meta-scriptChelsea Cutler On Writing 'Brent' With Jeremy Zucker, Playing Lolla & More | GRAMMY.com

Chelsea Cutler

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Chelsea Cutler On Writing 'Brent' With Jeremy Zucker, Playing Lolla & More

While On The Road At Lollapalooza 2019, the "Your Shirt" singer tells the Recording Academy about how her 'Brent' EP came together and how leaving New York for Connecticut helped her creative process

GRAMMYs/Aug 6, 2019 - 01:02 am

Rising indie electronic-pop star Chelsea Cutler is one half of her latest album Brent, which she created alongside her friend and fellow singer/songwriter Jeremy Zucker.

At Lollapalooza 2019, Cutler, who got her start dropping music on Soundcloud and has been releasing a series of singles and EPs since 2016, told the Recording Academy about how the album came together and how leaving her home in New York for Connecticut helped her and Zucker's creative process. 

"We stayed in a one room carriage house in the Berkshires...and we just wrote the most magical project together and had the best time," she said. "It's just this beautiful place that allowed us to really access this raw creativity."

She continued: "It was really essential for us to get out of New York, get out of the industry, get out of the noise and just write from out hearts and just write things that felt honest and raw for us and just make music that we love, not thinking about how it will be received commercially. It was super refreshing for us."

Cutler will joing singer Lauv on tour this fall. Watch the video above for more on Brent, how Cutler felt playing Lollapalooza and more. 

Meet Us Behind The Scenes At Lollapalooza 2019

Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction on stage at Lollapalooza 2003.
Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction at Lollapalooza 2003.

Photo: J. Shearer/WireImage/GettyImages

list

'Lolla: The Story of Lollapalooza' Recounts How An Alt Rock Fest Laid The Blueprint For Bonnaroo & More

A new three-part documentary on Paramount+ traces the origin of Lollapalooza from its early days as a traveling alt-rock showcase initially conceived as a farewell tour for Jane's Addiction, to the three-day Chicago-based festival that exists today.

GRAMMYs/May 22, 2024 - 09:27 pm

Few music festivals have had the cultural impact of Lollapalooza. 

Conceived in 1991 as a farewell tour for Jane's Addiction by lead singer Perry Farrell, the festival quickly became a traveling showcase for alt-rock and counterculture. Its eclectic lineups, which also included punk, metal, and hip-hop acts, helped define a generation's musical tastes. 

A new, three-episode documentary, "Lolla: The Story of Lollapalooza," takes an in-depth look at the festival's journey over three decades. From its early days of bringing together alt acts including Nine Inch Nails, Living Colour, Pearl Jam, and the Beastie Boys, Lollapalooza has evolved into what it is today: a three-day festival based in Chicago's Grant Park since 2005. The festival remains an enduring celebration of alternative music.

"Lolla" explores how Lollapalooza defied expectations by both embracing and helping shape the emerging youth culture of the '90s — a rebellious, introspective shift from the flashy excess of the '80s. The docuseries highlights the festival's influence through a trove of archival footage and exclusive interviews with Lollapalooza co-founders, show promoters, bookers, MTV hosts. Of course, "Lolla" features a who's who of '90s-era rockers — including Farrell himself, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails, Donita Sparks from L7, Ice-T

To watch "Lolla" is to open a time capsule for alternative culture, one where the stage becomes a symbol of generational change. Read on for five takeaways from the documentary, which is now streaming on Paramount+. 

The Reading Festival Served As Inspiration

For their farewell tour, Jane's Addiction decided to emulate the UK Reading Festival's approach to curating live music and alternative acts in a multi-day, open-air forum (where bands like the Buzzcocks and Pixies played to crowds of 40,000). 

Jane's Addiction had been scheduled to play the 1990 Reading Festival, but Farrell partied too much the night before after a club gig and lost his voice, and the band had to cancel. Drummer Stephen Perkins and future Lollapalooza co-founder Marc Geiger decided to check out the event anyway, which planted the seed for the future tour. 

"Reading was a cornucopia of artists, and scenes, and curation, and it was such a vibe," recalled Geiger in an interview scene from the doc. "I remember saying, 'Perry, we have to do it.'"

Farrell was game after missing his chance to see Reading first-hand. So Lollapalooza co-founders Geiger, Don Muller and Ted Gardner, who was also Jane's Addiction band manager, got to work emulating the Reading model. In addition to live music, Farrell wanted something "completely subversive" with booths to engage festival goers with everything from henna tattoos and art galleries, to nonprofit and political organizations like Greenpeace, PETA, the Surfrider Foundation, and even voter registration for the Rock The Vote campaign. The result was art and activism combined with commerce.

Lolla Was Born From The Death Of Jane's Addiction

Although Jane's Addiction had a big buzz with their third album, Ritual de lo Habitual, the band was on the edge of  dissolution. "We really couldn't stand each other," admitted Farrell. Ready for his next act, Farrell saw the opportunity to end on a high note with Jane's Addiction. "The best work we did, we left on the stage at Lolla," he said in the doc. 

In the early '90s, alternative acts were not selling out massive venues. Organizers were on edge, hoping fans would buy tickets and show up to not one, but 28 U.S. tour dates featuring the seven-act lineup for the first-ever Lollapalooza.

What nobody expected was the watershed success. The first show saw fans sweat it out to see their favorite acts in Phoenix, on a day with temperatures well over 100 degrees. Nine Inch Nails' equipment melted in the heat, leading the band to destroy their failing gear before walking off the stage. 

Despite initial hiccups, the tour wasn't hindered. Lollapalooza's first year sold out in a majority of venues holding 15-18,000 people, driven largely by word-of-mouth and favorable coverage by MTV.  

"I think everybody knew and ultimately felt, 'wow, I'm sort of lucky to be here — I'm part of something,'" recalled Geiger in the doc. "It was bigger than anything these artists or fans had seen at that time."

Lollapalooza '92 further mixed genres on the main stage — like gangsta rap (Ice Cube), grunge (Pearl Jam) and shoegaze (Lush) — while greatly expanding the line-up on a side stage upon which Farrell and Perkins introduced their new band Porno For Pyros, alongside many other acts. Lollapalooza's model was born. 

Early Years Embraced Racial Inclusivity, But Lagged Gender-Wise

Right from the start, Lollapalooza organizers mixed up the bill beyond white artists that traditionally headlined rock concerts long before and after Jimi Hendrix performed at Woodstock and Monterey Pop. Part of why Lollapalooza thrived is the inclusion of bands like Ice-T's Body Count, Fishbone, and Living Colour — favorite headliners during the early tours.

Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello credited Living Colour with helping build "the alternative arc" and opening doors for Rage. "Without Living Colour, Rage Against The Machine doesn't get a record deal. Ever," Morello said. 

A big moment came near the end of the '91 tour when Ice-T and Farrell squared off to cover Sly and the Family Stone's "Don't Call Me ******, Whitey" in which they tersely trade verses, then end up tangoing across the stage. It was a provocative performance that grabbed headlines and the audience's attention months after the high profile police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. In '92, Soundgarden showed solidarity with Body Count by performing their controversial track "Cop Killer" with their guitarist Ernie C onstage in Miami. 

While Lolla embraced racial diversity, the early line-ups were male-dominated. Lone female act Siouxsie and the Banshees were a favorite in '91 and later Lollapalooza main stage artists, like Sonic Youth, Babes In Toyland, Lush, and the Breeders — which had more if not all female members — were outnumbered by their male counterparts.

Read more: 6 Female-Fronted Acts Reviving Rock: Wet Leg, Larkin Poe, Gretel Hänlyn & More

Donita Sparks noted that L7 got booked in '94 only after they fired off a bluntly worded fax to the organizers. "We got the offer," Sparks said, "but we had to push the issue. And we had to fight for it. 'Cause that's how much we wanted to be on Lollapalooza, and more importantly, that's how much we felt we deserved to be on Lollapalooza.

Female artists would eventually receive their Lolla dues, with Billie Eilish, Lorde, HAIM, Miley Cyrus and Karol G performing as festival headliners, and artists like Lady Gaga starting out as side stage artists before exploding in popularity and returning to headline the fest a few short years later. 

It Became A Victim Of Its Own Success

Lollapalooza from years '91 to '93 were the purest in terms of alt-rock acts, but as the event drew a wider range of talent and demand, it began to suffer a bit of an identity crisis. After all, it's hard to be a beacon for the underground scene once that culture is above ground.

By Lolla '94, attendance set records and alt-rock had hit the mainstream while grunge peaked and critics bemoaned its growing conventional status. Former second stage booker John Rubeli revealed that Nirvana turned down a $6 million offer to headline the '94 tour because of frontman Kurt Cobain's fear of selling out. Cobain's suicide a few short weeks later changed the scene. 

In '95, the festival returned with more indie bands on the mainstage, but some were eclipsed by bigger artists like Coolio, who drew a bigger crowd to the parking lot side stage. Increased popularity drove commercial sponsorship, and the event became more expensive. Ticket sales dropped. Then in '96, Farrell quit his involvement with the festival for a year in protest over the booking of Metallica, whose aggressive music and audience he felt were out of step with his vision.

"I felt disrespected," Farrell said. "I'm not putting this thing together to make the most money. I'm putting this thing together to make the most joy."

Upon his return in 1997, Farrell's inclusion of electronic acts like the Orbital and the Prodigy were, to some ears, ahead of the curve. The festival then went on a six-year hiatus. 

Lollapalooza returned on shaky legs for its 2003 tour, which included Audioslave, Incubus, the Donnas, and the reunion of Jane's Addiction. But it was truly reborn in 2005 as a three-day event in Chicago through concert promoters C3 Presents (who co-executive produced the "Lolla" doc).  Admittedly, some of the 21st century headliners like Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Journey, and Paul McCartney would never have fit the '90s festival bill. 

Times have changed and, today, the festival has embraced its conventional success while retaining its original genre-spanning reach with the Killers, Melanie Martinez, Skrillex, and Tyler, the Creator included on this summer's lineup.

Lolla Was A Model For Coachella, Bonnaroo, And Beyond

Prior to the arrival of Lollapalooza, rock festivals were usually single weekend events that took place in a fixed location, like Woodstock in '69, Steve Wozniak's US Festival in '82 and '83, and European festivals like Reading. "I just think it's the first American, truly eclectic concert series since Woodstock," said Ice-T. "And even Woodstock wasn't as eclectic because Woodstock was pretty much all rock."

Lollapalooza's successful tour format inspired other popular tours and live events, especially in the mid-'90s. During the festival's break during the late '90s and early 00's, niche festivals like Ozzfest, Vans Warped Tour, and Lilith Fair stole the show. These festivals not only continued Lollapalooza's legacy by bringing diverse genres to cities across the country, but transformed the live music scene into a cultural phenomenon. 

While epic, genre-spanning weekend festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo have been raging since the early aughts, Lollapalooza first proved that a seemingly radical idea could grow and thrive. Incorporating a mix of rock, hip-hop, electronic, and alternative acts, inclusivity and mobility became a festival blueprint. Today, Lollapalooza is tapping into international audiences and local music scenes with versions of the festival in Argentina, Berlin, Stockholm, Paris, and even Mumbai. 

Lollapalooza's success proves that the media and music industry often don't realize the size and passion of certain scenes and subcultures until they're brought together in the right setting. By uniting diverse musical acts and their fans, Lollapalooza highlights eclectic talent but also shows just how much people crave that representation and diversity.

Music Festivals 2024 Guide: Lineups & Dates For Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo & Much More

YOASOBI kneel in a pose for a portrait
YOASOBI

Photo: Kato Shumpei

feature

From Tokyo To Coachella: YOASOBI's Journey To Validate J-Pop And Vocaloid As Art Forms

YOASOBI, blending J-pop and Vocaloid with narrative-driven songs, is capturing a global audience through their performances at major festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza, marking a significant moment for Japanese music on the international stage.

GRAMMYs/Apr 9, 2024 - 04:37 pm

For decades, Japanese music has been one of the hardest to access as a foreigner. Even with the popularization of cultural exports like anime and the emergence of streaming platforms, it is still considered a niche, and fans often have to dig deep in order to find albums, translations, or any kind of content at all.

"There weren’t many opportunities for Japanese music to go out into the world until now," says YOASOBI’s producer and songwriter, Ayase, over a Sunday morning Zoom from Tokyo. "If we were to break into the mainstream, I think there’s a lot more work to do. Being a part of Coachella is one of them."

The duo, composed of Ayase, 30, and vocalist Ikura, 23, is gearing up for their first performance at the mighty Californian festival next weekend, plus two sold out headline shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In August, they are set to play at Lollapalooza in Chicago, IL. 

"Performing at festivals like Coachella was one of our goals when we put our live team together, so I believe that it will be a place for us to grow further,” says Ikura, who lived in Chicago as a kid and considers these opportunities a "full circle" moment.

Read more: 10 Must-See Artists At Coachella 2024: Skepta, The Last Dinner Party, Mdou Moctar, Cimafunk & More

Formed in 2019, YOASOBI found overnight success with their debut single "Yoru ni Kakeru," a bright-sounding but harrowing tale that topped Billboard’s Japan Hot 100 chart for six non-consecutive weeks. They continued to rise further, recording five EPs (three in Japanese, two in English), the opening theme to Netflix’s anime series "Beastars," 2021’s "Kaibutsu," and their magnum opus so far: "Idol."

Released in 2023, "Idol" became a massive hit, placing No.1 at Billboard's Japan Hot 100 chart for 22 weeks and counting — an all-time record break. It was also the nineteenth best-selling song of 2023 worldwide, according to the IFPI. With these accolades, it’s easy to understand why the duo is fully booked, but what makes their music so enticing to global audiences? 

Listening to YOASOBI is like entering a rabbit hole. First, you get hypnotized by the glistening synths, bursting like fireworks, and the rock riffs taking melodies to full-speed. Then, you discover their adage is "novel into music," and all songs are based on fictional stories written by various authors. There’s also the animated music videos, each with a different style, giving their sounds another layer for interpretation. And finally, there are Ayase’s and Ikura’s (under the name Lilas Ikuta) own solo careers — treasure troves ready to be unearthed.

"I don't know, to be honest," says Ayase when asked about their growing popularity. "I guess the fact that a lot of Japanese [exports] have been prevalent around the world had to do with it. But also, maybe it's because people are experiencing this combination of music with storytelling that is interesting to them." Ikura agrees, adding that YOASOBI allows fans to "enjoy this bigger world that we are part of in a more three-dimensional way."

The experience is similar to how they create their music: mining, collecting, mixing, and transforming different threads into a new fabric. From fictional stories, Ayase transmutes his feelings into beats on his laptop with Logic Pro, then inputs melodies and lyrics through Vocaloid softwares like Hatsune Miku. Ikura listens to the Vocaloid demos, and then adds her own feelings and flair into the interpretations. For English-language tracks, they work with translator Konnie Aoki, who is "very mindful of phonetic sounds," and Ikura listens to the Japanese versions up until it’s time to record, so that she can have "the right emotions set."

It’s such a natural process for them that Ayase is surprised to know that there are still people who don’t consider Vocaloid as "real" music. “Those people probably don’t know what music is,” he says with a laugh. “Do they think that instrumental music, where there's no human singing, isn’t real music? There’s really great Vocaloid music out there, and it’s basically [voices] created through synthesizing softwares. It's very different from AI, which is auto-generated music. Vocaloid is humans creating music using these softwares. That's the only difference from a human singing a song.”

To Ikura, who maintains her burgeoning solo career in tandem with YOASOBI’s busy schedule, Vocaloid allowed her to broaden her talents. "It is my first time singing songs that somebody else wrote, so it was an opportunity to challenge myself with things that I wouldn't necessarily write, or sing in a tone or voice that I wouldn't come up with myself." She says that these experiences influence her solo works all the time, in a "synergy" that allows her to "have more colors to work with in my palette."

"I started producing music through Vocaloids,” adds Ayase. “And it truly broadened my ideas and imagination when it comes to creating music. It allows creators to come up with melodies that a human singer may not come up with. It's a fascinating culture. The possibility I feel is infinite, and it really makes the impossible possible, in a way.”

Read more: It Goes To 11: How One Piece Of Technology Makes YOASOBI's Musical Vision Come To Life

Endless possibilities are also a big allure in AI technologies, but Ayase doesn’t see this as a threat. With the right boundaries, it’s just a tool — like Vocaloid, Logic Pro, and the internet — that can be used positively. "However, as a creator myself, I really hope that creative works come out of the imagination and ideas of the human mind. In that sense, [AI] may not be 100% a positive thing for us," he shares.

But that’s something for the future. Now, YOASOBI is focusing on their very real, very tangible events ahead. "Finally, we have this opportunity where people around the world are discovering our music. So, performing at festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza, or doing our solo shows, I think it's important that we communicate with the audiences and maximize this opportunity as much as possible," says Ikura.

And it’s not just YOASOBI getting all the attention: according to data and research company Luminate, J-pop in general is on the rise. "I’m very proud, as a Japanese person, for that situation. For us, it’s really about taking it one step at a time," says Ayase. “Our ultimate wish is to have our music or reach as many people around the world as possible, and so we will continue to work hard every day."

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

Chelsea Cutler Press Photo 2023
Chelsea Cutler

Photo: Blythe Thomas

interview

How Chelsea Cutler's New Album 'Stellaria' Helped Her Appreciate Life's Intricate Moments

On her third album, 'Stellaria,' pop singer/songwriter Chelsea Cutler let love and vulnerability guide the way — and now she's more present than she's ever been.

GRAMMYs/Oct 18, 2023 - 04:25 pm

Chelsea Cutler's latest album is more than music; it's a mantra.

On her third album, Stellaria, the Connecticut-born singer/songwriter encouraged herself to find beauty in the overlooked. "The biggest lesson I learned between making the album, going to therapy and just getting older has been to meet life where it's at and express gratitude for all the little things right in front of me," she tells GRAMMY.com.

The result of a two-year writing process, Stellaria dives into the delicate moments of love and existing in a post-COVID universe.

With tracks like the starry-eyed love song "Your Bones" and the heartfelt tale about feeling insufficient "I Don't Feel Alive," Cutler guides listeners through a journey of self-exploration and learning to unpack all of life's little gems.

Inspired by the likes of Florence + The Machine, Coldplay and Sam Fender, Stellaria digs deeper into Cutler's indie-pop stylings as well. The project balances electronic and acoustic sounds, from the vocalizer of "you're all i ever dreamed of" to the soft guitar chords in "Hotel June." In line with the album's live-in-the-moment theme, Cutler's Stellaria process mostly involved "paying attention to music that made me feel something, whether it was a good feeling or bad feeling."

GRAMMY.com caught up with Cutler about how Stellaria helped her become more vulnerable, hone her producing skills and tap into her love-song writing abilities.

The interview has been edited for clarity.

How do you feel you've evolved as a musician since your 2021 album, When I Closed My Eyes?

It was really an important goal for me with Stellaria to push myself lyrically, to be more mature and more deliberate with my word choices. With When I Closed My Eyes, I actually took a pretty big step back from the production. With Stellaria, it was really important to me to be across every song.

I think out of the 15 songs, I did production or co-production on 13 out of 15. As a producer, I grew and learned so much, and I really just feel like Stellaria is just leagues ahead.

That's not to say that When I Close My Eyes isn't an awesome project. I think they each reflect where I was and the growth I was experiencing at each time.

How do you feel producing your own music impacts your sound? And how important is it for you to have that kind of involvement in the creation process?

I think it's so important — for me, at least. I'm obviously biased, but I do think that the fact that I'm so involved in production definitely helps my music kind of stand alone as a more unique sound.

I think my production is so funny because I was never technically trained, and everything for me has just been a process of trial and error. And I actually think that's led to some pretty cool, happy accidents and mistakes along the way. So I honestly really love that my processes and growth are pretty clear, and I think it's led to some kind of creative and innovative choices.

It's always been a means to an end for me. I didn't know any producers when I was in college and starting to write music, but it's something I've just fallen in love with.

In your Instagram post announcing the album, you mentioned that creating this album was the most challenging creative process you’ve had thus far. Why was that?

When I started making the album, I was definitely focused on commercial goals. And as wonderful as those goals are, it's also important to have process goals.

It was challenging for me to learn that lesson, because you can't really control the commercial success so much, but what you can control is how you show up in the studio and as a collaborator. Your intention to channel your vision into something and learning to focus on that was much more fruitful and gratifying for me.

What was your inspiration behind the title Stellaria?

Stellaria is Latin and I actually took Latin for seven years. I had this idea that I wanted the album to be a departure from New York City, because so much of my career and story has just always revolved around New York. I wanted to go out West for some writing.

We ended up going to Jackson Hole, and when I was looking around, I kept seeing that word. There was a Stellaria Lane and there's a Stellaria Creek in Yellowstone, and I loved the word so much, so I looked it up and learned what it meant.

Funny enough, it's actually the technical name for chickweed, and the crazy thing is that when I would see it, I was like, This plant's kind of beautiful. It's such an overlooked thing in nature that's so beautiful. Much of this album for me was just learning to be present and notice all the incredible things around me, the small things, the little things that are so easy to overlook. It really felt fitting in so many different ways.

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What about the cover art — what was the idea there?

The crazy story is that we shot an idea for the cover art in a studio, and then we wanted to go recreate it outside. We ended up doing a whole shoot for this cover idea that we had, and we ended up landing on the photo that we had taken completely separately from the cover shoot.

I love the photo so much. It felt to me like it embodied this idea of just being present. I was so lost in the moment when we were shooting out in Joshua Tree in California, and I was just having the best time. For me, that just captured the sentiment of the album more than the idea that we actually went out and shot.

I read that Kevin White and Joel Little had a large influence on this album. What kind of impact did they make?

For starters, both of them are incredible songwriters and producers. Getting to work with Joel Little was honestly a dream come true. He's been a part of projects that I've idolized and getting to do "Your Bones" with him was awesome.

Kevin ended up executive producing the whole album. He's just an absolute rock star, and being able to have a partner really helped me stay true to the vision that I had. Having an incredible team behind you really goes a long way.

What was an average day in the studio for you look like as you were crafting this album?

Honestly, the average day consisted of less writing than you'd think. I remember there was one day where we sat down in the studio and we didn't really know what to write about. So Kevin was like, "Hey, have you ever been to Malibu?" I was like, "No, I haven't." We just got in the car and spent the whole day in Malibu, and that ended up being the first of many times that I would go there for the album.

We ended up getting home and writing a song at night, and that's kind of just how much of the album came together. We'd just go explore and have a great time, and have really vulnerable conversations and come back and make music.

Are there any tracks that are particularly special to you?

There's a song called, "you're all i ever dreamed of," and that song is really, really special.

Why is that song so special?

I wrote it about the beginning of my relationship, and writing love songs has never come easy to me, but I wanted to write something that was a bit more nuanced. I've been dating a girl for five years and before that neither of us had ever dated a girl before.

The beginning of our relationship felt so new and amazing, but also this very coveted thing that we had. I wanted to write a song that really conveyed that delicacy of it, almost just how fragile it was. The song feels just so hauntingly beautiful to me.

You said the same thing when you released "Your Bones," too — that writing love songs isn't really your forte. How did that song come to be?

The craziest thing about "Your Bones" is I actually woke up at 5 or 6 a.m. and had the idea for the hook, so I just voice-noted it. It kind of came out of nowhere.

It's kind of ironic because there wasn't so much conscious intention behind it. I didn't go into that day saying, I want to write a love song, but this idea came to me and it felt really natural to finish it. It ended up being such a special song.

How did writing that song — and also seeing such a powerful fan reaction to it — boost your confidence in your love song writing skills?

It definitely boosted my confidence for sure. If anything, it showed me that vulnerability doesn't have to be this really complicated thing, because writing about the person I love is easy and I didn't realize that something so profound could also come easy.

Were there any new musical instruments or different types of styles that you explored in this album compared to past work that you've done?

I used a lot of cool guitars, like old vintage stuff that all had interesting sounds. Every time I got a new guitar, I justified it to my business manager by saying, "If I write one song with this thing, then it was worth every dollar."

I love instruments, I love old stuff. I love when something feels and sounds like it has a story. That was definitely something I really explored more with this record than ever before.

So digging into the past and finding things that are kind of vintage is something that you're really interested in.

Yeah, definitely. Pretty much every guitar that I used on the record was either from between the 1930s to the 1970s. When things have a story, I feel like there's just so much magic in them.

With everything that’s gone into this album, what do you ultimately hope that listeners take away from it?

I would say that it's really important to me that the music somehow elicits feelings for people, whether it's good or bad. I think all emotions are important for us to feel and be present in. I really paid attention to music that made me feel powerful, and tried to do my best to make music that would do the same for other people.

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Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

video

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."

Looking for more GRAMMYs news? The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are here!

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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