meta-scriptBootsy Collins: "I'm Hoping The World Comes Together Like We Did On This Album" | GRAMMY.com
Bootsy Collins: "I'm Hoping The World Comes Together Like We Did On This Album"

Bootsy Collins

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Bootsy Collins: "I'm Hoping The World Comes Together Like We Did On This Album"

On his new album, 'The Power of the One,' released Oct. 23 on his own Bootzilla Records, we witness the almost-69-year-old (his birthday is Oct. 26) thriving in his musical playground

GRAMMYs/Oct 24, 2020 - 04:09 am

GRAMMY winner and 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Bootsy Collins has been embodying the funk and sharing his grooviness for decades, ever since he joined James Brown's band in 1969. It was then, from the Godfather of Soul himself, he first learned the Power of the One, or the importance of synching on the one-beat.

With George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, Bootsy's Rubber Band, his solo records and endless collaborations, he's harnessed that funky power and grown it into a philosophy, a way of life. Through it all he's always bringing the funk into new spaces and to new ears, whether directly—Fatboy Slim's GRAMMY-winning 2000 dance anthem "Weapon Of Choice" wouldn't soar without Collin's voice—or through those he's influenced like Childish Gambino on his infectiously groovy GRAMMY-winner "Redbone." He is the true definition of a living legend, yet he's incredibly humble and always interested in learning more and working with other artists.

On his new album, The Power of the One, released today (Oct. 23) on his own Bootzilla Records, we witness the almost-69-year-old (his birthday is Oct. 26) thriving in his musical playground. It's playful, funky, joyous and filled with talented collaborators from across the musical spectrum, including Snoop Dogg, Dr. Cornel West, Branford Marsalis, Ellis Hall and up-and-comers Brandon "Taz" Niederauer and Emmaline. While he had to adapt to virtual collaboration when they pandemic hit—the album was about half done at this point—he is undeniably thrilled with the result and rightly so.

"To be around these people, they made the record become what it is because to have the older people with the younger people and everyone in-between, all this going on on the record. And just making music together. It's like making love, it's like making friends. In a time like we're in now, to do that, what else could you ask for? It's just a great feeling. I can tell you, I know they had the same kind of feeling," Collins told us recently over the phone.

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We caught up with the master himself to learn more about finishing the album during quarantine, bringing together the talented collaborators, mentoring younger artists over the years and, of course, the Power of the One.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. I hope your day is good so far.

Yeah. Just gearing up, getting myself together to go out there and do it one more time, you know? We got the record off. That was the good part for me, was to at least get through it because it is a very deep time that kind of hit us out of the blue. Getting through it was a beautiful thing. It actually helped keep me sane.

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I bet, having something to work on. And my first question is about your new album, The Power Of The One, which is coming out pretty soon. What do you hope this album offers to the world and to its listeners?

I'm hoping the world comes together like we did on this album. All the musicians, everybody that really put their time and energy in it—and they really, really wanted to do it. It wasn't like somebody forced them to do it or paid them on such a big scale that they just had to do it. Everybody joined me and did it because it was fun.

It reminded everybody that, even in a difficult time, each and every one of us can get some kind of joy out of it and at the same time, help somebody else share some good vibes. If we didn't get nothing else but some good vibes, that was really good enough because everybody needs some of that right now.

I think on this record, that's what it's really all about. Good vibes, being in the kitchen cooking up something a little different here and there, using a different recipe. Even a recipe that's not traditional. On this album, that's what I wanted to show—it doesn't have to be a certain traditional record. It could be everybody together just having a good time because, to me, that was the main thing. Stop stressing yourself. Have a good time doing it and doing it with somebody you want to do it with. That's key. I think everybody felt that and it comes off of the record like that, from what people are telling me.

You're right, I think we all need some good vibes right now.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That to me is what the Power of the One is, the power of all of the people coming together and just doing what we have to do to get through it, to get over the hump. Putting all of our differences all by the wayside because we all realize we're just human and we need each other. We're coming up in a time where people don't really feel like they need each other because the technology we have is saying you don't need nobody. You can take your office with you. You got it right there in your hand, your iPhone, and you really don't need people.

Once you get used to that, it turns on you. It's like a Frankenstein monster. The monster is cool and everything, but one day he wakes up and realizes he's a monster and turns on you. I think that's what happened in the world. We got to take the power within all of us where we're standing. I think this music will help in our healing, help in our focus, and help us to have a little joy and a little fun along with all the deepness that is going on. That's what I wanted to do with this record, really just to put some joy and fun in everybody's lives.

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Can you explain the Power of the One a little more, both like musical technique and the philosophy?

Well, actually The Power of the One grew out of when I worked with James Brown, he was always saying to the band, "You got to put it on the one. Give me that one and you can play everything else, but just hit it on the one." On every measure you count, the emphasis is on that down beat. To this day, even on a computer, when you have a four by four [beat], you got that one. You'll hear that click louder on the emphasis on that one beat. That brings everybody's focus to it.

This is where we all meet up, right here on the one. I, out of that training with James Brown, I took that over to Parliament-Funkadelic and George Clinton made a whole concept out of everything's on the one. He even made a record called "Everything Is On The One." I guess with all of that growing and experiencing the one, it grew to me as even bigger than just being a musical term. Now for me, it's more everybody is part of the Power of the One.

It's like everybody's around that one wall and everybody gets that certain frequency all at the same time and that wall will come down. That's the Power of the One. We just have to realize that that's what we got to do, everybody's got to be in sync with each other. Once we began to be in sync with each other, all of this mess that we're going through falls down. I want to get people to realize that we do have that power within ourselves.

We got to get focused and quit running from each other. We've got to all come together on the one and that's when you get the Power of the One. I'm just trying to redirect people to come together. It doesn't matter who your father is—I just have to respect your father and you have to respect mine. That's the Power of the One, when you realize that none of that stuff really matters.

We're all on this spaceship mother earth and we're traveling through time and space on earth. This is our mothership. Nobody's throwing us out. We're on it together and the sooner we realize that, the better. Because you can't be here and be better than somebody else. I'm not better than nobody else. Out here, I'm just like you.

It's really about us getting along and getting together while we're here. This is the opportunity for us. It's just like this album. This album was the opportunity to put all these beautiful people together that are not necessarily supposed to be together on a record. I'm just crazy enough to believe that if we can do it on an album, we can certainly can do this in a world like we have today.

That's mainly the reason I wanted to do something like this, to show that it's bigger than all of us. It's much bigger than what I think it should be or what you think it should be. It's much bigger than that and that's the Power of the One that's within all of us. No one's got it more, no one's got it less. Everybody has their power, you just have to develop it.

"It's really about us getting along and getting together while we're here. This is the opportunity for us. It's just like this album. This album was the opportunity to put all these beautiful people together that are not necessarily supposed to be together on a record. I'm just crazy enough to believe that if we can do it on an album, we can certainly can do this in a world like we have today."

That's some philosophy right there.

[Laughs.] I hope you got it down. I'd like to read that book myself. [Laughs.] Oh, man. That's the top layer at least. I'll have to keep digging and we'll get more of it coming up. For now, that's where I'm at. I just want people to respect and believe in each other, and dig in on each other. We got to get back to having some kind of fun. I think that's got a lot to do with why this has happened. These kinds of tragedies, it's like man, if you can't wake up after this, you're already dead. I know we're not dead now.

We're being hard headed. We are thinking we're something that we're not. We're all human. We haven't transformed yet into that other frequency. Until then, we got to deal with each other. We got to start learning how to because we've been learning the complete opposite. Now, the One has introduced us, now you have to know and love and trust each other. There's no other alternative now. We are past that point. It's either that or the other craziness.

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I feel that. There are a lot of really great collabs on the album, but I wanted to talk specifically about the creative process behind "Jam On" with Snoop Dogg and Brandon Taz. How did that one happen?

Oh, man. That was a track that Snoop and I had done and hadn't really finished. We did it for another album. It was like, man, that track would show a lot of fun and that you can mix different things and come up with something that is not new in a sense, but I guess fresh for today. It brings the old with the new, the guitar playing from Taz, his new energy that he's got, with Snoop's raps and my own peace vibe going on. I thought that would be a beautiful, what you would call, a sandwich or a dinner. Sure enough, it was so easy to put together. I talked to Taz, then I went to see him at a concert. This was all before the pandemic hit.

We got to vibing and I was like, "Man, we should go in the studio." And sure enough, we went to Sweetwater and recorded all of his stuff. And Snoop and myself, we did our parts here at the Bootcave [his home studio]. We got lucky on that song, because got about 60 percent done with the album [before the pandemic] and the rest of it we had to start sending out on WeTransfer, that kind of stuff.

We send them to artists and they send you back what they did and then you get on the phone and talk about what needs to change, what key to go to and this, that and the other. That was a much harder way of recording than being in the studio with the actual person. That's when it's really fun. I got a 50/50 deal on recording this album—recording half live and then the other 50 percent we had to record basically on the internet.

That was something I had to get used to, but at the same time, I don't think I'll ever get used to that. But I learned how to do it, enough to get it done. We started adding horns, all kinds of different stuff, but I had to send the actual file to the person. That particular song, "Jam On," we got that pretty much done in the studio, so that was a blessing because we had fun doing it.

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Never thought I would be Saying That as the Co-Captain of the Mothership &amp; Long Head Sucka of this Universe! I have Time Traveled for many year&#39;s &amp; I can tell u we will Git Ova the Hump! Bootsy baby!!!</a></p> <p style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;">A post shared by <a href="https://www.instagram.com/bootsy_collins/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px;" target="_blank"> William &#34;Bootsy&#34; Collins</a> (@bootsy_collins) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2020-10-18T20:50:11+00:00">Oct 18, 2020 at 1:50pm PDT</time></p></div></blockquote><script async src="//www.instagram.com/embed.js"></script>

I'm sure so much of creating funk music is being in the studio together riffing off each other and going with the flow. That must have been different to not have that tangible element of it for part of the album.

Yeah, yeah. It's totally different. It's just like you and the guy you're talking to, it's different when you're together than when you talk on the phone. The phone is the next best thing, but being together, there is nothing like that. That's the start of the difference right there. It's like when you can actually touch the guitar, when you actually see what the bass player is playing, you can actually hear what the singer or rapper is singing or rapping. You can actually see them. It's like, wow. This is so cool.

You lose all of that part, so I think it's cool for people that are growing up doing it that way. But if you're not used to doing it like that, it's a different ball game. It is something you have to learn on the job. Like I say, it's good to know the new way of recording and stuff. I think I'll continue to learn, but nothing is going to take the place of actually being in the bed together. It's like, "How are you doing?" "Oh, I'm okay. I'm laying in the bed by myself." I'm like, "Yeah, I wish I was there." [Laughs.]

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What is your favorite part of collaborating and how was it adapting that, like you were saying, during quarantine?

Well, it was really cool for me with the collaborating part because I got a chance to collaborate with people that I hadn't before. Like Branford Marsalis, who's just the greatest. His genre is jazz and he's just an incredible saxophonist and I never got a chance to record with him [before]. We talked about it, we've been to each other's shows and stuff, but we never actually did anything together.

That was a highlight for me to play with him and to play with Christian McBride, who plays the upright bass. He is just incredible and to have him in the studio and watch him play it. That was my first instrument that I was supposed to learn how to play on, but I found out I just couldn't play that big, old upright bass. It was too much work, man. I had to carry it home from school. The girls would look and laugh at me. It was like, "Ah man. I got to get me a new instrument." So, for him to bring that big, old bass to the Bootcave and hook it up and start playing it, it was just a great experience.

And then to have George Benson? Come on, you can't get no bigger than that. He's played with all the jazz greats. To have him want to get on the album—I had no idea that he really wanted to play on the record until I talked to him. We always have done festivals together in passing, but we never got a chance to work together.

I got a chance to work with some of the best, the people that I looked up to, and I got a chance to work with the young ones, like Kingfish, that are the new musicians. Speaking of Taz, he's 17 years old. And Kingfish is 19 now. These guys are just blowing the roof off with the guitar playing. To have this kind of energy around, for me, is the cream of the crop. It don't come no better. Then on "Lips Turn Blue" there's Emmaline. She's like a young, fresh Ella Fitzgerald. The way she sings, her voice takes you back to that time. But she's just out of college. She's just so sharp and professional.

To be around these people, they made the record become what it is because to have the older people with the younger people and everyone in-between, all this going on on the record and just making music together. It's like making love, it's like making friends. In a time like we're in now to do that, what else could you ask for? It's just a great feeling. I can tell you, I know they had the same kind of feeling.

It was just a great way to express yourself in a time where you're supposed to be locked up and locked down. Everybody's got a chance to release that feeling and we got a chance to put it on a record to share it with the world. I wasn't looking at the big picture, I was just looking at whatever song we were doing, putting our whole heart and soul into it. I didn't have to tell nobody to do that because everybody was ready. You didn't have to tell anyone, "Man, I want you to love this song." They just loved it. You could tell they loved it.

I think it's more amazing because of the time that we're living in right now. It affects us much more now because I think before we have taken music and people for granted. We've taken everything for granted. We thought it was always going to be great, we were going to be working all the time. All of a sudden, they pull the gigs away from us. No more festivals, no more club dates, no more Colosseum dates.

All of that stuff, it didn't just happen to the music world. Everybody had to push the reset button, like "Wait a minute, what the heck is going on?" We are still going through that and we have to figure out ways to do things differently. I'm hoping this album, The Power of the One, helps reset people to know that, "Hey, we got to deal with each other. Ain't nobody going nowhere. We're all in this together."

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You've also worked with a lot of younger musicians over the years on their projects, like Snoop and many others. What does mentorship mean to you and why is it important?

Oh, man. I would say because it gives you what you really need. It's like the energy that you've shared all your life, it comes back to you through the young musicians and artists. When I got with James Brown, I didn't understand about the energy and how it excited him. He was excited by the energy that we brought. I didn't really understand that until I got older and I started realizing, "Okay, this is what he was talking about and this is what he was feeling." Once you get older, you start feeling it, especially when you start having grandkids. Oh my God, those guys have got energy up the wazoo. I never knew that I was like that at one time.

At some point, I was as crazy as they were. That crazy energy can be turned into something and when it is, it can be magical. Some of these kids are able to turn it into something and you'd really be surprised. You just have to be in the mix and that's why I make sure I'm always in the mix, that I'm always learning from the younger people. And hopefully they're learning something from me, but I'm not in it for me.

I'm in it to learn something that I didn't know how to do. Coming from them, that's a beautiful thing. I look forward to that. A lot of older people look at kids like, "Oh, they can't teach me nothing." But I don't agree with that. I would like to continue to learn from them and be around them because they make me younger, they make me feel young. It's a great energy and hopefully I'm as good to them as they are to me.

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9 Essential K-Pop/Western Collabs: From BTS And Megan Thee Stallion, To IVE And Saweetie
Megan Thee Stallion (Center) and (from L to R:) J-Hope, Jin, Jungkook, V, RM, Suga, and Jimin of BTS attend the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 03, 2022.

Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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9 Essential K-Pop/Western Collabs: From BTS And Megan Thee Stallion, To IVE And Saweetie

From Jungkook and Usher's tribute to their shared musical idol, to BLACKPINK and Selena Gomez' sugary sweet collab, K-pop and Western artists of all genres are joining forces to create killer hits.

GRAMMYs/Feb 27, 2024 - 02:12 pm

It’s impossible to ignore the growing global popularity of K-pop. Although Korean pop has been around for decades, the genre's meteoric worldwide success over the past 10 years is reminiscent of Beatlemania and the early 2000s American boy band craze. With a steady increase year-over-year in album sales and K-pop groups touring the U.S. and Europe, interest in K-pop shows no signs of slowing down.

Initially launched in South Korea as a music subgenre with Western pop, R&B and hip-hop influences in the '90s, the K-pop industry is valued at around $10 billion.

Given the worldwide appetite for K-pop, several Western musicians are keen to partner with K-pop acts crossing over into more international markets, often with songs sung partially or entirely in English. While K-pop artists do not need Western artists to be successful — BTS sold out London’s Wembley stadium in under 90 minutes back in 2019, and BLACKPINK made Coachella history twice with performances in 2019 and 2023 — K-pop's massive fanbase and multi-genre influence make it an ideal collaboration for everyone from rappers and singers to electronic DJs.

But don’t take our word for it. Here are nine of the most iconic K-Pop/Western collaborations (not in any order; they are all great songs!).

Usher and Jungkook - "Standing Next to You (Usher Remix)" (2024)

The maknae (the youngest member of the group) of global K-pop superstars BTS and the King of R&B are both having banner years: Jungkook released his debut solo album, and Usher just performed at the Super Bowl

The Bangtan Boys have cited Usher as a significant influence (even singing a callback to his 2001 hit "U Got It Bad" in their No. 1 song, "Butter"), so BTS fans were delighted when the Jungkook tapped Usher for a remix of "Standing Next to You." The song marks the fourth single from his Billboard 200 chart-topping debut album, Golden

Both singers count Michael Jackson as a major influence. In their collaboration video, Usher and Jungkook pay tribute to the King of Pop as they slide, pop, and lock across the slick floor of an abandoned warehouse. 

John Legend and Wendy of Red Velvet - "Written in the Stars" (2018)

R&B singer/pianist John Legend was the perfect choice for an R&B ballad with Wendy, the main vocalist of K-pop quintet Red Velvet. The final song on the five-track SM Station x 0, a digital music project, "Written in the Stars," is a beautiful, mid-tempo love song. A bit of a departure from K-pop’s typical upbeat sound, Wendy and Legend are in perfect harmony over a warm yet melancholic rhythm.

As Red Velvet’s main vocalist, Wendy was the ideal voice for this collaboration. Additionally, she split her childhood between Canada and the U.S., and has been comfortable singing in English since Red Velvet debuted in 2014. This wasn't her first collab with a Western artist: In 2017, she released an English-language version of the pop ballad "Vente Pa’Ca" with Ricky Martin

BLACKPINK and Selena Gomez - "Ice Cream" (2020)

A powerhouse debut single, BLACKPINK collaborated with pop royalty Selena Gomez on the massive 2020 hit "Ice Cream."

An electropop-bubblegum fusion filled with dairy double entendres, "Ice Cream" was an enormous success for both Gomez and the BLACKPINK girls. The track peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has racked up nearly 900 million YouTube views to date. 

Written by a consortium of hitmakers, including Ariana Grande and BLACKPINK’s longtime songwriter and producer Teddy Park (a former K-pop idol himself), "Ice Cream" shows that YG Entertainment’s golden foursome and Gomez were the correct partnership for this track. The pop-trap bop marked the first time a K-pop girl group broke the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and immediately solidified BLACKPINK as global superstars. 

Snoop Dogg and Monsta X - "How We Do" (2022)

West Coast rap godfather Snoop Dogg has quietly become one of the go-to Western acts for K-pop collabs, working with Psy, BTS, Girls’ Generation and 2NE1. K-pop is the Dogg Father's "guilty pleasure," and he performed at the Mnet Asian Music Awards with Dr. Dre in 2011. Without Snoop's love of K-pop, the world might not have gotten this fun and energetic collaboration with Snoop and Monsta X, a five-member boy group under Starship Entertainment.

The song appears in The Spongebob Movie: Sponge On The Run in a dance segment where Snoop, decked out in a pink and purple Western suit, is accompanied by zombie dancers. Though we do not see the members of Monsta X, their harmonious crooning is the perfect accent to Snoop Dogg’s trademark casual West Coast flow.

BTS and Steven Aoki - "MIC Drop (Steve Aoki remix)" (2017)

No K-pop list is complete with a nod to the magnificent seven, and "MIC Drop" is one of their catchiest Western collabs to date. 

"Mic Drop" is quintessential BTS: a nod to hip-hop with a heavy bass line and fun choreography. While the original version of "MIC Drop" is excellent, the remix with EDM superstar DJ Steve Aoki and rapper Desiigner cracked the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 — the first of many hits for the Bulletproof Boy Scouts. 

Released at a time when BTS were just starting their ascent to chart-topping Western dominance, the track's boastful lyrics and tension-building electro-trap production offered an excellent introduction to the group that would soon become international superstars. 

JYJ, Kanye West and Malik Yusef - "Ayyy Girl" (2010)

A truly deep K-pop cut, you’d be hard-pressed to find many people who know that Kanye West collaborated with a first-generation K-pop group over 13 years ago. Released as the lead single on JYJ’s English-language album The Beginning, West’s signature bravado and wordplay are on full display over a track that sounds like the Neptunes produced it.

The song garnered attention in the U.S., but after a string of bad luck (including a severely delayed U.S. visa process and issues with their management company, SM Entertainment), JYJ could not capitalize on their American success. The group continued to see success in Korea and Japan in the early 2010s but never made a splash in the Western market again.

IVE and Saweetie - "All Night" (2024)

A reimagining of Icona Pop’s 2013 song of the same name, "All Night," sees fourth-generation K-pop girl group IVE partner with rap’s resident glamor girl Saweetie for a funky, electronic-infused pop song that’s perfect for dancing from dusk till dawn. 

"All Night" is the first English song for the Starship Entertainment-backed group. Interestingly, none of the members of IVE have individual lines in the song, choosing instead to sing the lyrics in a six-part harmony. This choice is exciting but fun, giving listeners the feeling that they are more than welcome to sing along. 

The girl group embarked on their first 24-date world tour in January 2024, with stops in the U.S., Asia, Europe and South America. Given their quest for global dominance, there’s a good chance "All Night" won’t be IVE's last English-language release.

BTS and Megan Thee Stallion - "Butter (Remix)" (2021)

BTS’ "Butter" had already spent three weeks atop the Billboard charts and was declared the "song of the summer" when the group’s label announced Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion as the guest star for the song’s remix in late August 2021. The GRAMMY-nominated septet is no stranger to collaborating with Western musicians, having worked with Halsey, Jason Derulo, and Coldplay

Though only slightly altered from the original (Megan’s verse was added in place of the song’s second original verse, along with several ad-libs), the remix was praised by both fans and critics alike, catapulting the song’s return back to the No. 1. Although the collaborators did not release a new music video featuring the group and the self-proclaimed "Hot Girl Coach," three members of BTS’ "dance line" (members J-Hope, Jungkook and Jimin) released a specially choreographed dance video. Additionally, Megan was a surprise guest during BTS’ record-breaking Permission to Dance LA concert in November of the same year.

LE SSERAFIM and Niles Rodgers - "Unforgiven" (2023)

GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Nile Rodgers' first foray into K-pop was a partnership with LE SSERAFIM, a fourth-gen girl group from the same parent company behind BTS. "Unforgiven" was released earlier this year as the lead single from the group’s debut album of the same name. 

A darker take on the familiar K-pop formula with A Western feel and look (the young quintuplet dons cowboy hats, boots and bolo ties in the song’s accompanying music video), "Unforgiven" is about rebellion and being a fierce, strong and independent risk taker. That riskiness drew Rodgers' ear. 

"It seems like a lot of the K-pop that I'm hearing lately, the…chord changes are a lot more interesting than what's been happening [in other music fields] over the last few years," he told GRAMMY.com in 2023. "I come from a jazz background, so to hear chord changes like that is really cool. They’re not afraid, which is great to me."

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Erick The Architect Steps Into A New World On 'I’ve Never Been Here Before'
Erick The Architect

Photo: Ellington Hammond

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Erick The Architect Steps Into A New World On 'I’ve Never Been Here Before'

The Flatbush Zombies' member says his debut double album is more than catchy introspections: 'I’ve Never Been Here Before' is the arrival of a new persona and sound.

GRAMMYs/Feb 21, 2024 - 08:47 pm

Rapper/producer Erick The Architect is no stranger to reinvention. 

The Brooklyn-bred MC cut his teeth over alt-East Coast beats as Erick Arc Elliot before forming psychedelic rap trio Flatbush Zombies with childhood friends Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice. But after multiple mixtapes and two albums with the group, Erick is returning to solo form and venturing into new creative ground. 

Following 2021’s Future Proof EP, Erick is embarking on new musical travels with the release of his official debut album, I’ve Never Been Here Before. Out Feb. 23, the double album explores Erick’s flowy instrumentation, poeticism, and artistry at full scale. The project is fueled by singles "Shook Up" featuring FARR and Joey Bada$$, "Ezekiel’s Wheel" with funk forefather George Clinton, and the breezy "Instincts" with Westside Boogie.

Erick says I’ve Never Been Here Before is more than a collection of catchy introspections, melodic monologues, and '90s-inspired jams. It’s the shedding of one persona — and sound — and the beginning of a new: the Mandevillain. 

"This album is an identity of a new person," Erick the Architect tells GRAMMY.com, noting that the moniker is an ode to his father’s hometown of Mandeville, Jamaica. "A lot of people may have thought there was a ceiling to what I’m capable of, but I think this album will showcase a brand new artist and identity, which is really hard to do when people think they already know you. But I really think this is unique." 

The switch isn’t just in name — he’s taken on a new approach to music, too. For the first time in years, Erick says he’s prioritizing himself and his specific musical world. "It’s the first time I have created with the headspace that I’m free," he says. "I find that other artists don’t listen to other people’s music when they’re in a creative space, but this is the most locked off I’ve been from things."

As much as I’ve Never Been Here Before signals new creative ground for Erick to fertilize, it also represents his collective efforts to limit distractions and break free of any barriers — personally and sonically. 

While it was difficult to stay so focused and inward-looking while creating his debut album, turning to some of his legendary collaborators provided some clarity. After having conversations with James Blake, George Clinton, and other artists as part of the project, Erick no longer feels forced to fit a mold or address outside criticism. 

"This album is about sacrifice, and I’ve Never Been Here Before is me being okay with losing things," he says. "I think that losing has always a negative connotation because nobody wants to lose, everybody wants to win. But it's the first time I'm losing stuff and it’s better being lost. Whether it's a habit or a person in your life, you don't need to hold everything."

I’ve Never Been Here Before lives up to its title in both theme and creation. Where Erick previously wrote songs in moments of vulnerability, the rapper says he "doesn’t feel that way anymore." 

Citing the work of Keith Haring, Miles Davis and Pablo Picasso as inspiration, Erick says he was driven to write more high-spirited songs, rather than ones tethered to struggle and hardship. As a result, the album is more accessible than some of his previous work.

"I’m tired of writing from a perspective of just being like, 'I’m sad today, bro,'" he says. "I haven’t made a project that I feel like you can just put that joint on and just play it, don’t even think about anything else because it’s commanding an energy that we all need." 

In transforming the project, the "Die 4 U" artist pieced together a blend of new and older songs he recorded five years ago. And while a double album is a "death sentence" in the eyes of most rap fans, Erick says he’s prepared for both heaps of praise and hurls of "he’s overrated" from listeners. He would feel more anxiety only if the music never came out.

"I’ve always believed that I had another special part of me that I think people didn’t witness because I didn’t put it out in the forefront," he says.

While getting a new release across the finish line can be a heavy weight to bear, Erick says he’s determined to prove his doubters wrong and own his legitimacy as a solo act. "I didn’t get lucky or sneak in here and steal beats from somebody’s laptop," Erick says. "This project is great to defeat people who have perceptions about me that are incorrect."

With the momentum of I’ve Never Been Here Before, Erick is set to test his new music and moniker on the road during his upcoming Mandevillain Tour, which kicks off in Austin on March 25.

Now that he’s fulfilling his ambitions as a solo act, the artist has a few more mediums he plans to explore – TV and film. After being a rapper/producer for more than a decade, Erick says he’s ready to take grander creative leaps.  "I’m just trying to take this to the highest caliber," he says.

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The GRAMMY Museum Celebrates Black History Month 2024 With A Series Of Special Programs And Events

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The GRAMMY Museum Celebrates Black History Month 2024 With A Series Of Special Programs And Events

Throughout February, the GRAMMY Museum will celebrate the profound legacy and impact of Black music with workshops, screenings, and intimate conversations.

GRAMMYs/Feb 9, 2024 - 08:31 pm

The celebration isn't over after the 2024 GRAMMYs. In recognition of Black History Month, the GRAMMY Museum proudly honors the indelible impact of Black music on America and the fabric of global pop culture. 

This programming is a testament to the rich heritage and profound influence of Black artists, whose creativity and resilience have shaped the foundation of American music. Through a series of thoughtfully curated events — including educational workshops, family programs, special screenings, and intimate conversations — the Museum aims to illuminate the vibrant legacy and ongoing evolution of Black music. 

From a workshop on the rhythmic storytelling of hip-hop following its 50th anniversary and the soulful echoes of Bill Withers' classics, to the groundbreaking contributions of James Brown and the visionary reimagination of "The Wiz," these GRAMMY Museum programs encapsulate the enduring legacy and dynamic future of Black music.

The GRAMMY Museum invites audiences to delve into the stories, sounds, and souls that have woven Black music into the tapestry of our shared human experience. Through this journey, the Museum and the Recording Academy honor the artists, visionaries, and pioneers whose talents have forever altered the landscape of music and culture. 

Read on for additional information on the GRAMMY Museum's month-long tribute that explores, appreciates and celebrates the invaluable contributions of Black music to our world.

Thurs., Feb. 8

History of Hip-Hop Education Workshop

WHAT: In celebration of the 50 years of hip-hop, this workshop examines the unique evolution of Hip Hop from its origin to where the genre is today. Highlighting the golden age of Hip Hop, this lesson will provide students with a greater understanding of the struggles and triumphs of the genre.

WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. 

REGISTER: Click here.

Sat., Feb. 10

Family Time: Grandma’s Hands

WHAT: Join us for a very special family program celebrating the recently released children’s book Grandma’s Hands based on one of Bill Withers’ most beloved songs. Bill’s wife, Marcia, and daughter, Kori, will participate in a book reading, conversation, audience Q&A, and performance, followed by a book signing. The program is free (4 tickets per household.)

WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. 

REGISTER: Click here.

Mon., Feb. 12

Celebrating James Brown: Say It Loud

WHAT: The GRAMMY Museum hosts a special evening on the life and music of the late "Godfather of Soul" James Brown. The program features exclusive clips from A&E's forthcoming documentary James Brown: Say It Loud, produced in association with Polygram Entertainment, Mick Jagger’s Jagged Films and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s Two One Five Entertainment, followed by a conversation with Director Deborah Riley Draper, superstar Producer Jimmy Jam, and some surprises.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.  

REGISTER: Click here.

Sat., Feb. 17

Backstage Pass: "The Wiz"

WHAT: Presented in partnership with the African American Film Critics Association, join us for an afternoon spotlighting the famed Broadway Musical, "The Wiz," with the producers and creative team responsible for the Broadway bound reboot. The program will feature a lively conversation, followed by an audience Q&A in the Museum’s Clive Davis Theater, and will be hosted by AAFCA President, Gil Robertson, and GRAMMY Museum Education & Community Engagement Manager, Schyler O’Neal. The program is free (four tickets per household).

WHEN: 1 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

Thurs., Feb. 22

History of Hip-Hop Education Workshop

WHAT: In celebration of the 50 years of hip-hop, this workshop examines the unique evolution of Hip Hop from its origin to where the genre is today. Highlighting the golden age of Hip Hop, this lesson will provide students with a greater understanding of the struggles and triumphs of the genre.

WHEN: 11 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. 

REGISTER: Click here.

Reel To Reel: A Hip Hop Story

WHAT: In conjunction with the GRAMMY Museum's exhibit, Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit, the GRAMMY Museum is thrilled to host a special screening of A Hip Hop Story with a post-screening conversation featuring Affion Crockett to follow.

WHEN: 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.  

REGISTER: Click here.

Sun., Feb. 25

Lunar New Year Celebration

WHAT: Join us for a special program celebrating Lunar New Year as we usher in the Year of the Dragon with a performance by the South Coast Chinese Orchestra. The orchestra is from Orange County and uses both traditional Chinese instruments and western string instruments. It is led by Music Director, Jiangli Yu, Conductor, Bin He, and Executive Director, Yulan Chung. The program will take place in the Clive Davis Theater. This program is made possible by the generous support of Preferred Bank. The program is free (four tickets per household).

WHEN: 1:30 p.m.

REGISTER: Click here.

Tues., Feb. 27

A Conversation With Nicole Avant

WHAT: The GRAMMY Museum is thrilled to welcome best-selling author, award-winning film producer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Ambassador Nicole Avant to the museum’s intimate 200-seat Clive Davis Theater for a conversation moderated by Jimmy Jam about her new memoir Think You’ll Be Happy – Moving Through Grief with Grit, Grace and Gratitude. All ticket buyers will receive a signed copy of the book.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.  

REGISTER: Click here.

GRAMMY.com’s 50th Anniversary Of Hip-Hop Coverage: A Recap

Kali Uchis On Her Road To 'Orquídeas': How A Bicultural Mindset, Working Alone & Embracing Her "Bitchier Side" Resulted In Her Most Energetic Album
Kali Uchis

Photo: COUGHS

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Kali Uchis On Her Road To 'Orquídeas': How A Bicultural Mindset, Working Alone & Embracing Her "Bitchier Side" Resulted In Her Most Energetic Album

"I have so much creativity that I need to express all the time," Kali Uchis says of her latest release, 'Orquídeas.' Uchis' fourth studio album is also her second Spanish-language record.

GRAMMYs/Jan 12, 2024 - 03:05 pm

Kali Uchis is experiencing one of her most creatively prolific moments. For the first time, the GRAMMY-winning singer delights her fans with two long-play projects in less than a year: Red Moon in Venus and Orquídeas, the latter out Jan. 12. 

Described by Uchis as her most energetic body of work, Orquídeas is her second Spanish language record and a showcase of Uchis' vocal and musical growth. While Uchis' recent releases typically contrast her soothing vocals with hypnotic, mid-tempo R&B and hip-hop instrumentals, her fourth studio album exists in a distinctly different musical environment.

The 14-track, dance-centric album incorporates a breadth of Latin rhythms with a global influence: Dembow, salsa, hard-hitting merengue, reggaetón, Cuban son, and Latin soul appear alongside alternative, house, and even bolero. Orquídeas' first two tracks, ​​"Como así" and "Me Pongo Loca," set the tone for Uchis diving into house beats. On "Igual Que Un Angel," Uchis pulls Peso Pluma away from his corridos tumbados and into her dance world.

"I feel like others see Latin music or Latin artists as just one thing. That's why I need to demonstrate all the different genres of Latin music," Uchis tells GRAMMY.com. "As an artist, it's always important to push myself to do new things and try different genres. Being bicultural has always been part of my life." 

Expanding the bounds of her creativity has long been part of Uchis' vocabulary. Since releasing her first mixtape, 2012's Drunken Babble, Uchis' career and sound have been characterized by taking chances. Even before she dreamed of being a singer, the artist born Karly-Marina Loaiza defied expectations and dared to be the first in her family to pursue music. The Colombian American singer lived in her car and moved from Virginia to Los Angeles alone, all the while remaining fearless in the dogged pursuit of her dream.

Uchis says following her instinct has long been a vital part of her success. Uchis defended her creative decisions on her first Spanish-language album, 2020's Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otro Demonios), which her record label at the time thought risky. In fact, the most played single from the album, "Telepatía," was on the verge of not being part of the album after the label suggested production changes to make it more radio friendly. 

"I’d rather not go to radio than change my song," she told the New York Times. The single came out as she had imagined; her vision translated into billions of views, driven by virality achieved on TikTok.

The risk-taking didn't stop on Orquídeas, which sees Uchis exploring dance music and a wider variety of Latin music. The singer tells GRAMMY.com that "Labios Mordidos," the album's third single and a duet with Karol G, was one of Orquídeas' biggest risks. 

"I had a reggaetón/perreo song on Isolation, but it didn't do well; it's called 'Nuestro Planeta.' [Doing 'Labios Mordidos'] was definitely a risk; I mean, the whole album is really a risk because it's not one genre; it's a mix of so many different things, and it's not what people are used to hearing from me," she adds. 

Released on Nov. 24, "Labios Mordidos" debuted at No. 75 on Spotify's Global Top Songs charts. Since, it has accumulated over 54 million streams on Spotify and YouTube combined.

Orquídeas also represents Uchis' growth in songwriting; the singer says her storytelling abilities flourished on this album. She also gets incredibly vulnerable: On the melancholic bolero "Te Mata," Uchis mined her childhood experiences of survival and being kicked out of the house as a teenager. 

"I had to get even tougher skin. I had to learn to put myself and my happiness first. It meant a lot for me to write, and I hope it helps anyone else going [through] it find some self-power or some peace," she said in a TikTok video. 

"I love boleros," Uchis says of "Te Mata." "Romantic music, in general, has always fascinated me, as it can feel so timeless. It was a great opportunity to explore this genre and showcase my ability to tell stories in different ways."

Uchis honed her intuition writing alone, creating the entirety of her first EP in her bedroom. Solitude was her best ally in the creative process, she reflects. "[By working alone] I get a lot of my essence in music, which I feel is what people can really take away from it. That's why people listen to [my music]," says Uchis.

For Sin Miedo, Uchis worked with a group of composers who helped her clear up Spanish verbiage doubts and grammatical issues. "I didn't feel completely confident about my writing yet to make fully Spanish songs; that's why I write so much bilingual," Uchis explains.

While Uchis thought the experience cool, she has since moved on. When it came to writing  Orquídeas, "I feel like I didn't need the help; I was using [the process] to better myself, improve my writing, and be open to learning more about different writing processes. I felt ready. 

Just a few months after releasing Sin Miedo in 2021, Uchis embarked on the production of Red Moon in Venus and Orquídeas. For some, carrying out two productions in parallel — creating two different concepts while writing songs in two languages — may seem challenging. For Uchis, it was the perfect setting to expand her creativity.

"It's really easy to work that way because I feel like I have so much creativity that I need to express all the time. It's a little difficult for me to commit to just one sound, project, and language at this stage of my life," Uchis reflects.

Red Moon and Orquídeas are polar opposites, Uchis explains. In her 2023 album, she explores her "higher self, speaking [more] from a place of love; everything is about love. [Orquídeas] is like my bitchier side," the singer told the Brazilian YouTube channel Foquinha.

Kali Uchis’s Road To ‘Orquídeas’ tracklisting

The freedom to express oneself, challenge genres, and forge a unique career path is a virtue Uchis has maintained throughout her productions and collaborations. She has never allowed the pressure to be mainstream to influence how she approaches her art. 

"I've always had the freedom to do what I want. I don't do music [for the numbers]; I never feel pressure," she says. "I do this because it's my creative outlet. Whether I get more mainstream or more success, those are nice things. I'm proud of my accomplishments, but I don't think life should revolve around [the idea] of trying to be the most accomplished, the most successful."

Although Uchis does not lose any sleep over topping popular charts, her albums have done just that. With Isolation, she broke into the Billboard 200 chart, and Sin Miedo led Billboard's Latin Pop chart. In 2021, Uchis won her first GRAMMY for "10%" in the Best Dance Recording category, collaborating with KAYTRANADA.

Released in March 2023, Red Moon in Venus placed fifth on the Billboard 200 chart and was named by TIME magazine as 2023’s album of the year. To add to her success, the Colombian American singer finished the year as one of the most listened-to Latin female artists on Spotify, a distinction she shares with Karol G, Shakira, Rosalía, and Ana Castela.

2024 promises to be equally successful for Kali Uchis; the singer told GRAMMY.com that Orquídeas will be one of two albums she will release this year. That record will be a return to form, Uchis promises. (And she just revealed that she is pregnant, in her music video for “Tu Corazón Es Mío” and “Diosa.”)

"I have another project coming this year, completely different from Orquídeas. I did the whole thing in my house, alone, and never sat in a room with anybody. It's nice to go back to my roots," she says.

Kali Uchis Essentials: 9 Songs That Flaunt Her Soulful Magnetism