Photo courtesy of Tianna Groelly/GRAMMY U
5 Highlights Of GRAMMY U's Spring 2022 Mentorship Program
GRAMMY U's mentorship program pairs college students with music industry professionals, with the goal of becoming successful in the industry. GRAMMY.com shares the stories of five participants.
At the beginning of each semester, GRAMMY U — a nationwide program that connects college students with music industry professionals — hosts a mentorship program. Mentors and student mentees are paired based on the interests of the student and the experience of the mentor. This year’s spring mentorship program included 2,000 participants and, for the first time, was available in every GRAMMY U chapter.
The program offers students an invaluable experience and insight about how to become successful in various aspects of the industry. For example, mentee Tess Considine had the privilege of being paired up with singer/songwriter Jordin Sparks for the program. Although this semester's program has come to a close, its core purpose continues to thrive through the connections that have been made.
Here are some of this semester’s mentorship highlights from 10 out of 2,000 participants who participated this year.
Tianna Groelly | Mentee | New York Chapter
P La Cangri | Mentor | New York Chapter
Tianna Groelly, a music technology and journalism student at Rutgers University, was paired with Latin artist P La Cangri. Groelly hoped that she would be paired with a mentor who would not only lend sound advice — but let her be heavily involved.
"Hands-on experience is the best thing you can get from a program like this," Groelly says. Cangri gave her exactly that. Beginning with in-person lunches, this pair developed a sincere and deep bond. P La even invited her mentee out to Miami to shoot a music video for her song, "Atrevete." Groelly threw herself into the video shoot, taking constant photos and behind-the-scenes footage. One of Groelly's pictures even ended up on a billboard in Times Square.
"As a college student, an accomplishment like this would only be in my wildest dreams, so I can’t thank everyone involved enough for letting me be a part of something like this!"
Groelly wasn’t the only one to benefit from the program, though. Beyond her parents, Cangri said she never had any mentorship programs when she was coming up in the industry. She feels that Tianna taught her to let go, and to trust someone else’s perspective every now and then, because they may see something you don’t. While the two started out as simply a mentor/mentee pairing, Groelly and Cangri plan to continue working with and learning from each other as equals.
Valeria Alvarez | Mentee | Florida Chapter
Dr. Donna Singer | Mentor | Florida Chapter
Valeria Alvarez is a sound and music business management student at Valencia College. She was paired with Donna Singer, PhD, who is an international jazz vocalist and is also a part of Emerald Baby Recording Company LLC.
The two virtually met with three different people in the businesses of acting, music and modeling. They met with Carlos Pinera where they learned of how he got his start in a Colombian band. Alvarez also had a chance to speak with Hunter Isbell, a GRAMMY-nominated sound engineer who created the album Bogota. Alvarez said her interview with actress Crystal Tweed inspired her to "really get into action with the things I want to do in the music industry and music in general."
Raven Hayes | Mentee | New York Chapter
Deryck Vanerbilt-Nicholson | Mentor | New York Chapter
Raven Hayes, an undergraduate music business major at NYU, was paired with Deryck Vanderbilt-Nicholson, who has significant experience in artist management, marketing, sync and licensing, A&R and creative and corporate strategy.
Hayes says she learned a lot from Vanderbilt-Nicholson about channeling her focus to be considered a serious candidate in the digital and artist marketing space. Hayes's mentor taught her to do the work, remain patient and research. "I have new confidence in my future in the music industry after graduation thanks to the guidance of Deryck and our mutual dedication to the GRAMMY U Mentorship Program," Hayes says.
Vanderbilt-Nicholson even learned a few things from Hayes. He said he learned time management, and through helping Hayes with her application process, he’s learned how much the industry is changing.
"I’ve never had a program like this. I wish I did," he admits. "I try to do my best to create visibility and representation. I enjoy this program through the Recording Academy, in partnership with GRAMMY U, because it allows me to do that. It’s important work, and I look forward to continuing impacting the new faces in music that need assistance!"
Rebecca Sanchez | Mentee | LA Chapter
Ryan Shore | Mentor | LA Chapter
Rebecca Sanchez took part in the mentorship program with hopes that she would learn ways to break into the music industry, and was paired with film score composer Ryan Shore. Sanchez said he helped her build her music portfolio and taught her better ways to pitch herself.
One of the best opportunities Shone was able to give Sanchez was connections to other songwriters, producers and musicians. He connected her with individuals working in pop and K-pop, such as artist/songwriter Celeste Scott. Sanchez says that because of her mentor, she is ending this program with a better sense of networking and collaborating with other industry professionals to further her career in the music industry.
"If there’s someone like me out there who doesn’t know how to break into the music industry or is trying to break through all on their own, GRAMMY U and its mentorship program is the right step in the right direction," Sanchez says.
Amir Duke | Mentee | Atlanta Chapter
Tyronne Sanders | Mentor | Atlanta Chapter
Amir Duke is a rising senior at Morehouse College majoring in economics with a desire to be in A&R. He was paired with Tyronne Sanders, who has 10 years of experience in A&R, promotions and artist management. Amir said he came into this program simply hoping to learn a little more about the music business and how it operates. However, he walked away with much more.
Through the help of Sanders, he grew his network outside of college students to executives at companies such as 300 Entertainment, Motown Records, Mezzo Agency and more. Duke got an amazing opportunity to assist Sanderse in having a private listening party for rap artist Big Boogie, signed to the label CMG. The event hosted over 400 guests. Duke jumped in and assisted with setting up a marketing plan for fans, visuals for activation, and the run of show for the event.
Sanders wanted to teach Duke to follow up on your word, be efficient, and to be one of the "good guys." "The biggest thing I wanted to teach him is that his work directly affects the dreams and livelihood of artists. So, he shouldn’t take what he does lightly," Sanders says, adding that he didn’t have a program like when he was starting out in the industry.
"Overall, the advice I've received throughout this program has prepared me for the next step in my music industry career," Duke adds. "I believe that the A&R advice I received from Ty allows me to approach new artists with an opportunity that can take them to the next level."
Stories like these are the heart of the program, and inspire music industry professionals to pay it forward, so that the next generation can flourish. These one-of-a-kind relationships are not only a memorable part of a student's journey, but provide hands-on experience that sometimes cannot be provided anywhere else.
The GRAMMY U Mentorship program hosts around 1,000 participants each semester, offering an exclusive benefit for GRAMMY U members who are looking to find genuine and inspiring relationships during their collegiate journey in the music business.
GRAMMY U will open its mentorship program again this fall, with applications opening in late summer/early fall 2022. Each semester has proven to be even better than the last due to the growth and success of the program. If you are interested in participating as a mentor or mentee next semester, please follow us on Instagram @grammyu for updates.
10 Takeaways From GRAMMY U’s 2022 Conference Featuring Conan Gray
Press Play On GRAMMY U Mixtape: Summer Rewind Monthly Member Playlist
The GRAMMY U Mixtape is a monthly, genre-spanning playlist to quench your thirst for new tunes, all from student members. This month, take a look back at this year’s showcased members and fan favorites.
Did you know that among all of the students in GRAMMY U, songwriting and performance is one of the most sought after fields of study? We want to create a space to hear what these students are creating today.
The GRAMMY U Mixtape, now available for your listening pleasure, highlights the creations and fresh ideas that students are bringing to this industry directly on the Recording Academy's Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music pages. Our goal is to celebrate GRAMMY U members, as well as the time and effort they put into making original music — from the songwriting process to the final production of the track.
Each month, we accept submissions and feature 20 to 25 songs that match that month’s theme. This month, we’ve crafted the perfect mix of tunes to get everyone excited and ready for their workout. The Summer Rewind playlist features music by the 9th annual GRAMMY U Nashville Songwriter Showcase winners, selected GRAMMY U artists who performed at GRAMMY U events this past year, and some fan favorites.
So, what’s stopping you? Press play on GRAMMY U’s Mixtape and listen now on Spotify below or on Apple Music and Amazon Music.
Want to be featured on the next playlist? Submit your songs today! We are currently accepting submissions for songs of all genres for consideration for our February playlist. Whether you write pop, rock, hip hop, jazz, or classical, we want to hear from you. Music must be written and/or produced by the student member (an original song) and you must be able to submit a Spotify and/or Apple Music link to the song. Students must be a GRAMMY U member to submit.
About GRAMMY U:
GRAMMY U is a program that connects college students with the industry's brightest and most talented minds and provides those aspiring professionals with the tools and opportunities necessary to start a career in music.
Throughout each semester, events and special programs touch on all facets of the industry, including the business, technology, and the creative process.
As part of the Recording Academy's mission to ensure the recorded arts remain a thriving part of our shared cultural heritage, GRAMMY U establishes the necessary foundation for music’s next generation to flourish.
Not a member, but want to submit to our playlist? Apply for GRAMMY U Membership here.
Photo courtesy of GRAMMY U
7 Highlights Of GRAMMY U's Fall 2022 Mentorship Program
GRAMMY U's mentorship program pairs college students with music industry professionals, with the goal of becoming successful in the industry. GRAMMY.com shares the stories of seven participants from across the country.
Beginning a career in the music industry can be a winding and often rocky path, with few signposts to guide the way. But when you combine the enthusiasm of eager students and young professionals with the wisdom and guidance of industry veterans, no mountain is too difficult to climb.
Every semester, the GRAMMY U mentorship program sets out to create these connections, pairing professionals with student members pursuing a career in the same field. In some cases, mentors give their mentees a chance to get their hands dirty, working firsthand on industry projects and participating in professional settings.
With the GRAMMY U fall 2022 program wrapped up for the holidays, hear from student members and mentors for a glimpse at some of the opportunities and connections from this semester.
Jeff Silverman | Mentor | Nashville Chapter
Alex Wons | Mentee | Nashville Chapter
Alex Wons is a student at Middle Tennessee State University, double majoring in commercial songwriting and audio production, with several of his own releases out on all major platforms. He was paired with Jeff Silverman, a producer, engineer, songwriter, composer for film and TV, and former Motown staff writer with nearly 40 years of experience in the music industry. Silverman took to his social network pages to share his mentorship of Wons. "I looked at it as an opportunity to introduce Alex to all of the people that support me, with hopes that they too will support his work."
What started out as a Zoom meet and greet turned into an in-studio lesson on production, engineering, and the future of audio via Dolby Atmos. Silverman invited Wons to his studio, where they listened to 7.1.4 mixes and discussed go-to programs and plugins. The veteran listened to one of Won’s recent productions that he produced, mixed, mastered, and performed on. "I was so impressed that I asked if he would mind if I pass it around to a few of my film TV licensing contacts and see if there would be any interest," Silverman rounted, before encouraging Alex to always seek legal advice before signing an exclusive deal on his songs.
"We all need a mentor at some point in our lives if we’re going to grow. And I have many to thank for those landmark growing times in my lifetime in the music business," says Silverman.
Call Me Ace | Mentor | San Francisco Chapter
Vinal Chand | Mentee | San Francisco Chapter
Vinal Chand, an economics and communications student and rising senior at the UC Davis was paired with Ace Patterson, a strategy and operations consultant, marketer, designer, and hip-hop recording artist. The pair’s original focus for mentorship was securing an internship in the industry, a goal that proved attainable with Ace’s help, offering Chand an internship at his record label, Heir Quality.
"When my mentee told me that he wanted to work in music marketing but felt his recruitment options were limited by a lack of tangible experience in that space, I devised a plan with him to create an internship program through the new label I started, granting him a sizable opportunity to flex his digital marketing experience and demonstrate impact before he graduates college," Ace says.
Chand says one of the most transformative lessons he learned from Ace is that you need to create your own opportunities in the industry. "We don’t need a specific role or title to gain experience. The best people in the music industry are those that actively gain experiences on their own, whether it’s helping to promote local artists, editing your own projects, or creating content," Chand says. "The thing to remember is that you must trust in your own capabilities. You, too, deserve to be a part of this industry, just as anyone else."
Gene More | Mentor | Texas Chapter
Victor Fernando Aguilar | Mentee | Texas Chapter
Victor Aguilar, a student at Visible Music College studying modern music and looking to pursue a career as a performing and touring musician, was paired with Gene Moore, a gospel artist, GRAMMY nominee, and radio announcer based in Houston. The two met weekly, talking through any roadblocks Aguilar faced that week and how to push himself to the next level. They met in person for their first session, in which Aguilar played a few songs while Moore's good friend, Chris Walker, offered feedback via FaceTime. Victor says he learned essential lessons about working hands-on during that session, noting "the most important thing … was to stay calm under pressure. Never let them see you sweat."
Aguilar emphasized his mentor's drive to go the extra mile for him numerous times, creating an invaluable experience with priceless advice. "We will stay in touch even after this semester is over. I am planning a trip to Houston soon so that I can keep learning from him," Aguilar says. "These past months have been full of improvements thanks to his teachings, and his work ethic has inspired me to give my very best."
Michael Wansley | Mentor | PNW Chapter
Isaac Selby | Mentee | PNW Chapter
Isaac Selby is a recent Emory University marketing graduate, rap artist, and music marketer working for Yonas Media as well as a day-to-day manager for Latin GRAMMY nominated rock band Making Movies. He was paired with Michael Wansley, or Wanz, a GRAMMY-winning artist and vocalist based in Seattle. The pair met several times over Zoom and in person, including a recording session to track their collab song, the perfect project for Selby to put Wansley’s lessons in songwriting into action.
Selby recognized that he needed a deeper understanding of song structure to improve on his existing talents, and applied his mentor's lessons in structure, hook writing, and building interest. "He has gained a widened perspective of music outside of his preferred genre. The songwriting concepts we've discussed have gotten him excited about writing in a 'new' way," Wansley says.
Witness the mentorship magic as they have paired up to do a show on Jan. 11 at The Highdive in Seattle.
Geronimo Vannicola | Mentor | Philadelphia Chapter
Dannon Johnson | Mentee | Philadelphia Chapter
Dannon Johnson is a junior at Duquesne University majoring in sound recording, and is the owner/operator of a recording studio and live sound reinforcement company. She was paired with Geronimo Vannicola, a member of the production team for Fox’s music catalog and a vendor for Paramount providing music for sync.
Although the pair primarily connected virtually because of their location in different states, they met at the Audio Engineering Society convention in New York where Vannicola connected Johnson with professional peers. "To hear Geronimo speak so highly of me to his peers and for him to take the time to take my career as seriously as he has, has helped to validate my place in this industry," Johnson says. "He's shown me that my aspirations are possible and my dreams are closer to being reached than they may seem."
Vannicola encouraged Johnson to "build her own empire" by learning to delegate work and share workload — a key ingredient to the growth of any business. "Being so busy with work makes things like keeping up on my studio's social media difficult, and he's taught me to enlist those around me for help," Johnson says.
Working remotely didn’t stop the two from getting hands-on. Johnson updated Geronimo’s previous ProTools mixes and received expert feedback. "To have him look at my workflow and shoot back his own iteration of my mixes is something I cannot stress the invaluable nature of enough," she said. Vannicola spoke to the importance of this hands-on work, emphasizing that good mentorship is as much about shaping mindset as it is "about giving something tangible, whether it's a skill or opportunity to move forward with, shaping a bright future."
Craig Campbell | Mentor | Nashville Chapter
Sydney Pasceri | Mentee | Nashville Chapter
Sydney Pasceri — a student at Wake Forest University studying communications, and pursuing a career in music journalism, marketing, and public relations — was paired with Craig Campbell, the President of Campbell Entertainment, working in publicity and artist management.
Since Pasceri is based in North Carolina and Campbell in Nashville, the two didn’t work in person, but Campbell still found ways to engage with his mentee. He added Sydney to his press release distribution list so she could see how he writes about new releases, announces festivals and other related topics. "I still plan to get her the bones of a release, so she can write one!" Campbell says.
Pasceri said she appreciated how intentional Campbell was in getting to know her — the same skill and care that makes him stellar in the world of A&R. "I admire this dedication to getting to understand the person, rather than just the artist, and hope to carry this into my own career." Through their conversations, Pasceri learned that the music scene is very small, with Campbell knowing someone from every corner of the industry she mentioned. "It made me realize how important it is to make meaningful relationships with people in all different jobs in the business."
Campbell joined the mentorship program with an open mindset to potentially learn from someone at any point in their career. "As a mentor, I want to impart knowledge, but I also want to be challenged… I welcome someone questioning why or offering a different viewpoint." Campbell was thrilled to get the chance to mentor Pasceri: "Sydney is driven, curious, interesting, ambitious, and very focused; I'll probably be working for her one day!"
Al Thrash | Mentor | Atlanta Chapter
Jasmine Gordon | Mentee | Atlanta Chapter
Spelman College student Jasmine Gordon hopes to pursue a career in branding and marketing for clients in the music, sports, and entertainment industry, and is studying comparative women’s studies with a focus on branding and marketing in the media. Gordon was paired with Al Thrash, the Professor of Practice at Georgia State University and Project Manager at Thirty Tigers — one of the premiere music distribution companies in the industry.
"My mentor and I visited the record label, LVRN, and I sat in on one of his meetings with the CEO of the label. I learned how to adequately build and nurture relationships and the importance of your network," Gordon says, adding that she participated in the meeting and learned about opportunities at the label.
Thrash also introduced Gordon to the founders of Project Go Dark, an Atlanta-based intensive music industry pipeline for college students. Thrash highlighted that he collaborated with Gordon’s organization, Spelman College Women in Hip-Hop, for an alumni mixer during the historic SpelHouse Homecoming weekend. "This was an awesome experience, and I look forward to continuing to work with Jasmine as she develops into a professional," Thrash says.
The GRAMMY U Mentorship program is not only an invaluable experience for students to get direct feedback and career advice from an industry professional, but it can be the seed of a life-long relationship and the roots of a rich network. Applications are now open for the spring GRAMMY U mentorship program, which runs from Feb.y 13 – May 5, 2023. Apply to be a mentor or mentee by Jan. 27.
Photo: Terence Rushin/Getty Images for the Recording Academy
Armani White Details How To Use Social Media To Shape Your Career In GRAMMY U Masterclass
Rising rapper Armani White rocketed to fame via TikTok. During a GRAMMY U Masterclass Presented by Mastercard, White explained how to shape your career using social media: Know yourself, be yourself and stay hungry.
TikTok famous: A phrase that didn't exist a few years ago can now be a golden ticket into the music industry. Today, a 15-second clip has the power to alter someone’s career and life.
Sometimes, going viral on social media is purely luck of the draw. Other times, it’s a very calculated and tactful business strategy that can be used to help the masses realize your full potential and maximize your success. For Philadelphia-born rising rapper Armani White, the latter has never been more true.
A now-viral TikTok of White and friends vibing in the studio to his new song "BILLIE EILISH." changed the trajectory of his career. Within several hours of being uploaded, the video reached two million views and has since surpassed 80 billion views.
White says that while he posted that TikTok in February 2022 for fun, he had no doubt that it would be something special. With his favorite mantra, "losers get lucky, winners do it again," on a loop in his head, White was able to turn what could’ve been a fleeting viral hit into a pivotal career move.
At the HBCU Love Tour in Atlanta this October, White advised students on how to use social media to take their careers to new heights. The discussion is part of the GRAMMY U Masterclass, Presented by Mastercard, and was moderated by musician, actress, and Recording Academy Atlanta Chapter Board member Kat Graham. Read on for GRAMMY U's takeaways from Armani White's masterclass.
It’s Not About Making "TikTok Music," It’s About Making Music That Feels Genuine
Armani White compared the process of being an actor to what it is like to be a musical artist. Actors are constantly having to audition, and one role in a movie or TV show doesn’t necessarily lead to a lasting career. Similarly, one hit song doesn’t immediately make a substantial career for an artist.
The goal isn’t to make a song that will go viral, White continued, noting that he makes music that speaks to his character and experiences. The viral TikTok of White and crew blasting "BILLIE EILISH." over the studio's speakers and goofing off was raw, pure, and true to who he is. This genuine glance behind the curtain is what made his audience feel connected.
Pay Attention To Audience Reactions
Both White and Graham noted that social media can create an overwhelming feeling of comparison. White's advice? Rather than focusing on the number of views other videos are getting, focus on your own analytics.
The rapper said he will dissect a video that has been more successful than others and try to pinpoint what it is about that video that gained traction. Look to see what you did differently in each video and what the outcome was based on that tactic. Then, try to recreate it.
First, Know Who You Are
Even before the attention and opportunity that followed his TikTok, White knew who he was and wanted to be. He advised the audience to refrain from creating a persona that people want to see — that won’t get you far, and you’ll be chained to that version of you.
Instead, know who you are and stick with it. That certainty will allow others to understand your unique perspective and experiences, and will ultimately move you further along in your career. White decided who he was and implements that into every record he creates, whether by himself or in collaboration with others.
"Stay Down, Stay Hungry, Stay Determined"
Though White now has the career he always dreamed of, it wasn’t handed to him on a silver platter. He had to work hard, be patient and remain optimistic when things weren’t going as he had hoped. Even with the popularity of his original TikTok, he had more steps to climb to get the song to where it is now.
White’s first obstacle was finding a way to get the sample he used from N.O.R.E’s song "Nothin'" cleared for use. This is not a task that can be accomplished overnight, and the waiting process can be brutal. He decided the best way to go about this was to get his fans involved.
White encouraged his fans to use "Nothin'" as much as they could in their videos. As trends surrounding the song started rising up, it became clear that people weren’t losing interest in it. The TikTok sound of his song even made its way onto the “for you” page of Billie Eilish, who reposted a video using the sound. This solidified that everyone, including Eilish herself, were supporting not only the song itself, but Armani White as an artist.
White also spoke about life before "BILLIE EILISH." went viral and the struggles he went through. White says that through it all, he kept reminding himself, If I can get there, it’ll be worth it. He is now proud to have an encouraging story for artists to look at and remember that if you stay motivated, your wildest dreams are possible.
Graham echoed these sentiments, adding "Everyone has a unique journey…You gotta really look at yourself and know you have your own journey. Stay humble, hardworking, do the work, and you might just end up on this stage."
The full GRAMMY U Masterclass with Armani White, Presented by Mastercard, is available to stream now. Click the video below to hear more on the advice White and Graham share and the full story behind White's success.
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A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.
It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.
Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.
Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.
In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.
Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.
There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.
Say She She
Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.
While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."
Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.
Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.
Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.
Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.
L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.
During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.
Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.
Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.
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