Photo: Christopher Douglas
Ian Munsick Is Bringing The West To The World With 'White Buffalo'
The Wyoming-born country singer's second album, 'White Buffalo,' puts his love for the West on full display: "Those people are who I make my music for."
To some, the cool of the Rocky Mountains and its cowboy-populated plains might seem like the setting of an old Hollywood Western. But to Ian Munsick, it's real life — and he wants you to come along for the ride.
The Wyoming native's second album, White Buffalo, doubles down on the Western roots sprinkled across his debut set, 2021's Coyote Cry. Its 18 tracks take listeners straight to the vast and mountainous landscape of Munsick's home state, but also help shine light on the hard-working mentality of those within it.
It's a project that Munsick has always wanted to make, but never really believed he could upon moving to Nashville at 19 years old — in part because he wasn't sure if the artist path was his calling, but more so because he wasn't sure if the stories he wanted to tell would resonate. Yet Munsick's first song, "Horses Are Faster," caught on regionally before he even moved to Nashville, and Coyote Cry was excitedly received. The singer realized his future might not be so uncertain, and he releases White Buffalo with mountain-high confidence.
"Coyote Cry, the tracks on there that people resonated with the most were all about the land and the lifestyle and what makes the Rocky Mountains unique," Munsick recalls to GRAMMY.com. "I think that people are just hungry for the real deal of the West. And if they can't go there, then hopefully they can just press play on my music and be there. That's always the main goal with my music — I want my listeners to be able to close their eyes and be in Wyoming."
Within the first few strokes of fiddle on White Buffalo opener, "From the Horse's Mouth," it's clear that Munsick has aced his mission. The track's scampering melody accents his region's raw, no-bull mindset ("I won't say it behind your back what I won't tell you to your face/ That's just the cowboy way," he declares in the second verse); the song's swirling production carries through the album, too, whether over a mandolin-driven melody in "Bluegrass" or the echoing nostalgia of the title track.
White Buffalo's song titles alone are transportive, from "Ranch Hand" and "Long Live Cowgirls," to "Field of Dreams" and "Indian Paintbrush" — the latter of which is the state flower of Wyoming. One of the more jarring (yet fitting) titles is "Cows— in the Morning," which is a clever take on a breakup song. And though the overtly positive, madly in love Munsick admits he's not great at writing those, he found the perfect breakup metaphor within his cowboy lifestyle: "I'd rather smell cows— in the morning/ Than put up with her bulls— every night."
While he echoes that scorn on "Barn Burner" ("She broke my heart then her barn burned down/ Like one thing led to the other," he sings on the chorus), White Buffalo mostly carries the humility, heart and gratefulness that Wyoming has instilled within Munsick. On "Little Man," he delivers a touching tribute to his 3-year-old son, Crawford; "More Than Me" blends faith with the love for his wife, Caroline. And even when he finds himself in heartbreak on tracks like "River Run," Munsick brings himself back to the peace of the plains: "We just settle like the dust when the day is done/ Her and the river run."
Munsick's ability to turn his Western upbringing into relatable sentiments is the epitome of what makes him special. There's never a moment that feels disingenuous on White Buffalo, and his passion for his homeland — from the culture to the people — rings through in both the lyrics and the musicality.
Yet somehow, his twangy vocals and knack for an infectious melody make White Buffalo feel like it belongs alongside Munsick's radio-friendly country contemporaries — even if he's not singing about beer and trucks. "We don't need any more of those," he says with a smile.
As he continues to dive deeper into the ways of the West, Munsick also recognizes the responsibility that comes with being one of the few current country stars from that region. While he largely aims to debunk beliefs that cowboys and Native Americans are enemies ("people think that it's the 1800s," he quips), Munsick also wants people to know how much both communities respect their land and their traditions.
The singer highlights where he grew up and the people he grew up with, including members of the Crow and Blackfoot Tribes, in the video for "White Buffalo." Between his music and the visuals, Munsick is hoping to shed more light on what he calls a "hidden lifestyle" — and to show that it's not as different as it may seem.
"People living in the Smoky Mountains and people living in the heartland, they're good people that work hard every day, and are just grateful for what they have," he says. "There's nobody more country than the people that live out there."
With nearly 400 million global streams to his name before White Buffalo even arrived, there's no denying that Munsick is reaching audiences outside of his part of the country. But as for those who are in it — whether it's members of the Crow Tribe or fans from the area — they're proud to see their culture presented on a wider scale. Even if the commercial success wanes, Munsick can already rest assured he's done his upbringing justice.
"At the end of the day, if they're the only people that listen to my music, that'll be fine, because those people are who I make my music for," he says. "And I just feel very honored to be able to represent them in country music."
Graphic courtesy of the Recording Academy
How To Watch "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop": Air Date, Performers Lineup, Streaming Channel & More
Featuring exclusive performances and special tributes, "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" premieres Sunday, Dec. 10. Here's when, where and how to watch the star-studded live concert special.
The 50th anniversary of hip-hop may have happened this past summer, but the Recording Academy's ongoing celebration was just beginning. And it's about to reach its culmination with "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop," a majestic, once-in-a-lifetime live concert special featuring rap's best and brightest — past and present.
Here's everything you need to know about where, when, how, and why to watch "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop."
What Is "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" Celebrating?
"A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" is celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, which took place in August.
Scholars may debate whether the genre's roots precede Aug. 11, 1973, when DJ Kool Herc debuted his "merry-go-round" technique of playing funk breaks back-to-back to a smattering of teenagers in the Bronx. But it's beyond doubt that this event was the spark to a flame that lit throughout the boroughs — inspiring DJs, breakdancers, graffiti artists, and, eventually, pioneering MCs like Coke La Rock and Cowboy.
In the ensuing decades, hip-hop has set the world on fire, swelling to become one of the foremost cultural phenomena on the planet. And "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" promises to pay homage to the breadth, depth and ongoing ripple effect of the genre and culture.
When Can I Watch "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop"?
"A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" will air Sunday, Dec. 10, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT.
How Can I Watch "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of HipHop"?
"A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" will air at the above time, at the above date, on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on demand on Paramount+.
Who Is Performing At "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop"?
The two-hour live concert special will feature exclusive performances from hip-hop legends and GRAMMY-winning artists including Black Thought, Bun B, Common, De La Soul, Jermaine Dupri, J.J. Fad, Talib Kweli, the Lady Of Rage, LL Cool J, MC Sha-Rock, Monie Love, the Pharcyde, Queen Latifah, Questlove, Rakim, Remy Ma, Uncle Luke, and Yo-Yo.
Rap icons and next-gen hip-hop superstars like 2 Chainz, T.I., Gunna, Too $hort, Latto, E-40, Big Daddy Kane, GloRilla, Juvenile, Three 6 Mafia, Cypress Hill, Jeezy, DJ Quik, MC Lyte, Roxanne Shanté, Warren G, YG, Digable Planets, Arrested Development, Spinderella, Black Sheep, Luniz, and many more will also perform. Plus, hip-hop icons DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince will deliver a highly anticipated reunion on the stage.
Who Is Appearing At "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop"?
Two-time GRAMMY winner and nine-time GRAMMY nominee LL Cool J will guide fans through the "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" experience throughout the night. You can also expect presentations and appearances from Chloe Bailey, hip-hop-meets Broadway mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda, Seth Rogen, Jennifer Hudson, Regina Hall, Machine Gun Kelly, and more.
What Can I Expect At "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop"?
Spanning the past five decades of hip-hop history, "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" is the epitomic embodiment of the profound history of hip-hop. More than just a live concert special, the show will celebrate the infinite ways hip-hop has impacted and changed the world. Plus, with such a heavy-hitter performer lineup, hip-hop fans should expect plenty of surprises and deep dives into the rich evolution of rap music and culture.
The night will feature groundbreaking artists performing the songs that changed hip-hop forever. Expect to experience exclusive performances of such classics from all the influential eras of hip-hop, including T.I.'s "What You Know," 2Pac's "California Love," Three 6 Mafia's "Stay Fly," Cypress Hill's "How I Could Just Kill A Man," and many more.
"A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" will also showcase some of the regional sounds and scenes that shaped the rap canon across the decades, including special segments celebrating Southern hip-hop featuring Jeezy, T.I., Bun B, Three 6 Mafia, Jermaine Dupri, and more; West Coast rap featuring Warren G, Tyga, Roddy Ricch, DJ Quik, Too $hort, E-40, and others; and the international rap scene featuring Akon, Blaqbonez and more.
Of course, hip-hop would not be where it is today without the influential women and female trailblazers who pioneered the genre and industry. For the past five decades, women have been essential to hip-hop, and "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" will pay tribute to the ladies who built — and continue to build — rap music and culture. The ladies of hip-hop will take centerstage with a special performance featuring an all-women cast of hip-hop greats performing empowering female anthems, including Queen Latifah & Monie Love performing "Ladies First," Roxanne Shanté delivering "Roxanne's Revenge," Latto holding it down for the next generation with "Put It On Da Floor," and more.
As one of the highlights of the night, hip-hop pioneers DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince will reunite for a highly anticipated performance featuring their greatest hits, which have since become some of the most celebrated songs in hip-hop history, including, "Brand New Funk," "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It," "Summertime," and more.
"A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" will pay tribute to this quintessentially American art form like no other. Keep checking GRAMMY.com for more news and updates about "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" and the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, and make sure to tune in on Sunday, Dec. 10, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT.
A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop is produced by Jesse Collins Entertainment. Jesse Collins, Shawn Gee, Dionne Harmon, Claudine Joseph, LL COOL J, Fatima Robinson, Jeannae Rouzan-Clay, and Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson for Two One Five Entertainment serve as executive producers and Marcelo Gama as director of the special.
— With additional reporting from John Ochoa
Photo: Jason Mendez/Getty Images
How Lin-Manuel Miranda Bridged The Worlds Of Broadway & Hip-Hop
"A GRAMMY Salute to 50 Years of Hip-Hop" airs Sunday, Dec. 10. During the two-hour live concert special, Miranda will offer an inside look at how and when he fell in love with hip-hop.
Lin-Manuel Miranda has consistently been between worlds.
Whether it was growing up spending the school year in Manhattan and summers in Puerto Rico; spending the early 2000s teaching seventh grade English by day while refining "In the Heights" at night; or translating parts of one of the most beloved musicals of all time into the language half of its characters would have actually spoken, Miranda has constantly been navigating a cultural and sonic divide.
But his most consistent bridging of worlds has been between Broadway and hip-hop, most notably via the groundbreaking "Hamilton." As someone equally well-versed in Sondheim and Biggie, Miranda is uniquely positioned to bring rapping to the stage, and vice-versa.
Miranda will expound on this best-of-both-worlds mindset during a special segment on the once-in-a-lifetime "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" live concert special in which he'll give both musical theater and rap fans an inside look at how and when he fell in love with hip-hop. Airing Sunday, Dec. 10, at 8:30 p.m. ET/8:00 p.m. PT on the CBS Television Network and streaming live and on demand on Paramount+, "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" features exclusive performances from Public Enemy, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, T.I., Gunna, Tyga, Too $hort, Latto, E-40, Big Daddy Kane, GloRilla, Three 6 Mafia, a highly anticipated reunion from hip-hop pioneers DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, and many more. The two-hour special celebrates the impactful history of hip-hop and showcases the genre's monumental cultural influence around the world.
Below are five of the ways Lin-Manuel Miranda has bridged Broadway and hip-hop culture.
Convincing Stephen Sondheim That Rap Is The Future Of Musical Theater
Yes, musical theater's Shakespeare was aware of rap before he met Miranda. His character of the Witch in "Into the Woods" — originally brought to life by Bernadette Peters — spits some rhymes (he respectfully called his efforts an "imitation" of the genre).
But in his 2011 memoir/book of lyrics Look, I Made a Hat, Sondheim revealed that Miranda was the one musical theater composer who might show others how to incorporate rap into the art form.
"I was never able to find another appropriate use for the technique [after 'Into the Woods'], or perhaps I didn't have the imagination to," he wrote. "Miranda does. Rap is a natural language for him and he is a master of the form, but enough of a traditionalist to know the way he can utilize its theatrical potential: he is already experimenting with it in a piece about Alexander Hamilton. This strikes me as a classic example of the way art moves forward: the blending of two conventional styles into something wholly original… It's one pathway to the future."
Starting Freestyle Love Supreme
"Anthony would come in and distract us, 'Let's rap about our day!' . . . And we would just freestyle," Miranda recalled years later on "The Tonight Show." Soon, Veneziale had a second idea: they should do that in front of people. Thus, Freestyle Love Supreme was born.
The idea was simple: it was a mash-up (again with the bridge-building) between an improv troupe and a rap cipher. The extended crew of regulars and special guests eventually grew to include talents like "Hamilton" standouts Daveed Diggs and Christopher Jackson, and even Wayne Brady. The idea became so successful that FLS had its own Broadway show and Vegas residency, with Miranda still popping up frequently as a special guest.
Making The Hamilton Mixtape
Miranda teamed up with Questlove to make "Hamilton" even more hip-hop with The Hamilton Mixtape. The project features not just covers of "Hamilton" songs by well-known pop artists, which would have been noteworthy enough.
But more importantly for our concerns, it has a number of hip-hop reinterpretations of numbers from the show. Check out, for example, "Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)," by K'naan, Snow Tha Product, Riz MC, and Residente, which turns one line from the musical into an absolute banger.
The project also features Nas, the Roots, Joell Ortiz, Busta Rhymes, Dave East, and many more. To make the whole thing even more hip-hop, it's mixed together by an actual mixtape DJ, J.Period. You can listen to him discuss his role here.
Appearing On The Cover Of Complex With Chance The Rapper
By mid-2016, there were few rappers on the planet more perfectly positioned between success and innovation than Chance the Rapper. The Chicago emcee captured tastemakers with his exquisite 2013 mixtape Acid Rap, before jumping into the mainstream with the May 2016 release of Coloring Book. But before all that, he was just a kid who loved going to poetry open mics.
So it made a certain kind of sense when Complex decided to pair him with Miranda for their June/July 2016 cover story. The two had a ton in common (and Chance, it turned out, was a huge "Hamilton fan" who would soon cover "Dear Theodosia" for The Hamilton Mixtape). But even more than their conversation, it was the mere fact of its public existence that ended up drawing Broadway and hip-hop a little bit closer together than they had been before that issue hit the stands.
We saved the best — and most obvious — for last. Hamilton more than lived up to the potential to theatricalize rap that Sondheim saw in it. It showed that rapping could be a key, perhaps the key, part of a major musical, and that show could not only be great, but also be a giant, world-beating, Disney+-streaming hit.
Its quotations and interpolations of classic rap songs served multiple purposes. They were in-jokes for the rap fans in the audience, an acknowledgement that this theater guy was one of us. They also provided Easter eggs for the Broadway set, a hope that maybe one day they would figure out that it wasn't originally Alexander Hamilton who described himself by saying, "I'm only 19, but my mind is old" or Thomas Jefferson who boasted, "If you don't know, now you know."
Photo: Mynxii White
5 Songs To Get Into Health, Ahead Of New Album 'Rat Wars'
The experimental rock landscape is a far different place than it was in 2015, but HEALTH's range, imagination and songwriting acumen have helped them endure. Ahead of 'RAT WARS,' here are five key tracks by the electronic/noise stalwarts.
If you want to make heavy, intense music of any stripe, there's a balancing act when it comes to ferocity.
There's no ceiling nor vanishing point for how wild and crazy your creations can get; there's no gold standard for "heaviest music." HEALTH understand that's not even a goal worth pursuing — and that creating something truly unsettling might mean embracing gentility — even pop instincts.
As their bassist, John Famiglietti, once pointed out, HEALTH's dictum is to create "relevant music that sounds new" — plain and simple. And in a statement from the band, they declared they wanted their vocals to "have an even, unaffected feel. A softness, like a Zombies melody, or even a Gregorian chant.
"We aren't just interested in being a noisy screaming band," they continued, and that bears out across their core discography, as well as their DISCO remix series. And the Angelenos' new album, RAT WARS, marks another step in their captivating evolution.
Described in press materials as "The Downward Spiral for people with at least two monitors and a vitamin D deficiency," songs like "DEMIGODS," "HATEFUL" and "SICKO" feel more full-blooded than ever — and this was an act that seemed to come out of the gate fully formed.
Here's a quick look at five HEALTH songs to know — focusing on the core catalog, and leaving aside the (very rewarding) DISCO series, as that's a can of worms deserving of its own article.
"Crimewave" (HEALTH, 2007)
Back on the cusp of the Obama years, HEALTH got wind in the sails via a Crystal Castles remix of their song "Crimewave," from their self-titled debut.
As such, that defunct duo (as to why they disbanded, you can Google it) played an critical role in HEALTH's rise — but Castles or no Castles, HEALTH remains a rewarding, thrillingly alien listen 15 years later.
And along with other key tracks like "Triceratops," "Crimewave" easily passes muster as a calling-card HEALTH track; you have pulverizing rhythms, an eerily docile vocal, and the threat of the whole enterprise detonating before your ears.
"Nice Girls" (GET COLOR, 2009)
A cemented HEALTH's second album, GET COLOR, developed on their earlier ideas masterfully — the songs felt more like songs this time around. Plus, a splash of snake venom in the production rendered their bite even more debilitating.
Highlights are all over the place, from "Die Slow" to "Death+" and beyond, but "Nice Girls" might be the centerpiece.
My Bloody Valentine is over-cited when it comes to swirling, abstracted music, but here, the comparison fits: it's like Kevin Shields with a serrated edge, commensurately tranquil and destabilizing.
"Stonefist" (DEATH MAGIC, 2015)
DEATH MAGIC leaned heavier into pure dance than HEALTH had previously; by selecting that tool in their toolbox, they honed their range of influences and moods into a fine point.
Where other HEALTH songs might butter you up and then deliver the K.O., DEATH MAGIC opts to grind you into dust like a diesel engine; the atmospheric yet unsparing "Stonefist" is Exhibit A for this approach
Founding member Jupiter Keyes left after DEATH MAGIC, but the crew soldiered on as a three-piece.
"No God in Thunderdome" (Grand Theft Auto Online: Arena War OST, 2019)
Despite not appearing on a proper HEALTH album, but in a "Grand Theft Auto" game, "No God in Thunderdome" threatens to be their time-capsule song.
As with their other career highlights, the track thrives on simplicities layered on simplicities until they form an entirely new beast; their blend between warped pop and outré everything is perfectly proportional here.
"Feel Nothing" (VOL. 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR, 2019)
As HEALTH have continued their creative ascent, their embrace of pop has only swelled.
And "Feel Nothing," from their first post-Keyes album VOL 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR, shows that tiptoeing up to that precipice doesn't compromise their essential chaos and aural extremism.
Not that it's a linear path to alternate-universe airwaves — RAT WARS brings the darkness and heaviness from entirely new directions. But "Feel Nothing" illuminates a path they could embark on if they wanted.
But as always, it's not that simple; with this long-running act, you'll get jostled to and fro on the journey, but the destination is more than worth it. What might that be in the long run? HEALTH only knows.
Photo: Blair Caldwell
It Goes To 11: Josh Levi Introduces His Yamaha Keyboard That Makes Him Feel "Like A Superhero"
Meet R&B singer Josh Levi's favorite instrument, a Yamaha keyboard gifted by his neighbor who "saw a light" in him — and now, he can't perform without it.
R&B singer Josh Levi finds charm in a used instrument — or, as he says in the latest episode of It Goes to 11, one with "some gray hairs." That's why his favorite piece of musical gear is his trusty Yamaha keyboard, broken in and gifted to him by his neighbor.
"She was like, 'You have a beautiful voice, and I have a keyboard I'm trying to get rid of,'" Levi recounts. "She saw a random light in me that she wanted to amplify."
Instantly, he felt a connection to it: "It felt familiar. It felt like we met before."
The keyboard was also how Levi taught himself how to play piano. It still has the Sharpie marks that helped him remember challenging chords.
But the Yamaha didn't officially feel like it belonged to him until he wrote his first song on it. "The lyrics were, 'I'm glad I still got my imagination,'" he recalls. To this day, it's one of his most memorable tracks, and he wouldn't have had the inspiration without the keyboard.
Today, he feels "like a superhero" whenever he tickles its ivories. "I feel like I'm floating. There's a peace that I have. Something about this keyboard feels like home."
Just in time for the holiday season, Levi released a cover of Boyz II Men's rendition of "Let It Snow." Listen to the track here, and watch the video above to learn more about the rich history behind Josh Levi's first Yamaha keyboard. Check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of It Goes to 11.