Photo courtesy of the artist
How Jeleel Went 'Real Raw!' By Combining Martial Arts & Self-Acceptance
"I don't need anything to feel complete. I'm high off life," the charged-up rapper JELEEL! says about his unadulterated new album, 'REAL RAW!' "I'm opening my heart to everybody."
After the suffocating sensation of lockdown, the 2000s are fully back in their spattery, hyperactive, overstimulated glory — think chugging a Rockstar mid-flip on a BMX. And while aesthetic is all over art and media, few have condensed and consolidated it like JELEEL!.
"My aesthetic is like Monster Energy. You know, Nitro Circus, Jeff Hardy-esque, early 2000s WWE aesthetic," the splashy rapper tells GRAMMY.com. "It's very Y2K, but I like that extreme stuff. A lot of artists now are doing the Y2K punk aesthetic — all black — but I'm more like electric green."
On his energizing new album, REAL RAW!, JELEEL! drinks straight from the bottle; that "electric green" sensation permeates it like Nickelodeon Gak.
Featuring top-shelf producers such as FNZ, Working on Dying and Bone Collector, as well as guests Denzel Curry ("SHOTS!"), Chow Lee ("CONFETTI!") and Ty Dolla $ign ("FAST CAR!"), the album is a distillation of JELEEL!'s backflipping, party-rocking, muay thai-ing energy.
Read on for a conversation with JELEEL! about the making of REAL RAW!, his May 5 release; how being a "scared kid" got him into martial arts and what the uninitiated should expect from his juggernaut live show.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
On an essential level, what were you trying to artistically impart with REAL RAW!?
REAL RAW! is real, raw energy. JELEEL! has no additives. I don't need anything to feel complete. I'm high off life. I don't need to do any drugs; I don't need to sell out to be someone. I'm real, and I'm raw.
The album is showing different sides of JELEEL! — his heritage, his culture, his life. That's basically what I want to present to the world. I want them to see that; there's no filter. I'm opening my heart to everybody.
I'm sure you didn't always feel that way — that you don't need "additives," or to put on a face for people.
Mm-hmm. When I moved to L.A., I didn't know anybody, really. I'd seen a lot of people try to follow other people to become somebody, or try to fake a persona. And I was like, I'm gonna just be myself. F— that. I'm gonna just dive in headfirst. Who cares what they think? That's always been my motto.
Tell me about your heritage and culture.
I'm from Rhode Island. My family lives in Nigeria now. Rhode Island is a small state. My parents came from Nigeria to Rhode Island to find better opportunities and help their kids out. Growing up in Rhode Island was chill; it wasn't too bad. Very boring.
Growing up in Nigeria was a little different, because a lot of people really don't have a lot of opportunity to get what they want to do. There's not a lot of opportunity to make money like that, unless you have a really good job.
They're different lifestyles. In Nigeria, people are hustling hard to get to where they want to be. In America, it's a little more laid back. You still have to work hard, but in Nigeria, it feels like you have to work harder.
How did you transmute that unadulterated feeling into the music on REAL RAW!?
Basically, I kind of transmit. I never really thought about transmuting it. It just kind of happened — me taking my personality and being like, You know, I don't care. I'm just gonna sing it like this or that.
Instead of talking about drugs — I don't do drugs — I'll talk about something else, because it's more JELEEL!. I was just trying to put me inside the songs, and me inside the music, and just be more intentional.
How did you evoke that feeling through music?
I guess using certain sounds. Maybe I'll go on Serum, and the sound reminds me of Limp Bizkit or Sum 41 or Janet Jackson, you know? So it's all just creating something and bringing that nostalgia back.
That vibe is certainly back. A lot of hardcore music is drawing influence from 2000s alt-rock.
It is completely. Even, for example, the PinkPantheress and Ice Spice song "Boy's a Liar" — the beat, the flow, the video,
I feel like that splashiness directly relates to the pandemic. We're ready to bash into each other again.
Yeah, we needed a reset, bro. People were just trying to do too many different things.
Tell me about the guests on the album, starting with Denzel Curry on "SHOTS!".
Denzel Curry was fun; me and Denzer are like the same people. He does muay thai; I do muay thai. He's just a very active guy — animated. He's just a funny dude, and he's turnt up. He's very talented, and he loves to create, so Denzel was definitely someone I had to put on there.
I appreciate his intentionality, even doing his verse. He had to redo it and redo it to make it the best he could make it. So, I appreciate him taking the tie and making it the best it could be. He brought the energy.
How about Chow Lee, on "CONFETTI!"?
He's definitely running that drill sound in New York. He's coming up heavy. He's about to take over hip-hop; people don't know about him yet, but he's on his way up. He was a perfect person for that song. It's a different sound that people don't know me for, but he had to get on there. It was perfect.
And what about the one and only Ty Dolla $ign on "FAST CAR!"?
That was a very random song for him to hop on. You would expect him to be on some R&B type of vibe, but Ty is a very, very versatile artist. I didn't know what to expect when we started clicking up, but he just slid on the song and I was like, Damn, he went crazy.
How'd you get into muay thai, and how does it connect to music?
It all started when I was young and scared of the world. I never really like to get hit. I'd been bullied, and that kind of carried into my adulthood. So, I was like, I'm going to go full-face forward and try martial arts. And then I ended up falling in love with it.
They're both arts — martial arts and music. Everything has to flow. When you listen to a verse, what captures you is the flow. When you're sparring, or fighting, you can't be tense. You've got to flow; you've got to be in the pocket.
You performed at GRAMMY House; I know you incorporate MMA in your live show. What should people who haven't seen you live expect on an energetic level?
People definitely are going to expect something crazy [laughs] because people see me on Instagram, all these videos, and they're gonna be like, "I know he's going to do some crazy stuff."
But I'm really performing. I'm trying to get all the words out. Yeah, sometimes there's high energy moments, but I'm actually a performer. I'm actually singing the words. So, that's what I want people who haven't seen me before to know.
Photo: Adrian Villagomez
Herbal Tea & White Sofas: Denzel Curry Keeps It Simple On The Road With Toiletry Essentials And Healthy Snacks
Rapper Denzel Curry shares the list of items he needs to be his best self on stage — all of which can be found on the shelves of any corner pharmacy.
It doesn't take a whole lot for Denzel Curry to be happy when he's on tour. The rapper says his must-haves are all simple items that help him look his best and feel good, even after a night of going all out on stage.
In this episode of Herbal Tea & White Sofas, Curry says that toiletry items are at the top of the list when he considers what he needs on tour — and he also likes to find healthy ways to satisfy his sweet tooth, too.
"My current tour rider has deodorant, lotion, some snacks like fruit or dried mango," he lists. "First of all, I just like mango. But the reason why I like dried mango is 'cause it's sweeter. It kinda feels like candy, but it's not really candy."
Lotion is a key component of Curry's tour rider because it keeps his skin looking and feeling its best when he's on stage, he goes on to explain. "I don't wanna be ashy. You know what ashy is? It means that it looks like your elbows and your knees are just pretty much white or looking kinda dusty. I can't be looking all dusty like a mummy, you feel me?" he adds with a laugh.
A Denzel Curry show is an immersive experience, he says — so much so that he always walks off stage covered in sweat, and immediately needs to change into something dry. Along with delivering a high-energy show, Curry makes sure he gets up close and personal with his fans. The rapper remembers one particular recent show where he brought not one but two fans on stage to sing his song "RICKY" with him.
"I brought a fan on stage, he had a sign that said '[I wanna] sing 'RICKY' with you'... Then there was another fan that had the same sign, and I brought him on stage as well," Curry recalls. "He got to the stage a little bit late, we were literally on the last hook, and he ended up just killing it. I gave the mic to him... and he killed it."
Press play on the video above to learn more about how Curry's tour essentials help him create a live show that's an epic experience for all involved, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more episodes of Herbal Tea & White Sofas.
Photo courtesy of BIZ 3 Publicity
With 'As Above, So Below,' Sampa The Great Is Ready To Be An Ambassador For Herself
When Zambian rapper Sampa the Great reached a level of success unthinkable to most, many viewed her as an avatar for her nation. But as always, the supremacy of artistic freedom wins out — and that's all she's concerned with on 'As Above, So Below.'
Is there any killer of creativity like the pressure to please everybody? Ask Sampa the Great, a Zambian-born rapper who had a banner year in 2019.
Due to the power of its production and lyricism, her single "Final Form" reached that fever pitch of internet attention where strangers made awestruck reaction videos. She swept a variety of awards ceremonies, including the ARIA Awards and the Australian Music Prize.
Through it all, Sampa the Great was dubbed a trailblazer — and more concerningly, something of an ambassador for the landlocked Zambia on the world stage. For a young person who simply wanted to be creative and see the world, this generated an unsustainable degree of weight on her shoulders.
"There's a huge pressure to be perfect, which is just not even real as a human being," the artist born Sampa Tempo tells GRAMMY.com over Zoom, from an isolated Zambian farm. "It takes out the fun from actually expressing yourself and doing music, which was the main intention growing up and why I wanted to do music in the first place.
A peculiar sort of relief came by way of the pandemic, which spurred Sampa to move back to Zambia from her residence in Australia. With shows and tours on pause, she found inspiration in returning to where she'd initially dreamt of dedicating her life to art.
While hunkered down with everyone else, Sampa reconnected with her old network of friends, family and collaborators. The eventual result was As Above, So Below, Sampa the Great's new album, which drops on Sept. 9 via Loma Vista. With songs like the Botswana-influenced "Bona" and the Angélique Kidjo-assisted "Let Me Be Great," the album reflects Sampa's newfound sense of grounding, rejuvenation and recentering — and ultimately serves as her "self-love note."
Read on for a candid interview with Sampa about the genesis of As Above, So Below, the tension between her introverted and extroverted sides, and why the album was a personal watershed — one that makes her feel like she can express anything from here.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Nice to meet you, Sampa. Where are you located currently?
I'm in Zambia right now, on a farm two hours away from the city. There's nature around me — no cows, though, no animals. It's pretty serene — pretty quiet. A good environment to rest from tour.
That sounds mind-clearing!
Yeah, a hundred percent.
Do you generally prefer those environments when you're off the road? Somewhere where your brain isn't bombarded?
Definitely — especially after a tour like this. It just helps me recenter and calm down. I'm pretty much an introvert. I don't know how I've lied to everybody that I'm an extrovert and like loud things and loud surroundings! Quiet and serene is my vibe.
How do you pull that larger-than-life persona out of yourself?
I think it comes from the family that I'm from. We are a very expressive family. We love telling stories. We love putting you into the mindframe of the story, and that just comes with being very dramatic with the way we tell our stories. Everything is loud. Everything is extra.
And then, musically, nothing stops at the studio. You want to be able to continue the story outside of the studio and bring people into an experience. So, it's not hard. I think the hard part is actually convincing myself to go back into the introvert space and actually rest and be reclusive. The extrovert — that's like default.
I'd say yes. They'd say it's just a hobby, but I think that's still "musical." Dad loved playing piano and was a DJ. Mom loved dancing — ballroom, surprisingly. But, yeah, both kind of landed at just being hobbies.
Sampa the Great. Photo: Travys Owen
So, I imagine, when you started really taking this seriously, it wasn't a jarring change, but a smooth incline.
Oh my god. The opposite. The total opposite!
Tell me about that.
I mean, it was a lot of convincing. Like I said, music is seen as a hobby here. Traditionally, music is played everywhere — gatherings, celebrations. It's just a given. So, to try and pursue it as a career is just something that's like, "Why would you do that when we do it anyway?"
And on top of that, [from] parents in this generation, it's like, "Can this thing sustain you?" I don't think a lot of our parents had the advantage of doing that they were passionate about. It was more about doing something that would earn you money, sustain you, and keep your family safe.
Now, I get to actually do something I'm passionate about and pursue my art as a career, which is something they've never done before. So, it took a lot of convincing to be like, "I want to do music as a career. Not only that, I want to be a rapper and a woman. [Dryly] Yay."
So, yeah, it took a lot of convincing, but they're on board now.
Well, I think that concern transcends cultures. What was the first song you created that your parents really loved?
I did a song called "Mona Lisa" where I sort of sampled a Zambian nursery rhyme and finessed hip-hop in it. And I remember sending it to my dad, and he was like, "This is really good."
And he doesn't listen to hip-hop! He doesn't really know what I'm saying; I rap too fast. But he was really proud that I added traditional elements into my music.
If your parents don't like a song you make, do they tell you?
Oh my god, do they tell me. [Laughs.] The majority of the songs, because I curse. "Final Form," which everyone's raving about, Mom hates it. She hates the fact that I say "f—" a lot. One time, she told me to take it off of YouTube, and I was like, "I can't really do that."
"It's got millions of views, Mom!"
Yeah. They don't really like cursing, but, again, it's the way I express [myself]. So, they've gotten used to it.
Tell me about the on-ramp to As Above, So Below. What was going on in your life and career that led you to write these particular songs?
So, the pandemic had just hit. This was three years ago. I was in Melbourne, Australia, and everything was being shut down — tours and shows being canceled. I reiterate all the time that I'm actually Zambian and based in Australia. So, if I'm not there for a reason, then I have to come back.
My sister's a uni student as well. They were sending students back home because Australia was about to shut down borders. My whole life had fallen in front of me. The industry that I fought so hard to be in looked like it wasn't going to be there next week.
It was kind of this intense moment in time where I was like, "OK, what do I do outside of my career?" And more importantly, "Who am I outside of my career?"
So, I relocated back to Zambia. I came to see my dad. My dad got COVID; I made sure he was OK. And at this point, I couldn't even get back to Australia because the borders were closed.
I was sitting in this house in Botswana, thinking, "Yo, it's wild that this is the place where I actually dreamt of being an artist." It was wild that I was back in the places where I dreamt of all these things that I actually got to do in Australia. What a 360 moment that was. [I thought], "Now, I actually can't go back to Australia and do these things. Why don't I do them here?"
So, a 15-year goal shrunk into a five-year goal, where I was trying to create a project, create these music videos in a place where our industry was still growing, but still do it at the level I'd done before — and try to showcase the amazing talent that is in my country and the continent, basically.
Sampa the Great. Photo: Travys Owen
How did things take shape from there?
So, I was sitting down and talking to a friend who I'd watched just nail music and be[come] an amazing artist. We were talking about the way we love the music that comes from our country. Why didn't we try and expand it? I was like, "That's a really good idea."
Because for the majority of my career, I've been trying to recreate the music I heard growing up — not expand it. And that's because I'm working with people outside of my country who didn't grow up on that music, so they don't know that music.
We see it as an opportunity to work on the project together [despite our different backgrounds]. I'm like, "Sweet, sweet," and we just start talking about where we are in life.
I find myself in a different headspace, because I'm no longer in a country where I really had to fight to get my place, but also fight for people who were like me — the young Black artists like me who weren't seen or who were underground.
I subconsciously put on this huge pressure to be an ambassador for people like me, to be perfect in the way I speak in the projects that I do, because I'm now winning awards and being the first Black woman to do this, that and the third. With that, you're like, "OK, if I'm the first, it looks like I'm an ambassador for a whole community of people."
There's a huge pressure to be perfect, which is just not even real as a human being.
No young person should have to carry that weight.
What's worse is it takes out the fun from actually expressing yourself and doing music, which was the main intention growing up and why I wanted to do music in the first place.
So, a beautiful thing happened where I got to relocate back home. As uncertain and scary as it was, I got to work with artists I saw growing up. Then, I got to journey back to the young Sampa, who dreamed of being an artist, and revert to the reasons why I wanted to be an artist in the first place.
A lot of that armor and pressure I put on myself when I was in Australia started to shed away. I started really getting into the fact that I wanted to express who I was — and be an ambassador for me for once.
Then, it turned into this beautiful journey of expression and experimentation — no holds barred, and not feeling like I had to be a certain way in order to represent people perfectly.
What burst from that was one of my [most] fearless, transparent and authentic projects to date. I don't feel like I have to be a certain way for anyone. I can just be who I am 100 percent, which feels like something that's easy to do. But depending on who and where you are as an artist, things get more complex.
Being back home, I don't have to represent being the first African [to accomplish something in particular], because there are Africans everywhere. I just have to represent being an artist.
At the core of hip-hop is a certain sense of "I don't give a damn what you think." How do you tap into that feeling — of freedom from being a spokesperson, or even what your mom thinks of you cursing?
You get frustrated with not enjoying something you're passionate about. It reaches a certain point where you're like, "I'm actually not enjoying this experience, because I'm trying too hard to make it something that it's not, and it's affecting the creative process.
That's usually the catalyst — to be like, "Well, if I can't create, I can't live." So, I have to drop that pressure, or drop whatever I think would make a good artist to whoever I'm trying to represent, and just actually create.
Tell me about the sound of the record — how you wanted it to hit the listener.
Ingredients. Every spice known to man, in one bowl of soup, and you drink that and experience all these different spices in one go.
For me, it became a thing [where] we were throwing in everything we'd been inspired by from music — whether [it was] hip-hop, folk music from Zambia, Kalindula, because you get to a place where, again, you're really tired of trying to represent one thing.
I'm constantly explaining that I'm Zambian, or trying to defend who I am and where I'm from. It became exhausting, and less [about] proving that in this project, and more [about] bringing every influence that I'm inspired by, putting that into one part, and giving you a well-rounded mixture of genres.
I'm sensing frustration with the limitations of identity. We're in an extremely identity-obsessed time — gender, racial background, sexual preference. Then, you cross-pollinate that with the music industry, where everything — and everyone — is categorized and labeled for consumption. It seems to me like you're just a person who wants to be creative and have fun.
A hundred percent. I mean, who wants to constantly defend their humanness? So, I became less of that. Especially three years ago, that was the main focus — trying to defend this. That's very tiring, and it affects the music I create. It just became more about being expressive.
Sampa the Great. Photo courtesy of BIZ 3.
Give me a line on the album that sums up everything we're talking about — if there is one.
I'd probably go to a song like "Can I Live?", which is a more vulnerable song on the album. I express how as artists, we actually just want to be loved, if we get down to the nitty-gritty. We want to express ourselves, we want to connect with people, and we want to be loved like everybody else.
But in doing so, I think we're throwing this expectation into the world of people reflecting that back to us. And that's just not going to be the case. Your job as an artist is to express your lived experience and leave it at that — not expect any love from anyone else, or expect anyone else to make you feel whole.
I think in my past projects, in trying to make sure I represent people and make sure people are seen, the source of all that was to make sure to be loved, basically. And you can't do that. The main journey is to love [one]self. You actually have to love who this is as an artist before you expect anyone else to love you.
Now that you've experienced this full-circle moment, what's immediately ahead of you?
Oh, man. I just broke so many walls in terms of what I was willing to show and express, because I thought I had to be a certain way. It doesn't feel like there are any limits in the way I can express [myself].
Not only in music, but even venturing into film. Film has always been a huge love for me, and I think we visually show the stories of these songs beautifully. That's something that I'm ready to venture on into and tell more stories through that avenue. But there are no limits.
Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
2021 In Review: 8 Trends That Defined R&B
From Trap&B to a 90's revival, revisit some of the biggest trends that defined R&B this year
Anyone who's still asking if R&B is "dead" in 2021 just isn't paying attention. Not only did R&B singers enjoy record-breaking success this year, but the genre also became more intertwined with mainstream music than ever before.
In charting accolades, Summer Walker clenched her first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 with her second album, Still Over It. The 20-song LP also broke the Apple Music record for the most album streams in a single day by a female artist and became the highest-charting album by a woman R&B singer since Beyoncé's 2016 masterpiece, Lemonade. Meanwhile, An Evening with Silk Sonic, the debut album of Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars' superduo Silk Sonic, entered the Billboard 200 chart at No. 2 and also became .Paak's first No. 1 album on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
Sonically, artists like KIRBY advanced the sound of modern soul on her Sis. He Wasn't the One EP, and Ty Dolla $ign and dvsn led the '90s R&B revival through some clever samples. R&B continued to grow and change this year, with innovative newcomers incorporating new sonic influences and R&B legends reminding fans why the genre will always live on.
From Trap&B to the return of girl groups, read on for eight trends that emerged in R&B music this year.
Lil Tjay and 6LACK hit the perfect combination of R&B and trap music with their melodic collaboration, "Calling My Phone." Soulful R&B feels and sparse trap production has been a popular pairing since the 2010's, but the two artists turned the trend into a major win. Along with being certified double platinum, "Calling My Phone" debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 — an all-time high for both Tjay and 6LACK — and took the No. 1 spots on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, Hot Rap Songs and Streaming Songs charts.
As "Calling My Phone" suggests, the genre-blurring combo of R&B and trap is here to stay. "Woo Baby," the Chris Brown-featuring single from Pop Smoke's second posthumous album Faith, melded the genres with a sample of Nelly's 2005 song "So Sick," and modernized trap production. Yung Bleu also captured the crossover with his long-awaited debut album, Moon Boy.
Return of the '90s
Many '90s trends made triumphant returns in this year’s fashion and culture, and R&B was no exception. On their collaboration "Memories," Ty Dolla $ign and singer/producer duo dvsn (Daniel Daley and Nineteen85) sampled Silk's "Freak Me," adding their own updated spin to the 1993 bedroom hit. With nostalgic production by 40 and Nineteen85 and steamy lines from Ty and Daley, "Memories" demonstrates how the decade is still a major influence on R&B.
Cardi B and Normani also struck gold with a '90s sampling, using Aaliyah's 1996 classic "One in a Million" on their hit collaboration, "Wild Side." Similarly, a sample of Montell Jordan's 1999 song, "Get It On Tonite" crept its way onto Mahalia's dreamy offering, "Whenever You’re Ready."
KIRBY breathed new life into classic soul with her 10-song EP, Sis. He Wasn't the One. Incorporating impressive falsetto, the Memphis-born singer and songwriter modernized the nostalgic sound with cuts like "Lately" (featuring BJ The Chicago Kid) and "Boyz II Men," in which she shouts out her neo-soul predecessor Erykah Badu (“Badu tried to warn mе 'bout these Tyrones,” she sings before the final chorus).
Sis. He Wasn't the One was one of several contemporary soul records released this year — including Cleo Sol’s Mother, Phabo’s Soulquarius and Leon Bridges’ Gold-Diggers Sound — giving the stylish sound room to grow in 2022.
Girl groups used to be a staple in R&B, but VanJess and The Shindellas might just be bringing them back. While Chloe x Halle focused more on their solo careers this year, VanJess held it down for R&B sister duos, releasing their sophomore album, Homegrown. The Nigerian-American pair carved out their own lane in contemporary R&B, mixing nostalgic, '90s-leaning harmonies with an expansive production palette, which included everything from hip-hop to electronic beats. Meanwhile, Nashville-bred trio The Shindellas harkened back to classic R&B, blues and pop sounds on their debut album, Hits That Stick Like Grits.
While throwing a rap verse into a smooth R&B track can be polarizing for some, Summer Walker and City Girls’ J.T. proved that the formula can offer the best of both worlds. The pair’s unexpected mashup, "Ex For A Reason," puts Walker’s glossy voice over a punchy uptempo beat, with the song’s don’t-take-my-man narrative accented by J.T.’s fiery bars. Singer Joyce Wrice also mastered the rap/R&B crossover on her collab with veteran rapper Freddie Gibbs, "On One," the breakout track from her debut album, Overgrown.
Toxic Love Songs
On their first-ever collaboration, Bryant Faiyaz and Drake continued the R&B trend of feigned indifference in love songs — a stark contrast to the gushing, romantic gestures that characterized the genre's early sound. On their Neptunes-produced track, the two crooners invite their quasi-partners to "waste their time" with them, but make sure not to come on too strong.
SZA also sang about toxic love on her re-released SoundCloud hit, "I Hate U," which broke Apple Music’s record for most-streamed R&B song by a female artist in its first week. Opting to emphasize her feelings rather than cloak them, the songstress used blunt, raw lyrics to further modernize the trend.
The resurgence of funk and its inclusion in R&B records continued to grow as a trend this year, especially with the release of An Evening with Silk Sonic, the debut project from Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s brilliant brainchild Silk Sonic. With production by GRAMMY-winning producer D'Mile and narration from funk legend Bootsy Collins, the nine-track LP boasted vintage soul and funk melodies that seem to be showing up more and more in retro-yet-contemporary R&B releases. Indiana five-piece Durand Jones & The Indications were also fueled by 70's funk this year, with their album Private Space calling back to the group’s classic influences, from the Isley Brothers to the Temptations.
R&B Legends Return
Anthony Hamilton released his first album since 2016 this year, making a welcomed return for old-school R&B fans. His eighth studio album, Love Is The New Black, puts his soothing vocals on full display, even tying in the rap collaborations trend with guest appearances from Rick Ross and Lil Jon. While R&B was mostly dominated by newcomers in 2021, there was still a newfound sense of appreciation for genre greats.
Besides comeback releases, Swizz Beats and Timbaland’s webcast series Verzuz highlighted R&B legends. The viral showdown series saw the Isley Brothers battle Earth, Wind & Fire, Chaka Khan take on Stephanie Mills, and D’Angelo recruit H.E.R., Method Man and Redman — all introducing R&B staples to younger audiences and driving the nostalgia that powered several R&B hits this year.
Press Play At Home: Robert Glasper & Denzel Curry Blur Black American Genres With An Urgent Version Of "This Changes Everything"
The star keyboardist Robert Glasper, whose music bridges soul, funk, jazz and R&B and is twice-nominated at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards show, leads an ensemble helmed by singer/rapper Denzel Curry
Robert Glasper is nominated for Best R&B Song ("Better Than I Imagined") and Best Progressive R&B Album (2019's F* Yo Feelings) at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards show. However, Glasper's sound stretches far beyond either category.
His body of work, which spans two decades, has always been a space where Black American forms like soul, R&B and hip-hop reveal their inherent bonds.
In the latest episode of Press Play At Home, Glasper shows how seamless that fusion is. He does this with a little help from singer-rapper Denzel Curry, who leads his ensemble through an incendiary version of "This Changes Everything" from the teeming mixtape F* Yo Feelings.
Check out the clip of "This Changes Everything" above and tune into the 2021 GRAMMY Awards this Sunday, March 14 to find out if Robert Glasper will win!
Press Play At Home: Francisca Valenzuela Performs Her Courageous Feminist Paean "La Fortaleza"