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a guide to texas hip-hop
Megan Thee Stallion performs in Houston

Photo: Derek White/Getty Images for Warner Bros. Discovery Sports

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

From chopped & screwed to Megan Thee Stallion, Texas has grown from producing local rap celebrities to a state that superstars call home. Read on for a guide to the origins, trailblazers and ever-evolving styles that characterize Texas hip-hop.

GRAMMYs/Aug 24, 2023 - 03:59 pm

A large percentage of the globalization of hip-hop can be traced back to Texas. Nestled between the influential hubs of Los Angeles and New York, Texas has grown from being a state that produces local rap celebrities to one that superstars call home. 

Multiple cities within Texas’ borders have consistently churned out stars over the past few years, making it a unique and crucial player in making hip-hop mainstream. At its core, cities like Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio are benefactors of a diverse cultural amalgamation. The rap communities that are prevalent today stand proudly on the work of those who came before. 

Yet one will never experience the same culture twice in any of Texas' cities. Our journey will take us deep into the innovative sounds and attitudes of Houston artists and music entrepreneurs. We'll shine a spotlight on the noteworthy talent that has emerged from Dallas and San Antonio since the early 2000s. Finally, we’ll take a tour of Austin, where the vibrant live music scene acts as a focal point for both local and regional accomplishments.

As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, it is only fitting to embark on an exploration of the impact that Texas’ rap scene has made over decades. Walk with us as we delve into its origins, celebrate the trailblazing figures who have contributed to its rise, and immerse ourselves in the ever-evolving themes and styles that have characterized this thriving musical movement.

Listen to the Spotify playlist below or visit Amazon Music, Pandora and Apple Music for an auditory accompaniment to this guide to the best of the Lonestar State.

A Brief History Of Texas Hip-Hop

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Houston was a hotbed for hip-hop talent with artists like Scarface, UGK (Underground Kingz), and Geto Boys gaining local and regional prominence. Their gritty and unapologetic lyrics delved into the harsh realities of life in urban Texas that resonated with audiences far beyond the state's borders.

Most aspiring artists in Houston faced a challenging landscape, though. Deprived of the advantages enjoyed by their counterparts in major music industry hubs like Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York, Texas’ hip-hop community was forced to take on a DIY ethos. Artists, label execs and managers took control of their own promotion, production, and distribution. Labels like James Prince's Rap-A-Lot Records, and OG Ron C and Michael “5000” Watts’ Swishahouse pioneered the path of autonomy long before the term "independent" became a status symbol. 

Texas hip-hop was again thrust onto the main stage again in the mid-2000s when artists such as Mike Jones, Slim Thug, and Paul Wall earned widespread recognition. Mike Jones made a massive impact with standout hits like "Back Then" and "Still Tippin'." These songs not only resonated with regional audiences but also cracked the Billboard Top 100, catapulting Mike Jones to national fame.

Paul Wall's 2005 album The People's Champ solidified his status as a newcomer to be respected. The album boasted four successful singles, including "Sittin' Sidewayz" featuring Big Pokey, "They Don't Know," "Girl," and the collaboration "Drive Slow" with Kanye West and GLC. Both "Sittin' Sidewayz" and "Girl" received RIAA gold certifications, selling over 500,000 copies each. 

Founded in the '90s the Screwed Up Click was a tight-knit collective of rappers, producers, and DJs who were dedicated  to representing Houston's unique rap scene. The group's members included artists like Big Hawk, Big Mello, Big Pokey, E.S.G., Lil' Keke, Fat Pat, Lil' Flip, Z-Ro, and many others. Each brought their own style and personality to the group, contributing to the diverse and rich brand of Texas rap.

The SUC's impact extended far beyond Houston, as DJ Screw's mixtapes began to circulate widely, gaining a loyal fan base across Texas and beyond. 

Tragically, DJ Screw's life was cut short in 2000 due to an accidental drug overdose, leaving a void in the rap community. In the years following DJ Screw's passing, many members of the S.U.C. enjoyed successful careers, both individually and collectively. Artists like Lil' Keke, Z-Ro and Lil' Flip achieved mainstream success while remaining deeply rooted in their Houston origins. The SUC's influence also extended to other cities and regions, with artists from all over the world incorporating chopped and screwed elements into their music.

When Texas Hip-Hop Became Mainstream

UGK has left an indelible mark on rap culture, shaping the genre with their unique style and lyrical prowess. As the pioneers of Texas hip-hop, the duo consisting of Bun B and the late Pimp C brought their distinctive Texas flavor to the forefront of the rap scene. 

A prime example of their impact can be found in their collaboration with Jay-Z on the song "Big Pimpin'." Released in 2000, its bouncy production and memorable verses, specifically Pimp C’s final verse, was a perfect blend of UGK's signature Southern drawl and vivid storytelling. "Big Pimpin'" not only expanded UGK's reach but also solidified Jay-Z's place as a crossover artist, bridging the gap between East and South.

Texas hip-hop was again thrust onto the main stage again in the mid-2000s when artists such as Mike Jones, Slim Thug, and Paul Wall earned widespread recognition. Mike Jones made a massive impact with standout hits like "Back Then" and "Still Tippin'." These songs not only resonated with regional audiences but also cracked the Billboard Top 100, catapulting Mike Jones to national fame. 

Paul Wall's 2005 album The People's Champ solidified his status as a newcomer to be respected. The album boasted four successful singles, including "Sittin' Sidewayz" featuring Big Pokey, "They Don't Know," "Girl," and the collaboration "Drive Slow" with Kanye West and GLC. Both "Sittin' Sidewayz" and "Girl" received RIAA gold certifications, selling over 500,000 copies each. 

Less than half a decade later in Dallas, Dorrough made waves with his breakout single "Ice Cream Paint Job," which earned multiple accolades. The song peaked at No. 5 on Billboard's Hot Rap Songs chart in 2009, cementing Dorrough's place as a rising star nationally. Beyond its chart success, "Ice Cream Paint Job" also became a cultural staple that inspired a slew of spinoff freestyles — the most notable coming from Lil Wayne and his iconic mixtape No Ceilings.  

GRAMMY-winning Artists like Megan Thee Stallion and Travis Scott have kept Texas in the spotlight. In 2019, Megan made a significant impact with her ability to balance empowering lyricism with entertainment. Her hits like “Body” and “Cash S—” took over airwaves around the world, earning her widespread adoration, multiple awards, and a massive global fan base. Moreover, Megan and Beyonce’s “Savage Remix” propelled them to become the first women to win a GRAMMY for Best Rap Song in 2021. 

Originally from Missouri City, Texas, Scott blended various musical genres to create a distinctive sound that has attracted artists like Drake, Future, and more. His albums, including Rodeo, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, and ASTROWORLD received critical acclaim and commercial success. Scott’s elaborate live performances and ability to transcend traditional boundaries earned him a cult-like following and cemented his status as a top-tier artist internationally. 

Dallas-dwelling Nigerian American Tobe Nwigwe has carved an indelible niche within the industry with his extraordinary blend of hip-hop, soul, and gospel influences. His dynamic songs transcend conventional boundaries, fusing socially conscious lyrics with captivating melodies. Not to mention, his music videos are visual feasts characterized by vibrant aesthetics and compelling storytelling. For his efforts, Nwigwe was nominated for BestNew Artist at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

Major Promoters, Events & Festivals In Texas Hip-Hop

During the early 2010s, Austin-based concert promoters like ScoreMore Shows took the lead in organizing multi-city tours in Texas that featured then-up-and-coming artists such as J. Cole, Wiz Khalifa, and Big Sean. These tours provided budding rap artists with a precious chance to open for more established acts, gaining exposure and experience. 

In addition to ScoreMore, C3 Presents used and continues to use its Austin City Limits Festival to attract hundreds of thousands of attendees from across the country. 2014’s festival saw an unofficial farewell performance from Outkast — a show that many fans had been waiting years to see. In 2017, Jay-Z brought out hits spanning across his 20+ year career, demonstrating why he’s one of the most decorated GRAMMY winners. 

Every March, thousands of artists and fans from around the globe flock to Austin for SXSW, ready to experience a week’s worth of emerging talent. In 2009, Kid Cudi’s profile grew during Kanye West's Fader Fort show, where West shared the stage with his G.O.O.D. Music signees like Common, Consequence, and Erykah Badu. But it was Kudi who stole the spotlight. His vocals had been featured on West’s then-latest album, 808s & Heartbreak. Cudi mesmerized the audience with renditions of "Day 'N' Nite" and "Welcome To Heartbreak."

Odd Future arrived at the week-long festival in 2011 as one of the most talked about artists slated to perform. This momentum was fueled by their recent appearance on a Billboard cover and a performance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. The group commenced their Austin journey with a notable showcase at the mtvU Woodies. Odd Future’s popularity grew exponentially following their electrifying performance at the Fader Fort and several other showcases throughout the week. 

Iconic venues like the Mohawk, Antone's, Emos and Empire Control Room in Austin have become bustling centers for nurturing local hip-hop talent. The House of Blues in revered grounds for Houstonians, offering aspiring artists a coveted platform to showcase their talents and break into the music scene. Elsewhere in the city, Warehouse Live held one of Drake’s earliest concerts in 2009; he returned five years later for an intimate performance during Houston Appreciation Week. Dallas takes pride in venues like Trees, which have played a pivotal role in supporting and fostering emerging artists. San Antonio's Paper Tiger (formerly known as White Rabbit) has also been instrumental in providing a nurturing space for the city's up-and-comers. 

Because of Texas' variety of venues and festivals, the next generation of superstars found fertile ground to establish themselves, build fan bases, and keep Texas as a contributor to rap’s globalization.

Rising Artists In Texas Hip-Hop

As the state’s rap legacy thrives, a wave of talented artists emerges, poised and prepared to embrace the heritage bestowed upon them by their predecessors. There are frontrunners believed to be the next big sensation in every town, each of whom sits on the brink of stardom.

Maxo Kream: Hailing from Houston, Maxo Kream gained recognition for his raw and unfiltered portrayal of street life and the harsh realities of his upbringing. With a unique blend of Southern rap and trap influences, Kream often draws from personal experiences, reflecting on his past struggles and triumphs. His breakthrough came with the release of his 2018 mixtape Punken, which garnered critical acclaim. 

Monaleo: Monaleo's 2020 debut epitomized the essence of Texas. The Houston resident's infectious breakout track "Beating Down Yo Block," reverberated with unabashed energy. The song's clever use of samples from Yungstar, a fellow Houstonian, and his song "Knockin' Pictures Off The Wall" added a nostalgic touch. In 2023, she released her debut Where the Flowers Don’t Die

Magna Carda: Led by charismatic vocalist Megz Kelli and masterful producer Dougie Do as the, Austin's Magna Carda’s music transcends state lines. Kelli's vocals and soul-stirring storytelling blend seamlessly with Do's finely honed beats, creating a mesmerizing concoction of jazz, hip-hop, and neo-soul. Their performances are an immersive experience, captivating audiences from all walks of life. Their magnetic presence has earned them a devoted following across the country. 

That Mexican OT: Hailing from Houston, That Mexican OT showcases an impeccable blend of his Mexican heritage and the Southern flair that characterizes his hometown. Notably, he joined forces with the renowned Houston legend Paul Wall for a collaborative 2023 song "Johnny Dang." 

Riders Against the Storm: Composed of husband-and-wife duo Chaka and Qi Dada, Austin-based Riders Against the Storm (RAS) embraces themes of social justice, empowerment, and unity, resonating deeply with their diverse audience. Beyond their artistic contributions, RAS has been dedicated to community engagement and advocacy. They have actively supported various charitable causes, mentoring young artists, and using their platform to uplift marginalized voices.

The Future Of Texas Hip-Hop

No matter how popular its residents become, Texas will forever remain rooted in its humble beginnings. It’s inspiring to think that a community of rappers, DJs, executives, and producers turned a state that lacked immediate connections to major outlets into a global epicenter consistently birthing remarkable talent. 

But somewhere within the state’s lines is the next rap star who has yet to release their first song. Miles away, there’s a living legend who will never call another place home. The state will continue to adopt many and serve as a warm second home for out-of-town talent looking for a community dedicated to achieving notable status in hip-hop. 

Texas will undoubtedly remain revered and referenced in songs for decades to come due to the contributions of the aforementioned artists. While the future of its rap scene remains uncertain, whatever lies ahead will undoubtedly match the enormity of the state itself.

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

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift performs during "The Eras Tour"

Photo: Ashok Kumar/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

list

Get Ready For Taylor Swift's ‘The Tortured Poets Department’ Album Release: Everything You Need To Know

As we count down to Taylor Swift's 11th studio album release on April 19, feast on all the morsels GRAMMY.com has gathered about the Queen of Pop's upcoming "tortured poet" era.

GRAMMYs/Apr 12, 2024 - 03:19 pm

The dawn of Taylor Swift's "tortured poet" era is upon us. The reigning Queen of Pop is set to release her highly anticipated 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, on Friday, April 19. 

Ever since she announced the new album during the 2024 GRAMMYs — while accepting her lucky 13th GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Vocal Album for Midnights —- Swifties have been meticulously analyzing every detail of her existence for clues about the release of The Tortured Poets Department.

Fortunately, Swift has been serving a lot of information to snack on. After revealing the cover art in an Instagram post before accepting her record breaking fourth win for Album Of The Year, she didn't stop the feast. From the full track list to a five-stage breakup playlist — and, of course, all the bonus tracks and special editions — here's all the breadcrumbs GRAMMY.com collected in preparation for The Tortured Poets Department

All The Art Is Black And White

The cover art for The Tortured Poets Department displays a black-and-white inset photo of Swift in repose on a stack of white pillows, with the album's title in uppercase white letters above her. The photography accompanying the album, including back covers and special editions, captures Swift in reflective solitude: standing before a body of water wearing an oversized white button-up, and in a pensive self-embrace against a stark black backdrop.

The photography for the album was shot by Swift's photographer since 2020, Beth Garrabrant, who also shot the covers of Swift's folklore, evermore, Fearless (Taylor's Version), Red (Taylor's Version), Midnights, Speak Now (Taylor's Version), 1989 (Taylor's Version). She's known for using a medium-format film photography that evokes an emotional closeness to her subjects — especially fitting for an album titled The Tortured Poets Department.

The Album Features Two Notable Collaborations

On GRAMMY night, alongside the album announcement, Swift posted the complete track list on her Instagram. The post included a photo of the album's back cover, showing a close-up of Swift with her hand on her forehead, overlaid with the text "I love you, it's ruining my life" in all-caps. 

The 16-track release has been split into four sides and also features collaborations with Post Malone on Side A opener "Fortnight" as well as Florence + The Machine on Side B's "Florida!!!" 

Check out the full track list:

**Side A**
“Fortnight” (feat. Post Malone)
“The Tortured Poets Department”
“My Boy Only Breaks His Favorite Toys”
“Down Bad”

**Side B**
“So Long, London”
“But Daddy I Love Him”
“Fresh Out the Slammer”
“Florida!!!” (feat. Florence + the Machine)

**Side C**
“Guilty As Sin?”
“Who’s Afraid of Little Old Me?”
“I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)”
“loml”

**Side D**
“I Can Do It With a Broken Heart”
“The Smallest Man Who Ever Lived”
“The Alchemy”
“Clara Bow”


Bonus Tracks:

“The Manuscript”

“The Black Dog”

"The Albatross"

The Album Title Hints At Another Ex 

Mere moments after Swift dropped The Tortured Poets Department album name, the internet was ablaze with viral speculation that the title is derived from a play on ex Joe Alwyn's group chat, "The Tortured Man Club" with Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott. 

Alwyn and Mescal revealed their "club name" during an interview with Variety in December 2022 and it didn't take long for fans to connect the dots. Upon unearthing the tie-in, Swifties rushed to share memes and comment on the original interview across various social channels.

There Are Three Bonus Tracks (So Far)

Swift has revealed at least three bonus tracks for different editions of the album, each marked with its own "file name." The initial track list release, referred to as "The Manuscript," includes a bonus track sharing this name.  

On Feb. 23, Swift posted a slideshow on Instagram to promote a special edition named "The Albatross." It featured the bonus tracks and revealed the back cover, which presented a track list alongside a contemplative close-up of Swift overlaid with the question, "Am I allowed to cry?" 

Then, on March 3, she introduced the bonus track “The Black Dog” through a similar post that showcased new cover art, with the album's reverse side portraying Swift and the haunting text, "Old habits die screaming." 

Lyrics Have Already Been Shared

Unlike her previous album campaigns, Swift hasn't unveiled any music ahead of The Tortured Poets Department’s release — but she has dropped plenty of hints at the subject matter to come. Handwritten lyrics first appeared in the album announcement post, in a stack of papers inside a folder tabbed with a monogram of the album's name.

"And so I enter into evidence/ My tarnished coat of arms/ My muses, acquired like bruises/ My talismans and charms/ The tick, tick, tick of love bombs/ My veins of pitch black ink," is written above the sign-off, "All's fair in love and poetry… Sincerely, The Chairman of The Tortured Poets Department."

Then, in an Instagram story posted on April 8 — the date of the total solar eclipse — Swift shared an image of a typewriter loaded with a sheet of paper stamped with the words, "Crowd goes wild at her fingertips/ Half moonshine, Full eclipse." 

Swift Created Five Playlists To Mirror The Stages Of A Breakup

Gearing up for the release, Swift dropped a 5-part playlist series on Apple Music on April 5 featuring previously released work arranged in playlists that reflect the five stages of grief. The playlist for "Denial: I Love You, It’s Ruining My Life Songs," features hits including Midnight's "Lavender Haze," and Lover's "Cruel Summer" and "False God." 

The other playlists run through the emotional gamut with titles like "Anger: You Don’t Get to Tell Me About Sad Songs," the midpoint "Bargaining: Am I Allowed to Cry? Songs," "Depression: Old Habits Die Screaming Songs," and finally "Acceptance: I Can Do It With a Broken Heart Songs." Each one takes listeners on a Taylor Swift escapade through love won and lost, representing what many believe to be a musical voyage through Swift's stages of grief following the end of her relationship with ex Joe Alwyn. 

Each playlist also includes a description from Swift. For "Denial," it says, "This is a list of songs about getting so caught up in the idea of something that you have a hard time seeing the red flags, possibly resulting in moments of denial and maybe a little bit of delusion. Results may vary.”

As April 19 nears closer, take a deep dive into everything Swift has unleashed so far — and get ready for a lot more divulging once The Tortured Poets Department arrives.

All Things Taylor Swift

Danna Paola
Danna Paola

Photo: Rafael Arroyo

interview

How Danna Paola Created 'CHILDSTAR' By Deconstructing Herself

"'CHILDSTAR' is the first album in my entire career where every inch, detail, and decision are curated and made by me," Danna Paola tells GRAMMY.com. "I made an album for myself and that little Danna who has always wanted to do this."

GRAMMYs/Apr 12, 2024 - 12:00 am

Danna Paola feels comfortable coexisting with her shadows. 

The Mexican singer, model and actress first appeared on television at age five, and has spent recent years dwelling on memories of her youth. Now 28, Danna is dismantling the myths and taboos around her artistic persona.

This process resulted in CHILDSTAR, which arrives April 11. Danna's seventh LP is her most authentic production and one where she makes peace with her childhood.

Accomplishing this freedom took her two years of therapy, the singer confesses to GRAMMY.com. "I deconstructed myself and my beliefs and unlearned many things to learn new ones. The pandemic also opened Pandora's box. That's where everything came out."

Through that self-discovery process, Danna knew she had to break with a constant that had accompanied her for two decades: acting. The last character she portrayed was Lucrecia in the Netflix series "Elite," a popular role that led her to reignite her music career after an eight-year hiatus. Beginning to live authentically, without the vices that fictional characters can leave behind, was the crucial step that led the Latin GRAMMY-nominated singer to CHILDSTAR.

CHILDSTAR follows a lengthy depression and a break from her management team, which Danna has described as controlling. On the new album, she embraces indulgence — singing about female pleasure for the first time in her career — and draws inspiration from her after-hour encounters. CHILDSTAR's darkly powerful electronic rhythms and synth-pop, tell a tale about a weekend of partying, alcohol, and sex to create the perfect escape from "your demons, your life, and your reality." 

Ahead of her album release, Danna Paola discussed the processes that led her to break with her past, how her boyfriend was instrumental to her return to the studio, the synthesizer that inspired the album's sound, and the gift that Omar Apollo left for her. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell me about the process that led you to co-produce for the first time.

This album is made with a lot of love, many hours, but above all, a lot of freedom. It's a very energetic and aggressive album, liberating.

It was a journey of introspection, empowerment, and self-confidence. Beyond being a sad story, the complete meaning of the album is not to talk and throw shade at my childhood. [It's about what] I have discovered since that first therapy session to find and make peace with my past, and that instead of being a place of embarrassment for me, it empowered me.

CHILDSTAR is the first album in my entire career where every inch, detail, and decision are curated and made by me. That's something that I am very proud of. I made an album for myself and that little Danna who has always wanted to do this. 

It is energetic, super intense, and sexual. Electronic music, funk, dance, synth-pop, and R&B lead me to drain all these emotions. The choice of each song, and the details and creating them from start to finish, [has] been very cathartic.

In "The Fall," you sing, "You don't know me, you don't know s–– about me. I'm not a shooting star." Was it painful to relive the memories of being a child star?

Yes. I grew up in 2000s television. Back then, creating a child's image came from a lot of machismo: being the perfect girl, the girl who doesn't speak badly, the girl who smiles for everything, and whose characters are all good. She can't do bed scenes, can't talk about sex. 

With this project, I embrace that [version of] Danna. I told that girl that everything would be fine. It's OK if you make mistakes, and it is OK to fall in love. Falling in love terrified me because I've been on different projects… every six or eight months; the longest a project lasted for me was a year. I made relationships with people and friends, [but] people always left my life. I built a pretty lonely life; I almost did not spend time with my family. I poured my life into work.

I had this distortion of reality where Danna Paola was the superheroine, and I forgot who Danna was. That's why I stopped acting; creating characters and being in someone else's skin was moving me further and further away from discovering myself as a human being in the ordinary course of life, of creating myself based on situations, emotions, and relationships. 

In therapy, of course, I understood that. I made peace, and today, I am discovering many beautiful things about myself as a child that were precious, happy, and full of love. Of course, I don't blame my parents because they did their best. Nobody teaches you how to be a child star from age five.

The album led you to shine a light on your darkest sides. What did you discover about yourself and Danna as a person and artist?

I was terrified to take risks, to speak, or to create. [To me] creating a project takes a long time, at least with music. I discovered that, for me, [making music] is a spiritual act. It is an everyday practice. It is to continue to discover and continue to learn. It's falling in love again with my profession and giving the industry another chance.

I also learned that our capacity for reinvention is infinite so we can start over. Today, I also begin to be a little more human. However, I don't aspire to be an example for anyone. I want to share my experiences and the lessons I have learned so I can move forward, continue to love what I do, and not lose myself. I used to say that I wouldn't make it to 27. That was in my head.

I'm making a wonderful balance between my personal life and my work. I'm also building my family at home with my boyfriend [artist Alex Hoyer], my two little dogs, my friends, and my chosen family. It's making peace and creating the life of my dreams.

Do you like who you are now?

I love it. I continue to polish many things about my personality. I work hard to be a better human being. Life is about learning and transforming yourself. I can release another album in a couple of years; I may release another this year. I don’t want to stop making music. [I want to] continue transforming myself through my art. 

In the first two tracks, "The Fall" and "Blackout," you repeat that people don't know you. How would you describe the Danna of this record? 

She's a woman who is very sure of who she is, and nobody has given anything to me. I'm in love with my project, my music, and my life, and I'm enjoying it a lot.

I struggle a lot with fame, but today, I present myself as a liberated woman in a good headspace. I don't pretend to be perfect or an example for anyone. Quite the opposite; all I do is share experiences, lessons, and music.

I'm an artist in every sense of the word. I'm a creative, honest person and have a lot of love to give, and I love receiving it, too. That should be mutual. It's an energetic practice that when one really does things with love, the universe always rewards it.

In songs like "Atari" and "Platonik," you openly sing about female sexual pleasure. Is it the first time in your career that you sing about your sexuality? 

Yes. This album is very sexual. There's a taboo when it comes to women talking about sex. In reggaeton, there are thousands of ways in which we can talk about sexuality. In my case, I had always considered it forbidden. 

It's what I told you about the kid [actress] who doesn't [about sex], who's a virgin until marriage. There is no richer pleasure than sex and the sexual pleasure you can have as a woman. There's liberation, to feel good about yourself, with your body, and also the sexual education that I can also share with generations.

This liberation with my femininity is something that I also discovered: The pleasure of being a woman and having many experiences in my life that have led me today to enjoy who I am, to have a happy sex life, and to share it through my music.

In "Platonik," you discuss sexualizing a platonic relationship with a woman and sing "I can't help what I think in my bed." Why was exploring that relationship important to you?

I had a platonic love with a girl at a stage of my life. I kept this to myself; it was a personal experience that opened the conversation to a beautiful story.

I wrote this song with [producer and songwriter] Manu Lara. We made it in half an hour. This song has something unique because, besides talking about a personal experience that is also super sexual, it talks about universal love.

That's why I say that CHILDSTAR is an album of many stories that have marked my life and beyond, talking about only the childhood stage, which is what everyone speculates, but that's not the case.

You’re flirting more with synth-pop in this album. What caught your attention about this genre?

It comes from this aggressive part of saying, here I am. For me, electronic music connects and drains emotions. Every time I've been out partying, electronic music has been liberating for me, and when I put it together with pop and these lyrics, it has become a new way to enjoy the genre.

While creating CHILDSTAR in Los Angeles, I fell in love with a Jupiter [synth] we found at Guitar Center. That synthesizer is in every song. The inspiration [to use the instrument] comes from John Carpenter's synth album [Lost Themes III: Alive After Death]. In it, I discovered synthesizers had a way of incorporating sound design and darkness into the album. 

[Synth-pop is] the expression of that need to bring out the energy I had stuck through music. It’s an emotional purpose, the connection I have with electronic music.

Your boyfriend, Alex, was instrumental in making "XT4S1S" when you didn’t want to enter a recording studio. How was reconnecting with music with help from your romantic partner?

"XT4S1S" is the song that, to both of us, as a couple and as producers, connected us on a hefty level.

I was super blocked. It took me several years to get out of my depression hole. We returned one day from [La Marquesa park] here in Mexico, and started chatting. Alex opened his laptop and started pulling out a beat.

I started throwing melodies, and [shortly] we had the chorus. It brought me back to life. I started crying with excitement because I finally felt again these desires and this emotion that you feel when you create a song, and you can’t stop moving forward and keep creating.

I remember we recorded my vocals on a voice note and sent it to [the production software] Logic. Then, it took us four months to produce this song because it was a lot of discovery, in this case, for me as a producer.

Alex is a great musician, artist, a genius — and I don’t say that because he’s my boyfriend. Artistically, there’s a fascinating world inside his head that I have learned a lot from. 

The track "Amanecer," which features Omar Apollo, breaks dramatically with the story you tell in the album. Why did you end that party cycle with a more folksy, chill song?

"Amanecer" is a track that has us all in love. It was the last song I recorded for the album. 

I wrote it to my ex. On my birthday, he called me — I was already with Alex — and it was super weird. I always feared running into him on the street, seeing him with someone else, and feeling something. And it was the exact opposite. I had already healed internally, and that wound had stopped hurting. I stopped feeling all the emotions I had gone through in K.O., [the album nominated for Best Vocal Pop Album at the 2021 Latin GRAMMYs].

This song talks about knowing how to make peace and understanding how to let go. It’s the dawn of the album. It’s perfect to release all the drama, and all the intensity, and aggressiveness that is the entire album itself.

[The song invites you] to hug yourself and say everything will be fine. There is always an opportunity to start over. 

It also has a beautiful story. Manu [Lara] taught Omar Apollo the instrumental parts of the song, and he made some melodies. At the moment of receiving them, [Omar] agreed we would make a song together, [but] it was almost impossible to record together.

[Instead, Omar] told me "You can use the melodies I made" and left me the last part of "Amanecer." He left us with that magical essence.

10 Women Artists Leading A Latin Pop Revolution: Kenia Os, Belinda & More

Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa performs at the 2024 GRAMMYs

Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Dua Lipa's New Song "Illusion" Is Here: Listen & Watch The Video

Dua Lipa's 'Radical Optimism' era is in full swing — and now, we have a new song, "Illusion," with an aquatic-themed video. Check out the new banger, and its aqueous video, below.

GRAMMYs/Apr 11, 2024 - 10:00 pm

Now that we've absorbed "Houdini" and "Training Season," it's time for a third scoop of pop goodness from Dua Lipa.

On April 11, the three-time GRAMMY winner released "Illusion," the third single from her hotly anticipated new album, Radical Optimism, due out May 3. The percolating, endlessly catchy track arrived with a video where Lipa dances on a pool deck in Barcelona, with swimmers and surfers joining the party — a playful homage to the shark-infested waters of the album's cover.

Lipa first kicked off her Radical Optimism era in November with "Houdini," which she performed alongside the debut of "Training Season" in a head-spinning show opener at the 2024 GRAMMYs. The album follows her GRAMMY-winning second LP, 2020's Future Nostalgia.

"[Releasing the album] feels good. It feels, for lack of a better word, radically optimistic," Lipa told Billboard in March, when she also explained the inspiration for the shark fin cover art. "Throughout the whole record, there's this idea of chaos happening around and me trying to push through it in a way that feels authentic and honest to me."

Now, adding "Illusion" to the mix, Lipa has made it very clear the only way she knows how to cope with chaos is to dance — and Radical Optimism will continue the party that Future Nostalgia ignited. 

Check out the video for "Illusion" above, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more news about Dua Lipa and Radical Optimism!

Everything We Know About Dua Lipa's New Album Radical Optimism

Bodine Global Spin Hero
Bodine

Photo: Melissa Vera

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Global Spin: Bodine Traces The Slow Burn Of Heartache In This Haunting Performance Of "Bambi"

Dutch-born Puerto Rican singer Bodine offers a piano-only version of her 'Quemo Lento' track "Bambi," a song about "a pain so deep that it is inexplicable."

GRAMMYs/Apr 11, 2024 - 05:00 pm

On March 22, Bodine unveiled her latest EP, Quemo Lento. Translating to "I burn slow," the eight-song project displays the duality of pain and pleasure — but on the EP's only piano-driven track, "Bambi," it's all heartache.

"It's short, but it explains everything it has to explain in that minute," Bodine said of the song in an interview with Univision. "It describes the feeling of slow-burning, a pain so deep that it is inexplicable."

In the latest episode of Global Spin, the Amsterdam-born, San Juan-raised artist performs a stripped-down version of "Bambi." Mirroring the black-and-white imagery of the song's music video, the performance is even more haunting than the original with just a piano and her soprano vocals.

Quemo Lento has been touted for its dreamy visuals and experimental sound. As of press time, Bodine has released four music videos from the EP, most recently delivering the visual for "Nalgaje," featuring fellow Dutch rapper Zefanio.

Earlier this year, Bodine made her SXSW stage debut and performed a string of shows throughout Puerto Rico to celebrate the release of Quemo Lento.

Press play on the video above to watch Bodine's chilling performance of "Bambi," and remember to check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Global Spin.

Jennifer Lopez's Biggest Hits, From Her Best Hip-Hop Collaborations To The Dance Floor Classics

Elyanna
Elyanna

Photo: Courtesy of Elyanna

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Inside Elyanna's World: How Creating 'Woledto' Allowed The Singer/Songwriter To Find A New Layer Of Herself

Elyanna's distinctive new album, 'Woledto,' combines the sounds of her Palestinian and Chilean heritage with an appetite for powerful pop songstresses.

GRAMMYs/Apr 11, 2024 - 01:34 pm

Elyanna is every bit an artist of our specific moment. The 22-year-old Los Angeles-based singer weaves together global influences, merging sounds from her personal history with a wider pop sensibility. 

With hints of Rihanna’s sultriness and Astrud Gilberto's effortless cool, Elyanna's music is often accompanied by a pulsating beat and traditional Middle Eastern instruments. 

By uniting musical traditions from the Palestinian and Chilean sides of her family, she creates songs that are at once sweetly enticing and bracing. "Al Sham," for example, opens with ethereal, floating vocals before morphing to incorporate aggressive synths and drums. The result is a growing, idiosyncratic body of work made for both crying on the dancefloor and rump-shaking. 

Paradoxical? Sure, but there are no contradictions in Elyanna’s art, only unexpected connections that make sense as soon as she starts talking about how they fit together. Of her forthcoming album, Woledto (in English, I Am Born), Elyanna explains that she and her brother/co-composer/producer Feras wanted to create music with unusual depth. "I want people to find these clues, because that’s the kind of art I like, when it’s deep and not always on the surface," she tells GRAMMY.com.

She knows Woledto is a big swing, and relishes the feeling of freedom and self-determination that comes with that kind of risk. "I really put my heart and all my emotions, everything I feel in it, and what I love about it is that I think that it's ahead of its time."  

In 2023, Elyanna notched a unique milestone as the first Arab artist to perform in Arabic at Coachella. Her subsequent debut tour sold out every date, and her next performance in the U.S. is set for April 27 at Los Angeles’ storied Wiltern Theater. The singer/songwriter takes it all in stride, with a natural self-possession; Elyanna is an energetic, curious young woman who’s as at ease on the road as she is in the living room studio she maintains at her parents’ home. 

With Woledto out April 12, Elyanna sat down with GRAMMY.com to chat about writing authentic bangers, repping every facet of her identities at Coachella and beyond, and her seamless approach to sound and vision. 

This conversation has been condensed and edited.

Woledto is out this week – congratulations! How are you feeling about it?

I'm excited – it feels so cool! I really took my time with this one, because I was able to figure out this new layer of myself and was able to connect with my roots more than ever. 

I know that not everyone's gonna get it right away, and I believe that when you want to create art that feels timeless, you have to make sure that you don't rush it. It's fine if it takes its time. I just wanted to create something that felt outside of the world, and had its own feeling and world. 

Can you expand a bit about pouring your whole self into this album? You mentioned your feelings, your identity, and you have such an interesting, multinational identity as a Palestinian-Chilean woman who now lives in Los Angeles. How did you incorporate all of that – and other aspects of yourself – into Woledto?

I come from two different backgrounds, and it's always very natural for me to put those together; I was born and raised in Nazareth, Palestine, and I am also part Chilean, so this is my world. I love to dig deeper into culture, and find more inspirations — there's so many hidden gems in my cultures, and I feel like it's time for the world to see it and to hear about it. 

I took inspiration from my grandfather — he’s the only featured performer on this album. I saw this video of him singing in a wedding; he was a singer and a poet, and he was doing a freestyle in Arabic. I sampled that video in a song called "Sad in Pali" — me and my brother were in Palestine for a visit after a few years away, and we felt very disconnected from everything there. This album has a lot of intentional inspirations that I want people to find.

Your music videos feed into that goal, too — they’re very arty, the imagery is so distinctive. The song that leaps to mind first is "Gheneni", which opens with a male vocal — I thought maybe it was a call to worship — and then channels Rihanna in your vocal, while the visuals are a hybrid of belly dance and you and your girls all hanging out in the desert. How do you weave all of those things together into a song that means "Drive Me Crazy"?

So my studio is at home in the living room, super humble, and it’s always full of friends and family sitting around while me and my brother [Feras] are working there. 

One day my dad was watching a very dramatic Arabic show, and my brother heard this music in the back that felt so powerful, so spiritual. So my brother took that and sampled it, and that’s the vocal that opens the song. Then he made a beat that feels like tribal fusion to follow. I always say "Gheneni" is spiritual, and also reminds me of "Gasolina" by Daddy Yankee, because it’s got so much swag. I’m rapping and just doing my thing on it, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions and very sassy. I love it. 

You look so free in that video, and I noticed that in most of your videos, there’s at least a few big moments of you being surrounded by other women. It’s really memorable in "Mama Eh," too. Tell me a little bit about the aesthetic and approach you use when you’re making these videos?

I really love to collab with people — I try my best, always, to be open to ideas. Usually how it starts is with my brother, we make the music and take care of the visual creativity of it. He’s my creative director, so we always keep sharing ideas together, brainstorming, and we save it all in this little folder to use whenever the time’s right. I love to always come in ready for my videos, live performances, but I never want to forget to be natural, and I don't want to be too ready, sometimes I want to be free. Sometimes all you need is just to be you, singing on camera, and that's enough. 

I love having a lot of female empowerment around me, too. I was raised that way — my mom is a very strong woman, my grandma is a very strong woman, my sister is a very strong woman, and I find so much power, if I'm feeling down, to talk to my sister and to talk to my girlfriends. So especially as an Arab woman, I want to make sure that I lift this female energy up for all the girls out there, and all the girls in the Middle East to feel that they can dream big, and they don't have to be always so soft. 

That’s really who I am, sometimes aggressive, very passionate and on fire. I feel like every human, we have a little bit of both, and I don't want to hide any of them. I want to be real and honest.

It seems like another throughline in your music is its cinematic quality. Woledto’s title track is also the album opener, and it sounds like it could as easily have been something you wrote for a film. If you could pick any film scene for your music to play over, what would it be?

I'm such a movie nerd! Right now, the film that felt so much like the world that I create in my music is Dune, Part Two or The Black Swan. There's so many scenes that I love, but it makes so much sense from what we were just talking about the different, changing parts of our personalities that I feel like the last performance where Natalie Portman had to perform as both the white swan and the black swan would be perfect for the outros of "Kon Nafsak" or "Sad in Pali." 

I understand you had a really special experience meeting Lana del Rey on one of your music videos. It makes sense that you’d love her, her work is so cinematic and she has such a recognizable style. 

Yes! Lana’s sister Chuck is an amazing director, and she shot one of my videos, for "La Vie en Rose." It’s a cover of the Edith Piaf song, and Chuck has such a beautiful vision. 

So Lana was there for the whole shoot, and she picked my dresses, and gifted them to me! She was an angel, just the coolest, and she did not disappoint. I've been listening to Lana since I was 10, and was obsessed with her. She was literally on my phone case. Meeting her and working with her and fully trusting what she says — I cried at the end, it was amazing

How great to have an experience that disproves the advice never to meet your heroes. In your cover, do you sing in French, English, or Arabic? 

It’s in Arabic, the title for my version is "Al Kawn Janni Maak." I actually co-wrote that translation with my mom and my brother; I’d always wanted to hear it in Arabic. 

That's really cool. It sounds like your work is very rooted in your family, not just having them with you at home or on tour, but they’re a big part of your music itself, too. 

It was always this way, even when I was little — I was 7 years old, 10 years old, and just dreaming of being an artist. My brother is the one who discovered my talent — he’s a pianist, and he would sit next to me for hours while I'm singing with a big mic, saying "Yo, you can do this note better." 

My mom writes my music with me, and it’s very powerful and so interesting. My sister Tali is part of it, too; she’s always been very good with fashion and is my stylist. We’d always be doing fashion shoots in our backyard, where my sister would dress me and my brother would take the pictures. I don't think anything’s changed since then, it’s just on another level, a bigger scale. We complete each other. 

Let’s talk about your influences and how you find your way to them. You’ve got this great playlist on Spotify that includes such a diverse group of artists, including ones that were delightful surprises: Pink Floyd, Nancy Sinatra, Chris Isaac, and Sadé. How do you discover artists who have a long history but are new to you?

I grew up listening to and singing jazz, I used to be obsessed with it. And it was very rare in Nazareth, but I must have found videos on YouTube. Etta James’ songs feel so real and timeless. There’s a lot of live instruments, it’s very detailed and very raw. It’s so beautiful! The lyrics, the production, even the fashion —it’s a world that I just really, really love.

I am very open when it comes to music. The best thing is to have conversations with people and meet new people, they bring you so much knowledge that you can bring into your own world. 

Speaking of sharing worlds, you did that on a massive scale by playing at Coachella last year. You’re the first Arab artist to perform in Arabic at that festival, and it’s kind of shocking that it took so long for that milestone to happen. What does that experience mean to you?

I like to look at the bigger picture; you know, it was very exciting, and it's not only for me, it's for our culture, for our people. It was an honor singing at an iconic festival, and I do not want to be the last person that performs there in Arabic. 

It was a moment that I feel like we needed for our culture, and I was surprised by how many people saw that performance — I didn’t expect it, so many people were there from completely different cultures, probably not knowing what I was saying, but they still loved it. 

That mirrors your interest in and embrace of always experiencing and looking for something new, giving that to the audience, too. 

Exactly. It was new to me, too, because Coachella was really my first real performance. I'm there thinking that's a lot of responsibility on me now, so I have to make it work, to make it the best I can. I was able to bring the belly dancing, the tribal fusion dancing, all these elements that we have in our culture, like the coins on my hips — it means a lot to me that people took it in like that. 

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