meta-scriptG Herbo Talks 'PTSD' And The Importance Of Mental Health: "People Need To Treat Mental Health More Seriously" | GRAMMY.com
G Herbo

G Herbo

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G Herbo Talks 'PTSD' And The Importance Of Mental Health: "People Need To Treat Mental Health More Seriously"

The Chicago rapper chats about how he's using his newest album and his platform to de-stigmatize mental health and demystify the commonly misunderstood mental disorder

GRAMMYs/Jul 24, 2020 - 05:00 pm

On the title track to his newest album, PTSD, Chicago rapper G Herbo enlists his hometown's hip-hop heroes, Chance The Rapper and the late Juice WRLD. (Philadelphia's Lil Uzi Vert is the track's lone guest not hailing from the Windy City.) 

On paper, "PTSD" creates the impression of a heavy-hitting anthem: four of the genre's biggest artists coming together like the rap game's The Avengers. Instead, the song offers an intimate look into the minds and vulnerabilities behind hip-hop's new generation. 

G Herbo raps about the friends he's lost to Chicago's extreme gun violence. Chance talks about how he and his mother avoided talking about the social issues plaguing his community. Lil Uzi sing-raps about the paranoia-induced "war zone laying inside my head." 

Juice WLRD's emotionally charged chorus encapsulates the song's overarching theme: "I got a war zone on inside of my head / I made it on my own, they said I'd be in jail or dead / I've seen my brothers fall over and over again / Don't stand too close to me, I got PTSD."

As the album's poignant centerpiece, the track embodies G Herbo's mission to de-stigmatize mental health and demystify the commonly misunderstood mental disorder, clinically known as post-traumatic stress disorder, across PTSD.

Originally released in February, PTSD is inspired by G Herbo's personal experience with the mental health condition—he was clinically diagnosed with PTSD in 2019—and the therapy treatment he sought to address it. Following a gun-related arrest in 2018, he agreed to enter therapy based on the suggestion of his lawyer. He'd never attended therapy before and, admittedly, he didn't know much about the practice, a likely result of the many barriers preventing people of color from accessing mental healthcare.

"I didn't really think [therapy] was something that I needed or something that was for me, because where I come from, the things that we go through and the things that we experience, we sort of normalize," G Herbo tells GRAMMY.com. "So we don't think that we're crazy. We don't think that we're suffering from mental illness because we're paranoid for our life, because everyone around us is paranoid for their life. So we don't feel like the oddball, and I think that needs to change."

Across PTSD, G Herbo tackles heavy, real-life issues through a personal lens. "Gangstas Cry" dissects toxic masculinity, "Lawyer Fees" chronicles the gun violence that infested his childhood and community, and "Feelings" documents his relationship problems with the mother of his child. 

Despite, or maybe because of, its self-reflective intimacy, the album is resonating with G Herbo fans around the world: PTSD became a Top 10 Billboard hit, while the title track has gone gold in the U.S. (In May, G Herbo released the deluxe version of PTSD, which features 14 new tracks.)

"I never really gave it much thought about [the album] being too heavy for people, because I felt like people may look at my situation and my life like I don't do these things, like I don't have problems, like I don't endure pain or stress. I just wanted the world to know that we all are the same," G Herbo says of PTSD, which he calls his "most complete" project to date. 

Five months after the album's release, G Herbo continues to use PTSD and his platform to effect the change he wants to see in the world. In May, alongside the Alliance For Safety And Justice, he donated 20,000 protective masks to Chicago's Cook County Jail, which was identified as the "largest-known source of coronavirus infections" in the U.S. in April. For National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month this July, he launched Swervin' Through Stress, an initiative providing therapeutic and mental health resources, including a free therapy-intensive program, to Black young adults. 

"I think people need to treat mental health more seriously," G Herbo reflects. "You just have to take these things seriously so more and more people can be aware and more people that could bring change actually want to bring change. That's what PTSD is [about]."

GRAMMY.com spoke with G Herbo about the personal journey behind PTSD, the importance of mental health and the coping mechanisms he's adopting to survive our current volatile world. 

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Your latest album, PTSD, is inspired by your experience with therapy. Was that your first time going to therapy?

Yeah. In the process of recording the album, I was going to therapy ... I'd never tried therapy until that period of time of my life.

Your decision to enter therapy came from your lawyer's recommendation after you were arrested in 2018. Looking back at it now, do you think you would have ended up in therapy eventually by your own choice?

I don't think so … But I can't really say that, because as you grow, you experience life more. You never know what your mind may open up to you, but I'm so glad that I did go to therapy. I'm glad that I did take that leap of faith to just go talk to somebody about my situation and just my thoughts, and get 'em to a person with an unbiased opinion.

[The decision to go to therapy] did come from a recommendation from my lawyer because ... as I grew as a man and an artist and having so much going on in my life and so much to lose ... when I got into that situation with the arrest in 2018, I felt like, "What did I do?" Or, "What led me up to this point? What could I be doing wrong? What miscalculated steps did I take, if I thought I was doing all of these things right, to get myself to the next level?"

You could see in life, I'm not in harm's way. I'm not putting myself in danger, but yet I was carrying a gun [that day] because I have post-traumatic stress disorder, because [when] I leave the house every day, I'm paranoid. I'm thinking that my life can be taken from me at any moment, at the drop of a dime, by somebody just making a careless decision or somebody just with nothing to lose, like I once was at a time in my life.

I opened up to my lawyer and told her how I feel and why I carry a gun and why I need to have a guard around me 24/7. She told me to go to therapy, and I felt like it was one step closer to me trying to help myself. So I wanted to speak about it to the world.

You hadn't gone to therapy previously, but you obviously knew what it was before you started your treatment. What was your opinion on or understanding of therapy before you started going?

I honestly didn't know too much about therapy, but that is the point. You're talking to a professional who's supposed to listen to your problems and give you insight on life in a way where you could try to help yourself. I didn't really think that it was something that I needed or something that was for me, because where I come from, the things that we go through and the things that we experience, we sort of normalize.

It's normal, it's everyday life. So we don't think that we're crazy. We don't think that we're suffering from mental illness because we're paranoid for our life, because everyone around us is paranoid for their life. So we don't feel like the oddball, and I think that needs to change.

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You then took that whole experience and channeled it into what became PTSD. How did you go about creating an album out of such a personal experience?

I feel like it was only right for me to touch on [the topic] in a way where it could resonate with the entire world, not just my neighborhood. I began rapping and I was talking about the things that I experienced on that four-to-eight-block radius. I'm not really talking about things that the world can relate to; I was talking about things that only my neighborhood could relate to ... It did go head-on directly with PTSD. It is PTSD: losing friends and people dying, and you being close to death and being afraid for your life.

Therapy is not going to solve your problems, but it will help you think about life in a better way to just move towards where you want to be and just get through the toughest situations. That's why therapy is important to me …

Where we come from, we're not able to vent, we're not able to grieve because so many people around us are grieving and going through the same thing. Who can you vent to? Who can you grieve to?

When you went in to write PTSD at the beginning stage, did you already know you were going to theme it around your mental health and your own experience with PTSD? Or did the idea come to you later when you started working on the project?

The idea came naturally. I just wanted to talk about something that was near and dear to me, talk about my life and everything I've been through from a grown man's perspective. My music, if you go back to even my old catalog ... my first albums, Ballin Like I'm Kobe [2015] and Welcome To Fazoland [2014]—all of these projects, I'm speaking on these same subjects, just from a 16-, 17-year-old perspective.

It was always in a way to help people get through it, to help people better understand me and understand themselves and know that life isn't a coincidence. You're going through these things for a reason. They may be tough, but it's always a way to get through it. It's always a way to find inspiration and motivation in these negative things to change your situation, to turn your situation around. I think it came naturally. I didn't have intentions of creating PTSD the way I did. I think that's what's so special about it.

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The album covers a lot of heavy issues. "Gangstas Cry" tackles toxic masculinity, for example. Were you ever concerned that your fans would not accept the album and what it was trying to dissect?

No, not at all. Because for one, no matter how tough your situation is, there's always somebody that's going through something 10 times as hard. So I'm not afraid to open up. I'm not afraid to be vulnerable in my music. I think that's what the fans connected to the most, because we all cry. Every man in the world has cried before. Whether you want to do it in private, whether you feel it's masculine, [unmasculine] or not, you still have shed tears for something in your life.

So I'm just saying it's OK to do that. I'm just saying it's a right to let it out; you have to do that sometimes. I'm not a crier, but I do cry. I have cried on many occasions for many things. And I'm completely, 100 percent secure in my masculinity. I know that I'm a man, I'm aggressive. I know that there's nothing wrong with crying. I just wanted to give a piece of me to the world that I thought that they would appreciate.

So no, I never really gave it much thought about [the album] being too heavy for people, because I felt like people may look at my situation and my life like I don't do these things, like I don't have problems, like I don't endure pain or stress. I just wanted the world to know that we all are the same.

You dropped PTSD back in February. The world has basically changed since then. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world. Protestors have taken to the streets demanding racial justice. A lot of Black citizens have been killed by police in that three-month window. How are you coping with everything now? What are you doing to keep your own mental health in balance?

Now, I feel I'm just trying to pour resources into myself, into my people, and just share resources to make things better. I've been speaking on these exact same things since I was 17 years old. I've always experienced racial injustice, police brutality and police injustice. I have friends who were killed by police when I was in eighth grade ... I'm no stranger to these things.

Now, I think with me just having my platform and me being who I am, I'm able to talk about it in a way where I can bring change to the situation in any way possible. I feel during these times, that's what I'm trying to do the most, just try to be strong for myself and my family through these tough times … [I] try to use my platform to speak on it, where people understand that, "Hey, it's no coincidence we're going through these things; we've been going through these [things]."

To bring change, you have to change. We have to pour resources into each other and start to move one step closer towards making sure that these things never happen again, because they shouldn't.

Read: Coping For The Best: How To Manage Mental Health During Social Unrest & A Global Pandemic

You mentioned the normalization of traumatic experiences in your neighborhood. I come from a similar cultural background as you, so I'm highly aware of the stigmas around mental health within ethnic minority communities. As a Latino man, I've heard people in my own community make jokes against therapy. What do you think needs to change in order for minority groups to get over that stigma and embrace resources like mental health and therapy?

I wouldn't say therapy is for absolutely everybody. So many different things can be therapeutic for a person. I feel just us being resourceful to one another, where people can understand that you can treat yourself in a way where you can ... do certain things where people who go to therapy can be resourceful. Certain things may work for certain people. So I feel that's important to just touch on these subjects … whether it's through therapy, whether it's through just talking to a friend, talking to your children or whatever the case may be. We just need to take one step closer towards telling each other.

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This month marks National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. What would you want people of color and communities of color to learn about mental health?

That mental health is a state. That mental health is real. That anxiety is real. I think people need to treat mental health more seriously ... There's so much pressure right now where a lot of people don't know how to deal with it. I think that the people who do and the people who are in a better mind state, in a better position to survive mentally, physically, economically, financially, [who are] able to help others get through these situations ... I'm not saying you're going to be able to change the world with a blink of a finger. It's not an overnight process. You just have to take these things seriously so more and more people can be aware and more people that could bring change actually want to bring change. That's what PTSD is [about].

Do you feel PTSD accomplished what you wanted it to accomplish?

Yeah, I do. I don't have any regrets about the album, no ill thoughts about anything that it should have did that it didn't do. I felt like I was able to get my story out to the world, and they heard it and they appreciated it. Personally, I felt like it was a complete body of work. The album was my most complete, thought-out, well-put-together project that I've ever done; I know that from experience. I've never put this much time, this much effort—blood, sweat, tears—into my craft the way that I did with PTSD. I feel like the response it's getting is a direct result from that.

Do you think you'll continue to explore heavy issues and personal traumas, like you did on PTSD, in your future music?

Yeah, I do, because I feel there's always that one fan that you may have to speak to. But I think the more I experience life, it's not going to be the same. But people still experience trauma. We still experience pain. We still suffer, regardless of what level you're on. So I think me just being who I am, I'll always be able to speak on that. I'll always have a platform for people to listen because they want me to speak on it; they appreciate it. It helps them the same way it's helpful to me.

My music is therapeutic to me ... The things that I say are hand-in-hand with my life. It's 100 percent real, it's natural, it's organic. So it helps me the same way that it helps my fans. The response that I get from my fans I feel is only going to drive me to go harder with my craft, with my music and with the message that I'm trying to put out.

Bun B On The Fight For Racial Equality & How Artists & Allies Can Help

Denzel Curry press photo
Denzel Curry

Photo: Giovanni Mourin

interview

Denzel Curry Returns To The Mischievous South: "I've Been Trying To Do This For The Longest"

Over a decade after he released 'King of the Mischievous South Vol. 1,' Denzel Curry is back with 'Vol. 2.' The Miami rapper details his love of Southern hip-hop, working on multiple projects, and the importance of staying real.

GRAMMYs/Jul 17, 2024 - 01:10 pm

Denzel Curry isn’t typically one for repetition. His recent run of critically acclaimed projects have all contrasted in concept and musicality.

The Miami Gardens native has cascaded through boom-bap, synth-soaked trap metal, and cloud rap throughout his catalog. But on his upcoming project, King of the Mischievous South Vol. 2, Curry returns to the muddied, subwoofer-thudding soundscape that he captured on the first installment back in 2012. 

Curry was just 16 when he released King of the Mischievous South Vol. 1 Underground Tape 1996]. "I was a kid, man," Curry tells GRAMMY.com. "I was just trying to emulate my favorite rappers at the time who really represented the South. That was pretty much what I was on at the time – the Soulja Slims, the No Limits, but mostly Three 6 Mafia. And then I just put Miami culture on top of that."

Curry first explored the rough-cut "phonk" of Southern acts like DJ Screw and Pimp C as a teenager. His first mixtape, King Remembered Underground Tape 1991-1995, caught the attention of then-rising rapper and producer SpaceGhostPurrp. He shared Curry’s project on his social media accounts, making him an official member of South Florida’s Raider Klan.

Read more: A Guide To Southern Hip-Hop: Definitive Releases, Artists & Subgenres From The Dirty South

The now-defunct group is well behind Curry, who’s ascended from the infancy of his early SoundCloud days to mainstream success. But the rapid-fire delivery and hazy, rough-cut sounds of early Southern rap are still soaked into his musical fibers.

Reignited by the same musical heroes that led to Vol. 1, Curry is comfortable in old sonic form. Vol. 2's lead singles "Hot One" (feat. A$AP Ferg and TiaCorine) and "Black Flag Freestyle" with That Mexican OT fully capture the sharp-edged sound that stretched from Port Arthur, Texas to the Carolinas.

The rapper wanted to go back to the KOTMS series nearly a decade ago, but other projects and outside ventures derailed his return. "I tried to do this thing multiple times," Curry tells GRAMMY.com. "I remember revisiting a [social media post] from 2015 that was like, ‘KOTMS Vol. 2055 is now going to be called Imperial.’ I’ve been trying to do this for the longest." 

A string of bouncy, syrup-pouring, and playalistic Southern trap songs led him back to familiar grounds. The new 15-song capsule features Juicy J, 2 Chainz, Project Pat, That Mexican OT, Maxo Kream, and others inspired by the same pioneers that fall below the Mason-Dixon line.

GRAMMY.com sat down with Curry before the release of King of the Mischievous South Vol. 2 on July 19. The "Ultimate" rapper revealed his "Big Ultra" persona, his ability to crank out hits from his bedroom, and his recent discoveries being "outside." 

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length. 

What inspired you to revisit the 'King of the Mischievous South' series?

I was making two projects at once, and there was a through-line from the second half of the project. The second one I was working on kind of just manifested itself into what it is today, 12 years later. And it’s called King of the Mischievous South Vol. 2 because it has the same sonics as the first one.

You mentioned Three 6 Mafia being a big inspiration for Vol. 1. But what about Vol. 2? 

The first KOTMS was obviously Three 6 Mafia, and then Lord Infamous was really the person I looked up to, God rest his soul. I get my rap style from him — the rapid flows and stuff like that. You can even hear it on "Walkin’" and "Clout Cobain." But since I’m from Miami, I’m talking about stuff that predominantly happens in Miami. And  I’m influenced by Soulja Slim, Master P, DJ Screw, UGK, Trina, Trick Daddy, and Rick Ross.

How did you juggle the two different projects at once?

When I wasn’t working on one project, I was working on the other one. Sometimes I would be working on the same two projects on the same day. I was like, If this one won’t see the light of day until next year, this one has to hold fans over. And the one that was supposed to hold fans over ended up having a crazy through-line.

What were the studio sessions like?

When it came down to the production, I was just making these songs on the fly. A couple came out of Ultraground sessions, but the majority of the songs were made in my bed — just how it was with the first one. "Hot One" was made in my house downstairs, and "Hit The Floor" was made in a random room in an AirBnb. And I think the rest of the songs were made in an actual studio.

I was just flowing, doing my thing, and figuring things out. I was working on one project, and when I wasn’t getting called back to the studio, I was working on another one on the side. The grind didn’t stop.

Was there an element or feature that you really wanted to explore?

I just knew I wanted certain rappers to be featured on [project]. When I was working on "Set It," I originally wanted PlayThatBoiZay. But he didn’t get the record done or whatever the case may be. So, I sent it to Maxo Kream, and he ended up just doing it. And when I made "Wish List," I got Armani White on it.  Me and him came off of doing "Goated," so getting that record done was really simple. He pulled up to the studio and he said, "This is tight," and then jumped on the record.

Some stuff didn’t make the cut because we couldn’t get certain people. But the majority of the stuff that made the cut, we were like, "Yes, we did that." Then having people like Ski Mask the Slump God, 2 Chainz, Project Pat, and Juicy J — all these guys played a role. I’m getting people from the South, whether they’re from Texas, Florida, or the Carolinas. And even people outside of the South,  like A$AP Ferg and Armani White, they’re all influenced by the same artists. 

Learn more: A Guide To Texas Hip-Hop: Definitive Releases, Artists & Events

Your persona on the album, "Big Ultra." Break that down for me.

This is how the name came about — my boy’s nickname is Mr. Don’t Fold. It’s kind of a play on "Mr. Don’t Play," so we came up with "Big Ultra" because I’m doing "ultraground" stuff. It wasn’t on some superpower s—, it’s just me, pretty much. It’s how I wanted to be presented on this tape. It’s just me at the end of the day, it’s no persona.

You’ve been in the rap game for a while. Do you consider yourself a veteran?

I think I’m mostly in a formation period because my best years haven’t even happened yet. I feel like I’m just getting my reps in, preparing myself for my 30s. You know, going through the bulls—, having good times, having bad times.

By the time I get to 30, 35, and 40 — God willing — I could have a fruitful career and not be backtracked by dumb s—. I see myself as someone with a lot to offer because I’m still young.

Do you care about garnering more fame or acclaim? Or is there no need for it? 

All my projects are critically acclaimed. The main thing is staying good at what I do. That comes with a lot of effort, a lot of studying, and a lot of work. I take pride in my job and I have fun making music.

I think the hardest part is putting myself out there and being visible. I’m starting to understand that’s what I had to do. I got asked the same question five times in a row about when my album was dropping. I’ve been saying July 19 for the longest. Like, people really haven’t been paying attention? C’mon, bro.

What do you feel is the next step?

I’m just trying to be more visible where the younger generation is at. Most people know me for "Ultimate," "Clout Cobain," or the [XXL Freshman Class] Cypher if I’m being totally real with you. But in due time, everybody has blessings in certain parts of their career. And I’ve been blessed to have a career this long.

All I have to do is just deliver, be real with myself, and do what I have to do. I got to lean into being outside. I didn’t know who messed with me or who liked my stuff until I started going outside and talking to people. You never know who rocks with you until you're outside.  

As far as the music and experience, where does the album rank for you?

I didn’t think about where I’d rank this. We had a whole decade of producing great records, and people look forward to the album experience more than the single when it comes to me. This is what it is, and I just want people to enjoy it. It’s not something to put too much effort or thought into. It’s something you can bump into the club, or you could go to a show and turn up to it. That’s where I’m at with it. 

Are there any other sounds or genres you want to explore?

It’s going to happen when it’s supposed to happen naturally. But I do want to explore pop and R&B a year from now. I want people to be able to sing my songs and stuff like that.

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Derrick Hodge press photo
Derrick Hodge

Photo: Oye Diran

interview

Meet Derrick Hodge, The Composer Orchestrating Hip-Hop's Symphony

From Nas' 'Illmatic' to modern hip-hop symphonies, Derrick Hodge seamlessly bridges the worlds of classical and hip-hop music, bringing orchestral elegance to iconic rap anthems.

GRAMMYs/Jul 16, 2024 - 01:01 pm

Over the last 50 years, hip-hop culture has shown it can catalyze trends in fashion and music across numerous styles and genres, from streetwear to classical music. On June 30, Nas took his place at Red Rocks Amphitheater in a full tuxedo, blending the worlds of hip-hop and Black Tie once again, with the help of Derrick Hodge

On this warm summer eve in Morrison, Colorado, Nas performed his opus, Illmatic, with Hodge conducting the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. The show marked a belated 30-year celebration of the album, originally released on April 19, 1994. 

As Nas delivered his icy rhymes on classics like "N.Y. State of Mind," "Memory Lane (Sittin' in da Park)," and "Halftime," the orchestra held down the beat with a wave of Hodge's baton. The winds, strings, and percussion seamlessly transitioned from underscoring Nas's lyrics with sweeping harmonic layers to leading melodic orchestral flourishes and interludes. For the album's final track, "Ain't Hard to Tell," the orchestra expanded on Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," expertly sampled originally by producer Large Professor.

Derrick Hodge is a pivotal figure in modern music. His career spans writing and performing the famous bassline on Common's "Be," composing for Spike Lee's HBO documentary "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts," and his own solo career that includes his latest experimental jazz album, COLOR OF NOIZE. Hodge also made history by bringing hip-hop to the Kennedy Center with orchestra accompaniments for Illmatic to celebrate the album's 20th anniversary in 2014.

"That was the first time hip-hop was accepted in those walls," Hodge says sitting backstage at Red Rocks. It was also the first time Hodge composed orchestral accompaniments to a hip-hop album.

Since then, Hodge has composed symphonic works for other rappers including Jeezy and Common, and is set to deliver a symphonic rendition of Anderson .Paak's 2016 album, Malibu, at the Hollywood Bowl in September.

Hodge's passion for orchestral composition began when he was very young. He played upright bass by age seven and continued to practice classical composition in his spare moments while touring as a bassist with Terence Blanchard and Robert Glasper. On planes. In dressing rooms. In the van to and from the gig.

"It started as a dream. I didn't know how it was going to be realized. My only way to pursue that dream was just to do it without an opportunity in sight," Hodge says. "Who would've known that all that time people were watching? Friends were watching and word-of-mouth." 

His dedication and word-of-mouth reputation eventually led Nas to entrust him with the orchestral arrangements for Illmatic. He asked Hodge and another arranger, Tim Davies, to write for the performance at the Kennedy Center.

"[Nas] didn't know much about me at all," Hodge says. "For him to trust how I was going to paint that story for an album that is very important to him and important to the culture, I have not taken that for granted." 

Read more: How 'Illmatic' Defined East Coast Rap: Nas’ Landmark Debut Turns 30

Those parts Hodge wrote for the Kennedy Center are the same parts he conducted at Red Rocks. Over a decade later, he channels the same drive and hunger he had when he was practicing his compositions between gigs. "I hope that I never let go of that. I feel like these opportunities keep coming because I'm approaching each one with that conviction. Like this could be my last." 

Before this latest performance, GRAMMY.com spoke with Hodge about bridging the worlds of classical and hip-hop, influencing the next generation of classical musicians, and how his experience as a bassist helps him lead an orchestra.

Throughout history, orchestral music has been celebrated by the highest echelons of society, whereas hip-hop has often been shunned by that echelon. What is it like for you to bring those two worlds together?

I love it. I've embraced the opportunity since day one. I was a young man showing up with Timberlands on and cornrows in my hair, and I knew the tendency to act and move in a certain perception was there. I knew then I have to represent hope in everything I do. I choose to this day to walk with a certain pair of blinders on because I feel like it's necessary. Because of that I never worry about how the classical world perceives me. 

Oftentimes I'll stand before them and I know there may be questions but the love I show them, what I demand of them, and how I show appreciation when they take the music seriously…almost every situation has led to lifelong friendships. 

I believe that's been part of my purpose. It's not even been to change minds or change perceptions. In serving the moment, even when people have preconceptions, they're in front of me playing music I wrote. How do I serve them best? How do I bring out the best in them just like I'm trying to bring out the best in the storyline of a hip-hop artist that may not relate to their story at all? The answer is just to be selfless. That's eliminated the distraction of trying to convince minds.

With that unifying principle, would you consider conducting the orchestra the same thing as playing bass with Robert Glasper?

The way I try to be selfless and serve the moment, it's no different. Maybe the skillset that's required. For example, conducting or working within a framework of composed music requires a certain way of making sure everybody's on the same page so we can get through these things on time and keep going. But I serve that moment no differently than when myself and Robert Glasper, Chris Dave, Casey Benjamin RIP, are creating a song in the moment.

I actually don't even think about how one thing is affecting the other. I will say the beauty of the bass and the bassists that have influenced me — from Ron Carter to the great Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten — is the way they can stand out while never abandoning the emotion of the moment. Remembering what is perceived as the role of the bass and how it glues things in a unique way. Harmonically and rhythmically. Being aware of the responsibility of being aware of everything.

I think that's one thing that's carried over to orchestrating and thinking about balances and how to convey emotion. I think some things are innate with bassists. We're always navigating through harmony and having a conversation through a lens of placement with drums. Placement with the diction if they're singers or rappers. There are a lot of decisions bass players are making in the moment that we don't even think about. It's just secondhand. But it's how are we serving what's necessary to make the conversation unified. I think that's one thing that's served me well in composition.  

What's one song you're particularly excited to dive into for the Anderson .Paak arrangements?

So I'm intentionally not thinking in that way because we decided to treat it like a movie. Start to finish no matter what. With that in mind, I'm trying to approach it as if the whole thing is an arcing story because I didn't realize the succession of how he placed that record was really important to him. 

**Hip-hop is often a very minimalist genre while an orchestra is frequently the opposite with dozens of instruments. How do you maintain that minimalist feel when writing orchestra parts for hip-hop albums like Illmatic?**

I'm so glad you asked that because that was the biggest overarching thing I had to deal with on the first one. With Nas. Because Illmatic, people love that as it is. Every little thing. It wasn't just the production. Nas's diction in between it, how he wrote it, how he told the story, and the pace he spoke through it. That's what made it. So the biggest thing is how do I honor that but also try to tell the story that honors the narrative of symphonic works? [The orchestra is] fully involved. How do I do things in a way where they are engaged without forcing them? 

Illmatic was a part of my soundtrack. So I started with the song that meant the most to me at that time: "The World is Yours." That was the first piece I finished, and I emailed Pete Rock and asked "How is this feeling to you?" If the spirit of the song is speaking to him then I feel like this is something I can give to the people no matter how I feel about it. And he gave the thumbs up. 

So instead of overly trying to prove a point within the flow of the lyrics, how do we pick those moments when the orchestra is exposed? Let them be fully exposed. Let them tell a story leading into that. Make what they do best marry well into what Nas and the spirit of hip-hop and hip-hop sampling do best. And then let there be a dance in between. 

That first [Illmatic] show was a great experiment for me. I try to carve out moments whenever I can. Let me figure out what's a story that can combine this moment with this moment. That's become the beauty. Especially within the rap genre. To let something new that they're not familiar with lead into this story. 

Derrick Hodge with orchestra

*Derrick Hodge conducts the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Red Rocks* | Amanda Tipton

The orchestra is just as excited to play it as Nas is to have them behind him. 

And that reflects my story. I try to dedicate more time to thinking about that, and that normally ends up reciprocated back in the way they're phrasing. In the way they're honoring the bowings. In the way they're honoring the breaths that I wrote in for them. They start to honor that in a way because they know we're coming to try and have a conversation with these orchestras. That's one thing I try to make sure no matter what. It's a conversation and that goes back to the moment as well. 

I've seen other composers put an orchestral touch on hip-hop in recent years. For example, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson wrote orchestral parts to celebrate Biggie's 50th birthday. Would you say integrating an orchestra into hip-hop is becoming more popular? 

It has become popular, especially in terms of catching the eyes of a lot of the different symphonies that might not have opened up their doors to that as frequently in the past. These opportunities — I appreciate the love shown where my name is mentioned in terms of the inception of things. But I approach it with a lot of gratitude because others were doing it and were willing to honor the music the same. There are many that wish they had that opportunity so I try to represent them. 

With these more modern applications of orchestral music, I feel like there will be an explosion of talent within the classical realm in the next few years. Kids will think it's cool to play classical again.

The possibility of that just brings joy to me. Not just because it's a spark, but hopefully the feeling in the music they relate to. Hopefully there is something in it, aside from seeing it done, that feels that it relates to their story. I have confidence if I'm true to myself, hopefully, each time in the music it's going to feel like it's something relevant to the people. The more I can help foster platforms where people are free to be themselves, and where they can honor the music—I hope that mentality becomes infectious.

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5 Rising L.A. Rappers To Know: Jayson Cash, 310babii & More

From San Diego to the Bay Area, Seattle and beyond, the West Coast bursts with talent. Los Angeles is at the heart of this expanse, and these five rappers are just a few who are showcasing the vibrant sounds of West Coast hip-hop.

GRAMMYs/Jul 15, 2024 - 01:36 pm

GRAMMY winners Kendrick Lamar and Mustard have long repped their California roots. Earlier this summer, their powerhouse anthem "Not Like Us"  brought West Coast rap back to its roots and shone a global spotlight on the scene. 

Lamar and Mustard are at the forefront of a renaissance in West Coast rap. Their shared roots in Southern California cities — Mustard from Los Angeles and Kendrick from Compton — adds authenticity and resonance to their partnership. Their undeniable chemistry was on display in the video for "Not Like Us," which received a million views less than an hour after its release.

Mustard's signature beats and Lamar's profound lyricism has resurfaced the sound and culture that makes West Coast rap so unique and paved the way for a new generation of artists. All signs suggest that another impactful collaboration may appear on Mustard's upcoming album, Faith of A Mustard Seed.

Learn more: A Guide To Southern California Hip-Hop: Definitive Releases, Artists & Subgenres From L.A. & Beyond

Kendrick Lamar headlined the electrifying Pop Out concert on Juneteenth, which also featured sets from Mustard and DJ Hed. The event saw a handful of L.A. rappers, opening for Lamar in a showcase of  the vibrant talent that defines the region's rap scene.

The West Coast is a vast reservoir of talent, stretching from the Bay Area to Seattle. At the heart of this creative expanse is Los Angeles, which brings fresh perspectives, innovative styles, and renewed energy to hip-hop, ensuring the genre thrives. With the stage set for these newcomers to shine, it's the perfect time to take a closer look at some of the rising talents poised to impact the rap scene. While this list only scratches the surface, it offers a glimpse into the diverse and exciting talent from SoCal, the epicenter of the West.

Blxst

Arising from Los Angeles, Blxst initially played the background as a producer but soon demonstrated his ability to excel across all facets of music creation. Blxst's breakout moment came with his platinum-certified single "Chosen," which solidified his place in the music industry. His collaboration on Kendrick Lamar's "Die Hard" from Mr. Morale And The Big Steppers further showcased his skill for crafting hooks that elevate tracks, resulting in two GRAMMY nominations.

As he prepares to release his debut album, I'll Always Come Find You on July 19, Blxst stands at a pivotal point in his career. With a great resume already to his name, his forthcoming album promises to showcase his undeniable talent and leave a lasting impact on the West Coast music scene.

Bino Rideaux

Bino Rideaux is a South Central native and frequent collaborator with the GRAMMY-winning rapper Nipsey Hussle. He is the only artist to have a joint project with Hussle, No Pressure, released before the prolific rapper's untimely death. Rideaux has hinted at having a treasure of unreleased music with Hussle, saved for the perfect moment and album.

Rideaux  is known for creating tracks that get the city outside and dancing. He has made three beloved projects with Blxst, titled Sixtape, Sixtape 2, and Sixtape 3 resulting in sold-out shows and a special place in West Coast Rap fans' hearts. Endorsed by industry heavyweights like Young Thug, Rideaux continues to carve his path at his own pace. His journey is nothing short of a marathon, echoing the enduring legacy of his mentor.

Read more: Nipsey Hussle's Entrepreneurial Legacy: How The Rapper Supported His Community & Inspired Rap's Next Generation

Kalan.FrFr

Kalan.FrFr, whose name stands for "For Real For Real," is an artist whose music is as genuine as his name suggests. Growing up in Compton and Carson, Kalan.FrFr has always stayed true to his roots, and exudes the unyielding confidence essential to making it in the City of Angels.

His breakthrough mixtape, TwoFr, showcased his ability to shine without major features, delivering verses with catchy hooks and melodic rap. He's shown he's not confined to one sound, delivering vulnerable tracks like "Going Through Things'' and "Never Lose You." His EP Make the West Great Again, Kalan.FrFr both proves his loyalty to his origins and highlights his versatility. Kalan.FrFr's signature punch-in, no-writing-lyrics-down style keeps his fans on their toes, ensuring that whatever comes next is unpredictable but authentic.

Jayson Cash

Jayson Cash, a rapper hailing from Carson — the same city as TDE artist Ab-Soul — stays true to West Coast rap, from his lyrics to his beat selection. Listening to Jayson Cash's music is like diving into a vivid life narrative. His prowess as a lyricist and storyteller shines through in every verse. He gives his fans an insight into his journey, making it a relatable music experience.

Cash made waves with his debut mixtape, Read The Room, and scored a Mustard beat on the song "Top Down." Two years later, their collaboration continues, with Cash writing on Mustard's upcoming album. Though often seen as an underdog, Cash is not to be underestimated, earning cosigns from West Coast legends like Suga Free and Snoop Dogg. His latest project, Alright Bet, includes a notable feature from Dom Kennedy.

310babii

310babii has achieved platinum-selling status at just 18 years old, while successfully graduating high school.  Yet 310babii's career began in seventh grade, when he recording songs on his phone showing early signs of motivation and creativity. His 2023 breakout hit "Soak City (Do It)" quickly gained traction on TikTok — and caught the ears of Travis Scott and NFL player CJ Stroud.

As the song grew in popularity, it led to a remix produced by Mustard, who invited the Inglewood native to join him onstage during his set at The Pop Out. 310babii's innovative spirit shines through in his distinctive visuals, exemplified by the captivating video for his song "Back It Up." His recent debut album, Nights and Weekends, released in February, underscores his evolving talent and promise within the music industry.

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(From left) Lismar, S.Pri Noir, Ivorian Doll, Odumodublvck

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10 Artists Changing The Face Of Drill: Ivorian Doll, Bobby Tootact & More

While Cash Cobain and Ice Spice bring drill music even further into the mainstream, a new generation of artists are evolving the sound of the genre. From S.Pri Noir and 163Margs, to Lismar and Jay Hound, these 10 acts should be added to your playlist.

GRAMMYs/Jul 12, 2024 - 02:12 pm

Originating in the early 2010s on the southside of Chicago, the hip-hop subgenre drill has transcended borders to become a global phenomenon. 

Characterized by a menacing and dark energy, drill music sets itself apart from traditional rap and hip-hop through its violent, aggressive lyrics and undertones. Drill music incorporates slower, heavier beats that often blend distorted 808 basslines, dark synths, and trap-style hi-hats. 

The gritty, lawless sound, pioneered by artists like King Louie, Chief Keef, G Herbo and GRAMMY-award winner Lil Durk, remains at the core of the drill. Their influence is spreading to more mainstream acts like Cash Cobain — whose melodic, sultry "Attitude" exemplifies sample drill and landed him at No. 25 on Billboard's Hot Rap Songs — and Ice Spice, whose bold and perky lyrics contrast drill beats. As a whole, these artists are proving that drill is more than just graphic and horrid lyrical stories; it can be fun and even make you feel like a baddie.  

Variations on drill music can be heard in regions such as South America, Africa, and Europe.  The controversial but incredibly popular UK drill, which was born in the south London neighborhood of Brixton, draws many aesthetic influences from Chicago drill while maintaining its own stylistic differences. Where Chicago drill is heavily influenced by trap music, UK drill can be seen as a type of British gangsta rap, or "road rap." Young UK artists like Digga D and Central Cee have taken over the genre, both scoring entries on the Billboard chart, and with Central landing features with Drake and Lil Baby.    

A new generation of drill rappers are continuing to evolve the sound of the genre by combining drill beats and lyrics with a wide range of influences. Read on to learn about 10 budding drill artists whose innovative sounds and diverse perspectives are evolving the global drill landscape. 

Explore More: Drill Music Is On The Rise Around The World. Can Latin Drill Take Over Next?

Kenzo B

When it comes to vocal adaptability, attention to detail, and charisma — Kenzo B has got it. The Bronx-born rapper has quickly risen in prominence in New York's drill music scene following  2022 singles "Bump It" and "The Realest," both of which showcased her raw energy and talent. 

The self-proclaimed "Queen of Bronx drill" continues to refine her rapid-fire rhymes while maintaining a fierce competitiveness, setting her apart in the male-dominated drill space. In April, Kenzo B teamed up with Harlem rapper Bianca Bonnie to drop their ultra-femme anthem "What You Talkin Bout?"

Wolfacejoeyy

Known for his sexy drill singalongs, Wolfacejoeyy is one of the most exciting rising rappers from NYC’s "forgotten borough," Staten Island. The 21-year-old seamlessly weaves hooky, charismatic rhymes into signature Staten-style instrumentals. On songs like the viral "cake" and "wya," Joeyy taps into an alter ego that teeters between hopeless romantic and relentless f—boy, backed with dynamic hats and a heavy bass.

His highly-anticipated 13-track debut album Valentino, dropped last month and includes a feature from R&B singer Reuben Aziz and production from "Power" actor Michael Rainey Jr., who raps as WhereIs22.

S.Pri Noir

Born to a Senegalese mother and father from Guinea-Bissau, S.Pri Noir is based in France. Despite rapping in French, hip-hop artist S.Pri Noir's music is slowly transcending borders — grabbing the attention of audiences worldwide. 

S.Pri Noir’s 2018 debut album Masque Blanc reached No. 18 on the Top Albums chart in France. Earlier this month, he delivered a thrilling freestyle on "On The Radar Radio," channeling his inner Cash Cobain. After a recent Instagram post, fans are speculating a potential collaboration between the two artists will drop soon.

S.Pri Noir represents the next big market in drill: Africa. Many budding artists in the genre, especially from Europe, are second or third-generation African immigrants.   

Ivorian Doll

German British rapper Ivorian Doll is making a name for herself in the UK drill scene. Boldly claiming the title "Queen of Drill," she's carving out a unique niche with explosive lyrics, drill-infused tension, and undeniable pop appeal. Each of her anthems is a potent cocktail of drama and attitude, highlighting her razor-sharp signature style that's firmly anchored in unfiltered, hard-hitting lyricism.

The 26-year-old rapper debuted in 2018 as part of a duo, dropping the infectious drill track "The Situation." Since embarking on her solo journey, she's continued to captivate audiences with standout releases like "Queen of Drill," "Daily Duppy" and the buzz-worthy song "Rumour." Her ascent in the drill scene exemplifies a fresh voice bringing new energy to the genre, blending cultural influences with raw talent and unapologetic star quality.

Bobby Tootact

Harlem rapper Bobby Tootact is known for remixing popular Afro-Caribbean songs  — from Afrobeats bangers such as Wizkid’s "Joro" to dancehall like Teejay’s "Drift" — into drill tracks with overtly rough lyrics. On 2023's "Real Facts" (produced by go-to mixer Lowkeymali‬), Bobby raps about gun violence while sampling Wizkid’s popular Afrobeats dance track "Ojuelegba."

As the child of Senegalese immigrants, Bobby's music reflects a fusion of his cultural heritage and his upbringing in Harlem. This combination allows him to create a distinctive musical identity that resonates with fans of multiple genres while merging two completely different musical worlds. 

163Margs

Blending gritty lyrics with infectious beats, Nottingham's very own 163Margs has struck a chord with listeners craving traditional UK drill music from a young artist. Margs, who debuted in 2023, has already collaborated with UK heavyweights like Digga D, Bandokay, and Blanco. His debut single "Hide and Seek" propelled him into the spotlight, showcasing his raw talent and captivating flow. 

At first listen, his 2024 single, "Barbies" can be confused as an ode to beautiful women, with lyrics like: "All of them Barbie pretty." Listeners later realize the song is actually about guns and street life. "The opps are wet and there's no disagreement / Ayy / fill up the wap / put teeth in."

Odumodublvck

Nigerian rapper and singer Odumodublvck is crafting a lane for himself with an alluring Afro-grime and Afro-drill sound. As a member of the hip-hop collective Anti World Gangstars, Odumodublvck creates high-energy music which features catchy, repetitive lyrics in Pidgin English and his Native Nigerian language (Igbo). 

His latest project, EZIOKWU, dropped in October 2023 and includes collaborations with acclaimed artists like Fireboy DML, Wale, and Amaarae — further cementing his position as a rising star in the evolving Nigerian music landscape.

Jay Hound

Jay Hound is an upcoming drill artist hailing from a section of Manhattan's Upper West Side neighborhood and catapulted into the spotlight via his 2023 single "UKRAINE." 

A collaboration with his Sweepers labelmate Jay5ive, the track features deep and vibrating bass, and garnered over seven million views on YouTube and nearly 30 million streams on Spotify. He even released an Afro-drill version of the song, which deconstructs the grittiness of the original drill track for a more light and playful dance sound. 

Lismar

Dominican singer/songwriter Lismar is dominating the Dominican urban music scene with her contemporary hip-hop and drill rap. Gaining recognition on the Puerto Rican platform Freestyle Mania, Lismar's creativity and distinctive sound of which infuses both Latin and hip-hop music has earned her a growing fan base and a deal with Roc Nation.

In her new released tracks "Delincuente Con Traje" and "BZRP Music Session #60," she captivates listeners with her powerful flow and impactful lyrics that translate to "I look calm / but I was raised on the corner" and "If they close the door / I knock down the window." The rapper dropped her latest single "Mi Primer Concierto," a softer record that seamlessly integrates her Dominican heritage with rap.

Dee Billz

New York-based rapper, Dee Billz, combines bold and unapologetic lyrics while also toying with a Jersey club sound in his 2023 breakout hit "Thootie." The single took the internet by storm and racked up more than a million views across TikTok and YouTube.  

Last year, the drill artist collaborated with fellow New Yorker rapper’s Kyle Richh, Jenn Carter, and Tata to release "Stomp Stomp," a single that reimagines Soulja Boy's "Crank That" in a drill style. 

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