perspective, their language, but the content of what they're saying has value. As listeners, we should just never forget that it is important for us to also train ourselves to be good listeners for the music to thrive. 

The cover art for Anger Management represented you being sort of alone, but Anger Management: At Least We Tried looks different with bright colors. Is it safe to say that this depiction represents how you feel now? 

Yeah, it is. Being the "number one breakout artist of 2023" [laughs] made me see that Nigerian music is in trouble. [My team] worked hard, but it definitely just lets you see how hard it is to break in new acts. The way I see it, if you're not expressing yourself and you're not being authentically yourself, whatever you stand for, it's gonna be harder now than ever.

Looking back at [Anger Management], it wasn't really a happy time. But despite that, on-air-personalities literally reached out to me and were playing the music before we had worked out business and everything. It was very organic. 

With a lot of my accomplishments, I usually have to be made to understand the worth of it because it doesn't really dawn on me. I just felt this EP was made with me in a sunken place. I'm no longer in a sunken place, but I want to remix my EP. 

I'm feeling happy, excited. And it feels like a point in my life where so much can happen. It was also the first time people would see me interact with other artists, which for some reason fans like to see.

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

Mdou Moctar
Mdou Moctar

Photo: Nelson Espinal

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15 Essential Afrorock Songs: From The Funkees To Mdou Moctar

Explore the vibrant history of Afrorock, featuring artists BLO, War-Head Constriction, The Lijadu Sisters, and more that trace Africa's rich musical evolution from the '60s to today.

GRAMMYs/Jun 11, 2024 - 01:21 pm

Music is a cosmopolitan darling. In a world that speaks the language of travel and tourism, generations of sounds meet, influencing each other in a continuous exchange.

When seventeen African countries gained independence from colonial forces in 1960, the culture and entertainment landscape transformed significantly over the next four decades. Genres like highlife, jùjú, ethio-jazz, Raï, Congolese rumba, marabi, and fuji — which reigned before the '60s — gave way to hybrids such as Afrobeat and Afrorock in the late '60s and early '70s. These new styles blended American funk, jazz, rock and psychedelic elements into distinctly African creations.

In Zambia, Zamrock exploded on the music scene in the early '70s as a political statement, influenced by the heavy rock of Jimi Hendrix and smooth funk of James Brown. Bands like WITCH and Paul Ngozi embraced Western sounds while staying true to their roots by singing in Bemba and Nyanja accordingly.

In Nigeria, rock cults like the Fractions, War-Head Constriction, The Hykkers, Ofo and the Black Company, Ofege, The Lijadu Sisters, and BLO emerged in the wee hours of the Nigerian Civil War, swinging their electric guitars and mixing indigenous material with their newfound sounds. When the Nigeria-Biafran War became full-blown, some of these bands were employed to perform by the army, while some laid low in hotels, singing to anyone who cared to listen.

But while Afrobeat, pioneered by multi-instrumentalist Fela Kuti, has gained global recognition and acclaim over the decades as the continent's signature sound, Afrorock has not enjoyed the same achievement. In celebration of the diverse music coming from Africa, here are some classic songs that have defined the Afrorock style over the years.

Monomono — "Kenimania" (1972)

Monomono (Yoruba for "lightning") was one of the first Afrorock bands to emerge from Nigeria. Led by Joni Haastrup on vocals and keyboard, Babá Ken Okulolo on bass and Danjuma "Jimi Lee'' Adamu on the guitars, the group was influenced largely by British rock and Fela Kuti (the album cover literally offers "thanks to brother Fela, for the little hint that did a good job.") 

"Kenimania" appeared as a pure instrumental on their popular 1972 LP Give The Beggar A Chance, and vibrates with polyrhythmic drums, and a strained sax riff over a recurring "Hey!" on the track. 

BLO — "Chant to Mother Earth" (1973)

The Nigerian trio BLO, short for Berkeley Ike Jones, Laolu Akins Akintobi and Odumosu Gbenga Mike, is often hailed as "the first psych-rock band" from Africa and creators of Nigeria's inaugural psychedelic rock record. What sets BLO apart is their unique sound,  which combines a Hendrix-esque rock style with a sleepy, nostalgic texture. 

One of their standout tracks, "Chant to Mother Earth" from their 1973 album Chapter One, encapsulates this blend. It's a spiritual and earthy ballad that serves both as a song and an invocation, and it remains one of the trio's enduring hits.

Edzayawa — "Darkness" (1973)

The Ghanaian band Edzawaya developed a distinctive sound rooted in a 6/8 rhythm and heavily influenced by the music of the Ewe people from southeastern Ghana and western Togo, according to Soundway Records. Their only album, Projection One — delivered in 1973 — features "Darkness," a track that blends funk rock with deep percussive elements, part of their unique style. After recording this album under the guidance of Nigerian music legend Fela Kuti and producer Odium Iruoje in Lagos, the band quickly rose to prominence before disbanding in 1975.  

War-Head Constriction — "Graceful Bird" (1973)

"Graceful Bird" is a powerful single by the Nigerian band War-Head Constriction, featuring members Etim Bassey, Femi Lasode, and Martin Amenechi. Formed during the Nigerian Civil War, their music captures the intense period of their emergence. 

Released under Afrodisia as a single, the track is known for its heavy metal influences, characterized by "long, snarling guitar solos and piles of distortion" according to Pitchfork. The lyrics are a testimony to the harsh turmoil of war and loss. "You just laughed when you saw us cry / Coming to do the slaying / Women fall from grace to grass / Now it's your turn to fade / No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no."

The Funkees — "Breakthrough" (1974)

If BLO pioneered Afrorock, The Funkees evolved it, embedding the spirit of their era in their lyrics. Their upbeat music, particularly popular among the rebellious Biafran youth during the Nigerian Civil War, broke through national borders and resonated with the diaspora. "Breakthrough" from their 1974 album Slipping Into Darkness, is a lyrical exploration of mental liberation. The song's influence continues to echo in modern music, with samples by Kendrick Lamar in "Worldwide Steppers" (2022) and Madlib in "Brothers and Sisters" (2010) cementing its status as a significant work.

Akofa Akoussah — "La Lem" (1976)

In 1966, Julie Akofa Akoussah gained significant exposure on the Togolese music scene when she shared the stage with her compatriot Bella Bellow at the first Negro Arts Festival in Dakar, Senegal.

A decade later, her 1976 eponymous album, Akofa Akoussah, transcended both musical genres and national boundaries. Her music captivated audiences in Ghana and Benin and caught the attention of renowned artists such as Miriam Makeba, Manu Dibango, and Aycha Koné. "La Lem", a standout track from the album, features a haunting guitar intro that persists throughout the song, complementing its deeply soulful lyrics. 

The Lijadu Sisters — "Life's Gone Down Low" (1976)

Growing up in Ibadan, Nigeria in the '50s, Taiwo and Kehinde Lijadu listened to a lot of records from Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Cliff Richard and Ella Fitzgerald. Far from limiting themselves to a particular style, the duo also drew influences from western jazz, rock, funk and soul, crafting a diverse and experimental sound. 

"Life's Gone Down Low" from their Danger album, is a testament to this eclectic style. The song, which gained popular recognition due to an uncredited sample by the rapper Nas on "Life's Gone Low", features an insistent electric guitar hovering over the chorus "Life's gone down / Down / Down / Down / Down."

Amanaz — "Khala My Friend" (1975)

Amanaz, an acronym for Ask Me About Nice Artistes In Zambia, were a force to reckon with in the Zamrock scene of Zambia. Formed in Kitwe in 1973, the five-piece band featured the compelling vocals of lead singer Keith Kabwe and the acid guitars of John Kanyepa and Isaac Mpofu. 

The track "Khala My Friend," from the 1975 album Africa, remains a staple in bars and outdoor events across Zambia today. A fusion of rock, funk, and traditional Zambian music, the song is an expression of camaraderie and longing. It has not only become a definitive record of the Zamrock subgenre, but has also gained worldwide acclaim from music critics and enthusiasts alike.

Fadoul — "Bsslama Hbibti" ('70s)

Fadoul, a Moroccan three-piece band, gained notoriety when "Bsslama Hbibti'' was  featured in the first compilation by German record label Habibi Funk, which showcased funk, soul and jazz tracks from the 1970s across Sudan, Libya, Morocco and Egypt. While the exact year this gem was recorded is debatable, "Bsslama Hbibti'' is a vibrant mix of funk with some shiny elements of rock that features raw drum beats, fierce guitar riffs, and Fadoul's intense, impassioned lyrics. 

Tinariwen — "Matadjem Yinmixan" (2007)

Malian band Tinariwen has become a cornerstone of desert rock, earning a GRAMMY for Best World Music in 2012 and influencing bands including Kel Assouf and Imarhan. Becoming the Fela Kuti of their genre, their music resonates with a distinctive, gritty essence.  

"Matadjem Yinmixan" ("Why All This Hate Between You?") from their 2007 album Cler Achel, offers pointed criticism of the terrorist groups in the Sahara region which have even captured the band's own members. On the track, the electric chomp of the guitar intertwines with a buoyant beat as a chorus of voices heightens the lyrical tension.

Vaudou Game feat. Roger Damawuzan — "Pas Contente" (2014)

Vaudou Game is the collaboration of Togolese singer and guitarist Peter Solo and a quintet of instrumentalists from Lyon, France. Their well-known hit "Pas Contente" ("I'm Not Happy") has been touted as a funk ballad, it stands out for its dreamy psychedelic rock guitar echoing throughout the track.

Baba Commandant and The Mandingo Band — "Wasso" (2015)

From Burkina Faso, Baba Commandant and The Mandingo Band is led by Mamadou Sanou, an activist that bridges traditional Manding music with modern Burkinabe funk.

Influenced by the diverse style of Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, and Moussa Doumba, the band recorded "Wasso" at the renowned Ouaga Jungle Studios in 2015. The track exemplifies the band's raw and unrefined sound, blending Mandingue guitar, the native harp donso n'goni, dub, and afrobeat into a cohesive funk rock texture. 

Imarhan — "Tahabort" (2016)

The desert rock sextet Imarhan is one of the promising avant-garde bands to come out of Northern Africa. Not only do they combine influences as diverse as Algerian Rai music, American jazz, Burkinabe funk, and global pop, they also find solace in ancestral Tamashek poetry.

Off their eponymous album, "Taharbot" stands out as a fast-paced number that skillfully weaves together restless elements of raï and funk. There is a combination of a robust bass, reverb guitar loops, complex polyrhythms, and a sweet spot in the riveting riff. 

BCUC — "The Journey with Mr. Van Der Merwe" (2016)

Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness (BCUC), formed in Soweto in 2003, uniquely integrates all of South Africa's official languages into their music.  The seven-piece act draws from indigenous and modern music, combining ritual songs, fireside chants, church hymns, and rap with a rock and roll spirit. 

"The Journey with Mr. Van Der Merwe" from their 2016 The Healing album, is a long spell of different sounds anchored by the presence of a strong electric bass guitar. The song serves as a critique of the exploitation of South Africa's rural poor by the urban elite, and incorporates a traditional South African call-and-response that develops into a dub style mid-song.

Mdou Moctar — "Chismiten" (2021)

From their 2021 album Afrique Victime, "Chismiten" rises amid the politically charged and anti-colonial themes of Mdou Moctar's recent work. 

Produced by Michael "Mikey" Coltun, "Chismiten" earned the Tuareg musician and his band attention for challenging conventional definitions of rock music. With its upbeat and danceable sound and strained guitar riffs, Mdou Moctar sings about tişmiten, a Tamasheq word for jealousy. "The song is about how people in a relationship lose their sense of self, they become jealous and envious of others," Mdou explained on Remove.  

Three New Categories Added For The 2024 GRAMMYs: Best African Music Performance, Best Alternative Jazz Album & Best Pop Dance Recording

Tems Press Photo 2024
Tems

Photo: Adrienne Raquel

interview

Tems On How 'Born In The Wild' Represents Her Story Of "Survival" & Embracing Every Part Of Herself

As Tems celebrates the release of her debut album, the Nigerian songstress details what 'Born In The Wild' means to her, and how the process helped her "be the person that I'm meant to be."

GRAMMYs/Jun 7, 2024 - 04:24 pm

In 2018, Tems quit her corporate job to focus solely on what she calls her life's purpose: making music. And in the six years since, she's certainly proven that it's what she was born to do. 

The Nigerian artist's appeal was initially apparent in her home country after she released a string of singles in 2018 and 2019, but it quickly became clear that Tems was poised for global stardom. Just after the arrival of her debut EP, 2020's For Broken Ears, she teamed up with Wizkid for the Afrobeats smash "Essence," which showcased her signature ethereal melodies and introspective storytelling. She soon became a sought-after collaborator, being recruited for Drake's Certified Lover Boy, Beyoncé's Renaissance, and Future's I Never Liked You — the latter of which, a collaboration alongside Drake titled "Wait For U," won Tems her first GRAMMY in 2023.  

Along the way, Tems continued to shine as a star in her own right. After earning a record deal with RCA in 2021, she released her second EP, If Orange Was a Place, and notched hits on Billboard's Hot R&B Songs with "Free Mind" and "Not an Angel." And now, she's ready to continue her winning streak with her debut album, Born in the Wild.

There's a running theme that speaks to Tems' desire for success and meeting the moment across the album's 18 tracks, as evidenced by songs like "Wickedest," "Burning," "Ready," and the titular track. Elsewhere, "Me & U" speaks to inner peace and self-perception, while her latest single "Love Me JeJe" represents her Nigerian roots by interpolating Seyi Sodimu's 1997 hit of the same name. 

As a Lagos-born artist, Tems naturally leans into Afrobeats. But much like her previous EPs, Born in the Wild sees her melding a lot of genres like R&B and soul ("You in My Face") and even rap ("T-Unit"); she also welcomes a more stripped-down approach on standout tracks "Unfortunate" and "Boy O Boy." The album doesn't just show her versatility — it hints at an exciting career that's only getting started.

Ahead of Born in the Wild's release, Tems sat down with GRAMMY.com to discuss the inspiration behind her debut album, what she learned about herself during the creative process, and existing outside of the Afrobeats genre.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Debut albums set the tone for an artist's entire career. What do you want to convey with Born in the Wild?

As humans, we are multidimensional beings. Born in the Wild is about embracing all of oneself. Thinking about when I decided to go into music up until this point, I had to figure out the best way to tell that story of the Nigerian girl that became this person called Tems. And that person was born in the wilderness. Yes, I was born in Africa, but the wilderness is more about the difficulties that I faced mentally and the jump from working a 9 to 5 to trying to sing when nobody believes in you and everybody laughs at you.

Born in the Wild is about survival; I was born in a survival state and raised to survive. Coming from that to now being someone who has the ability to dominate, the ability to overcome and to conquer — that's the story. That's my story.

Born in the Wild speaks to success and taking advantage of every opportunity that is presented to you. It sounds like you're documenting your journey in real time. Can you speak more to that?

I'm someone who doesn't like attention. Like, I could be in my room making my music for months, and I would not even fathom sharing my music. I'm such an introvert like that. I love my alone time. I do everything I can to make sure I can just go back into my cave.

"Ready" is about the moment that I decided I will no longer hide, I will no longer be in my comfort zone, I will no longer be silent. I recognize that what I need to do is bigger than me. It's not about what I like or what's comfortable for me. It's what needs to be done, you know? I cannot make art and just be enjoying my own art like that. 

I'm willing to overcome myself so that I can be the person that I'm meant to be, and I'm ready now to face whatever difficulty, whatever obstacle comes my way. Even if it makes me cry, even if it makes me angry, even if it makes me sad, I'm ready. I'll do it crying. I'll do it angry. I'm going to continue going forward. That's a decision I've made, and I haven't turned back since.

Do you feel like you're still in survival mode, or are you slowly coming out of that and now being able to somewhat relish in the success you've had?

I don't think after survival comes relish. I think after survival comes learning and unlearning. I think now I'm in a place where I can actually thrive. I can flourish and grow and blossom more into the person that I'm meant to be. I can take things and I can receive love easier. I can understand things better, because I'm not too busy trying to survive that I forget to actually learn the lessons that are meant to help me overcome the things that come my way. Life is always gonna be life, but then you develop a different type of strength when you're not in survival mode.

When did you know Born in the Wild was going to be a full-length album and not another EP? In a 2023 interview, you said you weren't sure which way it was going to go amid some of those early recording sessions.

I don't know the particular moment; I just woke up and realized that the things I've been working on are all seemingly coming together. I definitely was more intricate with each of the songs, more critical of the songs. I had to remove myself from them as if I wasn't making them. That way, I could see them objectively for what they were. 

In terms of the process of actually creating the music, it has not changed. I still kind of approach it like, I'm going to make music today. I don't know what's gonna happen today, but I hope it's something great.

Was there anything about the creative process that surprised you?

I've changed a lot from the person that started writing, like from the earliest song that was written until now. I literally learned how to trust the process. I used to say that all the time, but in my mind, I was like, I trust the process, I guess. I don't know what that is, but cool. I tried to rush it, but it just doesn't work out when you do, no matter what. 

So, I just did my best showing up every single day, taking it step by step, day by day. And that will frustrate you, but then I started learning to observe myself in frustration, like, Wow, okay. Why is this happening? Just allowing yourself to be is also part of trusting the process.

As Afrobeats continues to reach new heights, how can consumers and the industry do better at supporting African artists so they don't feel pigeonholed or confined to solely Afrobeats?

Every artist has the power and ability to define themselves. Every artist is in charge of how they view themselves. Some people call me R&B, some people call me alternative, some people call me Afrobeats. When I'm making music, I am not thinking, Oh, because I released 'Free Mind,' all my songs must sound like "Free Mind" or Because I did "Try Me Now," I have to stay there. Otherwise, who is going to consume my music?

I just kind of do my thing, which I feel every artist should do as well. They should go hard and stand for themselves, and define who they are for themselves, because the world can't define who you are in any sector. Nobody outside of you can define you. You define yourself, and the world acts accordingly. They respond to your definition.

What did winning your first GRAMMY in 2023 mean to you? And what do you hope that 2024 unlocks for you?

Winning a GRAMMY for me feels like, Wow, I'm being seen. I feel seen, and I feel acknowledged. I also feel hopeful for other African artists.

For 2024, I want to do my very best to present my art in the best way possible as I see the vision in my head. I'm not really thinking about what's gonna come from that, but I just know I want to really do something different with Born in the Wild. I'm really focused on doing that and having fun while I do that. It's gonna be incredible. I can't wait.

With Her Debut Album, Tyla Is Ready To Make Her Official Introduction: "It's Me In Music Form"

Usher Collaborator Pheelz Talks New EP
Pheelz

Photo: Williams Peters

interview

Meet Usher Collaborator Pheelz, The Nigerian Producer & Singer Who Wants You To 'Pheelz Good'

After working with Usher on two tracks for his latest album, 'Coming Home,' Lagos' Pheelz is looking inward. His new EP, 'Pheelz Good II' drops May 10 and promises to be an embrace of the artist's unabashed self.

GRAMMYs/May 9, 2024 - 01:15 pm

If you were online during the summer of 2022, chances are you’ve heard Pheelz’s viral hit single "Finesse." The swanky Afro-fusion track (featuring fellow Nigerian artist Bnxn) ushered in a world of crossover success for Pheelz, who began his career as a producer for the likes of Omah Lay, Davido, and Fireboy DML.

Born Phillip Kayode Moses, Pheelz’s religious upbringing in Lagos state contributed to his development as a musician. He manned the choir at his father’s church while actively working on his solo music. Those solo efforts garnered praise from his peers and music executives, culminating in Pheelz's debut EP in 2021. Hear Me Out saw Pheelz fully embrace his talent as a vocalist, songwriter, and producer. 

"I feel important, like I’m just molding clay, and I have control over each decision," Pheelz tells GRAMMY.com about creating his own music. 

2022 saw the release of the first two tapes in his Pheelz Good trilogy: Pheelz Good I and Pheelz Good (Triibe Tape), which was almost entirely self-produced. The 29-year-old's consistency has paid off: he produced and sang on Usher’s "Ruin," the lead single from his latest album Coming Home, and also produced the album's title track featuring Burna Boy. But Pheelz isn't only about racking up big-name collaborators; the self-proclaimed African rockstar's forthcoming projects will center on profound vulnerability and interpersonal honesty. First up: Pheelz Good II EP, out May 10, followed by a studio album in late summer.

Both releases will see the multi-hyphenate "being unapologetically myself," Pheelz tells GRAMMY.com. "It will also be me being as vulnerable as I can be. And it’s going to be me embracing my "crayge" [crazy rage]...being myself, and allowing my people to gravitate towards me."

Ahead of his new project, Pheelz spoke with GRAMMY.com about his transition from producer artist, designing all his own 3D cover art, his rockstar aesthetic, and what listeners can expect from Pheelz Good II.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

What sparked your transition from singing in church to realizing your passion for creating music?

For me, it wasn’t really a transition. I just always loved making music so for me I felt like it was just wherever I go to make music, that’s where I wanna be. I would be in church and I was the choirmaster at some point in my life, so I would write songs for Sunday service as well. And then I would go to school as well and write in school, and people heard me and they would love it. And I would want to do more of that as well. 

A friend of my dad played some of my records for the biggest producers in Nigeria back then and took me on as an intern in his studio. I guess that’s the transition from church music into the industry. My brothers and sisters were in the choir, but that came with the job of being the children of the pastor, I guess. None of them really did music like me; I’m the only one who took music as a career and pursued it.

You made a name for yourself as a producer before ever releasing your music, earning Producer Of The Year at Nigeria’s Headies Awards numerous times. What finally pushed you to get into the booth?

I’ve always wanted to get into the booth. The reason why I actually started producing was to produce beats for songs that I had written. I’ve always been in the booth, but always had something holding me back. Like a kind of subconscious feeling over what my childhood has been. I wasn’t really outspoken as a child growing up, so I wouldn’t want people to really hear me and would shy away from the camera in a sense. I think that stuck with me and held me back. 

But then COVID happened and then I caught COVID and I’m like Oh my god and like that [snaps fingers] What I am doing? Why am I not going full steam? Like why do I have all this amazing awesomeness inside of me and no one gets to it because I’m scared of this or that?

There was this phrase that kept ringing in my head: You have to die empty. You can’t leave this earth with all of this gift that God has given you; you have to make sure you empty yourself. And since then, it’s just been back-to-back, which just gave me the courage.  

How did you react to " Finesse" in former President Barack Obama’s annual summer playlist in 2022?

Bro, I reacted crazy but my dad went bananas. [Laughs.] I was really grateful for that moment, but just watching my dad react like that to that experience was the highlight of that moment for me. He's such a fan of Barack Obama and to see that his son’s music is on the playlist, it just made his whole month. Literally. He still talks about it to this day. 

Experiences like that just make me feel very grateful to be here. Life has really been a movie, just watching a movie and just watching God work and being grateful for everything.

At first he [my dad] [didn’t support my career] because every parent wants their child to be a doctor, a lawyer, or an engineer. But when he saw the hunger [I have], and I was stubborn with [wanting] to do music, he just had to let me do it. And now he’s my number one fan. 

Your latest single, "Go Low" arrived just in time for festival season. What was it like exploring the live elements of your art at SXSW and your headlining show in London at the end of April?

I have always wanted to perform live. I’ve always loved performing; Pheelz on stage is the best Pheelz. Coming from church every Sunday, I would perform, lead prayers and worship, so I’ve always wanted to experience that again.

Having to perform live with my band around the world is incredible man. And I’ll forever raise the flag of amazing Afro live music because there’s a difference, you know? [Laughs.] There are so many elements and so many rhythms and so many grooves

I’ve noticed that much of your recent cover art for your singles and EPs is animated or digitally crafted. What’s the significance, if any, of this stylistic choice?

It still goes back to my childhood because I wasn’t expressive as a child; I wouldn’t really talk or say how I felt. I’d rather write about it, write a song about it, write a poem about it, or draw about it. I’d draw this mask and then put how I’m feeling into that character, so if I was angry, the mask would be raging and just angry.

The angry ones were the best ones, so that stuck with me even after I started coming out of my shell and talking and being expressive; that act of drawing a mask still stuck with me. And then I got into 3D, and I made a 3D version of the mask and I made a 3D character of the mask. So I made that the main character, and then I just started making my lyric videos, again post-COVID, and making them [lyric videos] to the characters and making the actual video mine as well.

In the future, I’m gonna get into fashion with the characters, I’m gonna get into animation and cartoons and video games, but I just wanna take it one step at a time with the music first. So, in all of my lyric videos, you get to experience the characters. There’s a fight [scene] among them in one of the lyric videos called "Ewele"; there is the lover boy in the lyric video for "Stand by You"; there are the bad boys in the lyric video for "Balling." They all have their own different characters so hopefully in the near future, I will get to make a feature film with them and just tell their story [and] build a world with them. I make sure I put extra energy into that, make most of them myself so the imprint of my energy is gonna be on it as well because it’s very important to me.

You and Usher have a lengthy working relationship. You first performed together in 2022 at the Global Citizen Festival, then produced/co-wrote "Coming Home" and "Ruin." Take us through the journey of how you two began collaborating.

It started through a meeting with [Epic Records CEO] L.A. Reid; he was telling me about the album that they were working on for Usher and I’m like, "Get me into the studio and lemme see what I can cook up." And they got me into the studio, [with Warner Records A&R] Marc Byers, and I wrote and produced "Coming Home." I already had "Ruin" a year before that. 

["Ruin"] was inspired by a breakup I just went through. Some of the greatest art comes from pain, I guess. That record was gonna be for my album but after I came home I saw how L.A. Reid and Usher reacted and how they loved it. I told them, "I have this other song, and I think you guys would like it for this album." And I played "Ruin," and the rest was history.

Before your upcoming EP, you’ve worked with Pharrell Williams, Kail Uchis, and the Chainsmokers in the studio. What do you consider when selecting potential collaborators?

To be honest, I did not look for these collabs. It was like life just brought them my way, because for me I’m open to any experience. I’m open to life; I do it the best I can at any moment, you understand? 

Having worked with Pharrell now, Dr. Dre, Timbaland, and the Chainsmokers, I’m still shocked at the fact that this is happening. But ultimately, I am grateful for the fact that this is happening. I am proud of myself as well for how far I’ve come. Someone like Timbaland — they are literally the reason why I started producing music; I would literally copy their beats, and try to sound like them growing up. 

[Now] I have them in the same room talking, and we’re teaching and learning, making music and feeding off of each others’ energy. It’s a dream come true, literally.

What's it like working with am electro-pop group like the Chainsmokers? How’d you keep your musical authenticity on "PTSD"?

That experiment ["PTSD"] was actually something I would play with back home. But the crazy thing is, it’s gonna be on the album now, not the EP. I would play it back home, like just trying to get the EDM and Afrohouse world to connect, cause I get in my Albert Einstein bag sometimes and just try and experiment. So when I met the Chainsmokers and like. "Okay, this is an opportunity to actually do it now," and we had a very lengthy conversation. 

We bonded first as friends before we went into the studio. We had an amazing conversation talking about music, [them] talking about pop and electronic music, and me talking about African music. So it was just a bunch of producers geeking out on what they love to do. And then we just talk through how we think the sound would be like really technical terms. Then we get into the studio and just bang it out. Hopefully, we get to make some more music because I think we can create something for the world together.

I’ve noticed you dress a bit eccentrically. Have you always had this aesthetic?

I’ve always dabbled in fashion. Even growing up, I would sketch for my sister and make this little clothing, so like I would kick up my uniform as well, make it baggy, make it flare pants, make it fly. 

I think that stuck with me until now, trying different things with fashion. And now I have like stylists I can talk to and throw ideas off of and create something together. So yeah, I want to get into the fashion space and see what the world has in store for me. 

What can fans expect as you’re putting the finishing touches on your upcoming EP Pheelz Good II and your album?

Pheelz Good II, [will be] a close to the Pheelz Good trilogy of Pheelz Good I, Pheelz Good Triibe Tape and Pheelz Good II. The album is going to be me being unapologetically myself still. But it will also be me being as vulnerable as I can be. 

It’s going to be me embracing my crayge [crazy rage]. Like just embracing me unapologetically and being me, being myself, and allowing my people to gravitate towards me, you get me. But I’m working on some really amazing music that I am so proud of. I’m so proud of the EP and the album.

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Photo of a gold GRAMMY trophy against a black background with white lights.
GRAMMY Award statue

Photo: Jathan Campbell

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How Much Is A GRAMMY Worth? 7 Facts To Know About The GRAMMY Award Trophy

Here are seven facts to know about the actual cost and worth of a GRAMMY trophy, presented once a year by the Recording Academy at the GRAMMY Awards.

GRAMMYs/May 1, 2024 - 04:23 pm

Since 1959, the GRAMMY Award has been music’s most coveted honor. Each year at the annual GRAMMY Awards, GRAMMY-winning and -nominated artists are recognized for their musical excellence by their peers. Their lives are forever changed — so are their career trajectories. And when you have questions about the GRAMMYs, we have answers.

Here are seven facts to know about the value of the GRAMMY trophy.

How Much Does A GRAMMY Trophy Cost To Make?

The cost to produce a GRAMMY Award trophy, including labor and materials, is nearly $800. Bob Graves, who cast the original GRAMMY mold inside his garage in 1958, passed on his legacy to John Billings, his neighbor, in 1983. Billings, also known as "The GRAMMY Man," designed the current model in use, which debuted in 1991.

How Long Does It Take To Make A GRAMMY Trophy?

Billings and his crew work on making GRAMMY trophies throughout the year. Each GRAMMY is handmade, and each GRAMMY Award trophy takes 15 hours to produce. 

Where Are The GRAMMY Trophies Made?

While Los Angeles is the headquarters of the Recording Academy and the GRAMMYs, and regularly the home of the annual GRAMMY Awards, GRAMMY trophies are produced at Billings Artworks in Ridgway, Colorado, about 800 miles away from L.A.

Is The GRAMMY Award Made Of Real Gold?

GRAMMY Awards are made of a trademarked alloy called "Grammium" — a secret zinc alloy — and are plated with 24-karat gold.

How Many GRAMMY Trophies Are Made Per Year?

Approximately 600-800 GRAMMY Award trophies are produced per year. This includes both GRAMMY Awards and Latin GRAMMY Awards for the two Academies; the number of GRAMMYs manufactured each year always depends on the number of winners and Categories we award across both award shows.

Fun fact: The two GRAMMY trophies have different-colored bases. The GRAMMY Award has a black base, while the Latin GRAMMY Award has a burgundy base.

Photos: Gabriel Bouys/AFP via Getty Images; Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

How Much Does A GRAMMY Weigh?

The GRAMMY trophy weighs approximately 5 pounds. The trophy's height is 9-and-a-half inches. The trophy's width is nearly 6 inches by 6 inches.

What Is The True Value Of A GRAMMY?

Winning a GRAMMY, and even just being nominated for a GRAMMY, has an immeasurable positive impact on the nominated and winning artists. It opens up new career avenues, builds global awareness of artists, and ultimately solidifies a creator’s place in history. Since the GRAMMY Award is the only peer-voted award in music, this means artists are recognized, awarded and celebrated by those in their fields and industries, ultimately making the value of a GRAMMY truly priceless and immeasurable.

In an interview featured in the 2024 GRAMMYs program book, two-time GRAMMY winner Lauren Daigle spoke of the value and impact of a GRAMMY Award. "Time has passed since I got my [first] GRAMMYs, but the rooms that I am now able to sit in, with some of the most incredible writers, producers and performers on the planet, is truly the greatest gift of all." 

"Once you have that credential, it's a different certification. It definitely holds weight," two-time GRAMMY winner Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter of the Roots added. "It's a huge stamp as far as branding, businesswise, achievement-wise and in every regard. What the GRAMMY means to people, fans and artists is ever-evolving." 

As Billboard explains, artists will often see significant boosts in album sales and streaming numbers after winning a GRAMMY or performing on the GRAMMY stage. This is known as the "GRAMMY Effect," an industry phenomenon in which a GRAMMY accolade directly influences the music biz and the wider popular culture. 

For new artists in particular, the "GRAMMY Effect" has immensely helped rising creators reach new professional heights. Samara Joy, who won the GRAMMY for Best New Artist at the 2023 GRAMMYs, saw a 989% boost in sales and a 670% increase in on-demand streams for her album Linger Awhile, which won the GRAMMY for Best Jazz Vocal Album that same night. H.E.R., a former Best New Artist nominee, saw a massive 6,771% increase in song sales for her hit “I Can’t Breathe” on the day it won the GRAMMY for Song Of The Year at the 2021 GRAMMYs, compared to the day before, Rolling Stone reports

Throughout the decades, past Best New Artist winners have continued to dominate the music industry and charts since taking home the GRAMMY gold — and continue to do so to this day. Recently, Best New Artist winners dominated the music industry and charts in 2023: Billie Eilish (2020 winner) sold 2 million equivalent album units, Olivia Rodrigo (2022 winner) sold 2.1 million equivalent album units, and Adele (2009 winner) sold 1.3 million equivalent album units. Elsewhere, past Best New Artist winners have gone on to star in major Hollywood blockbusters (Dua Lipa); headline arena tours and sign major brand deals (Megan Thee Stallion); become LGBTIA+ icons (Sam Smith); and reach multiplatinum status (John Legend).

Most recently, several winners, nominees and performers at the 2024 GRAMMYs saw significant bumps in U.S. streams and sales: Tracy Chapman's classic, GRAMMY-winning single "Fast Car," which she performed alongside Luke Combs, returned to the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the first time since 1988, when the song was originally released, according to Billboard. Fellow icon Joni Mitchell saw her ‘60s classic “Both Sides, Now,” hit the top 10 on the Digital Song Sales chart, Billboard reports.

In addition to financial gains, artists also experience significant professional wins as a result of their GRAMMY accolades. For instance, after she won the GRAMMY for Best Reggae Album for Rapture at the 2020 GRAMMYs, Koffee signed a U.S. record deal; after his first GRAMMYs in 2014, Kendrick Lamar saw a 349% increase in his Instagram following, Billboard reports. 

Visit our interactive GRAMMY Awards Journey page to learn more about the GRAMMY Awards and the voting process behind the annual ceremony.

2024 GRAMMYs: See The Full Winners & Nominees List