meta-scriptChildish Major On George Floyd, The Essence Of Atlanta Hip-Hop & His New Project 'Thank You, God. For It All.' |
Childish Major

Childish Major

Photo: Al Pham


Childish Major On George Floyd, The Essence Of Atlanta Hip-Hop & His New Project 'Thank You, God. For It All.'

Childish Major wanted to release his new project, 'Thank you, God. For it all.', but the pandemic and murder of George Floyd gave him pause. But now that the world's opening up, this blast of top-down Atlanta energy feels perfectly timed

GRAMMYs/Aug 9, 2021 - 09:47 pm

Every member of the COVID generation probably remembers the first day they stepped outside, met up with a friend and was finally seen by someone else—not their partner or pet. Childish Major is acutely aware of this. The Atlanta MC wanted to drop his new six-song project, Thank you, God. For it all., throughout the first wave of the pandemic, but it never felt right given its extroverted, block-party energy.

Especially after the murder of George Floyd, which left him—a Black man himself—devastated.

"It was pretty dark," he tells over Zoom from his parked ride. "It put me in a position where I was like, 'What do I do? What do I need to do? How can I help?'" While he briefly considered making some music in response, the idea felt flimsy. Instead, Major opted to band together with his friends, family and colleagues in the rap game to commiserate, vent and heal.

One year after George Floyd, the world is opening up in fits and starts amid the Delta variant setback. After a period of sitting back, thinking and listening, it feels like the perfect time for Thank you, God. For it all., which had been in the can all this time. Brief, incisive and fat-free, the EP, which dropped July 23, features potent collaborations with Yung Baby Tate ("Check"), ScHoolboy Q ("Disrespectful") and other modern greats.

Read More: Yung Baby Tate On Success, Working With Issa Rae & 'After The Rain Deluxe' caught up with Childish Major about Thank you, God. For it all. and why it's a soundtrack to feeling yourself—in his words, "fly," "hot," and like "poppin' s***"—while cruising around the ATL.

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How does it feel to have Thank you, God. For it all. dropping soon?

Man, we've been waiting for a minute to drop this project. I feel like I've made three projects, maybe, since COVID hit. We've been itching to drop something in general. This seemed like perfect timing. The music is for outside, and outside is kind of opening back up now. So, that's the energy.

Was it delayed due to the virus?

No, it wasn't pushed back due to the virus, really. In the beginning, it was more like I had music that was ready to drop. Then, COVID hit, and it was like, "OK, what do we do?" Then it's like, "OK, I'm ready to drop!" and then George Floyd happens. I'm messed up about that. I'm like, "I can't self-promote during this time." Then, I get past that to a certain extent and it's like, "Alright, now I'm ready." It just so happened to be the time that everything's opening up. It's the perfect time.

Read More: One Year After #TheShowMustBePaused, Where Do We Stand? Black Music Industry Leaders Discuss

What went through your head when you saw the news about Floyd?

Ah, man. I mean, it was the news, it was conversations, it was my grandparents, family. It was pretty dark. It put me in a position where I was like, "What do I do? What do I need to do? How can I help?"

Did you feel like you wanted to respond with music in some way? Or, perhaps, with silence?

I felt like I wanted to respond with music initially, but then I felt like, "Maybe a musical response is kind of corny right now. Maybe my silence is a little bit better." Yeah, man. I just remember having a lot of conversations during that time. It was very heavy.

After all, there were already a lot of songs with titles like "Say Their Names" out there.

Yeah, you don't want to play with moments like that. It's a very serious thing. Even right now, I'm thinking about it, and that's taking me to a place where I definitely don't want to go back to.

I mean, there are people like Anderson .Paak. [He] dropped his song ["Lockdown"] and seeing the visual, man, he executed it very well and in a very respectful way. For me, it wasn't important to be seen at that moment. I was just filling it with people, honestly.

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Read More: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor And Elijah McClain Are Drifting From The National Discourse—These Musicians Remind Us To "Say Their Names"

Now, we're in a different space in time. What did you want to say with this project that differed from past ones?

Well, the title itself is Thank you, God. For it all. Before thinking about the title, when I was in the music process, having conversations with Don Cannon, who was the executive producer, I was sending him what I was working on prior to this project. It's more vibey, it's moodier. It's a storyline; it's strings and poetry. It's this world that I created.

He's like, "This is dope, but I feel like we need to cut through. You make music that cuts through and grabs the attention, and then you start taking people into a world." So, that was his mindset while coaching me through this project. He started sending me production. I don't know if you've ever been to Atlanta, but it's Atlanta energy. You've got to come down one time.

When we talk about Atlanta energy, it's young. It's hot. It's being in the streets. It's being at the strip clubs. It's fly. It's riding with your top down. It's that type of energy. That's what I feel people are going to take from it. These are records people are going to listen to on the weekends. "F Yah Job," that's going to be out on Friday. Everybody's Friday is like, "Man, I'm not trying to be here right now. I'm out of the office!" You know what I'm saying?

Childish Major. Photo: Al Pham 

That's the vibe of the project, but the title itself—Thank you, God. For it all.—especially from all of us coming off of COVID and the George Floyd thing, that's been my mindset and my personal mantra as far as what could get me to whatever this next step is in my life. I know a lot of people who are trying to figure out work or their living situations due to what COVID did.

Thank you, God. For it all. is like an agreement ahead of time. I'm grateful for where this is going to go, because I know it'll lead me somewhere I need to be.

Musically, what separates Atlanta hip-hop from other scenes?

Well, for one, Atlanta is a young city. It's a young Black city. And when I say "young Black city," I don't even just mean age. I feel like even older people in the city, we all talk alike. We all talk the same. There's a language. It's very Southern. It's very gritty. It's very raw.

It's suave, for lack of a better word. It's poppin' shit. When you put on a fly outfit and you look in the mirror and you're feeling yourself, that's the energy. But that's the energy of an average person in Atlanta, you know what I'm saying? Everybody is feeling themselves to a certain degree.

Especially with Instagram and all that, which usually gets a negative connotation as far as being narcissistic or conceited. But in real life, we all need confidence because that's what's going to get you to the next day.

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What do you appreciate about your collaborators on this project?

Ah, man. Everybody has their own little niches, but Hollywood Cole is super diverse. He had the single "F Yah Job," which is probably the most top-down record we've got on here. But he also produced the title track, which is more boom-bap. That's what I love about Cole: That he has a lot of diversity.

Cannon is a coach, but he can play, too. You know what I'm saying? He oversaw the whole project, but then came through and gave us the record "Down South." Wavy Wallace, man, he has a lot of different styles, too, but he gave us a bop on here. DJ Mark B, well, he's a DJ, so he knows what needs to happen. He knows what's going on, so he gives us bangers every time.

I feel like some rap fans view boom-bap as being a little backward or antiquated, although it's the style I gravitate to the most.

You've got to have it. It's necessary. Even Drake without his boom-bap records, I feel like he doesn't become exactly who he is right now. I feel like it's necessary.

Sounds like it's the equivalent of the 12-bar blues in rock music. You can't stray too far from it.

Yeah, it's the core! You've got to feed the core.

"I'm grateful for where this is going to go, because I know it'll lead me somewhere I need to be."

What's the state of the rap game? Is it straying from sing-rap or mumble rap into a more traditional territory or the opposite?

Nah, it's always going to be a mixture. I feel like you always need diversity. It's necessary. Sometimes, it doesn't feel like [the deal], like "Damn, I don't like this." You just have s*** you don't like; excuse my language. But it's a necessary evil. You have to have that gauge or that range from super amazingly talented people to people who are just trying s*** and it just goes. 

There are flukes all the time, but are you going to turn it into what they call 15 minutes of fame, or are you going to stretch it? And the people who want to stretch it, they'll home in on their craft a little bit more and be like, "Oh, wow! I did that on a fluke! Well, let me try to get better!" Sometimes, they turn that 15 minutes into five years.

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I'm primarily in the jazz world these days, but I feel like it's the same as all scenes: There are humble, talented people and then there are opportunists. Is the rap world like that, too?

Man, the rap world is completely like that. I'd say it's more like that than in jazz. In the rap world, I've got friends whose four-year-old daughters make rap songs. And they sound good! Or good to the extent of what kids are going for, especially with TikTok and all that stuff going on right now. It's the people's music.

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Megan Thee Stallion at the 2021 GRAMMYs
Megan Thee Stallion at the 2021 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy


GRAMMY Rewind: Megan Thee Stallion Went From "Savage" To Speechless After Winning Best New Artist In 2021

Relive the moment Megan Thee Stallion won the coveted Best New Artist honor at the 2021 GRAMMYs, where she took home three golden gramophones thanks in part to her chart-topping smash "Savage."

GRAMMYs/Apr 5, 2024 - 05:25 pm

In 2020, Megan Thee Stallion solidified herself as one of rap's most promising new stars, thanks to her hit single "Savage." Not only was it her first No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100, but the "sassy, moody, nasty" single also helped Megan win three GRAMMYs in 2021.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, revisit the sentimental moment the Houston "Hottie" accepted one of those golden gramophones, for Best New Artist.

"I don't want to cry," Megan Thee Stallion said after a speechless moment at the microphone. Before starting her praises, she gave a round of applause to her fellow nominees in the category, who she called "amazing."

Along with thanking God, she also acknowledged her manager, T. Farris, for "always being with me, being by my side"; her record label, 300 Entertainment, for "always believing in me, sticking by through my craziness"; and her mother, who "always believed I could do it."

Megan Thee Stallion's "Savage" remix with Beyoncé also helped her win Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance that night — marking the first wins in the category by a female lead rapper.

Press play on the video above to watch Megan Thee Stallion's complete acceptance speech for Best New Artist at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards, and remember to check back to for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

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A black-and-white photo of pioneering rap group Run-DMC

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images


'Run-DMC' At 40: The Debut Album That Paved The Way For Hip-Hop's Future

Forty years ago, Run-DMC released their groundbreaking self-titled album, which would undeniably change the course of hip-hop. Here's how three guys from Queens, New York, defined what it meant to be "old school" with a record that remains influential.

GRAMMYs/Mar 27, 2024 - 03:49 pm

"You don't know that people are going to 40 years later call you up and say, ‘Can you talk about this record from 40 years ago?’"

That was Cory Robbins, former president of Profile Records, reaction to speaking to about one of the first albums his then-fledgling label released. Run-DMC’s self-titled debut made its way into the world four decades ago this week on March 27, 1984 and established the group, in Robbins’ words, "the Beatles of hip-hop." 

Rarely in music, or anything else, is there a clear demarcation between old and new. Styles change gradually, and artistic movements usually get contextualized, and often even named, after they’ve already passed from the scene. But Run-DMC the album, and the singles that led up to it, were a definitive breaking point. Rap before it instantly, and eternally, became “old school.” And three guys from Hollis, Queens — Joseph "Run" Simmons, Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell, Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels — helped turn a burgeoning genre on its head.

What exactly was different about Run-DMC? Some of the answers can be glimpsed by a look at the record’s opening song. "Hard Times" is a cover of a Kurtis Blow track from his 1980 debut album. The connection makes sense. Kurtis and Run’s older brother Russell Simmons met in college, and Russell quickly became the rapper’s manager. That led to Run working as Kurtis’ DJ. Larry Smith, who produced Run-DMC, even played on Kurtis’ original version of the song.

But despite those tie-ins, the two takes on "Hard Times" are night and day. Kurtis Blow’s is exactly what rap music was in its earliest recorded form: a full band playing something familiar (in this case, a James Brown-esque groove, bridge and percussion breakdown inclusive.)

What Run-DMC does with it is entirely different. The song is stripped down to its bare essence. There’s a drum machine, a sole repeated keyboard stab, vocals, and… well, that’s about it. No solos, no guitar, no band at all. Run and DMC are trading off lines in an aggressive near-shout. It’s simple and ruthlessly effective, a throwback to the then-fading culture of live park jams. But it was so starkly different from other rap recordings of the time, which were pretty much all in the style of Blow’s record, that it felt new and vital.

"Production-wise, Sugar Hill [the record label that released many key early rap singles] built themselves on the model of Motown, which is to say, they had their own production studios and they had a house band and they recorded on the premises," explains Bill Adler, who handled PR for Run-DMC and other key rap acts at the time.

"They made magnificent records, but that’s not how rap was performed in parks," he continues. "It’s not how it was performed live by the kids who were actually making the music."

Run-DMC’s musical aesthetic was, in some ways, a lucky accident. Larry Smith, the musician who produced the album, had worked with a band previously. In fact, the reason two of the songs on the album bear the subtitle "Krush Groove" is because the drum patterns are taken from his band Orange Krush’s song “Action.”

Read more: Essential Hip-Hop Releases From The 1970s: Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash, Sugarhill Gang & More

But by the time sessions for Run-DMC came around, the money had run out and, despite his desire to have the music done by a full band, Smith was forced to go without them and rely on a drum machine. 

His artistic partner on the production side was Russell Simmons. Simmons, who has been accused over the past seven years of numerous instances of sexual assault dating back decades, was back in 1983-4 the person providing the creative vision to match Smith’s musical knowledge.

Orange Krush’s drummer Trevor Gale remembered the dynamic like this (as quoted in Geoff Edgers’ Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, and the Song that Changed American Music Forever): “Larry was the guy who said, 'Play four bars, stop on the fifth bar, come back in on the fourth beat of the fifth bar.' Russell was the guy that was there that said, ‘I don’t like how that feels. Make it sound like mashed potato with gravy on it.’”

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It wasn’t just the music that set Run-DMC apart from its predecessors. Their look was also starkly different, and that influenced everything about the group, including the way their audience viewed them.

Most of the first generation of recorded rappers were, Bill Adler remembers, influenced visually by either Michael Jackson or George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic. Run-DMC was different.

"Their fashion sense was very street oriented," Adler explains. "And that was something that emanated from Jam Master Jay. Jason just always had a ton of style. He got a lot of his sartorial style from his older brother, Marvin Thompson. Jay looked up to his older brother and kind of dressed the way that Marvin did, including the Stetson hat. 

"When Run and D told Russ, Jason is going to be our deejay, Russell got one look at Jay and said, ‘Okay, from now on, you guys are going to dress like him.’"

Run, DMC, and Jay looked like their audience. That not only set them apart from the costumed likes of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, it also cemented the group’s relationship with their listeners. 

"When you saw Run-DMC, you didn’t see celebrity. You saw yourself," DMC said in the group’s recent docuseries

Read more: 20 Iconic Hip-Hop Style Moments: From Run-D.M.C. To Runways

Another thing that set Run-DMC (the album) and Run-DMC (the group) apart from what came before was the fact that they released a cohesive rap album. Nine songs that all belonged together, not just a collection of already-released singles and some novelties. Rappers had released albums prior to Run-DMC, but that’s exactly what they were: hits and some other stuff — sung love ballads or rock and roll covers, or other experiments rightfully near-forgotten.

"There were a few [rap] albums [at the time], but they were pretty crappy. They were usually just a bunch of singles thrown together," Cory Robbins recalls.

Not this album. It set a template that lasted for years: Some social commentary, some bragging, a song or two to show off the DJ. A balance of records aimed at the radio and at the hard-core fans. You can still see traces of Run-DMC in pretty much every rap album released today.

Listeners and critics reacted. The album got a four-star review in Rolling Stone with “the music…that backs these tracks is surprisingly varied, for all its bare bones” and an A minus from Robert Christgau who claimed “It's easily the canniest and most formally sustained rap album ever.” Just nine months after its release, Run-DMC was certified gold, the first rap LP ever to earn that honor. "Rock Box" also single-handedly invented rap-rock, thanks to Eddie Martinez’s loud guitars. 

There is another major way in which the record was revolutionary. The video for "Rock Box" was the first rap video to ever get into regular rotation on MTV and, the first true rap video ever played on the channel at all, period. Run-DMC’s rise to MTV fame represented a significant moment in breaking racial barriers in mainstream music broadcasting. 

"There’s no overstating the importance of that video," Adler tells me. vIt broke through the color line at MTV and opened the door to a cataclysmic change." 

"Everybody watched MTV forty years ago," Robbins agrees. "It was a phenomenal thing nationwide. Even if we got three or four plays a week of ‘Rock Box’ on MTV, that did move the needle."

All of this: the new musical style, the relatable image, the MTV pathbreaking, and the attendant critical love and huge sales (well over 10 times what their label head was expecting when he commissioned the album from a reluctant Russell Simmons — "I hoping it would sell thirty or forty thousand," Robbins says now): all of it contributed to making Run-DMC what it is: a game-changer.

"It was the first serious rap album," Robbins tells me. And while you could well accuse him of bias — the group making an album at all was his idea in the first place — he’s absolutely right. 

Run-DMC changed everything. It split the rap world into old school and new school, and things would never be the same.

Perhaps the record’s only flaw is one that wouldn’t be discovered for years. As we’re about to get off the phone, Robbins tells me about a mistake on the cover, one he didn’t notice until the record was printed and it was too late. 

There was something (Robbins doesn’t quite recall what) between Run and DMC in the cover photo. The art director didn’t like it and proceeded to airbrush it out. But he missed something. On the vinyl, if you look between the letters "M" and "C,", you can see DMC’s disembodied left hand, floating ghost-like in mid-air. While it was an oversight, it’s hard not to see this as a sign, a sort of premonition that the album itself would hang over all of hip-hop, with an influence that might be hard to see at first, but that never goes away. 

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A collage photo of African women rappers (Clockwise from top-left): Femi One, Deto Black, Nadfiav Nakai, Candy Bleakz, Rosa Ree, Sho Madjozi
(Clockwise from top-left): Femi One, Deto Black, Nadfiav Nakai, Candy Bleakz, Rosa Ree, Sho Madjozi

Photos: Kaka Empire Music Label; Dave Benett/Getty Images for Dion Lee x htown; Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images; Slevin Salau; Asam Visuals; Harold Feng/Getty Images


10 Women In African Hip-Hop You Should Know: SGaWD, Nadai Nakai, Sho Madjozi & More

Women have been a part of African hip-hop since its onset, contributing to the genre’s foundation and evolution. These 10 female African rappers bring unique perspectives to hip-hop coming from Nigeria, Ghana and across the continent.

GRAMMYs/Mar 27, 2024 - 03:26 pm

African music has become increasingly mainstream, with Afrobeats gaining global popularity in recent years. As Burna Boy, Davido, Wizkid, and Tems have become household names, and the Recording Academy presented the inaugural Best African Music Performance award in 2024, all eyes are on Africa.

Hip-hop is a crucial thread running through Afrobeats, which also mixes traditional African rhythms with pop and dancehall. Hip-hop landed in Africa between the 1980s and 1990s, first in Senegal in 1985 and in South Africa the following decade. Over time, African hip-hop advanced from imitating American styles, to a focus on artists incorporating their own cultural experiences, languages, and social commentary.

The result was a distinctly African sound, present across the continent from West to East Africa. In Nigeria, the rap scene is almost mainstream with artists like Olamide earning a GRAMMY nomination for Best African Music Performance for his hit song with Asake; Tanzania has gained enormous respect on the international rap scene for its own "Bongo Flava." 

Women have been a part of African hip-hop since its onset, contributing to the genre’s foundation. Nazizi Hirji is known as the "First Lady of Kenyan Rap" for becoming the first successful female artist in her country at age 16. Mariam of the Malian duo Amadou and Mariam created a distinctive sound by fusing elements of hip-hop and traditional Malian music. 

Africa's hip-hop community is ever-evolving, and women are at the forefront. The following 10 African women rappers are bringing their unique voices, experiences and sounds to the scene.

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After leaving her career as a lawyer to pursue music, the Nigerian rapper SGaWD is beginning to make her mark on the scene. Fusing elements of hip-hop and Nigerian alté, SGaWD creates a sound without restrictions. 

She released her debut EP, Savage Bitch Juice, in 2021 and collaborated with fellow Nigerian artist Somadina on flirty lead single "Pop S—." In the second single "Rude," SGaWD detailed the nuances of her romantic and sexual experiences with men. She followed this with a slew of singles, including "INTERMISSION " and "Dump All Your Worries On The Dance Floor."

Her summer anthem "Boy Toy" is a sexy and melodic blend of rap and R&B. Her comfort with sexuality goes beyond lyricism; the music video for "Boy Toy" shows her comfort and embrace of sexuality via wardrobe choices and choreography.

But it's not all sex; SGaWD is dedicated to organizing her community. In December 2023, she organized The Aquarium, a sonic experience that included performances from herself and other female rappers.

Lifesize Teddy

Mavins Records is known for producing back-to-back breakout stars — from Rema to Arya Starr — and fans now expect a new artist from them annually. When Lifesize Teddy was introduced to the scene, rapping as her alter ego PoisonBaby, she got deep. Her intro video dissected her relationship with her inner child and explored her roots in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. 

After spending three years of artist development in the Mavin Records Academy, she started her music career, by releasing two EPs in the span of four months in 2023. Her self-titled debut EP was led by the single "Hypnotic," a flirty song of sexual freedom that merges hip-hop and Afrobeats. Her second EP, POISN, featured five songs with one featuring her fellow Mavins Records artist, Magixx.

She ended last year headlining different shows in Lagos’ Detty December and is a special guest on Ayra Starr World Tour. 

Eno Barony

Ghanaian rapper Eno Barony's name reflects her aura and essence: "Eno" is Twi for mother, and quite fittingly she is referred to as "The Mother of Rap" in Ghana. Raised by missionary parents, she uses her music to spread the message that women should not be silenced. 

She has been releasing music for over a decade, with singles "Tonga," "Megye Wo Boy", "The Best," "Touch the Body," and "Do Something" gaining mainstream attention on the continent. Eno Barony released her first album in 2020 and, the following year became the first female rapper to win Best Rapper at the Ghana Music Awards. 

Her most recent album, Ladies First, captures the nuances and complexity of being a woman in Ghana and serves as a form of resistance to patriarchy. Opening track "God Is a Woman," featuring Ghanaian singer/songwriter Efya, establishes the tone: Eno is "entering every lane" even though "it’s a man’s world and she entered without a passport". 

Eno Barony continually pours vulnerability into her music. On these lead singles; "Heavy Load" and  "Don’t Judge Me" she raps about accepting her body image and addresses the culture of unconstructive criticism in the music industry, respectively. Last month, she released a new single "Good Enough," a romantic and reflective tune.

Nadai Nakai

Hailing from both Zimbabwe and South Africa, Nadai Nakai has been a fixture in the African rap scene for over a decade. She was the first female rapper to win the Mixtape 101 competition on the hip-hop show, "Shiz Niz."   

A mentee of pioneering Kenyan hip-hop artist Nazizi, Nakai released her first single "Like Me" under Sid Records in September 2013. The rightfully braggadocious song detailed her many talents and skills, wrapped in clever lyricism. She continued to release a slew of singles, including "Naaa Meaan" (a collaboration with Casper Nyovest, a South African male rapper), which garnered over 1 million views. Her debut album, Nadai Naked, was an ode to women making liberating choices. 

Her hip-hop and R&B-inspired songs highlight her values of female free expression and strength. Her most recent single, "Back In," announced Nakai's return to the industry after grieving the death of her boyfriend, AKA. She plans to release a tribute EP dedicated to AKA.


Deela saw a hole in the Nigerian music industry that needed to be filled. Where were the women who talked and behaved like her, with brazen confidence and an unfiltered sense of expression? 

She started making music during the pandemic lockdown, releasing singles such as the raging "Bitch Boi" and trap track "Rolling Stones." Both tracks later appeared on her debut album, Done Deel. Deela's most popular single, "Get A Grip," shows the rapper is demanding autonomy while owning her promiscuity and single life.

Deela's experimental sound includes ventures into trap, drill and more. Her 2023 album Is This On? showcased this range via UK rap-inspired "Trapstar" and straight-up hip-hop track "Take That Up" featuring Flo Milli.

She hit the ground running in 2024, releasing a collaboration with Somadina titled "Lagos" and a love-themed EP, Love Is Wicked

Deto Black

Lagos-based rapper Deto Black is an artistic polymath who dabbles in modeling, acting and photography. Her music spans hip-hop, Afrobeats, rap, pop and rock, and is becoming known in the alté scene following her collaboration with Odunsi the Engine, Amaarae and Gigi Atlantis on "Body Count." Deto’s verse on the 2020 track is  sex-positive, and encourages listeners to follow her example. 

Deto released her debut EP, Yung Everything, in 2021 and followed with singles "Nu Bag" and "Just Like Deto." At the start of 2024, she released "It’s A No From Me" featuring Chi; its music video was directed by notable alté artist Cruel Santino.

Rosa Ree

Tanzanian rapper Rosa Ree addresses the nuances of womanhood in male-dominated spaces. She entered the scene in 2016 with the goal of proving her naysayers wrong, releasing the aggressive "One Time" to dispel any notions that a woman couldn't exist in hip-hop.

In her 2022 single "I’m Not Sorry," Rosa Ree dismisses criticism and asserts that she won’t be sorry for showing her true image or voice. She also explores the unique bond between mother and child in 2023's "Mama Omollo," further showcasing the multifaceted identities of women in music.

Rosa Ree's 2024 single "In Too Deep" further showcased her introspective side by exploring themes of emotional hurt, betrayal and disappointment.

Candy Bleakz

Nigerian rapper Candy Bleakz fuses Afrobeats, amapiano and hip-hop, with heavy emphasis on street music. She started making music in 2019 and quickly began developing a community. Candy Bleakz collaborated with Zlatan and Naira Marley on "Owo Osu." 

Her resume now includes hits like "Baba Nla," "Kelegbe," "Virus", and "Kope." Her single "Won La" was even featured on the American TV series "Flatbush Misdemeanors." The most amazing thing about Candy Bleakz, though, is her courage to question the established quo and push for female representation in the infamously male-dominated street music scene.

She released her debut EP, Fire, in 2022 and raps proudly about her life and talent. On its breakout single, "Tikuku," she addresses her haters head-on. This song has garnered over 300,000 posts on TikTok going as far as eliciting a challenge in the Nigerian section of TikTok.

Candy Bleakz's second EP, Better Days, was released on March 22 and featured lead single "Para," a rap song featuring African drums, strings and chords. 

Femi One

At just 26 years old, Femi One is a renowned  Kenyan rapper and songwriter. Most of her songs are in Swahili and Sheng — a unique offering as many African rappers perform in a more universal language. 

Over the past five years, Femi One has released back-to-back singles, culminating in her 2019 debut EP XXV. " Two years later, her debut album, Greatness, further detailed her wild style and personality. Tracks like "Balance" are jam-packed with witty wordplay and hidden allusions. She also taps into her gospel roots on Greatness, thanking God for her career on "Adonai."

Her latest single, "B.A," is a pure Afrobeats song that invites listeners to lose themselves in the music and positive energy by throwing open the virtual club doors. 

Sho Madjozi

This South African rapper is known for her bold aesthetic, from her rainbow-coloured hair to her bright costumes. She released her first song, "Dumi Hi Phone," in 2017 and dropped her a genre-bending debut album the following year. Limpopo Champions League explores sounds from hip-hop to EDM.

Sho Madjozi has a quirky habit of writing songs about notable individuals. Her breakout single "John Cena," a tribute to the wrestler and actor, earned her the BET award for Best New International Act in 2019. She also collaborated with Sneakbo, Robot Boi and Matthew Otis on the hit amapiano song "Balotelli," which celebrated the renowned African soccer player. 

Sho Madjozi's music is entirely intertwined with her culture; she raps in the Bantu language Xitsonga and performs traditional dances such as xibelani wearing an adapted 

xibelani skirt. The xibelani (which translates to "hitting to the rhythm") dance is native to Tsonga women, and is performed by girls on special occasions as a celebration of their culture. Sho Madjozi's use of the dance and interpretation of its clothing helps shape her region’s cultural identity.

11 Women Pushing Amapiano To Global Heights: Uncle Waffles, Nkosazana Daughter, & More


Photo: Ro.lexx


On 'Heavy,' SiR Wants People To See The Weight Of His Humanity

In an interview with, the TDE singer opens up about his new album, overcoming addiction, and how he leaned on his labelmates to carve a new path forward.

GRAMMYs/Mar 21, 2024 - 01:20 pm

SiR admits that a good chunk of his past five years were a blur. Following the release of his last album, 2019’s Chasing Summer, the singer fell into a deep depression. To cope, he began to "self-medicate," which ultimately spiraled into addiction.

The Inglewood, California native isn’t the first artist under L.A. powerhouse label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) to struggle with mental and physical health. Isaiah Rashad, Ab-Soul and ScHoolboy Q have all experienced their own bouts with addiction and depression; however, all three have also found their way back to their art, releasing critically acclaimed come-back albums in the past few years. SiR is the latest example of Black male resilience amongst TDE artists. 

On his new album, Heavy (out March 22), the 37-year-old singer documents his life’s ups and downs. The record is "as personal as I’ll ever get in my music," he says over Zoom from his home in Inglewood. 

Sir Darryl Farris grew up in a musical family. His mother sang background for Chaka Khan and Michael Jackson back in the day, and urged SiR and his brothers — rapper D Smoke and fellow R&B singer Davion Farris — to sing in church every Sunday during their adolescence. While becoming a musician wasn’t an obvious career path, SiR rediscovered his passion in his early 20s and locked in.

The singer released his debut album, Seven Sundays, independently in 2015. He signed with TDE two years later and released the critically acclaimed November in 2018. Chasing Summer followed in 2019 and, together, the albums underscored him as a missing piece in the neo-soul/R&B landscape. Songs like "D’Evils," "Something New" (feat. Etta Bond), "John Redcorn" and "Hair Down" (feat. former labelmate Kendrick Lamar) especially showcased SiR's soulful storytelling and overall vibe. 

"My life experiences helped shape how I write songs," he told in 2019. "I appreciate my time away from music, but also I'm glad I found my way back because I don't know what I'd be if I wasn't a musician."

This time around, SiR found his way back to music in a more transformative way. Shortly after revealing his addiction to his wife in 2021, he checked into rehab and began the process of getting clean. Despite relapsing twice in 2022, as of writing this, SiR is a year and three months sober. He still dabbles with marijuana but is on a new path forward — forgiving himself along the way. "Finding sobriety, in my opinion, means finding your own version of it. I’m healthy and that’s what matters," he shares.

SiR recently earned his first two GRAMMY nominations at this year’s ceremony; Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance for his collaboration with Alex Isley and Robert Glasper on the latter’s "Back to Love." SiR spoke to about creating his new album, overcoming his vices and how he leaned on his support system, including his labelmates, to carve a new path forward.

I was told that you struggled with an addiction in between releasing 2019’s Chasing Summer and now. Walk me through the ups and downs of your last five years.

I try not to go into detail as far as naming what I was actually going through because I don’t give my [drug of choice] power, and that’s just my personal thing. But I was a full-blown addict, and it started from a string of depression [and] relationship issues and issues at home that I wasn’t dealing with. Living one way when I’m actually built a different way. I started to self-medicate, let’s call it that, and it became an issue right around Chasing Summer and a full-blown problem heading into 2020, right before COVID. 

At the time, my wife was pregnant and it was too much [for me] to handle so I reached out for help [and] I had a strong support system around me. It took about a year, year and a half before I actually figured it out. But as of right now… I’m back at home with my family, and through all of this, I was creating. I love what I do and it’s part of how I pay my bills, so I tried to stay as busy as possible. By 2022, I was looking at the [track]list that I was accruing as I was trying to get sober, and noticed a throughline of my personal life struggles on wax. 

I did a great job of diving deep, as far as my own personal issues. I kinda did that [by] accident this time around and after about a year of changing the playlist — taking songs off, putting new songs on — we finally got to a place where we fell in love and started doing all the work towards preparing to release the album.

At what point were you like OK, I need to get it together?

I couldn’t really hide the fact that I was sick at a certain point. My wife couldn't tell what it was. She thought I was sick, like, physically. I would wake up throwing up, it was an ongoing thing for a few weeks when I was at the worst. It just got to a point where it wasn’t a secret to anybody else. 

Tough questions came out and I was ready to talk about it, I just didn’t know how. It’s such an embarrassing thing for a lot of people, you know? Once the cat was out of the bag, it was a lot easier for me to accept help and really try to work through what I needed to work through. 

When did you go to rehab?

The first time? [Laughs.] I was there for 21 days [in 2021]. [The] second time, I was there for two months and the third time wasn’t technically rehab; we took my phone [and] keys and put them in a locked room type situation. I did personal therapy, and, man, [that] did wonders. There’s that stigma that our community has on therapy and I would’ve never done something like that if I was in any other position, so I’m thankful for my issues because they led me to a lot of self-reflection and forgiveness. 

I think the only reason why I was sick for so long is because I wasn’t able to forgive myself for all of the mistakes that I had made and I wasn’t addressing the real issue, which was my depression. Once those things worked themselves out, it was all light from there and we were heading forward. [But] once an addict, always an addict — I had slip-ups. I was committed to being sober but I had two relapses that kinda set me back in 2022. I had a great 2023, started this year off strong, ended 2023 off strong with music and [I] wanna keep that going. 

I tell people all the time, I’m so sick of talking about this. We had to shoot a documentary the last couple of days and I had to fake doing drugs and fake getting drunk for the visual, and it’s very beautiful and artistic, [but] that kind of stuff has been uncomfortable. Even this conversation. It’s not uncomfortable for me, but it’s tough because I have to be honest and it’s important for me to tell my side of the story. 

I understand it’s tough and I appreciate you opening up about this. How did you find the strength to create through these low points?

The playlist that we have was pretty much done [at] the end of 2022 when we dropped "Nothing Even Matters." We were ready to go but I wasn’t sober. One thing about [TDE CEO Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith] is he protects people. He doesn’t care about when things happen as far as the music industry, he knows we’re gifted beyond the situations that we be in. He wants to make sure that he protects us as people so that our careers are built around longevity — and he won’t let me drop nothing unless it’s ready. 

And I’m glad that last mess up happened because it gave us time to really, really decide to put the right stuff on this playlist, and I had another six months to just chisel down. I added two songs back in that weren’t gonna be on the project. "Only Human" is an eight-year-old song, but it wasn’t going to be on there. "Tryin’ My Hardest" wasn’t gonna be on there but I put them back on and I changed the playlist up, got a couple extra features and I’m glad it worked out.

How have you leaned on your labelmates through your low points and what were those conversations like?

The conversations are always love because the situations are very similar. Circumstances are different but the solution was all the same. We were all going to our own different vices, but I talked to Ab-Soul a lot and leaned on him to get my mind right. When I was going through what I was going through, it was the same time he was going through what he was going through, and I didn’t know it. 

We started talking candidly about our experiences, which helps while you’re in the addiction, and it became a normal thing. Eventually, we both got to a point where we were healthy-minded and the conversation shifted. We don’t talk about that kind of stuff anymore but he was instrumental in pulling my mind away from the worst of it. 

Same with Zay [Isaiah Rashad]. Me and Zay was watching each other struggle. [Laughs.] It’s beautiful to see somebody win but it’s even more beautiful to see your brother make it back. Even [ScHoolboy] Q, whenever I seen him, it was all love. I was showing up places messed up and they always showed me the same respect and that went a long way.

Was collabing with Isaiah and Ab-Soul intentional, then?

Yes and no. I’m a fan of their music and everybody knows I’m a huge Ab-Soul fan, but these were the songs that were created in the turmoil and they fit for everyone. It was easy for us to write these things, especially "Karma" where me and Zay both were in the midst of the worst, and "I’m Not Perfect" was easy for Soul to gravitate towards because of the message, he understood it. 

That’s the beautiful thing about TDE, we all know what each other [is] capable of. Looking back, I think we’re blessed to have been in similar circumstances at the same time because the music wouldn’t sound the same if it was any other way.

What does the title Heavy mean to you?

This album is literally the most personal I’ll ever be. I don’t want to be in this kind of pain ever again. It’s as personal as I’ll ever get in my music. When I hear the word "heavy" I think of pressure and weight. With this album, I feel like I was under so much pressure as I was writing the songs — all I could do was make diamonds. These songs are all their own little diamonds of my writing, they’re stories that come from me, they’re born from my mistakes. 

It feels heavy. When I listen to the music, I feel the things I was going through weighing me down. When I perform it, it feels like I got on 300 pounds. This is four years coming. Five years since the [last] album but four years [that] I’ve been trying to get myself back to where I need to be to drop this. It’s the perfect title for what you’re hearing.

Why did you decide to drop "No Evil" and "Karma" as the first two singles?

Everything’s a team effort. We played the music until we were sick of it and whatever songs we were sick of the least, those were the ones that we wanted to work on. 

"No Evil" kept surprising us. The more we played it, the more we were like, "This s— is undeniable." It has so many things going for it. If people [are] just really willing to listen to it, it might do something. With "Karma," that was like …let’s just give [the fans] something that’s straight down the middle.

Why the decision for the D’Angelo homage in the "No Evil" video? Was that to show off your fitness transformation?

I think it was more so [the latter] than D’Angelo. The shot was something the director suggested, but it was more so my big reveal. I’ve been working on myself and part of the thing that I was going through the most was my weight gain. I got up to 250lbs and nobody was really saying anything. [While I was] trying to get sober, I had a lot of time to figure out my dieting and that’s what really helped get me down to the weight I’m at now.

The ode to D’Angelo, I didn’t really see until we started editing the video. I’m on the [other] side of the camera so I had no idea that we were going that far. I’m like, Hell yeah. My shirt’s off, I’m buff as f– that’s all that mattered to me. [Laughs.] Anytime I can pay homage to anybody like D’Angelo that helped shape me as an artist, I won’t hesitate to. 

"Ricky’s Song" also stands out to me because it sounds like you’re talking to someone. Walk me through the inspiration behind that.

I literally was talking to my nephew Ricky, that’s my n—. Ricky is 20 now. I wrote that right when he was going into his senior year. To me, it’s a Black love story, a love story that you don’t hear everyday. It’s my family and that’s how we take care of each other: through the lessons that we learn. On the song right before this, "Life Is Good," there’s an interlude where my dad tells a story about a robbery that he committed back in the day. He was telling us these stories because he wants us to know all the mistakes he’s made in his life so we don’t go through the same stuff. That’s where the line in "Ricky’s Song": "You learned from me, don’t wanna see you make the same mistakes," [comes from]. 

That’s why that song is so important to me and for other people to hear. It’s OK to love your family and nurture them. Me and Ricky’s relationship is so strong. That man is the coolest. [He’s] my workout partner, video game partner, we play "Call of Duty" all day together and we talk all the time, constantly encouraging and lifting each other up, giving each other advice from the other perspective because I’m 37 and he’s 20. I can learn so much more from him than he can learn from me in certain instances because he’s watching the world happening in his time, and I don’t see it like that and I never will, we’re in two different places. I definitely brush off on him and vice versa. He keeps me young.

What do you want listeners to take away from Heavy?

It’s OK to be vulnerable. We all go through things, it’s just about how you handle them, being honest about it with yourself and the people around you. I want people to see my humanity because a lot of times it feels like as artists, we’re put in these places and expectations are set for us and if we don’t abide by them, we can lose our whole career or we can get too lost in the image of what we’re supposed to be. I want people to see that I’m normal, I’m very human when you meet me. I’m regular and I love that part of my life. SiR is great but SiR is a job. It’s a career that can end, but my life is my life and I want people to recognize that it’s a blessing to get music from artists.

I want people that are going through similar situations to hear that I was crying for help in these instances and to know that it’s OK to ask for help. That’s the biggest thing with addiction and drug use: People are so embarrassed or ashamed that they won’t reach out to the person that wants to help them. For people that are watching someone go through this, take some of the pressure off yourself because…an addict will never get help until they choose to help themselves. So all you can do is support, give love and help in any way you can. 

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