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Georgia Anne Muldrow On 'VWETO III' & Why She Makes Music For The Black Experience

Georgia Anne Muldrow 

Photo: Antoinette A Brock

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Georgia Anne Muldrow On 'VWETO III' & Why She Makes Music For The Black Experience

GRAMMY.com spoke to Georgia Anne Muldrow about her new music, resistance and how beat-making fits into hip-hop

GRAMMYs/Jul 14, 2021 - 04:06 am

One of the tracks on singer/producer Georgia Anne Muldrow’s new beat tape, VWETO III (Foreseen Entertainment), is called "Afro AF." The title is a good summation of her career. Since her first full-length album 15 years ago, she has released more than 20 albums exploring and blending virtually every shade of Black music into a funky psychedelic kaleidoscope. As a producer, she has released a series of instrumental albums over the last decade in which she sets aside her remarkable vocals to highlight her talents as a beatmaker, including 2011's VWETO and 2019's VWETO II. The word VWETO means "gravity" in Ki-Kongo, a Bantu language.

 "It’s an African word that is talking about a force of nature," Muldrow tells GRAMMY.com. "The recognition of these forces of nature has been in place for a long time, long before Isaac Newton, and this is evidence of that. And, you know, drumming is almost like a harnessing of gravity. You’re using gravity to your advantage. Dancing is harnessing gravity; it’s embracing your connection to the earth."

She’s also collaborated with hip-hop oddball Madlib on 2012's woozy Afrofuturist masterpiece Seeds, and embraced spiritual jazz under the name Jyoti, on albums inspired by Sun Ra and all the Coltranes. (Mos Def compared her sounds to the soul/jazz/pop fusions of Roberta Flack.)

 "I sing, I love to rap, I can make music for people who dance," she says. 

VWETO III, released in May, is a 17-song, 58-minute mix of off-kilter, woozy and urgent funk. It dances and slides from the retro-80s synth-heavy space dream of "Unforgettable" to the Funkadelic guitar pyrotechnics on "Grungepiece'" and on to the sparse, burping groove of "Afro AF." Even when she’s not singing, Muldrow has a lot to say. 

GRAMMY.com spoke to Georgia Anne Muldrow about music, resistance and how beat-making fits into hip-hop.

The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

What are you able to express as a beatmaker that you can’t as a singer? What drew you to the VWETO project?

I've always loved making beats; it’s provided a means of travel when I wasn't necessarily free to travel. I just love making a sound from scratch. It’s music for people who dance. It’s music for people to think to, rather than music telling them what I think. 

You made this album during COVID-19. How has that affected your music?

Music allows me to travel the terrain of my mind, the terrain of my spirit, the terrain of my imagination, and bring ideas to life. Ideas are ephemeral and amorphous in the landscape of my heart and mind, and I try to match a note to them so that other people can maybe see it too. It’s like how an author writes a book and then you start to fill in the blanks with the pictures in your own mind. 

For me, with music there’s a certain kind of synesthesia where I don't just see color — I see a landscape filled with objects and each note is some kind of object. So I just try to bring that to other people through my sound design. I try to make a song with not just a beat that’s funky, but with something that's alive.  Something that sounds like a world of its own.

Are you looking forward to live performances again? Have you been vaccinated?

I'm looking forward to just making it through the day, to be real. That's really where I'm at. Making it through the day because I mean, right now, to be a Black woman is more than a notion. It’s a lot to deal with. People find time, during this quarantine—they still find time to kill Black people. Ain’t no vaccine for that. 

Was this album influenced by the uprisings over the summer?

If you’re familiar with my work, you know that everything I do is about the preservation of the culture of my people. It’s about strengthening my people and reporting to the rest of the world community about what's happening to my people. My purpose has not changed. The music, the means to express is always changing. But the intent behind it is always going to be the same. Because it seems like we’ve got more to do. 

I do seek to show through my skill and my talent and my depth of thinking that Black folks are beautiful creators of music itself. We brought it to the world, for everyone to enjoy. When I get my music to the people, it's coming from a place of reverence for those that come before me. I'm always talking about being Black, I'm always talking about what's happening out here. Just because I'm not singing it don't mean I ain't thinking it. [laughs]

My need to be funky is me wanting to conduct energy through my body into other people. Because it is a technology of its own. Being funky is my way of preserving that aesthetic. It’s a way to be a reference point for people who are maybe too young to know who James Brown is, and to keep the DNA alive so that maybe they can figure it out. 

I make music for the Black experience. It’s music that has the priority of serving the Black community. Because the Black ear is the most universal. When people say they’re looking for music with universal appeal and they start pointing to middle America — that's about as far from the universal as you can get. As far as Klan activity, and this and that, that ain’t universal at all. So that's why I make music for Black people. Because it's going to be better music.

Could you talk about the inspiration for the track "Mufaro’s Garden"? You’ve said you were thinking about a particular image in John Steptoe’s children’s book Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, right?

Yeah, there was a scene where Mufaro, the father, is looking over the garden and in the distance sees Great Zimbabwe, that landmark of ancient civilization. I read this book as a child during some of my hardest times. And I would daydream about being there. And I ended up going there as a teenager, with my school, to Zimbabwe. 

And so when I was making this song, with the flutes and the way it sounds like there's wildlife in there —it’s a whole sonic environment. And I just knew right away that [Mufaro’s garden] was what it was.

Have you read the book to your kids?

You know what, I have not. I haven't read it to my kids. I hadn't thought to, until I got back into this song. But with the video that's being made, we’re going to be able to create a vision of what that storybook looks like. And my kids can see that and if they’re interested in the book, they can let me know.

How old are your kids?

I have many, but the ones I’m raising right now, the youngest is 12 and my oldest is 18. 

You encouraged visual artists to create images based on "Mufaro’s Garden," drawing images inspired by the track. Has anyone responded yet? Have you gotten images of Musfaro’s garden? 

Yeah, I have. I have gotten some. They’re still coming in. So I'm just checking them all out because they’re still coming in. 

You’re planning to ask people to send videos of dancing to some tracks too and ask people to rap over your beats. I was wondering if you could talk about why that sort of collaboration is important to you?

I think it goes back to hearing KRS-One talk about the elements of hip hop — about what it takes for a hip-hop jam to happen. And finding ways to make a space for that to happen with music has always been my goal. I want people to dance to it. I want graffiti writers to write to it. I want rappers to rap to it, I want DJs to scratch to it.

That’s the part of hip-hop that makes me feel fulfilled in my relationship with it. Like, making a beat is one thing, right? And I have it, and it's there and it's funky. But what fulfills my musical relationship, the culmination of it, is when someone starts breakdancing to it, when someone starts popping to it. Then I feel like yes. Something’s going on. When people are breaking a sweat to it, I’m not just making it for someone to say, "oooo" and nod their heads and be a wallflower.

Hip-hop is one of the most beautiful cultural solutions that we have found as a people. Artists who were getting shut out of institutions, poets who were getting shut out of institutions, dancers who were getting shut out of institutions, they built their own institution in the street. 

It’s such a lesson. If somebody doesn't want you somewhere, use that as information, and build something even more beautiful. Because at the end of the day what hip-hop has done all over the world is give people a voice. 

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Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup

Doja Cat

Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

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Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup

Find out who's bringing the heat to the hip-hop fest returning to L.A. this December

GRAMMYs/Oct 2, 2019 - 12:11 am

Today, Rolling Loud revealed the massive lineup for their final music festival of 2019, Rolling Loud Los Angeles, which is set to take over the Banc of California Stadium and adjacent Exposition Park on Dec. 14–15.

This iteration of "the Woodstock of Hip-Hop," as the all-knowing Diddy has called it, will feature Chance the RapperLil Uzi VertJuice WRLDYoung Thug and Lil Baby as Saturday's heavy-hitting headliners. Sunday's headliners are none other than Future, A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, YG and Playboi Carti.

L.A.'s own Blueface, Tyga and Doja Cat, are slated to perform, as well as representatives from the diverse rap scenes across the country, including Wale, Juicy J, Lil Yachty, Megan Thee Stallion, Gunna, Tyla Yaweh, Machine Gun Kelly and Yung Gravy.

The lineup announcement follows the successful wrap of Rolling Loud Bay Area in Oakland this past weekend. The event's flagship Miami event took place in May this year, and the New York and Hong Kong debut editions will both take place later this month.

Tickets for Rolling Loud L.A. go on sale this Friday, Oct. 4 at 11 a.m. PST. The complete lineup and more info on this event and their other fests can be found here.

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EDC 2019: Alison Wonderland, TOKiMONSTA, Deadmau5, Above & Beyond, Tiësto, More

Alison Wonderland

Photo: Mauricio Santana/Getty Images

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EDC 2019: Alison Wonderland, TOKiMONSTA, Deadmau5, Above & Beyond, Tiësto, More

The world-renowned EDM fest has released the lit roster of over 240 artists for its 23rd annual event, set to return to its ninth year in Las Vegas from May 17–19

GRAMMYs/Mar 28, 2019 - 04:55 am

Today Insomniac, which hosts the now-global Electric Daisy Carnival and other major EDM events, announced the highly anticipated lineup for its flagship Las Vegas fest, set to take place May 17–19 this year. EDC 2019 is positively stacked, featuring GRAMMY winners Diplo, David Guetta and Tiësto, plus GRAMMY nominees TOKiMONSTA, Paul Oakenfold, Deadmau5, Above & Beyond and Kaskade.

Deadmau5 will be making his first return to the fest since 2010, bringing his new "Cube 3.0" stage setup, and Guetta will be back for his first time since the 2012 event. Australian singer/songwriter DJ/producer extraordinaire Alison Wonderland, plus GRAMMY-nominated rave icons Steve Aoki, Armin van Buuren will also bring fire to the three-day event.

Unlike a typical music festival lineup, EDC lists theirs alphabetically by day, giving way to a treasure hunt to the many gems across the lines of names. Underground techno queens Charlotte De Witte, ANNA and Amelie Lens will all perform at the event, which has eight(!) stages, along with fellow techno heavy-hitter Adam Beyer.

South African DJ/producer and underground house legend Black Coffee will also perform, as well as fellow house heavyweights Green Velvet, Patrick Topping and GRAMMY nominee Eric Prydz. Green Velvet will be offering two sets, one as Get Real, his project with Detroit legend Claude VonStroke.

Several artists will be hopping on the decks together, including Topping, who will be doing a B2B set (a.k.a. back-to-back, or collab set, for those not up on the rave lingo) with fellow British DJ Eats Everything. U.K. dubstep stalwarts Skream and Rusko are on the lineup for an "old skool dubstep set," which, as Your EDM put it, is "absolutely unheard of."

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But wait, who are the headliners? Pasquale Rotella, CEO and co-founder of Insomniac, believes that headliners are everyone that attends the festival, spreads the love and makes all the magic possible.

"Being a Headliner means looking at the world a little differently, and seeing beauty and inspiration everywhere you look. It’s about lifting up the people around you and making time for your family and friends. This is a journey we all take together—always connected and committed to one another," Rotella said in a statement on Insomniac's website.

If you want to get your dance on and check out the carnival rides, interactive art and plenty of lights and lasers with EDC in Vegas, you're in luck; tickets are still available. Check out EDC's website for more info.

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Remembering Nipsey Hussle On The Anniversary Of His Death: "I Just Wanted To Be Really Intentional"

Nipsey Hussle

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Remembering Nipsey Hussle On The Anniversary Of His Death: "I Just Wanted To Be Really Intentional"

The Recording Academy celebrates the life of Nipsey Hussle, the late Los Angeles rapper, who earned two posthumous GRAMMY Awards this year

GRAMMYs/Mar 31, 2020 - 11:49 pm

Since the tragic loss of Los Angeles rapper, entrepreneur and activist Nipsey Hussle on March 31, 2019, his motivational music and inspiring message of investing in your community are continued by the many lives he touched. Here in L.A, you see countless murals painted in his likeness, his inspirational words reminding us greatness and kindness are not mutually exclusive.

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In 2018, after a decade of perfecting his storytelling and flow with hard-hitting mixtapes, Hussle released his victorious debut album Victory Lap. It earned him his first GRAMMY nomination, for Best Rap Album, at the 2019 GRAMMYs. The week following the show, he released his final single during his lifetime, "Racks in the Middle," featuring rising L.A. rapper Roddy Ricch and powerhouse producer Hit-Boy.

At the 62nd GRAMMY Awards this year, he posthumously earned three more nominations and took home two wins. "Racks in the Middle" won Best Rap Performance and "Higher," a track he was working on with DJ Khaled before he died, won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher." Khaled released the uplifting track, which also features John Legend, in Hussle's memory on May 17, 2019.

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Hussle's family, including his grandmother and his partner Lauren London, took the GRAMMY stage to accept his awards in two tearful yet celebratory moments. Khaled, Legend, Ricch, Meek MillKirk Franklin and YG also celebrated the rap hero with a moving tribute performance during the show.

"The biggest thing that he left behind in his legacy is to go the extra mile for other people and be aware of your community," singer Tinashe said in a recent interview. "That spirit is really important. It's important to bring people together. I think that's part of his message. It's looking out for one another."

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That message of hope and community is echoed in so many others' words about Hussle; his positive impact is immense and immeasurable. It is reflected in a message from none other than former President Barack Obama. Hussle's longtime friend and marketing manager Karen Civil read Obama's powerful words about him during his moving memorial service:

"While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and see only gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope. He saw a community that, even through its flaws, taught him to always keep going. His choice to invest in that community rather than ignore it—to build a skills training center and coworking space in Crenshaw; to lift up the Eritrean-American community; to set an example for young people to follow—is a legacy worthy of celebration. I hope his memory inspires more good work in Crenshaw and communities like it."

The Marathon Continues.

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Dreamville Festival 2020 Is Officially Canceled Due To COVID-19

J. Cole

Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

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Dreamville Festival 2020 Is Officially Canceled Due To COVID-19

The second annual music festival from J. Cole's Dreamville Records squad and friends was first postponed from April until August, and will now have to wait until 2021

GRAMMYs/May 19, 2020 - 02:27 am

Dreamville Festival has announced they are canceling their 2020 event due to public safety concerns caused by coronavirus. The second annual edition of the one-day music fest, hosted by J. Cole and his talent-filled Dreamville Records, was originally slated to take place on April 6 at Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh, N.C., but was rescheduled to Aug. 29 after the pandemic struck the U.S.

Like countless other events that were set to take place this year, it will now have to wait until 2021. Dreamville says all 2020 ticket holders will be receive refunds soon.

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"After much deliberation and careful monitoring of the current situation, we have decided to cancel Dreamville Festival 2020. Although we originally hoped it would be possible to bring you the festival this August, the ongoing uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic has made this timeline no longer possible. This decision has been extremely difficult to make, but the safety of our fans, artists, and staff is always our top priority, and nothing will ever take precedence over your well-being," the organizers wrote in a statement shared across their social channels and on the fest's website.

The message also shared details on refunds, noting that all tickets purchased online will automatically be refunded to the original payment method, beginning this week. Fans who bought physical tickets from official points of purchase can request a refund here.

"Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate this. Please stay safe, healthy, and sane so we can reunite with you in 2021," the statement added.

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According to Pitchfork, the debut Dreamville fest also faced unforeseen setbacks; it was originally set for Sept. 15, 2018 at Dorothea Dix Park but was pushed to April 6, 2019, due to Hurricane Florence. The 2019 event featured performances from Dreamville head Cole and labelmates J.I.D, BAS and Ari Lennox, as well as SZA, Big Sean, 21 Savage, 6LACK, Rapsody, Nelly and other heavy-hitters in hip-hop and R&B.

No artists have been revealed yet for the second edition of the fest.

The Dreamville squad earned their first two collective GRAMMY nominations at the most recent 62nd GRAMMY Awards; for Best Rap Album for the collaborative Revenge Of The Dreamers III and Best Rap Performance for one of its singles, "Down Bad." Cole earned a total of five nods, including for his work on that project, and took him his first GRAMMY win for his feature on 21 Savage's "A Lot."

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