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A Big Band For Biggie: Celebrating The Notorious B.I.G. With A Classical Orchestra
The Notorious B.I.G.

Photo: Michael Lavine

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A Big Band For Biggie: Celebrating The Notorious B.I.G. With A Classical Orchestra

Biggie "was and is someone that represents freedom, excellence and transcendence for all people."

GRAMMYs/Jun 9, 2022 - 10:06 pm

More than 25 years after his passing, the Notorious B.I.G. remains one of the most influential rappers in hip-hop's history. The Brooklyn native born Christopher Wallace made hip-hop fall in love with his charisma, confidence and innate storytelling abilities. He also built a reputation throughout New York as a freestyle king, capable of insulting his opponent with double entendres and witty metaphors bar after bar. This past May, he would have turned 50 years young.

Before he became one of Bad Boy's top selling artists, Biggie was discovered by New York DJ Mister Cee. In 1994 he set his career off with the release of "Juicy," the lead single from his debut album Ready to Die. The autobiographical album, released when Biggie was just 22, gave listeners a glimpse into a life of poverty, drugs and crime — as well as the introspection of a young man who knew that, because of his circumstances, death could be knocking on the door.  

The concept of death, or close proximity to it, eerily framed Biggie's debut and posthumous albums — even down to the album cover of Life After Death. Just six months after the death of rival rapper Tupac Shakur, Biggie was gunned down at a traffic light in Los Angeles while leaving an industry party. He was 24 years old, and his death left the hip-hop community in a permanent state of mourning. 

By the time of his passing, Biggie's stardom, notoriety and influence expanded far beyond New York. How could you not love the technicality of a Biggie record? Who else flows so sick on a beat? Or keeps you entertained with lyrics so intricate that the details sound like a movie script? Or what about the creative skits? Although the prophetic rapper declared "you’re nobody until somebody kills you," he was a star in the physical and after life. From his rapping style to specific lyrics, the Notorious B.I.G. has inspired generations of artists.

To honor his influence and contributions to hip-hop, on June 10, New York's Lincoln Center will present an Orchestral Tribute to The Notorious B.I.G., featuring multi-instrumentalist and composer Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. The West Coast-based musician describes the opportunity to pay tribute to B.I.G. with a 25 piece orchestra as one of the greatest honors and joys of his life:

"Having gone from listening to his music every single day while in high school in the mid-'90s, to experiencing the collective heartbreak of his passing the year before I started college, to living in Bed Stuy for a year around the corner from where he lived, to the realization that Christopher Wallace wasn't just an extremely charismatic, intelligent, rare, skilled, and elite rapper — he was and is someone that represents freedom, excellence and transcendence for all people," Atwood-Ferguson tells GRAMMY.com.

Hosted by radio personality Angie Martinez, the event will open with a set by DJ Reg West followed by an Orchestral performance of B.I.G.'s most well known songs, from the multi-platinum album Ready To Die and 11 x Platinum Life After Death, featuring special guests and an extensive live set from regular B.I.G. collaborators. Despite being two disparate musical genres, the blending of hip-hop and classical music allows for magic to happen, stripping away the elitism associated with classical music and depicts rap as an adaptable, valuable genre.  

This isn’t Atwood-Ferguson’s first time using classical music to pay homage to a hip-hop legend. After the passing of Detroit native J-Dilla, Atwood-Ferguson created a tribute that consisted of orchestral interpretations of Dilla’s music; in 2009 Atwood-Ferguson released an EP titled Suite for Ma Dukes. The EP and live performance was met with critical acclaim. 

This time around, Atwood-Ferguson will be accompanied by the Originals, a world renowned DJ collective who were some of Biggie’s closest musical partners.

"It is extremely difficult to put into words just how impactful Christopher Wallace’s body of work and legacy is. From being birthed into the culture of hip-hop to his transition from raw talent to a polished commercial product, his rise to fame was unparalleled," said international DJ Rich Medina, a member of the Originals. "As a wordsmith, there are a few artists worldwide who’ve put such a large dent in the canon of lyricism with just two full length LPs."

The Biggie tribute continues a legacy of hip-hop engagement at the New York institution. "Lincoln Center has been building its relationship with the hip-hop community for decades, starting with iconic dance battles on the Lincoln Center plaza in the 1980s," Jill Sternheimer, a consulting curator at Lincoln Center tells GRAMMY.com via email. "When…Miguel Atwood Ferguson and the Originals signed on to do this tribute, we knew we had the makings of a magical project, keeping true to the Wallace Family and the New York City community." 

Without a doubt, the Notorious B.I.G. will continue to have an influence on hip-hop culture. "As ferociously talented as he was, it seems to me that it is his heart and spirit that most touches and inspires us," Atwood-Ferguson says. "He was and is on an upward trajectory and I can't wait to share my orchestral impression of some of my favorite music of his." 

The Orchestral Tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. is free to the public and begins at 7:30 p.m.

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GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

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He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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19 Concerts And Events Celebrating The 50th Anniversary Of Hip-Hop
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Photo: ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

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19 Concerts And Events Celebrating The 50th Anniversary Of Hip-Hop

From block parties in Washington, D.C. to a weeklong celebration at Lincoln Center in Manhattan and a festival in Atlanta, read on for a list of 50th anniversary of hip-hop celebrations throughout the country.

GRAMMYs/Jul 24, 2023 - 02:44 pm

Hip-hop was born at a humble party that transformed into a definitive movement. On Aug. 11, 1973, Cindy Campbell asked her brother Clive (known by his stage name DJ Kool Herc) to DJ at a school fundraiser she organized. That event, held in a Bronx apartment building community room, gave way to not only a genre but a movement. Today, hip-hop has influenced politics, education, fashion, technology and pop culture worldwide.

This year marks hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, so naturally, a wide array of exhibits, block parties and concerts are being held across New York City’s five boroughs and throughout the nation that celebrate the genre’s impact. Here is a select list of events that will commemorate this groundbreaking movement and important milestone.

Masters Of The Mic: Hip-Hop 50 Tour

Various cities

June 30 - Oct. 14

A major element across Hip-Hop 50 events is to give legends their flowers, and Masters of The Mic: Hip-Hop 50 Tour is a gathering of some of the genre’s pioneers. Organized by Universal Attractions Agency (UAA), RAMP Entertainment Agency and Mahogany Entertainment, the tour will feature performances by Big Daddy Kane, Doug E. Fresh, KRS-One, Rakim, and Slick Rick. EPMD, Roxanne Shante, DJ Spinderella will also pop up at select cities.

"While the culture may have started in the Bronx, it resonates with everyone across the globe, and a heap of credit goes to Doug, Rick, Kane, KRS, and Rakim," says UAA’s Nick Szatmari (co-producer of the tour) in a press release, "who were the pioneers that brought it from the block to the billboards. You don’t have any of the iconic rappers of today without them standing on the foundation laid by the Masters of the Mic during the ‘80s and ‘90s." 

The trek kicked off on June 30 at Essence Fest and wraps in San Antonio on Oct. 14.

Real Rap: Hip-Hop Star Power on Screen

New York City

Jul 28 - Oct 21

Hip-hop’s influence goes beyond music, with some of the genre’s biggest stars going on to become equally successful actors. 

Queen's the Museum of the Moving Image will showcase hip-hop artists on film with screenings of Baby Boy, 8 Mile, Barbershop and Poetic Justice. The series, "Real Rap: Hip-Hop Star Power on Screen" will include special introductions, discussions, a spoken word showcase and a summer dance party.

Uptown Bounce

New York City

July 20, July 27, Aug. 3

The Uptown Bounce series — thrown by the Museum of the City of New York, El Museo del Barrio and The Africa Center — has taken place in Manhattan for the past 10 years.

For 2023’s iteration, the museums will celebrate their and hip-hop’s anniversaries at The Africa Center in Harlem. Spanning three different dates, the free summer block parties will include guests like DJ Birane for "Afrobeats and Hip-Hop" and DJ Misbehaviour for "I Love the '90s."

Hip Hop Til Infinity

New York City

July 26 - Sept. 16

Global entertainment company Mass Appeal, hybrid creative studio SUPERBIEN and  Sony Music Entertainment’s Certified platform joined forces to create the immersive exhibit "Hip Hop Til Infinity." 

On view at Hall des Lumières, New York City’s largest permanent center for custom-designed immersive art experiences, Hip Hop Til Infinity will take visitors on a journey through rap’s different eras and regions. It will include listening parties, live panels, artist meet and greets, virtual concerts and a metaverse integration.

"You wouldn’t expect to see hip-hop in a place like Hall des Lumieres," Jon Colclough, vice president of creative strategy at Mass Appeal, told Artnet News. "I don’t think people understand that hip-hop is a global phenomenon and not just music."

Artist’s Eye: Jamel Shabazz on Faces and Places, 1980–2023

New York City

July 27

Brooklyn-born photographer Jamel Shabazz has been documenting hip-hop culture and communities across all boroughs since the ‘80s. His new installation "Faces and Places, 1980–2023" at the Brooklyn Museum is a visual trip down memory lane. 

The exhibit runs through September, but on July 27 the artist will join curator Drew Sawyer for an intimate conversation about the significance of his work.

The Book of HOV

Brooklyn, New York

Ongoing

The Brooklyn Public Library recently debuted an immersive experience on one of the borough’s most legendary rappers, Jay-Z. Created by Roc Nation, The Book of HOV features "never-before-seen images, art and ephemera from the artist's archives, providing an unparalleled look at an extraordinary life and career."

Spread out over two floors in the library’s central branch — in addition to an installation on the building’s facade — The Book of HOV is exhibited as eight chapters that detail the GRAMMY winner’s rise to fame and success. Among the exhibit’s features is a replica of Baseline Studios, where Jay-Z recorded classic albums including The Blueprint and The Black Album.

Dance Party NYC: 50 Years of Hip-Hop

New York City

Aug. 5

The New York Public Library teamed up with New York City’s New Victory Theater for a special edition of Dance Party NYC. The free event will include dance lessons from New Victory Teaching Artists Olney Edmondson and Sun Kim, a sneaker design workshop, and sign-ups for NYPL’s special edition hip-hop library card. 

The same day, the NYPL is also hosting an event called The Rap Up. It will include panel discussions and hip-hop exhibits with VIBE magazine editor-in-chief Datwon Thomas, Wild Style director Charlie Ahearn, rap legend Fab 5 Freddy, streetwear designers 5001 Flavors and April Walker, and more.

Rock The Bells Festival

New York City

Aug. 5

The lineup for this year’s Rock The Bells Festival is jam-packed with artists who helped bring hip-hop to the world. 

"We’ve made it a priority to honor hip-hop culture! This is a celebration for artists who paved the way and the legions of fans around the world throughout hip-hop’s 50th anniversary year," said Rock The Bells President James Cuthbert in a press release. "The stage is set for the overdue acknowledgment and celebration of our culture and the fans who live and breathe it. This lineup represents icons and artists from various decades, cities and styles, ensuring fans have the best hip-hop experience possible." 

The festival indeed has an impressive list of icons, including Queen Latifah, De La Soul, Slick Rick, Salt-N-Pepa, Ludacris, Method Man & Redman, Swizz Beatz and plenty more.

BRIC Hip-Hop 50th Anniversary Weekend

New York City

Aug. 11-12

For the past 45 years, BRIC has been revered for being an inclusive institution that spotlights both eclectic newcomers and seasoned legends in hip-hop and R&B. The Brooklyn-based brand is most known for its BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, which is New York’s longest-running free performing arts festival. To commemorate hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, the organizers are planning a fun-filled weekend that highlights community.

On Aug. 11, BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! will throw a concert featuring jazz/alternative rap trio Digable Planets — who are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their debut Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) — and Southern rapper Kari Faux. The following day, the institution will host a screening of 2002’s romantic comedy and love letter to hip-hop, Brown Sugar

"We're beyond thrilled to introduce BRIC hip-hop to the world through this weekend of programming and bring our communities together around a shared love of hip-hop culture," BRIC President Wes Jackson said in a press release. "We're committing ourselves to providing an evergreen home for the education, expression, and evolution of hip-hop not only this summer but for years to come."

Faawud: Jamaican Sound System Culture’s Official Hip-Hop 50th Celebration

New York City

Aug. 10

The roots of hip-hop are in reggae and dancehall, as DJ Kool Herc and Cindy Campbell are of Jamaican descent. Back in 1973, Herc and emcee Coke LaRock borrowed elements from Jamaican sound systems and toasters, thus birthing the sound of hip-hop. To commemorate the beauty of blending cultures, LL Cool J’s Rock the Bells, Live Nation’s Bowery Presents, Impulse Nation and the Jamaica Music Conference have announced Faawud: Jamaican Sound System Culture’s Official Hip-Hop 50th Celebration.

Taking place at New York City’s Webster Hall, the event will include a battle between a hip-hop emcee and a Jamaican toaster, an exhibit featuring various memorabilia (like audio components and posters) from the genres’ early days, and a panel with Herc, Grandmaster Kaz and Jamaican selector Danny Dread.

Hip-Hop’s 50th Birthday Jam

New York City

Aug. 11

The Bronx’s Universal Hip-Hop Museum is celebrating the genre’s birthplace with a block party. Held at Mill Pond Park, the free event will feature a Red Bull BC One open cypher, a "Rapmania" showcase and murals from Thrive Collective, an organization that provides arts, sports and mentorship opportunities at New York public schools.

Boom Bap Atlanta: Hip Hop 50 Fest

Atlanta, Georgia

Aug.  11-13

Boom Bap Atlanta is teaming with The Hype Magazine for a three-day festival held at the city’s Park Tavern and Piedmont Park. Hip Hop 50 Fest will occur in conjunction with the BeREGGAE Music & Arts Festival Weekend. 

The free experience at Piedmont Park will have a laidback picnic atmosphere with vendors and hip-hop blasting through the speakers. The ticketed experience at Park Tavern will have performances and conversations by artists and cultural influencers. The daily events are as follows: The Hype Magazine 21st Anniversary Party & The Grassroots Seminar on Aug. 11, a tribute to the Native Tongues on Aug. 12, and "Beats & Lyrics & Flow & Substance" event on Aug. 13.

Hip Hop 50 Live at Yankee Stadium

New York City

Aug. 11

The Bronx’s Yankee Stadium will transform into an epic celebration of rap music with Hip-Hop 50 Live. Run-D.M.C., Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube will take over the legendary stadium. There will also be special performances, including a "Queens of Hip Hop" set with Eve, Lil Kim, Remy Ma, Trina and others. A "Pillars of Hip-Hop" set will feature rap trailblazers Kurtis Blow, Melle Mel, Roxanne Shante and more. 

"I am honored to hit the stage in the Bronx, the birthplace of Hip Hop and celebrate all of my heroes," said Rev Run in a press release. "Aug 11th is Hip Hop’s 50th birthday! So…’Up in the Bronx’ where it all started we will be celebrating this historic moment in history! I am honored to pay tribute to the culture that allowed this little shy kid from Queens to grow up and become The Mighty King of Rock! Thank you Hip Hop!!!" said D.M.C. in a press release.

Other performers include T.I., Fat Joe, Common, A$AP Ferg, EPMD, Ghostface Killah, Lupe Fiasco and Slick Rick. A DJ set will feature Clark Kent, Marley Marl, Mannie Fresh and Battlecat. 

National Museum of African American History and Culture Block Party

Washington, D.C.

August 12

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture's (NMAAHC) inaugural Hip-Hop Block Party saw 8,000 attendees in 2022. This year, they plan to make it even bigger for the genre’s special anniversary. NMAAHC will install an outdoor panel exhibition highlighting new hip-hop artifacts from the museum’s collection. Along with performances by DJs, artists and cultural influencers (not yet revealed), attendees can also participate in activities like graffiti art and breakdancing.

There will also be hip-hop-focused tours of NMAAHC’s galleries and the return of Club Café that will feature a rap-inspired menu. The free event will take place on the National Mall at the intersection of Madison Drive N.W. and 14th Street. 

Dallas 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop Celebration

Dallas, Texas

Aug. 12

Dallas has birthed some of rap’s most influential artists, including The D.O.C., Yella Beezy, Bobby Sessions, Dorrough and Post Malone. The city plans to honor its hip-hop scene with a free event taking place at Armoury D.E. Organized by local rapper Rakim Al Jabbaar and The Farmacy Family, it will include performances, DJ sets and appearances by Fat Pimp, Bobo Luciano, Kottonmouth Jesse and Pikahsso.

Rakim + Rapsody At Lincoln Center

New York City

Aug. 12

NYC’s Lincoln Center is planning an impressive string of events for its hip-hop week, which runs from Aug. 9-12. From a "Ladies of Hip-Hop Dance Collective" dance lesson to a silent disco hosted by DJ Spinna, there’s plenty for rap lovers of all ages to enjoy. 

One of the stand-out events is a free concert with Rakim and Rapsody at Damrosch Park. Rakim is a legendary MC who helped pave the way for technical rap metaphors, while Rapsody is one of the best storytellers of the millennial generation. This one will make for an exciting union of old-school and new-school generations.

Genius "IQ/BBQ"

New York City

Aug. 19

The Genius "IQ/BBQ" makes a grand return in August to Queen’s Knockdown Center. The day-long festivities include live hip-hop performances (the lineup is to be announced soon), DJ sets and ​​"lyric-inspired" dishes from New York City-centric food trucks.

The event is presented in partnership with Infiniti, Paco Rabanne, Patron El Alto, Paramount+ with Showtime's "The Chi." 

Hip Hop Forever 50th Anniversary Concert

New York City

Sept. 15

Hip-hop will take over New York City’s Madison Square Garden this fall for the Hip Hop Forever concert, hosted by local radio stations Hot 97 and WBLS-FM and curated by Funk Flex. 

The lineup includes rap mainstays (and NYC natives) Wu-Tang, as well as Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige — two women who have masterfully blended rap with R&B and soul. Other acts include Sean Paul, Maxwell, Tyrese and EPMD.

ONE Musicfest

Atlanta

Oct. 28-29

Kendrick Lamar, Janet Jackson and Megan Thee Stallion will headline this year’s ONE Musicfest, taking place at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. In honor of hip-hop's 50th anniversary, the festival will have a special stage featuring artists spanning generations including Nelly, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, Kid Capri, DJ Drama, 2 Live Crew’s Uncle Luke, Lady of Rage and Too $hort.

"To have the opportunity to host Kendrick Lamar, Janet Jackson, Megan Thee Stallion, Brent Faiyaz, and other iconic artists in the middle of Piedmont Park is a dream come true, especially on the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop," founder J. Carter said in a statement. "It doesn’t get any better than this."

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A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 

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A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea

James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.

Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.

Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.

In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.

Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.

There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.

Say She She

Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.

While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."

Moniquea

Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.

Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.

Shiro Schwarz

Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.

Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.

L'Impératrice

L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.

During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.

Franc Moody

Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.

Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.

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Billy Idol

Photo: Steven Sebring

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"One foot in the past and one foot into the future," Billy Idol says, describing his decade-spanning career in rock. "We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol."

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:19 pm

Living Legends is a series that spotlights icons in music still going strong today. This week, GRAMMY.com spoke with Billy Idol about his latest EP,  Cage, and continuing to rock through decades of changing tastes.

Billy Idol is a true rock 'n' roll survivor who has persevered through cultural shifts and personal struggles. While some may think of Idol solely for "Rebel Yell" and "White Wedding," the singer's musical influences span genres and many of his tunes are less turbo-charged than his '80s hits would belie.  

Idol first made a splash in the latter half of the '70s with the British punk band Generation X. In the '80s, he went on to a solo career combining rock, pop, and punk into a distinct sound that transformed him and his musical partner, guitarist Steve Stevens, into icons. They have racked up multiple GRAMMY nominations, in addition to one gold, one double platinum, and four platinum albums thanks to hits like "Cradle Of Love," "Flesh For Fantasy," and "Eyes Without A Face." 

But, unlike many legacy artists, Idol is anything but a relic. Billy continues to produce vital Idol music by collaborating with producers and songwriters — including Miley Cyrus — who share his forward-thinking vision. He will play a five-show Vegas residency in November, and filmmaker Jonas Akerlund is working on a documentary about Idol’s life. 

His latest release is Cage, the second in a trilogy of annual four-song EPs. The title track is a classic Billy Idol banger expressing the desire to free himself from personal constraints and live a better life. Other tracks on Cage incorporate metallic riffing and funky R&B grooves. 

Idol continues to reckon with his demons — they both grappled with addiction during the '80s — and the singer is open about those struggles on the record and the page. (Idol's 2014 memoir Dancing With Myself, details a 1990 motorcycle accident that nearly claimed a leg, and how becoming a father steered him to reject hard drugs. "Bitter Taste," from his last EP, The Roadside, reflects on surviving the accident.)

Although Idol and Stevens split in the late '80s — the skilled guitarist fronted Steve Stevens & The Atomic Playboys, and collaborated with Michael Jackson, Rick Ocasek, Vince Neil, and Harold Faltermeyer (on the GRAMMY-winning "Top Gun Anthem") —  their common history and shared musical bond has been undeniable. The duo reunited in 2001 for an episode of "VH1 Storytellers" and have been back in the saddle for two decades. Their union remains one of the strongest collaborations in rock 'n roll history.

While there is recognizable personnel and a distinguishable sound throughout a lot of his work, Billy Idol has always pushed himself to try different things. Idol discusses his musical journey, his desire to constantly move forward, and the strong connection that he shares with Stevens. 

Steve has said that you like to mix up a variety of styles, yet everyone assumes you're the "Rebel Yell"/"White Wedding" guy. But if they really listen to your catalog, it's vastly different.

Yeah, that's right. With someone like Steve Stevens, and then back in the day Keith Forsey producing... [Before that] Generation X actually did move around inside punk rock. We didn't stay doing just the Ramones two-minute music. We actually did a seven-minute song. [Laughs]. We did always mix things up. 

Then when I got into my solo career, that was the fun of it. With someone like Steve, I knew what he could do. I could see whatever we needed to do, we could nail it. The world was my oyster musically. 

"Cage" is a classic-sounding Billy Idol rocker, then "Running From The Ghost" is almost metal, like what the Devil's Playground album was like back in the mid-2000s. "Miss Nobody" comes out of nowhere with this pop/R&B flavor. What inspired that?

We really hadn't done anything like that since something like "Flesh For Fantasy" [which] had a bit of an R&B thing about it. Back in the early days of Billy Idol, "Hot In The City" and "Mony Mony" had girls [singing] on the backgrounds. 

We always had a bit of R&B really, so it was actually fun to revisit that. We just hadn't done anything really quite like that for a long time. That was one of the reasons to work with someone like Sam Hollander [for the song "Rita Hayworth"] on The Roadside. We knew we could go [with him] into an R&B world, and he's a great songwriter and producer. That's the fun of music really, trying out these things and seeing if you can make them stick. 

I listen to new music by veteran artists and debate that with some people. I'm sure you have those fans that want their nostalgia, and then there are some people who will embrace the newer stuff. Do you find it’s a challenge to reach people with new songs?

Obviously, what we're looking for is, how do we somehow have one foot in the past and one foot into the future? We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol. 

You want to do things that are true to you, and you don't just want to try and do things that you're seeing there in the charts today. I think that we're achieving it with things like "Running From The Ghost" and "Cage" on this new EP. I think we’re managing to do both in a way. 

**Obviously, "Running From The Ghost" is about addiction, all the stuff that you went through, and in "Cage" you’re talking about  freeing yourself from a lot of personal shackles. Was there any one moment in your life that made you really thought I have to not let this weigh me down anymore?**

I mean, things like the motorcycle accident I had, that was a bit of a wake up call way back. It was 32 years ago. But there were things like that, years ago, that gradually made me think about what I was doing with my life. I didn't want to ruin it, really. I didn't want to throw it away, and it made [me] be less cavalier. 

I had to say to myself, about the drugs and stuff, that I've been there and I've done it. There’s no point in carrying on doing it. You couldn't get any higher. You didn't want to throw your life away casually, and I was close to doing that. It took me a bit of time, but then gradually I was able to get control of myself to a certain extent [with] drugs and everything. And I think Steve's done the same thing. We're on a similar path really, which has been great because we're in the same boat in terms of lyrics and stuff. 

So a lot of things like that were wake up calls. Even having grandchildren and just watching my daughter enlarging her family and everything; it just makes you really positive about things and want to show a positive side to how you're feeling, about where you're going. We've lived with the demons so long, we've found a way to live with them. We found a way to be at peace with our demons, in a way. Maybe not completely, but certainly to where we’re enjoying what we do and excited about it.

[When writing] "Running From The Ghost" it was easy to go, what was the ghost for us? At one point, we were very drug addicted in the '80s. And Steve in particular is super sober [now]. I mean, I still vape pot and stuff. I don’t know how he’s doing it, but it’s incredible. All I want to be able to do is have a couple of glasses of wine at a restaurant or something. I can do that now.

I think working with people that are super talented, you just feel confident. That is a big reason why you open up and express yourself more because you feel comfortable with what's around you.

Did you watch Danny Boyle's recent Sex Pistols mini-series?

I did, yes.

You had a couple of cameos; well, an actor who portrayed you did. How did you react to it? How accurate do you think it was in portraying that particular time period?

I love Jonesy’s book, I thought his book was incredible. It's probably one of the best bio books really. It was incredible and so open. I was looking forward to that a lot.

It was as if [the show] kind of stayed with Steve [Jones’ memoir] about halfway through, and then departed from it. [John] Lydon, for instance, was never someone I ever saw acting out; he's more like that today. I never saw him do something like jump up in the room and run around going crazy. The only time I saw him ever do that was when they signed the recording deal with Virgin in front of Buckingham Palace. Whereas Sid Vicious was always acting out; he was always doing something in a horrible way or shouting at someone. I don't remember John being like that. I remember him being much more introverted.

But then I watched interviews with some of the actors about coming to grips with the parts they were playing. And they were saying, we knew punk rock happened but just didn't know any of the details. So I thought well, there you go. If ["Pistol" is]  informing a lot of people who wouldn't know anything about punk rock, maybe that's what's good about it.

Maybe down the road John Lydon will get the chance to do John's version of the Pistols story. Maybe someone will go a lot deeper into it and it won't be so surface. But maybe you needed this just to get people back in the flow.

We had punk and metal over here in the States, but it feels like England it was legitimately more dangerous. British society was much more rigid.

It never went [as] mega in America. It went big in England. It exploded when the Pistols did that interview with [TV host Bill] Grundy, that lorry truck driver put his boot through his own TV, and all the national papers had "the filth and the fury" [headlines].

We went from being unknown to being known overnight. We waited a year, Generation X. We even told them [record labels] no for nine months to a year. Every record company wanted their own punk rock group. So it went really mega in England, and it affected the whole country – the style, the fashions, everything. I mean, the Ramones were massive in England. Devo had a No. 1 song [in England] with "Satisfaction" in '77. Actually, Devo was as big as or bigger than the Pistols.

You were ahead of the pop-punk thing that happened in the late '90s, and a lot of it became tongue-in-cheek by then. It didn't have the same sense of rebelliousness as the original movement. It was more pop.

It had become a style. There was a famous book in England called Revolt Into Style — and that's what had happened, a revolt that turned into style which then they were able to duplicate in their own way. Even recently, Billie Joe [Armstrong] did his own version of "Gimme Some Truth," the Lennon song we covered way back in 1977.

When we initially were making [punk] music, it hadn't become accepted yet. It was still dangerous and turned into a style that people were used to. We were still breaking barriers.

You have a band called Generation Sex with Steve Jones and Paul Cook. I assume you all have an easier time playing Pistols and Gen X songs together now and not worrying about getting spit on like back in the '70s?

Yeah, definitely. When I got to America I told the group I was putting it together, "No one spits at the audience."

We had five years of being spat on [in the UK], and it was revolting. And they spat at you if they liked you. If they didn't like it they smashed your gear up. One night, I remember I saw blood on my T-shirt, and I think Joe Strummer got meningitis when spit went in his mouth.

You had to go through a lot to become successful, it wasn't like you just kind of got up there and did a couple of gigs. I don't think some young rock bands really get that today.

With punk going so mega in England, we definitely got a leg up. We still had a lot of work to get where we got to, and rightly so because you find out that you need to do that. A lot of groups in the old days would be together three to five years before they ever made a record, and that time is really important. In a way, what was great about punk rock for me was it was very much a learning period. I really learned a lot [about] recording music and being in a group and even writing songs.

Then when I came to America, it was a flow, really. I also really started to know what I wanted Billy Idol to be. It took me a little bit, but I kind of knew what I wanted Billy Idol to be. And even that took a while to let it marinate.

You and Miley Cyrus have developed a good working relationship in the last several years. How do you think her fans have responded to you, and your fans have responded to her?

I think they're into it. It's more the record company that she had didn't really get "Night Crawling"— it was one of the best songs on Plastic Hearts, and I don't think they understood that. They wanted to go with Dua Lipa, they wanted to go with the modern, young acts, and I don't think they realized that that song was resonating with her fans. Which is a shame really because, with Andrew Watt producing, it's a hit song.

But at the same time, I enjoyed doing it. It came out really good and it's very Billy Idol. In fact, I think it’s more Billy Idol than Miley Cyrus. I think it shows you where Andrew Watt was. He was excited about doing a Billy Idol track. She's fun to work with. She’s a really great person and she works at her singing — I watched her rehearsing for the Super Bowl performance she gave. She rehearsed all Saturday morning, all Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning and it was that afternoon. I have to admire her fortitude. She really cares.

I remember when you went on "Viva La Bamback in 2005 and decided to give Bam Margera’s Lamborghini a new sunroof by taking a power saw to it. Did he own that car? Was that a rental?

I think it was his car.

Did he get over it later on?

He loved it. [Laughs] He’s got a wacky sense of humor. He’s fantastic, actually. I’m really sorry to see what he's been going through just lately. He's going through a lot, and I wish him the best. He's a fantastic person, and it's a shame that he's struggling so much with his addictions. I know what it's like. It's not easy.

Musically, what is the synergy like with you guys during the past 10 years, doing Kings and Queens of the Underground and this new stuff? What is your working relationship like now in this more sober, older, mature version of you two as opposed to what it was like back in the '80s?

In lots of ways it’s not so different because we always wrote the songs together, we always talked about what we're going to do together. It was just that we were getting high at the same time.We're just not getting [that way now] but we're doing all the same things.

We're still talking about things, still [planning] things:What are we going to do next? How are we going to find new people to work with? We want to find new producers. Let's be a little bit more timely about putting stuff out.That part of our relationship is the same, you know what I mean? That never got affected. We just happened to be overloading in the '80s.

The relationship’s… matured and it's carrying on being fruitful, and I think that's pretty amazing. Really, most people don't get to this place. Usually, they hate each other by now. [Laughs] We also give each other space. We're not stopping each other doing things outside of what we’re working on together. All of that enables us to carry on working together. I love and admire him. I respect him. He's been fantastic. I mean, just standing there on stage with him is always a treat. And he’s got an immensely great sense of humor. I think that's another reason why we can hang together after all this time because we've got the sense of humor to enable us to go forward.

There's a lot of fan reaction videos online, and I noticed a lot of younger women like "Rebel Yell" because, unlike a lot of other '80s alpha male rock tunes, you're talking about satisfying your lover.

It was about my girlfriend at the time, Perri Lister. It was about how great I thought she was, how much I was in love with her, and how great women are, how powerful they are.

It was a bit of a feminist anthem in a weird way. It was all about how relationships can free you and add a lot to your life. It was a cry of love, nothing to do with the Civil War or anything like that. Perri was a big part of my life, a big part of being Billy Idol. I wanted to write about it. I'm glad that's the effect.

Is there something you hope people get out of the songs you've been doing over the last 10 years? Do you find yourself putting out a message that keeps repeating?

Well, I suppose, if anything, is that you can come to terms with your life, you can keep a hold of it. You can work your dreams into reality in a way and, look, a million years later, still be enjoying it.

The only reason I'm singing about getting out of the cage is because I kicked out of the cage years ago. I joined Generation X when I said to my parents, "I'm leaving university, and I'm joining a punk rock group." And they didn't even know what a punk rock group was. Years ago, I’d write things for myself that put me on this path, so that maybe in 2022 I could sing something like "Cage" and be owning this territory and really having a good time. This is the life I wanted.

The original UK punk movement challenged societal norms. Despite all the craziness going on throughout the world, it seems like a lot of modern rock bands are afraid to do what you guys were doing. Do you think we'll see a shift in that?

Yeah.  Art usually reacts to things, so I would think eventually there will be a massive reaction to the pop music that’s taken over — the middle of the road music, and then this kind of right wing politics. There will be a massive reaction if there's not already one. I don’t know where it will come from exactly. You never know who's gonna do [it].

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