Photo: Allister Ann
Carly Pearce on '29: Written In Stone,' Relating to Kacey Musgraves & Becoming The Country Artist She's Always Wanted To Be
Country star Carly Pearce opens up about how a divorce and the death of her producer led to her most meaningful album yet, '29: Written In Stone'
"So much has happened to me in the last year," Carly Pearce wrote in an Instagram post announcing her forthcoming third album, 29: Written in Stone. It's a bit of an understatement: Nine months after losing her longtime producer busbee to brain cancer in 2019, the country star filed for divorce from fellow country singer Michael Ray.
But, as Pearce wrote, in the wake of the heartbreak, "Some unbelievable things started happening." Just days before her divorce went public, Pearce landed her second No. 1 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart with the apologetic Lee Brice collaboration "I Hope You're Happy Now," which went on to win Pearce her first Country Music Award and Academy of Country Music Award (she took home two ACMs, including Single of the Year).
Last fall, the Kentucky native released the lead single from her next project, the uptempo cautionary tale "Next Girl." The song's twangy production is arguably the most reminiscent of the '90s country that inspired Pearce to pursue her own music career when she began performing at just 11 years old. The singer herself could feel it, too.
"When we wrote 'Next Girl,'" she recalls to GRAMMY.com, "I was like, 'Wait a minute, this is what I always wanted to do.'"
Pearce harnessed that same energy as she continued to process her hardships and write songs. Five months later, she unveiled an EP titled 29, a raw and emotional account of what she'd been through. But as Pearce says, songs "just kept happening," and she quickly realized there was more to her story.
29: Written in Stone—arriving Sept. 17 via Big Machine—is an exceptional combination of Pearce's crafty songwriting (see: "Liability") and '90s country influence, resulting in the singer's most confident display yet. And that was clearly apparent from the first portion: The morning of Pearce's chat with GRAMMY.com saw the singer earn CMA nominations for Female Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year, her first in each category. While she admits the nods are "hard to process," she also acknowledges the kind of impact her vulnerability has had on fans and industry players alike. "People have really responded to this so amazingly."
Ahead of the album's release, Pearce will have an in-depth conversation at the GRAMMY Museum on Sept. 13, also performing as part of Big Machine's Spotlight Saturdays on Sept. 18. Her interview will be viewable on the Museum's official streaming platform, COLLECTION:live.
GRAMMY.com caught up with Pearce before release week (and her GRAMMY events) to hear how 29 evolved into a full-length album, the women of country who inspired her and why she's finally the artist that pre-teen Carly envisioned.
Take me through the progression of 29 the EP into 29: Written in Stone. How did your feelings change in the time between the two?
In the beginning, I wasn't quite sure what 29 was. I just knew I needed to get some things off my chest. "Messy" felt like a really good stopping point. I'm very much a situational writer, so when I wrote that song, I was like, "Okay, this feels like I'm done for a while."
I remember turning it in, and continuing to feel inspired to write. The songs just kept happening. These ideas would come to me, and it was forming almost faster than I could keep up.
Losing my producer, busbee, was a really interesting experience for me of looking at music completely different. I was very overwhelmed with the idea of even continuing on in music without him. I felt like I had unleashed this part of me that I was always supposed to find musically and sonically with this really country sound.
I think what I didn't realize is, I was kind of going through all of this in real time. Now when I go back and I listen to this project, it really is grief and realization of something that was so difficult—but then getting on the other side, which is a really powerful part of it. That's why I wanted the second half to be in color instead of black and white like the first.
Was there anything outside of your divorce and losing busbee that inspired songs on this album?
I think it was those two things. It was a blow to my professional life, losing my counterpart. [Busbee] is who helped form my sound, so to think he wasn't there was so difficult. Then, to have such an equal blow to my personal life—it still makes me quite emotional to think about how lost I felt in the beginning. Just, "How is this all happening to me at once?"
Was there anything you learned from busbee that had an impact on the making of this project?
The biggest thing—and I have just started to even be able to talk about this without being so emotional—but I went to see him two weeks before he died. The very last thing that he said to me was that he just wanted me to fly. I remember not really understanding what that meant in the beginning.
He knew that I had taken so much time in Nashville trying to make this whole career happen, and he knew the struggles. He knew the insecurities—how I was just a little unsure of myself in a writer's room or in front of a mic. Now, looking at it, I knew I needed to show him I could fly in all of those ways. Even when I woke up today and saw the album of the year [nomination], I was like, "God, I did it. I I tapped into what he told me to do and just gave it everything I had."
That's a heavy thing, but it's also so incredible.
I don't even know how to explain it. Also, the fact that "I Hope You're Happy Now" was the last song he ever worked on in his career, and look at what that song did for me as well. It almost feels like he's been here at every single step, like he really never did leave me.
You've said that this album is the biggest representation of the kind of music you've always wanted to make as a country artist. Was there a certain song that felt like a turning point for you in getting to that feeling?
"Next Girl" was one of the very first songs we wrote for this project. As soon as that one came out the way that it did, just with that '90s country feel to it, I was like, "Wait a minute, this is what I always wanted to do."
One of the musicians on the album, Josh Matheny, he's been with me for all of my albums. While I was singing the scratch vocal for "Next Girl" in the studio, he texted me and said, "I've never heard you sing more like yourself than right now."
Did you feel that too?
Yes. I knew it. That's the music that I grew up on.
What made it feel different?
In interviews, people would ask me, "What do you want to be?" and I was always like, "I want [to be a member of] the Grand Ole Opry and I want to be a country music purist." I never quite felt like my music translated that completely, because it was still heavily pop-produced on a lot of things.
What I found was [29: Written in Stone co-producers] Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne loved '90s country like I did. It opened this understanding of the same way that we listened to music growing up that I had never experienced with busbee, [since] he was a pop producer.
Do you think that you would have worked with Shane and Josh if you hadn't lost busbee?
That's such an interesting thing that I've thought about quite a bit. It's almost like you don't know what you're missing until you find it. I knew that there was a little bit of a disconnect that I was still trying to find, but I don't necessarily think that I thought, "I need to change my producer."
It's interesting, because I feel like this is how it was supposed to be. I believe wholeheartedly that busbee was supposed to help me find my way, and I was supposed to make those two albums with him and start this beautiful journey in country music. But I do think I was meant to move on.
I wrote with both of [Josh and Shane] previously—I wrote one of my favorite songs ever with Shane and busbee, "If My Name Was Whiskey" from my first record. But [Josh and Shane] were blown away at my ability as a writer [now]. I've written so many songs in this town, but I hadn't really written like that.
Was there a '90s country song that helped you get through the pain you were experiencing as you wrote this album?
"You Don't Even Know Who I Am" by Patty Loveless is one of my absolute favorite songs. That shows you exactly the kind of artist that I wanted to be, in the lyric and the honesty.
Patty Loveless is the big influence for me. Loving her music, loving how she wrote songs, loving the kind of songs she cut. A strong woman with true substance to her lyrics, but songs that just felt so good.
Even before she became a part of the full-length album [on "Dear Miss Loretta," a doting tribute to Loretta Lynn], I had this thought of "What would Patty Loveless do?" and it stemmed from when we wrote "Next Girl." [Her song] "Blame It On Your Heart" is where "Next Girl" came from.
I was pushed to own what happened to me and own my truth in a way that I never had quite thought about—because nobody thinks, "Oh, my marriage is gonna fail in front of the world." Thinking about her and the way she would write songs is why I just owned it.
You co-wrote with a lot of female singer-songwriters on this album, including your peers Kelsea Ballerini on "Diamondback" and Ashley McBryde, who features on "Never Wanted to Be That Girl." What do you feel like your female collaborators brought to the storytelling for an album of this context?
I think just having a female perspective—a lot of these women were my friends, and it was important for me to feel safe by women, and almost affirming my feelings through women. These women were the first to message me as soon as my divorce came out, and really care about me as a person. I was able to be brutally honest in those rooms because I felt safe with them.
29: Written in Stone is coming out a week after Kacey Musgraves released her own post-divorce album with star-crossed. In a way, did having someone going through a similar situation at the same time—and in the public eye—make you feel less alone? Or at least give you some reassurance that being this honest in your music is what you should be doing?
It's very interesting, because so much of Golden Hour was about her husband, and so much of my sophomore album was about mine. I remember her divorce announcement came out very soon—I mean weeks—after mine. I've known her for a long time, and just hurting for her, and knowing what that felt like, and very much feeling like, "Oh my God, somebody else my age knows what it feels like."
I have to say that as a fan of music, I'm very much looking forward to her album. I feel like in a lot of ways, I will be able to listen to something and maybe not feel alone myself in the way that some people are probably listening to our music.
I do think it's a very powerful thing that two women didn't get it right the first time. We're young, we're only two years apart, and we're owning our truth in our own artistic ways. It reminds me of the kind of music that I grew up on with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette singing these unapologetic songs, like "The Pill" or "D-I-V-O-R-C-E.," and just owning it. I'm proud of that, and I'm proud of Kacey for doing that.
In the very beginning of putting this album out, I remember the hundreds of messages that I got from fans in a way that I've never gotten. Sure, I've had fans say, "I relate to your music" and "You helped me through a hard time," but this felt different.
Now that we're back out on the road, I can't tell you how many people have come up to me and shared their stories. I helped them let go of a relationship, I helped them file for divorce, I helped them regain their worth, I got them out of an abusive relationship. All of these things that, to me, matter so much more than just being an artist singing on a stage.
Everybody experiences pain, and to hear that people have clung on to my music as hope, that's more empowering than anything I could ever imagine. I'm proud to have gone through what I went through for that.
Which is probably something that you weren't thinking you'd be able to say when you were initially going through all of it.
Absolutely not. And that's the beautiful part of it. I had a fan recently come up to me and she was like, "I just went through a divorce and I just don't know what to do." I said, "You're gonna be okay." She's looking at me, on the other side, and she's like, "Are you sure?" and I said, "Yes, I know it." That's such a cool relationship that I now have with fans.
Is there a song on 29: Written in Stone that feels like the pinnacle Carly Pearce song to you, at least thus far?
Gosh, that's so hard. "29" is the song that I never wished I'd write, but am now so blown away that I wrote. I never wanted to write a song that talked about something like going through a divorce. But the fact that I went that deep, just went for it, and was brutally honest, that just really, really makes me proud.
[Written in Stone comes from] a lyric in the very last song on the album, "Mean It This Time"—"When I say forever/ I'm gonna write it in stone." So I kind of got to thinking about what "write it in stone" means to me.
I came up with, "Life is indelible, and your words, your actions, and your truth should be written in stone." That's exactly what I've done on this project. I can put it out there, let it out, and shut the door. This is the kind of album I never wanted to make, but in hindsight, it's the best thing that ever happened to me.
Image courtesy of the Recording Academy
GRAMMY Museum Announces 'Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit' Programming Schedule
Presented by Google Pixel, the exhibit opens Oct. 7 celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop through an expansive and interactive exploration of the global impact of the genre and culture.
The GRAMMY Museum announces its Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit initial programming schedule consisting of in-person and virtual events to supplement the exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.
Opening Oct. 7, the 5,000-square foot installation delves deep into the multifaceted world of hip-hop through expansive exhibits on hip-hop music, dance, graffiti, fashion, business, activism, and history, providing visitors with an immersive experience that explores the profound impact and influence of hip-hop culture.
On display will be an incredible array of artifacts including the Notorious B.I.G.'s iconic red leather pea jacket, LL Cool J's red Kangol bucket hat, and more. Newly announced artifacts include Lil Wayne’s GRAMMY for Best Rap Album, The Carter III, Lil Wayne's handwritten letter from prison to his fans and his family, custom Saweetie acrylic nail sets created by her nail artist Temeka Jackson, plus exclusive interviews with MC Lyte, Cordae and other artists about their creative process.
Additionally, a Sonic Playground features five interactive stations that invite visitors of all ages to unleash their creativity through DJing, rapping and sampling and is made possible thanks to a grant from The Kenneth T. & Eileen L. Norris Foundation.
The exhibit is made possible with the generous support of Google Pixel, and several integrations within the space are powered by Google Pixel's innovative capabilities. This includes the Google Pixel Boombox Throne, an interactive photo experience.
The Rap City Experience, part of the Sonic Playground, is a freestyle interactive featuring Darian "Big Tigger" Morgan, host of BET's "Rap City: Tha Basement." Visitors can freestyle over beats by producers Hit-Boy, PERFXN and Schyler O'Neal, and trade bars with hip-hop artists Reason, Nana and Nilla Allin. As part of the museum's ongoing community and education programming, BET and Mass Appeal will screen the first two installments of their upcoming documentary Welcome to Rap City on Oct. 9. More details below.
Additionally, the GRAMMY Museum is partnering with The Debut Live to present their multi-part event series highlighting iconic hip-hop albums and the artists who created them, including DJ Khaled, Joey Bada$$, Rick Ross, T.I., and more. The intimate conversations are hosted by Billboard's Deputy Director of R&B and Hip-Hop, Carl Lamarre, in partnership with the GRAMMY Museum/Recording Academy + Soho House, and will be available to view beginning Oct. 6 exclusively on the GRAMMY Museum's streaming platform COLLECTION:live.
The exhibit launches on Sat, Oct. 7 and will run through Sept. 4, 2024. A special opening event will take place on Oct. 6 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available to purchase here. Additional programming to be announced at a later date. More information listed below.
Sat, Oct. 7:
EVENT: Careers in Music: The Nelson George Mixtape, Volume 2
WHAT: A conversation and book signing with acclaimed author, producer and director, Nelson George, as we discuss his career chronicling the birth of hip-hop in America and his work in the entertainment industry.
WHEN: 1 p.m.
WHERE: Clive Davis Theater
REGISTER: Click here.
Mon, Oct. 9:
EVENT: Careers in Music: "Welcome to Rap City" Screening
WHAT: In partnership with BET and Mass Appeal, the GRAMMY Museum is proud to host a screening of the first two installments of their new documentary "Welcome to Rap City" followed by a panel discussion featuring Rap City hosts and more.
WHEN: 12 p.m.
WHERE: Clive Davis Theater
REGISTER: Click here.
Thurs, Oct. 26:
EVENT: Backstage Pass: "Road to the Latin GRAMMYs" Mellow Man Ace
WHAT: To celebrate the 24th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards, the GRAMMY Museum is thrilled to have Afro-Cuban rapper and Los Angeles native Mellow Man Ace discuss his career and his accomplishments as one of the pioneers of Latin rap, followed by a performance.
WHEN: 11 a.m.
WHERE: Clive Davis Theater
REGISTER: Click here.
Sat, Dec. 2:
EVENT: Love Your Amazing Self
WHAT: An interactive family program featuring hip-hop musician, meditation teacher and author, Ofosu Jones-Quartey, reading from his latest book Love Your Amazing Self followed by a performance. Support for this program was provided through funding from Councilman Curren Price Jr. and the New 9th.
WHEN: 11 a.m.
WHERE: Clive Davis Theater
REGISTER: Click here.
October 2023 - June 2024
WHAT: Hip-Hop Education Workshops
WHAT: In Celebration of the 50 years of hip-hop from its origin to where the genre is today. Highlighting the golden age of hip-hop, these lessons will provide students with a deeper understanding of the struggles and triumphs of the genre.
WHEN: 2023-2024 School Year
WHERE: Clive Davis Theater
REGISTER: Click here.
For more information regarding advanced ticket reservations for the exhibit, please visit www.grammymuseum.org.
Graphic Courtesy of the Latin Recording Academy
Latin GRAMMYs 2023: Hear The Album Of The Year Nominees
Here are the nominees for Album Of The Year at the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, which will air Thursday, Nov. 16 from Sevilla, Spain.
The Latin GRAMMYs Album Of The Year category honors the work of both the established leaders and hottest rising stars in Latin music. The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs nominees for Album Of The Year include recordings by reggaeton and pop artists who are breaking down barriers in the music industry, alongside some of the most well-known and beloved singer/songwriters in Spanish.
These 10 albums were chosen to represent the most significant voices in Latin music for 2023: La Cu4rta Hoja (Pablo Alborán), A Ciegas (Paula Arenas), De Adentro Pa Afuera (Camilo), Décimo Cuarto (Andrés Cepeda), Vida Cotidiana (Juanes), Mañana Será Bonito (Karol G), De Todas Las Flores (Natalia Lafourcade), Play (Ricky Martín), Eadda9223 (Fito Páez), and Escalona Nunca Se Había Grabado Así (Carlos Vives).
Ahead of the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, officially known as the 24th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards — which will be held on Thursday, Nov. 16, in Sevilla, Spain — learn about the nominees for this prestigious category. Don’t miss the broadcast on Univision at 8 p.m. ET/PT (7 p.m. CT).
La Cu4rta Hoja – Pablo Alborán
Pop singer/songwriter Pablo Alborán closed out 2022 with an explosion of optimism and carefree experimentation titled La Cu4rta Hoja.
Throwing off the isolation of the pandemic, the Spanish chart-topper found himself ready to collaborate. The album features bold duets with música Mexicana star Carín León and Argentinian singer María Becerra, providing Alborán with the opportunity to branch out into genres, such as flamenco, that he’d never flirted with before.
Evidently, he also felt like dancing as the normally ballad oriented artist stacked his album with breezy, playa-ready dance beats. Alborán has already been nominated for 24 Latin GRAMMYs, including a nomination for Best New Artist. He was nominated for Album Of The Year in 2013 for his sophomore album Tanto, making this his second Album Of The Year nomination.
A Ciegas – Paula Arenas
Colombian singer/songwriter Paula Arenas’ career has been defined by an independent spirit since its beginning. The unconventional pop artist sang covers in nightclubs until she scored a hit single with "Lo Que El Tiempo Dejó" (featuring alt-pop legend Esteman) from her self-released debut EP, and except for a brief period with Sony Music Colombia, when she released her debut album Visceral, all her other releases have been with smaller labels.
The indie darling’s roots are still showing on the clever, intimate A Ciegas, which finds her exploring a more stripped down version of her piano driven sound. Lead single "Puro Sentimiento," featuring fellow Colombian Manuel Medrano, shines with quirky-cool, ’80s inspired glamor. Being just a little different doesn’t seem to be holding her back: The video for "Puro Sentimiento" has more than 1 million streams on YouTube and counting.
De Adentro Pa Afuera – Camilo
Iconic, stylish, unforgettable — and we’re not just talking about Camilo's mustache. The mononymous pop singer with the disarming soprano already has a few Latin GRAMMYs to his name, notably album of the year for 2021’s Mis Manos. He’s written hits for Becky G and Bad Bunny, but solo work is where Camilo really lets his creativity off the leash.
The songs on his third studio album, De Adentro Pa Afuera, range from scruffy, loosely slung takes on reggaeton to bouncy folk pop jams that showcase his romantic side. It also hosts such diverse musical guests as Camila Cabello, Myke Towers and Grupo Firme. In the hands of a lesser artist it might be disjointed, but with Camilo at the controls it’s a masterclass in joyful chaos.
Décimo Cuarto – Andrés Cepeda
A master of the devastating love song made an exuberant return this year with help from a few equally formidable friends. Colombia’s Andrés Cepeda corralled the talents of such artists as Ximena Sariñana and Gusi for a delicately tropical, massively emotional album titled simply Décimo Cuarto.
Gentle danzón and milonga rhythms ("Le Viene Bien") and lyrics about love that defies time, space and reality ("En Otra Vida") are just a couple of the elements that make up the album's restrained, yet robust mix. Décimo Cuarto also includes sweeping power ballads with Reik and Joss Favela ("Tu Despertador" and "Si Todo Se Acaba," respectively). Cepeda previously won a Latin GRAMMY in 2013 for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Lo Mejor Que Hay En Mi Vida.
Vida Cotidiana – Juanes
Loyal fans of Juanes’ rock side were rewarded for their patience when the Colombian superstar released Vida Cotidiana, an epic return to form complete with psychedelic flourishes and a healthy dose of funk and varied Caribbean influences.
Early pandemic quarantine found the artist with a lot of time at home with his family, which provided some of the inspiration for the album. He used the unanticipated pause to study poetry, take voice and guitar lessons, and record the numerous demos that would, in time, become Vida Cotidiana. Juanes said he considers it his best album, and the time and passion he put into it is obvious.
The legendary singer and songwriter has brought home 26 Latin GRAMMYs over the years and, with his 10th solo album he’s made a strong case for a 27th.
Mañana Será Bonito – Karol G
Musical powerhouse, reggaetonera and general bichota, Karol G is one major reason why all eyes are on Colombia. After establishing herself as a hit-making star in the adjoining worlds of reggaeton and Latin trap is clearly enjoying her success and savoring the moment.
As you might be able to guess from the sunshine and rainbows doodled on the album cover, Mañana Será Bonito was one of 2023' most fun albums, bubbling over with sass and unapologetic sexuality. Everyone is invited to the party: Mañana Será Bonito has features with Romeo Santos, Shakira, Carla Morrison and Sean Paul. It debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 200 making it the first all-Spanish language album by a female artist with that distinction.
De Todas Las Flores – Natalia Lafourcade
De Todas Las Flores is the first collection of completely original material from Mexican singer/songwriter Natalia Lafourcade since 2015’s critically acclaimed Hasta La Raiz (for which she received two Latin GRAMMYs).
Both Lafourcade and producer Adán Jodorowsky took a less-is-more approach on this new offering, which allowed for a subtle play of emotion on songs such as the aching title track. Famously a fan of Mexico’s rich musical heritage, De Todas Las Flores finds Lafourcade experimenting with stripped down cumbia and son, while also branching out into other regions of Latin America with bossa nova, samba and bolero. The understated arrangements perfectly complement the profound and profoundly personal tracks, which Lafourcade has described as "a musical diary."
Play – Ricky Martín
After winning a Latin GRAMMY for his 2020 EP Pausa, Ricky Martín returned in 2022 with the logical bookend: a second EP titled Play. The Puerto Rican icon made the first recording in response to the cumulative challenges in his home island, ranging from Hurricane Maria to the pandemic. It also tackled heavy issues and served as a kind of therapy for Martín, who had started suffering from panic attacks.
If Pausa was a held breath, Play is the satisfying exhale. More upbeat and even decidedly danceable in the case of the songs "Ácido Sabor" and "Paris in Love," it represents a return to life, if not a return to normal, and a focus on the romance and sensuality for which Martín has long been world famous.
Eadda9223 – Fito Páez
The Argentinian rocker’s latest full-length is a revisiting of his epochal El Amor Después del Amor, this time letting a few more folks in on the caper. Besides the aforementioned co-conspirators, Páez is joined by Ca7riel and many other Argentinian iconoclasts who no doubt owe something to the trailblazing rock en español singer/songwriter. Each track on Eadda9223 is reimagined: The new version of "Sasha, Sissí Y El Círculo De Baba" with Mon Laferte crackles with Tex-Mex electricity that bears no connection to the original, but is a perfect vehicle for Laferte’s vocal range and flair for drama.
Escalona Nunca Se Había Grabado Así – Carlos Vives
What happens when a legend offers a tribute to a legend? Escalona Nunca Se Había Grabado Así, the Carlos Vives album celebrating the music of vallenato composer Rafael Escalona answers that question with moving clarity.
Vives has brought the tropical sounds of Colombian vallenato to the world mixing them with pop and rock music, becoming a major star in the process. His deepest debt is to Escalona, who is remembered in Colombia as a storyteller and legendary personality.
Escalona Nunca Se Había Grabado Así updates the Escalona’s famous compositions while striving to preserve their inherent spirit. The album is also a celebration of Vives’ own career, which now spans three decades. In addition to his innovation and longevity, Vives is an extremely prolific artist whose many releases have brought him two GRAMMYs and 15 Latin GRAMMYs.
Image courtesy of the GRAMMY Museum
GRAMMY Museum To Celebrate 50 Years Of Hip-Hop With 'Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit' Opening Oct. 7
The new exhibit honors the 50th anniversary of hip-hop through an expansive and interactive exploration that features artifacts from legendary artists including the Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, LL Cool J, and more.
The GRAMMY Museum is celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop this fall with the newly announced Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit, an immersive, interactive, 5,000-square foot experience celebrating the multifaceted world of hip-hop and the global impact and influence of the genre and culture. Launching Saturday, Oct. 7, and running through Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2024, the exhibit will feature expansive exhibits exploring hip-hop music, dance, graffiti, fashion, business, activism, and history as well as artifacts from hip-hop pioneers like Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, and many more.
Additionally, the exhibit features a one-of-a-kind Sonic Playground, featuring five interactive stations that invite visitors of all ages to partake in DJing, rapping and sampling, all essential elements comprising hip-hop culture. Additional virtual and in-person education and community engagement programs will be announced at a later date.
Exploring the countless ways hip-hop music and culture has dominated popular culture over the last 50 years, Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit was curated by a team of four co-curators who bring a deep knowledge of hip-hop, academic rigor and creativity to the project. They include:
Felicia Angeja Viator, associate professor of history, San Francisco State University, author of ‘To Live And Defy In LA: How Gangsta Rap Changed America,’ and one of the first women DJs in the Bay Area hip-hop scene
Adam Bradley, Professor of English and founding director of the Laboratory for Race and Popular Culture (the RAP Lab) at UCLA, and co-editor of ‘The Anthology of Rap’
Jason King, Dean, USC Thornton School of Music and former chair of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU
Dan Charnas, Associate Arts Professor, NYU Clive Davis Institute of Music, and author of ‘Dilla Time: The Life And Afterlife Of The Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm’
The co-curators worked in conjunction with GRAMMY Museum Chief Curator and Vice President of Curatorial Affairs Jasen Emmons as well as a 20-member Advisory Board.
Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit is an educational journey through several key themes:
Innovation: Explore how hip-hop artists have innovatively used technology, from transforming turntables into musical instruments to pioneering sampling techniques.
Sounds of Hip-Hop: Experience the diverse sounds of hip-hop in four themed studios, showcasing the evolution of production, the intersection of hip-hop and car culture, the craft of hip-hop lyrics, and the influence of R&B.
Fashion: Dive into the world of hip-hop fashion, featuring iconic clothing, jewelry and style.
Regionalism: Discover 14 hip-hop scenes across the United States, showcasing the importance of local and regional contributions.
Entrepreneurialism: Learn about the transformation of hip-hop from a back-to-school party in the Bronx to a multi-billion-dollar global industry.
Media: Discover the role of media in shaping hip-hop's development, from radio stations to pioneering shows like "Yo! MTV Raps."
Community: Explore how hip-hop has brought people together over the last 50 years, with an interactive ‘Hip-Hop America’ playlist featuring 200 songs that trace the genre's evolution.
Highlights from Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit include:
The Notorious B.I.G.'s iconic 5001 Flavors custom red leather peacoat he wore in Junior M.A.F.I.A.'s music video "Players Anthem"
Kurtis Blow's original handwritten lyrics for his 1980 hit single, "The Breaks," the first gold-certified rap song
Tupac Shakur's handwritten essay "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death," circa 1992
Two outfits designed by Dapper Dan, Harlem fashion icon: 1) a half-length black leather jacket worn by Melle Mel (Melvin Glover, b. 1961) in performance at the 1985 GRAMMY Awards; and a black-and-yellow leather bucket hat and jacket worn by New York hip-hop artist Busy Bee (David James Parker)
Egyptian Lover's gold Roland 808, the beat-making tool
LL Cool J's red Kangol bucket hat
Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit is a key event taking place as the world is celebrating 50 years of hip-hop this year. The origins of hip-hop can be traced back to Aug. 11, 1973, when DJ Kool Herc DJed a birthday party inside the recreation room of an apartment building located on 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the South Bronx, New York City. This history-making date marks the birth of hip-hop and is the reason why we're celebrating hip-hop's 50th anniversary this year. The 50th anniversary of hip-hop means artists, fans, and the music industry at-large are celebrating the momentous milestone via hip-hop concerts, exhibits, tours, documentaries, podcasts, and more around the globe across 2023.
Visit the GRAMMY Museum website for more information regarding advanced ticket reservations for Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit.
Photo: Courtesy of the Recording Academy/Photo by Rebecca Sapp, Getty Images 2023
6 Things To Know About Charlie Puth, From His Unusual Inspirations To His Teaching Aspirations
On the heels of his last U.S. tour stop, Charlie Puth wowed fans at a special GRAMMY fundraising brunch in Los Angeles. Take a look at six takeaways from the intimate event.
Just after Charlie Puth wrapped his North American tour on July 11, the pop hitmaker treated 150 fans to the ultimate fan experience: brunch with a side of Puth.
Part of The GRAMMY Museum's Sunday Brunch With… series, the event — a fundraiser for the organization's GRAMMY In The Schools program that was sponsored by City National Bank and Porsche — invited fans to enjoy a three-course brunch followed by an intimate 45-minute acoustic set from Puth.
From the stage at his friend (and 17-time GRAMMY Award-winning mixer) Manny Marroquin's restaurant, VERSE LA in Toluca Lake, California, Puth told stories about his days at Berklee College Of Music and his journey to stardom. He also let attendees in on his songwriting process, performing some of his most beloved tracks in the process.
For those who weren't able to make it to the sold-out event, here are six takeaways from Sunday Brunch With Charlie Puth.
He May Just Become A Music Teacher In The Future
Early on in the show, Puth made a point of shouting out one of his old Berklee professors from the stage. Turns out it was Prince Charles Alexander, a multi-GRAMMY Award winning mixer and engineer who has worked with Mary J. Blige, Destiny's Child, P. Diddy, Usher, and Aretha Franklin.
Puth said he'd often pop into Alexander's office to run ideas by him, with Alexander offering up tips in return. Puth told the crowd he still thinks about Alexander's advice when he's making his own records all these years later, and shouted out not just his professor but all music educators, saying that he's a firm believer in the value of music in our schools. He even joked that he'd like to become a music teacher himself "if this whole music thing doesn't work out."
One Of His Songs Was Inspired By A Rainy Walk…
When Puth wrote "How Long" back in 2017, it was on a long walk. He was strutting around the town wondering why there weren't more tracks written at a perfect walking tempo when it started to rain. The sound of his feet combined with the wet concrete and suddenly, he told the crowd, "it was like the chords fell out of the sky."
Puth then kicked into a smooth and resonant performance of the song — which sounded excellent on whatever sound system Marroquin installed in his restaurant — prompting one attendee to shout out in glee, "ooh, you better sing!"
…And Another Was Inspired By Ed Sheeran
Puth says he started writing "We Don't Talk Anymore" when he was on the road in Osaka, Japan. He'd fallen in love with the percussive guitar on Ed Sheeran's song "Bloodstream" and wanted to use that same sort of tone on his own track.
Puth says he also wanted to write what he called "the worldliest sounding record," or "a record that would take me around the world." Given that "We Don't Talk Anymore" hit the top 10 in 20 different countries and the video has more than three billion views on YouTube to date, it's fair to say he did just that.
He Likes To Use "Light Switch" To Inspire Up-And-Coming Musicians
When the freshly signed Puth was first in LA in the early 2010s, a producer suggested they take his newly recorded tracks to a club, where they'd play them for the crowd and see what hit. It was a novel idea for Puth at the time, but something he's adapted a bit for the modern age, when he throws bits of songs and ideas up on his TikTok, hoping to see what flies.
That's exactly how his 2022 hit "Light Switch" came to be: The simple percussive sound that you hear when you turn the lights on and off.
In videos he's posted on TikTok, he's tried to show fans that, like that song, music can come from anywhere. "You don't need a multi-million dollar recording studio to make a record," he told the crowd, reminding everyone that Soulja Boy's "Crank That" was self-produced on the rapper's home computer before breaking big on social media.
Anyone, Puth said, can make and release their own music, even if they're not currently in possession of the dream recording set-up. It's just about passion and perseverance, and a desire to make something new.
He Likes To Blend Classical Riffs With Perfect Pop Melodies
When Puth started to write "Attention," it was with a little classical riff he was fooling around with on the piano. He decided to take the classical bars and throw them into a pop song, reminding the room that it's not all that uncommon. For instance, he said, Toni Wine and Carole Bayer Sager's "A Groovy Kind Of Love" contains the Rondo from Muzio Clementi's Sonatina, Opus 36, No. 5. In Puth's view, classical music and pop can live in perfect harmony, feeding off each other and building toward something even bigger than the sum of their parts.
He's Proof Of The Power Of Being Yourself
In 2012, at the height of "weight for the drop" style EDM hits, Puth felt discouraged as he was trying to break into music himself. As he recalled, he'd moved home to his parents house and was laser focused on the pop charts, tailoring his songs to whatever was No. 1 at the moment — but they were all getting turned down by labels. Finally, he said, an A&R person gave him a piece of advice, saying, essentially, "We've heard all this before. We want to hear something from you."
That's how, on his way to record a dance track at some studio in LA, Puth decided to lay down a piano ballad instead. He says it was like "See You Again" fell into his lap and attributes its success to the fact that he wasn't trying to be anyone but himself.
"See You Again changed my life," he told the brunch crowd, noting that he'll be proud and lucky if he gets to perform it for the rest of his life. As he played it live, the whole room joyfully sang along — hinting that Puth may have crafted a lifelong hit.