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Erica Banks Hustled To "Buss It": Meet The South Dallas Rapper Making Waves On TikTok And Beyond
Erica Banks

interview

Erica Banks Hustled To "Buss It": Meet The South Dallas Rapper Making Waves On TikTok And Beyond

With a stylish flow and insatiable drive for success, the "Buss It" rapper encourages women to seek out money, power and respect.

GRAMMYs/Apr 26, 2022 - 06:07 pm

If you were to visit Erica Banks' hometown in the quiet, welcoming South Dallas suburb of Desoto, Texas, you would be struck by the plainness of it all. Desoto is awash in beige and concrete. Shopping centers are filled with nail salons, wig shops and dollar store chains. Entrepreneurs have opened renovated storefronts out of shuttered Blockbusters, hardware shops and CD stores.  

Desoto is a predominately African-American community and many young, white-collar professionals looking to start a family have moved there in the last decade. "It’s like a real city now!" as Banks tells it. The 23-year-old rapper exploded out of the city’s everydayness with her 2020 hit, "Buss It," which dominated the airwaves and went viral on social media thanks to a TikTok challenge.

The challenge saw girls and gays recording themselves nonchalantly grooving to Banks' song specifically the Nelly-sampled chorus of "I think my butt getting big," from 2002's "Hot in Herre." Once the beat dropped, the video would reveal its creator squatting in their best outfit, with nails done, hair did and a sultry stare at the camera. The trend vaulted "Buss It" to the top of the charts  and earned Banks a record deal with Warner Brothers and 1501 Certified Entertainment, where the song was re-released.  

If there is anything plain about the cozy suburb she hails from, you can’t tell by Banks' stylish flow and insatiatiable drive for success. She has a penchant for tempo — whether delivering a rapid-fire flow or a slow, and steady rhyme — while her lyricism seamlessly blends pop, R&B and rap influences. Most importantly, Banks makes music for women to feel good about themselves, and encourages them to seek out money, power and respect.

There's a deep sense of pride, and competition, in the connecting cities of South Dallas — and Banks is the first rapper to rep Desoto. Yet Banks' rise isn't the result of an empty playing field; her ability to utilize social media to generate cross-genre appeal has enabled the rapper to rise above others who call South Dallas home.

But Banks’ rise was far from overnight. She spent years traveling on the weekends from Desoto, up I-35 to downtown Dallas, networking with DJs and clubs to get her music played. Today, with mainstream hip-hop success, Banks joins a lineage of legendary South Dallas rap artists who have made it big: DSR, Big Tuck, Durrough, Yella Beezy, MO3, Fat Pimp, Asian Doll and the Queen of Dallas, Erykah Badu. Dorrough, specifically, is from neighboring Lancaster and inspired a young Banks to get out of her hood and into the music spotlight.

Banks' is keeping busy: Her newest singles, "Pop Out" and "Slim Waist," precedes an upcoming mixtape due this summer; she just finished a tour opening for Summer Walker and is about to head out with T-Pain. Banks spoke with GRAMMY.com about her place in the legacy of South Dallas rap, her city and dreams.

What did you think the possibilities were while living and working in South Dallas?

Seeing rap artists out of Dallas, inspired me to want to do music. It made me feel like if people from my city can make it, maybe I can too.

Do you still have family living in Desoto and South Dallas?

Oh yeah, my parents still Iive there. My cousins and aunts and uncle still live there. My grandparents too, before my grandfather passed away. I live in Atlanta now. I love Atlanta.

How did you work to have your songs played in clubs as a rising rapper?

It was a matter of me introducing myself. I had business cards made with my picture on it and my Instagram on it. I would say, "I’m Erica Banks and I do music, I want to send you my songs." The DJs were always very nice and played my stuff, but sometimes they already knew who I was. I just had to be vocal. I realized over time being more social and more vocal about who I was, helped people get to know me. Who I was started to spread by word of mouth, just by talking to DJs.

Where did you have your music played in Dallas?

Definitely, Club Status downtown. Club Pryme, V Live, XTC. I was in all the popping spots.

How familiar are you with Dallas hip-hop? Did you grow up listening to Big Tuck and DSR? Or Dorrough who came from nearby Lancaster?

Yes, Lancaster is where my dad lived for a long time. I was a very big Durrogh fan. When "Ice Cream Paint Job" came out it was my ringtone. I was always into that culture. Even Big Tuck. Now, this isn’t Dallas, but Texas in general, Pimp C, Bun B, they had a big effect on my career as well, as far as inspiration.

It would be great to have a South Dallas collaboration track with Durrough and Big Tick.

That would be so lit. I just might do that. I’m gonna tell people you gave me the idea.

How did the deal with 1501 Certified Entertainment come to be? Did you have them on your radar to sign with? Or the other way around?

I had gotten lucky. Carl Crawford, the CEO of the label would get on Instagram live, and people would play their music, and he would give his feedback. One week I decided to try my luck and play my song, which was "Buss It."

He loved the song and ended up hitting me up a couple of days later asking me if I was signed. I wasn’t. So I let my parents know, and we met with him a couple of times and we felt like the vibe was right. We went from there and everything has been good since then.

How important was it to have your family’s approval on that?

It was very important. Your parents know more than you do. I was fresh out of high school at the time. Especially when it came to contracts and lawyers, my parents made sure we had the right legalities to make sure I was good. My parents played a big part in that, so I appreciate them for that.

I’ve read you were kinda burned out for a while talking about "Buss It." And even that you didn't really like the song when it first came out. Do you still feel this way?

When I saw how my fanbase responded, I loved it. It became my favorite song. I saw the effect it had on people and why people liked it. At first, I was like, "I can do better than this." But, once my fans started to love it so much, I felt like I was thinking too hard. I’m not as hard on myself as much as I was.

I love that "Buss It" and "Toot That" speaks on sexuality from a women’s point of view. What were you trying to get across when writing the lyrics?

Basically, that girls run the world. That’s the moral of what I’m saying, just in a fun way. Most of the time it’s always the men that’s the dominant ones. But I think it's okay to be dominant as a woman too. I had to make it known that hey, we too can be dominant and run the show.

Were the lyrics of "Tony Story, Pt. 1" based on life growing up in Desoto? It’s a very dark, intense song about drug dealing and violence — were there specific experiences that informed the song?

Actually, no. With "Tony’s Story," when I wrote it and made it up when I first heard the beat, it sounded very sad. This was something I wasn't familiar with doing because I make club music. I was like, let me try something new, and I might like it. So I made up a character, I called him Tony, and I gave him this very hard life.

Once I was done with it, it was a great song to relate to. Because I know there’s a lot of Tonys out there. Not even that, there are a lot of people out there that know a Tony. The whole point of the Tony song was to have people relate to me on another level outside of the club level, to diversify myself as an artist.

With women running rap music right now, it’s easy for outsiders to group you in with your contemporaries. In what ways do you want to stand out as a rapper? 

I have my own way of being an artist. My own sound and style of music. I also call myself the Flow Queen…[which] came from fans complimenting my flow, and how I ride a beat. How I can switch it up. That makes me feel like I’ve differentiated myself from other artists because I’ve come up with this name in relation to my talent. It all starts with me as a person.

As a woman in rap, what issues are important for you to talk about in your music? 

Being a woman in this industry is not always the easiest thing. Sometimes, men, in particular, think we’re not as smart as them or we don’t know as much. Or they can get over on us. It takes a strong-minded woman to know what you’re getting into or if you’re being played with or not. It will try to take advantage of you, you just got to be smart.

As your popularity has grown, how do you remain true to yourself? 

I continue to do things I did before I was who I am now. I still take time to myself. I still spend time with my family, I still take time out to pray. I still take time off. Like, I’ll take time off if I need to get my mind right. I never stop doing the things that kept me grounded as a person, before all this.

Do you have plans to expand beyond music? Would you ever produce or act? 

Absolutely, I would love to be a writer for other artists. I want to get into acting. I’m excited about that; I feel like that’s going to happen for me. I also cook. I have a cooking page. So hopefully, somebody gives me a cooking show. Or maybe I could publish a cookbook. I’m definitely interested in things outside of just music.

Have you thought about opening up a business in Desoto?  

I have! At first, I thought about a nail shop, since I used to do nails in college. Then I thought of a restaurant when I started my cooking. I could do both! You never know. I’m gonna have to set that up and write that out.

You could take over the Dallas landmark shopping center, Big T Bazaar! 

That would be so legendary! I actually shot a music video there a year and a half ago, it was just me, by myself. If I brought all of Dallas out, it would have a different effect. I still go there when I’m in Dallas.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Global Spin: Singer-Songwriter And Producer Ferraz Offers A Minimalist, Soulful Performance Of "Espérame"
Ferraz

Photo: Maria Gabriela Stempel

video

Global Spin: Singer-Songwriter And Producer Ferraz Offers A Minimalist, Soulful Performance Of "Espérame"

The singer-songwriter, DJ and producer pulls from a variety of different styles to create his own signature blend of Latin R&B — and in this performance of "Espérame," he leans into his soul influences.

GRAMMYs/Sep 27, 2022 - 04:58 pm

Venezuelan singer-songwriter, producer and DJ Ferraz draws from various elements and sonic styles to create his signature blend of R&B. And in "Espérame," one of the tracks from his 2021 album Fino, he leans into gentle, lilting soul.

In this episode of Global Spin, Ferraz delivers a laid-back live performance of his song. Flanked by his gear and set against a plain white backdrop, the singer accompanies himself on electric guitar.

This minimalist, self-contained performance proves that Ferraz can create a sound-world all his own. Ferraz incorporates elements of Latin folk-rock and bossa nova into his performance, with classic R&B rhythms kicking in in the chorus.

Funk, house and hip-hop further influence Ferraz's music-making process, coming together to form a style of R&B both versatile and pliant.

As one of the singer's more reflective and laidback tracks, "Espérame" exemplifies his easygoing, luminous vocal delivery — a signature element of even his bouncier tracks, like 2022's "Seratonina."

Ferraz debuted in 2019 with his Rumbo album, and continued to grow his sound and style with the release of Fino two years later. Most recently, he put out Remixes FINO, a collection of reimagined versions of the songs from his Fino project.

Press play on the video above enjoy Ferraz's soulful "Espérame" performance, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more episodes of Global Spin.

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11 Essential Brazilian Albums: From Bossa Nova To MPB
Gal Costa performs at Montreux Jazz Festival in 1980.

Photo: Donald Stampfli/RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images

list

11 Essential Brazilian Albums: From Bossa Nova To MPB

The South American giant has always boasted a voracious appetite for assimilating foreign influences into its own, vibrant cultural stew. From samba and bossa nova, to Música Popular Brasileira, here are 11 essential Brazilian albums for your playlist.

GRAMMYs/Sep 27, 2022 - 02:14 pm

You would need at least 500 albums to delineate a comprehensive aural snapshot of Brazil — one of the most passionate nations in the world when it comes to creating and consuming music.

From the foundational samba and its cosmopolitan cousin, the bossa nova, to the fertile movement of MPB (Música Popular Brasileira), the funky axé and the rich fields of Brazilian rock, metal, hip-hop and electronica, the South American giant has always boasted a voracious appetite for assimilating foreign influences into its own, vibrant cultural stew.

Leaving aside the more obvious choices — we assume you’ve already heard "The Girl from Ipanema" once or twice — this list focuses on 11 legendary LPs that distill the essence of Brazilian music. 

Sylvia Telles - The Music of Mr. Jobim (1966)

When we think bossa nova, the name of Elis Regina comes instantly to mind, especially because of the classic Elis & Tom LP that she recorded in 1974 with genre architect Antonio Carlos Jobim. Before Elis, however, there was another singer who summed up the frothy lightness and poetry that make people fall crazy in love with the bossa.

Born in 1934, Sylvia Telles had an unforgettably jazzy and mercurial voice. This, her last album, was recorded in 1965 expressly for the American market and includes definitive renditions of standards like Dorival Caymmi’s "... Das Rosas" and Jobim’s exhilarating "Samba de Uma Nota Só." Telles has been unjustly forgotten by everyone but bossa collectors because she died, together with her boyfriend, in a car accident in 1966. She was 32. 

Roberto Carlos - Roberto Carlos (1969)

A misunderstood genius, Roberto Carlos is widely known as the Brazilian equivalent of Julio Iglesias. Before he went pop, he was part of the jangly jovem guarda movement in the late ‘60s, as South America fell in love with the Beatles and the Stones.

This transitional album finds his songwriting partnership with Erasmo Carlos (no relation) in full bloom. From the feel-good sunlight of "Do Outro Lado da Cidade" and the defiant funk of "Nao Vou Ficar," to the torrid balladry of "Sua Estupidez" (made famous by Gal Costa in an epic live version), this 1969 masterpiece pulsates with an indelible sense of nostalgia. Some of these songs were included in the film Roberto Carlos e o Diamante Cor-de-rosa, a colorful riff on the Beatles’ Help. 

Wilson Simonal - Simonal (1970)

A teen idol throughout the ‘60s, Wilson Simonal has been altogether ostracized from Brazilian cultural history due to his alleged political decisions during the ‘70s — a time of darkness and turmoil in South America.

This is somewhat unfair, as the man died more than 20 years ago at age 62. He left behind a prodigious discography that places his soulful vocals at the service of ballads and boleros, brassy funk and samba-rock. The brio of opening cut "Sem Essa" is worth the price of admission.  

Vinicius de Moraes with Maria Creuza and Toquinho - En La Fusa (1970)

There is something endearing about Argentina’s ongoing love affair with Brazilian music. When the royalty of bossa nova — lyricist Vinicius de Moraes, guitarist Toquinho and singer Maria Creuza — descended on Buenos Aires for a season of shows at the bohemian La Fusa club, it was quickly decided that the show should be recorded for posterity.

The resulting album was taped live in a studio, then augmented with audience noise from the actual venue. Few albums have captured the disarming beauty of this music so effortlessly. The unavoidable standards (yes, even "Ipanema") are enriched with light-as-a-feather gems like Jorge Ben’s "Que Maravilha" and Caetano Veloso’s "Irene." 

Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges - Clube Da Esquina (1972)

Hailing from the state of Minas Gerais, Milton Nascimento doesn’t really make records.

They’re more like a religious ritual, a celebration of sadness and joy, the flesh and the spirit. This transformational double LP was made by Nascimento and a collective of like-minded musicians, including the brilliant — if slightly esoteric — Lô Borges. There’s samba art-rock, psychedelia, Beatlesque melodies and a smoldering cascade of longing that permeates every single moment and refuses to let go. Its sequel, released in 1978, is just as good. 

Chico Buarque - Meus Caros Amigos (1976)

Look up the word warmth in the dictionary and you will probably find a picture of this album, dripping analog goodness and a million smiles.

The young Buarque’s 1966 hit "A Banda" was a defining moment in the emergence of the MPB sound. By the time he released this 1976 session, he was an established master of the Brazilian groove. Every track here is a classic: the fairy tale sweetness of "Você Vai Me Seguir"; the carnivalesque swirl of "Passaredo"; the homeric sorrow of "Mulheres De Atenas." Milton Nascimento guests on the samba-with-strings movie theme "O Que Será." 

Gal Costa - Gal Tropical (1979)

The bluesy voice of MPB diva Gal Costa is one of the most gorgeous sounds ever to come out of Brazil. Even though she appeared during the tropicália boom of the late ‘60s, the ‘70s was her best decade, with classic LPs such as Índia (1973), Cantar (1974) and this lavish session of tropi-pop that sold a million copies.

An eclectic song selector, Gal can focus her attention on a carnival march from the 1930’s ("Balance"), then melt hearts with a sparse ballad penned by Caetano Veloso ("Força Estranha.") Betraying subtle hints of post-disco decadence, her sultry reading of the Antonio Carlos Jobim/Dolores Duran oldie "Estrada do Sol" is haunting. 

Karnak - Karnak (1994)

Brazil was missing an album matching the ambitious scope of a Sgt. Pepper’s, and it arrived with the debut of Karnak, the cosmopolitan, genre-bending orchestra of musical globetrotter André Abujamra.

So many years later, this criminally underrated masterpiece sounds as fresh and inventive as it did in 1994. It combines field recordings of citizens from all over the world with fragments of reggae, funky Afro-pop, Arabic scales, tribal drums and operatic chanting in fictitious tongues. Delirious and exhilarating, it serves up the delights of a thousand records all wrapped up into one. 

Tribalistas - Tribalistas (2002)

Decade after decade, Brazilian music has always survived the decay of time by knowing when to renew itself. The life-affirming debut by MPB supergroup Tribalistas was one such sleight of hand, as was their self-titled collection of translucent songs for idealists of all ages  .

Singer/songwriter Marisa Monte had already proven herself as MPB’s bright new hope through her solo work. But there’s power in numbers, and the addition of percussion genius Carlinhos Brown and the gravelly-voiced Arnaldo Antunes resulted in one dazzling song after another — and over three million albums sold. 

Los Hermanos - Ventura (2003)

There are no grandiloquent gestures in the third album by this Rio de Janeiro indie-rock quartet. The songs are tuneful, emotionally direct and oddly bittersweet. Enriched by a brass section, arena favorites such as the punchy "Último Romance" and the jagged "O Vencedor" show how seamlessly the influence of Anglo rock can find fertile terrain layered into Brazil’s melting pot. Many critics have singled out Ventura as one of the best albums in Brazilian history, and it’s easy to see why.

Céu - Tropix (2016)

Originally from São Paulo, Céu appeared on the scene at the same time as a large wave of neo-bossa singers — but the sound of her 2005 self-titled album went against the grain. Jagged and unpredictable, her MPB futurism draws from dub and Afrobeat, post-disco and indietronica.

Céu’s songwriting was remarkably sharp from the beginning, but she found a state of grace on Tropix, her fourth LP. The digital beats throb and quiver on elegantly sculpted tracks like "Perfume Do Invisível" and "Varanda Suspensa," while the quiet fire in her voice ignites a delicious kind of tension — as eye opening as the Brazilian classics of the ‘70s.

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Ari Lennox’s 'Age/Sex/Location' Explores Online Dating, Never Settling & Old School Romance
Ari Lennox

Photo: Gizelle Hernandez

interview

Ari Lennox’s 'Age/Sex/Location' Explores Online Dating, Never Settling & Old School Romance

A torrid take on hyper-passionate soul, 'Age/Sex/Location' sees Ari Lennox exploring her real-life hiccups with intimacy and growing empowerment.

GRAMMYs/Sep 27, 2022 - 01:32 pm

During a cool evening at the tail-end of a New York summer, Ari Lennox and I are eating dinner at the Sixty Hotel on the Lower East Side. She is coming off a whirlwind of a week, partaking in the slew of New York Fashion Week festivities and the release of her sophomore album Age/Sex/Location, which dropped Sept. 9.

Amidst her busy schedule, Lennox has love on the brain.

"I'm not searching for love anymore," Lennox says, leaning in close. The singer, a self-described old soul, continues that she's fed up with the modern dating world. "But, I'm back on online dating so I feel like I am lying because I know I want love."

Over 12 tracks, the Dreamville artist explores her real-life hiccups with intimacy, longing for old-school romance, and the toil of dealing with men who aren’t good for her. While she finds empowerment in being single — no matter how lonely it may feel at times — the end goal of Lennox's self-discovery quest on ASL is to secure a lover.

ASL — an online acronym those who grew up flirting on AIM and Yahoo chatrooms might find familiar —  coalesces Lennox's soulful intonations with more contemporary production and featured collaborators such as Lucky Daye, J. Cole, Jermaine Dupri and Missy Elliott. A follow-up to Shea Butter Baby, Lennox's widely-cherished diaristic 2019 debut, ASL was released alongside a surprise, R&B-forward EP called Away Message.

ASL is three years in the making and the result of significant collaboration. "There were definitely a lot of intentional sessions with the family," Lennox says, name-checking Theo Croker, Elite, Summer Walker and Chlöe.

This family affair resulted in a torrid album of hyper-passionate soul that pays sentimental reverence to the genre’s inception. The first single, the J. Cole-produced "POF," has Lennox harmonically damned, singing about swiping through a sea of options and major disappointments in an Erykah Badu-influenced R&B cadence.

The sensual  "Hoodie" — released along with a series of visuals that includes Lennox toying with TDE rapper Isaiah Rashad, floating on top of an encased water tank with a man trapped inside — underscores Lennox’s romanticization of a man she has never spent time with. 

She continues to air out her situationships in "Waste My Time," applies more "Pressure" and shows she's privy to the emotional games in "Mean Mug." Her exhaustion with romance shows in "Boy Bye" with Lucky Daye, before Lennox officially cuts it off on the funky "Blocking You." 

The LP concludes with "Queen Space" featuring Summer Walker, a falsetto ode to self-worth and independence that meditates on the sacredness of their bodies, energy, and time.

Back at dinner, Lennox sardonically laments that she "just went on a terrible date the other day in New York. He was 20 minutes late and invited me to the studio before the date happened." 

GRAMMY.com dug deep with the vocalist to talk about this transitional phase she is experiencing with her sexuality, new music, and the power she has rediscovered in artistic solitude. 

What artistic and personal evolutions have you experienced in the past three years that led to the culmination of this hyper-soulful project?

Well, allowing collaboration to happen. I'll say working with all of these writers — Jai’Len Josey, Crystal, Nettie, Dijon styles, and J. Cole, there was a lot of collaborative effort in this project. The difference between Shea Butter Baby and ASL was me letting go of control, really, because I wrote all of my debut album.

The intro track, "POF" has this beautiful narrative about even though there is sorrow in not finding the right one, there are always more people and experiences out there. Why did you choose to start with this neo-soul track?

To me, "POF" just sets the tone. Even, sonically and musically, it is just so soulful. I'm talking my s—. People have to know, at least with this project, that I am exhausted and tired of guys trying me. The song is just so sassy and so grown and so just authentic, you know?

What about the discreet titles of your Away Message EP and Age/Sex/Location album lend themselves to who you are at your age now?

They basically represent a time when I'm seeing dating as way clearer with wisdom. More than I've ever had before and there's just less naivete. There is a lot more self-awareness of my f—k-ups and then, the why of why I'm drawn to darkness sometimes. In this music, there are a lot more times of me standing my ground and not ignoring my opinions and my worth and sense of self.

What sort of enlightenment have you achieved through the music-making process behind Age/Sex/Location?

I learned more about how to notice red flags and how to not be so quick to ignore them. I am now more likely to give people the benefit of the doubt and see them through. Now I trust my intuition way more and trust God, or whoever you believe in, to see red flags as signs. That is some precious energy that is trying to help you not get hurt.

ASL is an online acronym used for identification in virtual spaces, specifically dating sites. Was exploring the early dating world when you were growing up difficult?

Yahoo! Chatrooms is literally the beginning of my love life because it was so hard to approach guys in real life. There were guys that were into me. This guy named Ricky Davidson had the biggest crush on him and he knew I had a crush on him. Nothing ended up ever happening because I wouldn't say anything. I was really socially awkward, like really bad until ninth grade. 

I started being more open and comfortable with communicating with guys, and now it's nonstop with writing and being open about dating. The title, Age/Sex/Location comes from online dating and it hasn't been the easiest, you know what I'm saying? In general, you have to be careful that you're not entertaining someone that may try to kill you.

How has your search for love in these recent months been?

My dating life is still just a heinous mess, but we are hopeful. I find myself love bombing, I guess because I do tend to love someone fast and ghost [them]. 

This book called Attached I have been reading is really fire; it helps me realize the different attachment styles in life. It is a science and these studies helped me feel validated that I'm an anxious person and if I'm drawn to an avoidant person, how are we supposed to not clash?I'm excited to see what a secure relationship feels like.

You have embraced your sexuality so much in this project, you talk of toiling with lovers in "Stop By" and really go there in "Leak It" featuring Chlöe. Have you felt more liberated and evolved embodying your sexuality?

Sexuality has always felt very natural and easy for me to express myself in a way. Now, I'm just being more direct about what I want. The importance of feeling safe with someone and thinking damn, what we've made was so beautiful. I don't mind if the world sees it. God forbid somebody hacks the iCloud. Well, it was a beautiful time we shared.

What values of self-love did you preach to yourself while producing Age/Sex/Location?

Communicating my concerns. Many times, I've been so docile and quiet for so long that I could keep a person around in this kind of co-dependent nature. I can't be afraid to lose any more people because the reality is, that they're not meant to be. I was being honest about how I felt and expressing it to them in a gentle way. It is nice to experience men and see their different reactions. 

Some people refuse to say sorry and be accountable. Then, there are other people who are overly sorry. What I will say about the guy I went on a date with, he didn't mind apologizing. He was very sweet about the fact that he was late. But I'm not even used to someone being accountable and it was nice to experience it that was sexy. 

I love how the closing song on the album, "Queen Space," highlights how you view your own prowess and independence. How would you define a queen space?

Wow. A queen space to me is self-love and accountability. It is the protection of my own peace and, by any means, not neglecting myself to please someone else. It really is honoring my morals, my values, my mind, my body, and talking my s—t when I need to. Setting those standards and setting those boundaries very clearly because moving in life with intention is how I get through romance, relationships, and friendships.

How was collaborating with such soulful musicians on Age/Sex/Location?

It was a dream to have Lucky be so supportive and come into the studio. Same with Summer — for her to take all the time out of her day to give me an incredible verse and to take "Queen Space" somewhere that I would have never thought just gives me chills every time. I love feeling like the record is not complete until you have that certain artist hop on it. Chlöe just came into my life and was the literal completion of "Leak It."

Your vocals are really pushed on this album and, sonically, you elevated into another dimension of Ari Lennox. 

Certain songs will bring certain things out of you, certain melodies out of you. I kind of just wanted to push myself like, what would a Chaka Khan do? Or, what would Adina Howard do?

If you could build out a Destiny’s Child-style girl group, who would you scout to share the stage?

Can I just join Chlöe and Halle? Or, even VanJess? There are so many phenomenal people in the game right now. Victoria Monet, Tanerélle, Muni Long, Kehlani, and more. So many legends out here doing their own thing. 

If you could sit down and share champagne with any soul artist who passed away or is alive today, who would you love to sit down with and share some studio time with?

There is only one person hands down and that is Marvin Gaye because he was so fine. I would just love to drink wine with him in another life.  I know this is inappropriate, but flirt with him and see if that would be nice or works. Or, Minnie Riperton, I would love to listen to her about how she feels about music, music theory, and life. I would just love for her to train me vocally.

What was the main song on A/S/L that gave you the premonition that this was going to be a timeless project?

It is a tie between "Hoodie" and "Mean Mug." Those records were the glue of this sophomore album for me because "Hoodie" was so natural and I was so excited about it. They are about these intense crushes I had on men that I'd never even hung out with before; I was literally talking about romanticizing romance. It is me just loving the idea of love.

Do you have thoughts about the claim that the genre of R&B will eventually disappear?

I say that those people are delusional. I'm just going to be really direct because we can't invalidate all of the phenomenal R&B artists that are contributing greatly to this genre. You know, Brent Faiyaz? There are so many legendary people and it's not like Brandy ever stopped. It's not like Monica ever stops. Jazmine Sullivan and Ella Mai are killing it. 

What are you surrounding yourself with? Who are your friends? Are they only listening to trap or only listening to soft rock? Find the friends that do love R&B, let them guide you, and explore with them. Some people want to be stuck only in certain eras and you should all be inspired by all of them; both past, present, and future.

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Black Sounds Beautiful: How Ozuna Leverages His Status As A Reggaeton Superstar To Open Doors For Other Latin Artists
Ozuna

Photo: Mindy Small/FilmMagic

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Black Sounds Beautiful: How Ozuna Leverages His Status As A Reggaeton Superstar To Open Doors For Other Latin Artists

A global superstar and two-time Latin GRAMMY winner, Ozuna’s historic rise to superstardom is helping to bring Spanish language music and Latin culture to the center of the U.S. musical mainstream.

GRAMMYs/Sep 26, 2022 - 08:49 pm

Before artists like Bad Bunny and J Balvin rose into the spotlight, Puerto Rican singer and rapper Ozuna — born Juan Ozuna Rosado Delano — was making mainstream waves with his signature brand of Reggaeton and trap music.

Coming of age in the mid-2010s as part of a rejuvenated interest in Reggaeton, Ozuna topped the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart with his 2017 debut, Odisea — a project that also cracked the Top 30 on the US Billboard 200.

Its track listing featured contributions from J Balvin, Annuel AA, Zion & Lennox and more, and collaboration would quickly emerge as a hallmark of Ozuna's artistry, and a major part of furthering both his own career and the new wave of Latin-based music in general.

Many of Ozuna's biggest hits have been group efforts, such as "Taki Taki," a late 2018 release that featured the singer alongside Cardi B, DJ Snake and Selena Gomez. That song enjoyed success both on the charts and in the streaming world, rapidly reaching 20 million YouTube view and becoming the most-streamed song on Spotify.

Another all-star collab, "China," also hit the top of the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart the following year, and helped earn Ozuna four Guinness World Record titles, naming him as the artist with the most YouTube videos notching over a billion views, as well as honoring his status as the most-nominated and most-awarded artist at the Billboard Latin Music Awards in 2019.

Speaking to ET Online in 2019, Ozuna pointed to his mainstream collaborations as the reason for his breakthrough into global superstardom.

"After ['Taki Taki'], North Americans went wild, and starting paying attention to Latinos more," he explained. "Before, it was all surface-level. It was like, 'Let's see what these Latinos have going on,' cautiously. Now all the North Americans want to record with Latinos."

Ozuna's global success has never been solely about himself: He sees his career as a chance to advance other artists who share his background to the forefront. "Elevating Latinos is my responsibility," he states, and he works hard to promote younger artists careers in the same way he got his own breakthrough: through collaboration.

"There's so much new young talent," he explains. "Lunay, Rauw Alejandro and Lyanno are some of the artists who I gave a break to the same way Farruko and Arcangel gave me my big break on 'Si No Te Quiere.'"

Press play on the video above to take a look back at Ozuna's career, and keep checking GRAMMY.com for more episodes of Black Sounds Beautiful.

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