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Chloe Flower Is Redefining Classical Music (With Some Help From Cardi B)

Chloe Flower

Photo: the art of being female

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Chloe Flower Is Redefining Classical Music (With Some Help From Cardi B)

Meet the instrumentalist who performed alongside Cardi B at the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Mar 27, 2019 - 12:59 am

Moments before taking the stage for her most visible performance to date, in front of 22 million people, to be exact, Chloe Flower was understandably nervous. The GRAMMY-winning instrumentalist was about to play alongside Cardi B at the 61st GRAMMY Awards.

"When I got offstage, I was mortified, I was like, I think I looked at the camera. Like, a lot," she says over the phone. "And I was like, I don't even know why because I never did that during the rehearsals."

Wearing a Fouad Sarkis-designed couture dress fit for a 17th-century queen while playing a crystal-covered Liberace piano, Flower's now-famous look into the camera at the start of Cardi's "Money" performance didn't appear anxious at all. In fact, it looked more like a challenge to the world, letting it know she had arrived.

The fierce performance by both Flower and Cardi would be one of the most talked about performances of the night. While it may have been the first time most pop music fans became aware of Flower, who grew up in Pennsylvania and began taking serious piano lessons at the age of 12, she'd been making waves on social media for a while, most notably by performing covers of pop and hip-hop hits like the "Despacito" remix by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber, as well as "Humble" by Kendrick Lamar.

The instrumentalist, who is also a businesswoman and an activist (Flower is passionate about using music education as a means of preventing human trafficking), had one goal that night, and it's the same goal she strives for every day: to show audiences that classical music is cool and accessible no matter your economic background. 

Flower spoke with the Recording Academy about what her experience in the music industry, her activism, performing with Cardi B at the 2019 GRAMMYs, her recent signing with Sony music, her forthcoming album and more.

When did you begin playing piano?

Well, I started very early. I started piano lessons at two because my parents knew that I was musically inclined just because when I was in the crib, before I could talk or walk or anything, I would recognize certain pieces of classical music that I guess I liked back then. I don't particularly love them now, but my mom said when a certain theme came on, I'd get really excited and start yelling. [My parents] are not musical in an applied way, they just love [music] as listeners.
 
The moment that I really decided to take it seriously was when I was 12. I drove past the piano competition on the way to a shopping mall in Virginia and I stopped there and I was like, "Oh my gosh, there's a piano competition. What's a piano competition?" Because we didn't have that in Pennsylvania, to my knowledge. And so my mom drove me there and we went into the school and I met the winner. The girl who won first place was actually my age. And so I was like, "I want to play like you. You're so much better than me." I like literally went up to them, was like, "Hi, do you want to be my friend?" And I asked her for the number of her piano teacher and she gave it to me and she was so sweet. And I started studying with her piano teacher.
 
What is your favorite thing about the piano?
 
Right now, meditation has become such a huge thing. It's becoming more and more mainstream. I think that for me, music has become a form, it has always been rather a form of meditation for me. And I remember, I had a couple of friends who passed away when I was younger and I used to just play piano and it really helped me get through my emotions. It was like an emotional outlet for me growing up. And I don't ever get angry, I don't ever yell, I'm not like a super aggressive person. And I attribute a lot of that ability to express my emotions through music, I attribute that to me being a pianist because I think it's really a form of therapy and rehabilitation and also just meditation. Even when I'm practicing. Just because of the harmony, the physiological response that the body has on when you're not just listening when you're not just playing, but also just even listening.
 
You've been loaned a very famous piano: a Liberace piano. How did that happen?
 
So that was a huge coincidence. I actually flew to Vegas for a completely separate reason and that, I went to what I thought was a yoga retreat. But it ended up being kind of a Burning Man type situation. And I don't drink and like that, I don't do drugs. So I was like this is not the right place for me. So I called my Uber driver ... I was like, "Take me to The Strip." And then when I got The Strip, I was like, "I'm not gonna waste this night, this weekend in Vegas. I'm gonna try and make it worth it." So I googled Liberace. I was like, I think he's from here? Or performed here? I wasn't sure. I googled it and found the information for the president of the foundation. His name is Jonathan Warren. And I just, I wrote a comment on their website or emailed and was like, "I'm in town for one night. Would love to meet you and get some inspiration, see some of Liberace's stuff if you have time before I leave." So on the way to the airport, I met with him at the new museum. And the rest is history.
 
We quickly kind of created this relationship and I said, "Let me help you with fundraising and doing stuff for music and music education." Because I'm a huge music education activist. So I said, "I will help you raise money or I'll help you get the word out, I'll tag you in stuff." And then like a year or two later, I was like, "Why is that amazing piano not, like no one sees it?" It's in a room somewhere off way, way outside the strip of Vegas. And I was like, "I think that that piano should be in my living room."  And so I asked him if I could borrow it for a few years. So we did a three-year contract.
 
 
You also played a Liberace piano for the Cardi performance, right?
 
Yes. That piano is inside the museum in Las Vegas. And so when I was doing the rehearsals, I was like, "It's Cardi B." She's wearing Thierry Mugler rhinestones. I was like, "Maybe you guys should use the Liberace piano because it's the rocky crystals. And it would just be cooler to see onstage. I think it could be like a moment." And they loved the idea and so they shipped it out from Vegas.
 
A perfect match, especially as Cardi, has said she loves Swarovski crystals on her nails.
 
Exactly, right?
 
How did the Cardi collab happen?
 
You know, my publicist, Lauren Ceradini, she introduced me to Marsha St. Hubert, who is a VP at Atlantic and part of Cardi's team at Atlantic Records. And she saw my Instagram ... we only met once, maybe twice. And when the time came for the GRAMMY performance, they wanted to maybe have a pianist. So I don't know if you're familiar with the music video, but there was a moment where Cardi's playing piano or sitting at the piano, rather. And so Marsha suggested me to Tanisha Scott and Cardi. Tanisha Scott is Cardi's creative director ... and they looked at my Instagram and they were like, "Oh, you think she'll do it?" And they called me and then I was like, "Yeah." Like, of course.
 
She ended up making history that night when she won Best Rap Album. How was it being a part of her big night?
 
So I think the most surprising thing, to me, about performing with her is how empowering she was for me as an artist. Like, I stood up there. I'm not her, I'm not famous in any way. You know, I'm like a pianist. And she was so adamant about me having my moment in music and in fashion. I just don't think there's a lot of female artists out there or enough female artists out there who are so empowering and would share a stage like that with me. Like I was wearing a completely different outfit the night before the GRAMMY and she stopped the rehearsal and was like, "I don't like your outfit." I was like, "Oh wow." And she told the, she actually told my stylist. My stylist was amazing, Brooklyn Style, and it was a really cool outfit. She told my stylist, Brooklyn, she said, "She doesn't look couture enough and she's not gonna stand out enough. I want her to stand out more."
 
And then I also, musically, that was aesthetical. And musically, I had written three solos for myself. And they had, some of the team had taken out my second solo and made it shorter and smaller. And she was like, "Where's Chloe's piano?" She was like, "I want to hear more Chloe." And she made them add it back in. So she like, she wanted me to have that moment and she wanted to share the stage with me. And then even afterwards, you know, all that press happens and I was like, "Oh my God." Like every headline, like Time Magazine was like, "Chloe Flower stole the GRAMMYs." You know? And it was like, "[Cardi] might be mad." And then after the performance, she called me, her team called me, they're like, "Cardi B's looking for you. She wants you to come to this dinner." And when I got there, she's like, "Oh my God! Did you see? You're all over Twitter." And she was like, "Ah!" Like jumping up and down hugging me for like five minutes, so happy for me. Like that kind of female empowerment and the whole vibe, the whole energy of the whole team was like that. And it was really very nice experience for me.
 
The GRAMMYs is a huge night. A lot of people tune in. When you found out that you were going to be sharing the stage with Cardi and even just performing, did you have a goal in mind? Did you have something where you were like if anyone takes anything away from this performance, it's this?
 
Yeah, definitely. I didn't realize how big the moment was gonna be, but I knew that it was gonna be something. I knew that I was going to be seen because I had the solos. What I really wanted to accomplish was to show the entire audience and whoever was watching me that classical music can be cool and to inspire young kids to want to learn an instrument. Because I don't think that they would have ever seen a pianist onstage with a rapper in that way. And that's specially a moment where I could actually inspire. Even if it's one person, like one kid to like, "Oh, maybe I want to learn the piano." And to really make an impact on music education. So that was, and I know that sounds corny. I don't know how to say it in a non-corny way. 
 
That's always been a real goal for me and that's kind of why I do covers on Instagram. Like I never wanted to do covers, but the young kids keep asking me for them. So I do it really for them. And because they recognize the melody and so they don't recognize Chopin, they don't recognize Rachmaninoff. So for them, when they hear a version of Drake, they're like, "Oh, I recognize that melody, that top line of 'Hotline Bling.'" But then I do it in a classical way and in heels. And so it becomes more, it resonates better with them. 
 
Do you think some people associate classical music with an older crowd? 
 
Yeah. Classical music is, in many ways, inaccessible. So it's inaccessible financially like it's very expensive to go to the opera. And not only just buy a ticket, you know, your cheapest ticket can be $200. But then also people have to dress up when they go. It's not like, people are dressed up when they go to opera. And then you have the element of finance that involves you have to wear nice clothes. You can't wear sweats, you can't wear jeans. And then also it's visually, it doesn't have that pop mainstream aesthetic. It's like it can be seen as sterile, old, and boring. So I think that me in a different kind of outfit coupled with the kind of music it is, that, that can help change the stereotype of the classical musician. Which is a true stereotype.
 
Going off your point, so many famous pianists that a lot of people think about, you've mentioned like Rachmaninoff, a lot of them are white men. And here you are, a woman of color, killing it. 
 
Yes, definitely. I think that in all industries, not just music, and when you talk about producers, like I want to be a producer. I want to do female producing. There is such a small number of female producers, female classical musicians, and on top of that, musicians of color, of course. It's like, you know, I remember when I first studied at Manhattan School of Music, my first  piano teacher during my first month with him, looked at me and he said, "Oh, you play like a man." You just reminded me of that. I actually hadn't thought about that since I was 12. So he said, "You play like a man." And I was like, "What does that mean?" 
 
And I remember thinking, "Oh my God, I'm so excited." My mom was there and she was like, "You played like a man, but you have small hands. That means you played really well." And like I usually never thought about that but right now, but that kind of stereotype that's embedded in a culture, embedded in a profession, like that needs to change. And so I think yeah, thanks for reminding me of that.
 
The music industry can be very cutthroat for any artist. Specifically for a pianist, what are some of the challenges you face?
 
My biggest challenge as a pianist, as a solo pianist, is, before the GRAMMYs, people didn't know what to do with me. I have been trying to do this kind of music for nine years. And the only person that really understood me was Babyface and that's why he signed me nine years ago. And as a pianist, when you're an instrumentalist and you don't have a vocal, it's not a mainstream genre. So people are like, "Well, what do I do with you? What do you mean you're doing piano with beat? What do you mean you're wearing heels and feathers?" So the challenge has become trying to really make instrumental music popular again. Because it has been popular in the past. Liberace was very popular ... again a [white man.] But still, instrumentalists and brought instrumental music to the forefront and brought it to the mainstream. And Liberace brought it to television. So that kind of thing, you know, that really, I think the biggest challenge is trying to bring it back in a way that's not an old white man.
 
What empowers you as a musician and what keeps you going despite all the challenges?
 
I think I've been very lucky that my parents raised me to, they told me I never have to do anything for, for instance, the money, right? So I said no to a lot of label deals. I turned down a lot of label deals and a lot of money because I believe in my sound. I didn't want to do anything that was corny. I didn't want to do anything that was gimmicky. And a lot of people in marketing and music, they're like, "Oh, do this because this is gonna sell records for a month." And I was like, "No, that's really corny sounding." And for me, that kept me on the right path. That led me to where I am now because I'm true to my opinion and my heart and my sound. And so I think that that was the biggest thing, was that I didn't have to deviate from my musical ethic and waited nine years. 
 
I'm able to produce an album, like I've been doing my album for nine years because I haven't had the ability to really work with the right producers who understand the type of music that I'm trying to make. And finally, because of the GRAMMYs, I'm working with Anthony Jones, and Tommy Brown from [Ariana Grande's] "7 Rings" and "Thank U, Next." They're producing my whole album. And they probably wouldn't have worked with me had it not been for the GRAMMYs. And they may have not worked with me if I had done a techno album in 2012 like somebody wanted me to do, but I said no to, you know? They may be like she's kind of corny. So just, I think staying true to your art and staying true to what you believe in. I think that's been a big part of why I'm here today.
You're also a producer. What made you want to produce and what do you think it means to be a female producer today?
 
Being a female in the music industry in itself, I've been so lucky because I think because I signed to Baby, I went straight from classical music to Babyface. And Babyface has a very PG studio environment. Nobody in our studio even has, like Kenny (BabyFace) has drank alcohol before or my engineer has had alcohol before. Everyone else that works in our studio has never even tried alcohol. It's like there are no girls in the studio. It's like almost funny, like there's never girls, doesn't have parties. It's not the traditional studio setting. So I'm a woman in the music industry. I have been very sheltered and protected from what people perceive to be the standard studio look, like you know, a rapper or a pop artist studio. 
 
But having said that, the environment in our culture, as you know from the #MeToo movement, it can be hard for a woman to be in a studio, especially a woman who has not established herself, like myself, can get hit on or can get sexually harassed. So I think that's definitely a factor for women when they're trying to work and stay professional. But also, for whatever reason, I don't know exactly why, but there are very few female producers and most of the top producers are men. But there are a lot of female songwriters, but not necessarily beat makers and producers. So when I worked in Kenny's studio, I was able to watch all of his producers, who are very professional. I get to sit with them. I don't ever feel uncomfortable. So I would sit with them for like six hours and watch them program drums and learn how to do it by watching. And then I would watch YouTube tutorials on how to use Logic and how to use Pro Tools. And then I would ask questions to my engineer, Paul Boutin, he's been with Kenny over 20 years. And if I had a question I couldn't figure out on YouTube, I would ask him and I had that comfortable space to do so and to not feel any type of way.
 
So that, I was so lucky in that way. And so because of that, my nickname became Chlo Tools because they're like, "Oh, you taught yourself how to use Pro Tools." So they started calling me "Chlo Tools" because I was engineering my own projects. And yeah. So then I was like why aren't there so many female producers? Like I would love to one day open a studio of just all like badass female producers, female writers, and female instrumentalists. Like I think that would be like the best place ever. Because that's how my career started, was like empowerment with Cardi and Tanisha and Lauren Ceradini and Marsha. It's like Brooklyn Styles. There's an all-female team. And so I think that it would be cool to have that and to have space for women to go to and feel safe.
 
So was the Cardi performance your first major pop performance?
 
Oh my God, yes, definitely. And I was joking to Kenny, Babyface, I call him Kenny 'cause that's his actual name. But I was joking to him that, I was like, "I really wanted to perform with like, you know." I said with Cardi, actually, I said, "I want to perform with Cardi or Ariana or Beyoncé one day." And he was like, "Now you're doing it." And I said, "But why does it have to be at the GRAMMYs?" Like literally in front of millions and millions of, for the first time, performing pop in a way that, you know, I look like that when I'm in the studio producing and writing and when I'm performing. I kind of look like that. Not necessarily that big, but like you know, Tanisha is obviously the creative director with like, "What you're doing is great." She didn't choreograph me, she's like, "Just do it bigger. Go harder." She's like, "When you're onstage, you're gonna look small. So you have to go even bigger." So I did everything I normally do exaggerated. Like I had never done that live. I was like, and in front of that many people and I was like if people might hear. I was like what are people going to think? Am I gonna look crazy? So it was really, I was a little nervous. When I got on stage, I was mortified, I was like, I think I looked at the camera. Like a lot. And I was like, I don't even know why because I never did that during the rehearsals.
 
How did you calm your nerves? Because you looked so professional!
 
I know, girl, as the gate was coming up, I started playing before the gate came up and they counted me in. And I started playing and I was like, right before they counted me in, I was like oh my God, why am I doing this to myself? And then the gate comes up and I just black out. I just, I start and it's like you just have to be. I'm like also an Academy Award-winning actress. Like I'm like, I'm an actor. If you can't show it, you know? Because the energy of the audience don't see that. So I just black out, I don't know. But I was very nervous.
 
You do so much. You also identify as an activist. Talk to me about the issues. I know you mentioned music therapy, music education. Talk to me about the issues you advocate for and how you use your platform for change.
 
So one of the most important issues to me, other than music education, is human trafficking, the human trafficking epidemic. And that is something that I started working on in 2006 and initially, I had become aware of the campaign, because this is pre-Instagram, like Twitter had just started, and so I was like people don't know about human trafficking. So I said, "Let's do these series of events, like $20 events, raise money for various anti-human trafficking organizations." People would be like, "What's human trafficking?" And so that was an awareness campaign that I started. And then by 2012, 2011, people started to know about it a lot more through social media and celebrity activists, like Ashton Kutcher was very vocal about it and Demi Moore, at the time they were together. So a lot of different celebrities were coming together and being vocal. So then it switched.
 
So then in 2012, I was like let's start focusing, like to myself, I'm like let's start focusing on prevention. And then what I found was that music education is a major tool of prevention against human trafficking. And I learned that when I had to give my first, kind of like the GRAMMYs, my first-ever public speaking speech was at the United Nations. And I was like writing this speech like oh my God, why do I have to, I wish I could just perform, why do I have to talk? But I said yes because I love a challenge. So I put together. I was like wow, these are the reasons that girls enter human trafficking. They don't necessarily have a sense of identity, they don't have a sense of nobility, they don't have a sense of community. They come from extreme poverty in most cases. And so what I found was that music education programs, specifically orchestral programs, in schools for young kids, they actually provide all of those things.
 
So you have these kids who are all of a sudden becoming more confident, more disciplined. They have an identity. Their family relationships are becoming stronger. They have their parents coming to see them perform and they're proud. So then the community gets stronger. And so they have all of these benefits that actually are root causes of entering human trafficking. So in that way, music education is really, in a real way, able to overcome material poverty, which is the main cause of human trafficking. So when I realized that, like that become perfect for me because I can combine both things and not have to separate them anymore.
 
You are continuing to do big things post-GRAMMYs. You signed with Sony in February, right?
 
I signed with them, yeah, actually I signed the contract on Friday before the GRAMMYs . So I signed with Sony the Friday before the GRAMMYs and I basically decided to sign with them beforehand. I didn't, I was just, I was so excited. I had been shopping labels for nine years and I knew where I wanted to be. I love Sony Masterworks. I had met with the team. They were so amazing. I was like nothing is going to change on Monday morning. Like if this is the biggest performance of my life, I'm still gonna want to be there. I'm still gonna want to be part of that team. So I made a real conscious effort and decision to get that contract signed before the GRAMMYs to show my label I'm serious about being with you guys. Because a lot of people were like, "Don't sign until after the GRAMMYs because you're gonna blow up and like you can get a better deal." And I was like, "No, that might be true, but I want to be with them and I think it would be so great to have a press release happen Monday morning if I do blow up. And that would be great for the label. It would be great for me."
 
What's next for you? Are you currently making an album?
 
I'm making an album and it's gonna be a big album. So it'll be 24 songs. And I'm working with Tommy Brown and Anthony Jones ... They're producing it and it's gonna be piano with beats, and also there's gonna be a b-side of just pure strip downs. Still looking at instrumentals. I'm kind of like, covers and originals and some classical. Music that you can relax to or sleep to or study to or have dinner parties to or just listen to passively. But just a stripped down version, you know? So the first single is going to be dropping in April. So it'll either be, I think we're trying to do it before Coachella, so it'll probably be either before Coachella or right after Coachella. And it's going to be a single produced by, again, Tommy and Anthony. It's gonna be piano with beats, and it's gonna be so fun.
 
Are you thinking about touring?
 
 Definitely. Right now my primary focus is really the music. We've been doing 15 hour days in the studio with very few breaks. Like, sometimes I don't even drink water, which is bad, because I'm like I don't even want to take a pee break. Like I will be dehydrated 'cause of no time. But yeah, definitely. I think once we finish the album we get like the sound right, yes, 100% a tour.
Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

Rotimi

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

Mumu Fresh On What She Learned From Working With The Roots, Rhyming & More

Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2019 - 04:05 am

Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.

McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award

The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.

"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."

With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.

Seattle's Museum Of Pop Culture To Host Pearl Jam Exhibit

Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

 
This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.

Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour

Rosalía 

Photo: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

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Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour

El Mal Querer Tour, named after the Spanish pop star's latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances

GRAMMYs/Mar 20, 2019 - 12:25 am

Rosalía is set to perform at some of the most popular music festivals around the globe, including Primavera Sound in Spain, Lollapalooza (Argentina and Chile) and Coachella, but the Spanish pop star isn't stopping there when she gets to the States. Now, she has announced her first solo North American Tour with a string of dates that will bring her to select cities in the U.S. and Canada.

El Mal Querer Tour, named after her latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances. Then she'll play San Francisco on April 22, New York on April 30 and close out in Toronto on May 2.

 

RELATED: How Rosalia Is Reinventing What It Means To Be A Global Pop Star

"I’m so happy to announce my first solo North American tour dates," the singer tweeted.

Rosalía won Best Alternative Song and Best Fusion/ Urban Interpretation at the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards in November and has been praised for bringing flamenco to the limelight with her hip-hop and pop beats. During her acceptance speech she gave a special shout-out to female artists who came before her, including Lauryn Hill and Bjork. 

Rosalía has been getting some love herself lately, most notably from Alicia Keys, who gave the Spanish star a shout-out during an acceptance speech, and Madonna, who featured her on her Spotify International Women's Day Playlist. 

Tickets for the tour go on sale March 22. For more tour dates, visit Rosalía's website.

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