Go Behind The Scenes Of Lil Nas X's 2020 GRAMMY Performance With Stage Designer Jed Skrzypczak

Lil Nas X performs at the 2020 GRAMMYs

Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images


Go Behind The Scenes Of Lil Nas X's 2020 GRAMMY Performance With Stage Designer Jed Skrzypczak

The New York-based stage designer reveals how the set for Lil Nas X's groundbreaking performance was created

GRAMMYs/Jan 31, 2020 - 12:18 am

At the 62nd GRAMMY Awards last week (Sunday, Jan. 26), Lil Nas X's performance began with a close-up shot of the artist on a living room couch. The 20-year-old Atlanta native was dressed from head to toe in a metallic two-piece and an equally sparkly black cowboy hat to match. Above him on the room's walls sat framed 2019 issues of Billboard, Variety and Time, respectively, each with Lil Nas X on their covers. The classic animated series "Chowder" and the inspiration behind the hook of the singer's 2019 hit, "Panini," played inaudibly on a TV set behind the artist. To his left was a chair with a purple and gold #24 jersey draped over it, in memory of late NBA hero Kobe Bryant who died earlier that day. As he strummed his guitar and belted out the opening chorus of his GRAMMY-winning single "Old Town Road," the stage began to revolve.

Jed Skrzypczak is a visual artist and stage designer who has worked alongside artists like A$AP Rocky, Charli XCX and FENTY, among others, leading creative direction on overall brand identity, live show design, experiential and interior design. After being recruited to produce a futuristic "Panini" set for Lil Nas X's appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" last September, Skrzypczak was asked to join the artist once again for his star-studded performance on Music's Biggest Night. 

As the stage turned and Lil Nas X entered each new room along its circumference, the set revealed fresh dystopias. K-pop supergroup BTS gathered in a futuristic cityscape while Diplo and viral sensation Mason Ramsey joined Lil Nas X in a barn decked out with glittery-pink walls, cattle skulls and "dead or alive" Diplo posters.

"I presented a few performance ideas to Lil Nas, and he liked the diorama room concept, which was the most theatrical and unique," Skrzypczak tells The Recording Academy. "The challenge was creating multiple distinct spaces onstage, while taking both live and broadcast audiences on a journey through them. We then came up with the idea of using a rotating set, which ended up working perfectly." 

"Lil Nas is a very online persona," Skrzypczak explained about the vision behind the show's hidden motifs. "He's all about memes and with his young fans that's part of their lives. So from the beginning when we started working on the performance, we were kind of thinking about how we can sort of translate that into stage performance. That's why throughout the show, there are lots of small bits like this."

Read: Lil Nas X, BTS & Billy Ray Cyrus Enter The "Old Town Road" Multiverse At The 2020 GRAMMYs

Skrzypczak says that working with Lil Nas X to bring the story of his meteoric rise to life was a treat within itself, and that ideas for creating each room on the revolving stage came about organically between the two. The idea of having a gigantic green skull wearing a cowboy hat in one room, for example, came from Lil Nas X's desire to have a moment in the show that was cool and artistic while also true to rap music. The Kobe Bryant jersey sitting just to the left of Lil Nas X in the show's opening shot? That was a last-minute addition that Skrzypczak and Lil Nas X agreed to put onstage as a small gesture paying homage to the NBA star.

"Working with Lil Nas was a really amazing experience because he is really hands-on and he has so many great ideas," Skrzypczak said. "Even though he is so young, he is a really clever guy and he knows what he wants… He also wants to make sure that every artist gets their own part and is involved and [gets] credit for it. He created a really amazing atmosphere, so it was a pleasure to work with him and everybody involved."

In his approach to the show, Skrzypczak was heavy on the details. The team built a special mini tractor for Ramsey so that he could have his own moment within the performance. The stage's revolutions lead to appearances by Billy Ray Cyrus and legendary rapper Nas, who joined Lil Nas X for "Rodeo," concluding the performance with surprise fireworks. 

Even if audience members or viewers at home may not notice, Skrzypczak says that creating layered meaning behind what you see onstage is key to helping create the stories that artists want to tell through their performances. 

"For me, that's one of the most important parts for the artist and their fans because that's where they get to experience it in person," he said. "I always try to make sure their experience exceeds their expectations and also shows how amazing the artist is. That's when the artist gives the most to their fans."

There are rarely moving stages that can also cater to as many artists at once the way that Skrzypczak's dynamic set did.

Read: 10 Unforgettable Moments From The 2020 GRAMMY Awards

"This project [was] the most challenging and amazing at the same time," he said, "the amount of people involved with it and also how different the idea originally was. When we were first presenting the idea to the GRAMMYs, I thought they would say no because of the intricate design and multiple moving elements." 

Making an already-complex stage design fit his and Lil Nas X's standards as a live broadcast was not an easy task, but the risk paid off in the end. 

"It's always important to know how the show and all of its elements are going to translate on camera," Skrzypczak explained. "If it's going to be visible, if it's going to be nicely shot, what kind of background there is—that was one of the big challenges because the set had so many different elements, so many different artists at the same time, and it was all revolving as well. My thinking the whole time was, 'Is this going to translate well for the cameras?'"

2020 GRAMMY Awards: Complete Winners List

Allen Hughes' "The Defiant Ones" Wins Best Music Film | 2018 GRAMMY


Allen Hughes' "The Defiant Ones" Wins Best Music Film | 2018 GRAMMY

Director Allen Hughes' four-part documentary takes home Best Music Film honors for its portrayal of the unlikely partnership that changed the music business

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 02:09 am

The team behind The Defiant Ones celebrated a big win for Best Music Film at the 60th GRAMMY Awards. The crew awarded include director Allen Hughes and producers Sarah Anthony, Fritzi Horstman, Broderick Johnson, Gene Kirkwood, Andrew Kosove, Laura Lancaster, Michael Lombardo, Jerry Longarzo, Doug Pray & Steven Williams.

In a year rife with quality music documentaries and series, the bar has been set high for this dynamic category. The Defiant Ones is a four-part HBO documentary telling the story of an unlikely duo taking the music business by storm seems better suited for fantastical pages of a comic book, but for engineer-turned-mogul Jimmy Iovine and super-producer Dr. Dre, it's all truth.The Defiant Ones recounts their histories, their tribulations and their wild success. These include first-hand accounts from those who were there in Iovine's early days, such as Bruce Springsteen and U2's Bono, as well as those on board when Dre and Iovine joined forces, such as Snoop Dogg and Eminem.

The competition was stiff as the category was filled with compelling films such as One More Time With Feeling, Two Trains Runnin', Soundbreaking, and Long Strange Trip. 

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Portugal. The Man To Aida Cuevas: Backstage At The 2018 GRAMMYs



Portugal. The Man To Aida Cuevas: Backstage At The 2018 GRAMMYs

Also see James Fauntleroy, Reba McIntire, Latroit, and more after they stepped off the GRAMMY stage

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 05:39 am

What do artists do the moment they walk off the GRAMMY stage from presenting, accepting an award or performing? Now, you can find out.

Take a peak at Album Of The Year GRAMMY winner Bruno Mars, 60th GRAMMY Awards Host James Cordon, Cardi B minutes before her electrifying performance of "Finesse," and more!

Also see Best Pop Duo/Group Performance GRAMMY winners Portugal. The Man posing with their first career GRAMMY Award, Best Roots Gospel Album GRAMMY winner Reba McIntire right after she walked offstage, Best R&B Song GRAMMY winner James Fauntleroy, Best Remixed Recording GRAMMY winner Latroit, and many more, with these photos from backstage during the 60th GRAMMY Awards.

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Bruno Mars Wins Song Of The Year | 2018 GRAMMYs


Bruno Mars Wins Song Of The Year | 2018 GRAMMYs

The Hawaiian native takes home Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like" at the 60th GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 08:11 am

Feeling the 24K Magic, Bruno Mars' successful progress through the categories he's been nominated in at the 60th GRAMMY Awards picked up another one at Song Of The Year for "That's What I Like."

Christopher Brody Brown and Philip Lawrence co-write with Mars under the name Shampoo Press & Curl. The other winning songwriters for Mars' hit tonight in this category are James Fauntleroy and production team "The Sterotypes" — Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus and  Jonathan Yip.

For additional "Finesse" on stage at the 60th GRAMMY Awards, Mars was joined by Cardi B for a reprise of their 148-million-views hit remix.

The Album Of The Year GRAMMY Award wrapped up the night and wrapped up Bruno Mars' complete rampage through his six nominated categories — now six wins.

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DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Samantha Smith and John Legend

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images


DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle and John Legend take home Best Rap/Sung Performance at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Jan 27, 2020 - 09:05 am

DJ Khaled, featuring Nipsey Hussle and John Legend, has won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher" at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards. The single was featured on DJ Khaled's 2019 album Father of Asahd and featured Hussle's vocals and Legend on the piano. DJ Khaled predicted the track would win a GRAMMY.

"I even told him, 'We're going to win a GRAMMY.' Because that's how I feel about my album," DJ Khaled told Billboard. "I really feel like not only is this my biggest, this is very special."

After the release of the song and music video -- which was filmed before Hussle's death in March -- DJ Khaled announced all proceeds from "Higher" will go to Hussle's children.

DJ Khaled and co. beat out fellow category nominees Lil Baby & Gunna ("Drip Too Hard"), Lil Nas X ("Panini"), Mustard featuring Roddy Ricch ("Ballin") and Young Thug featuring J. Cole & Travis Scott ("The London"). Hussle earned a second posthumous award at the 62nd GRAMMYs for Best Rap Performance for "Racks In The Middle." 

Along with Legend and DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG paid tribute to Hussle during the telecast, which concluded with "Higher."

Check out the complete 62nd GRAMMY Awards nominees and winners list here.