meta-scriptJill Scott, Leon Bridges & More To Headline Afropunk Brooklyn 2019 | GRAMMY.com
Jill Scott

Jill Scott

Photo: JB Lacroix/WireImage

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Jill Scott, Leon Bridges & More To Headline Afropunk Brooklyn 2019

Other headliners for the festival this August include GRAMMY winners Leon Bridges and Gary Clark Jr.

GRAMMYs/Mar 28, 2019 - 03:37 am

Afropunk Brooklyn 2019, coming to Commodore Barry Park on August 24–25, announced its lineup on March 27, including GRAMMY-winning headliners Jill ScottLeon Bridges, and Gary Clark Jr.

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GRAMMY nominees on the lineup this summer include Lianne La Havas and two 61st GRAMMY Awards nominees, Goldlink and Tierra Whack.

Other artists on the bill who we've covered include Toro y Moi and Kamasi Washington. We've written about Afropunk 2017 and 2018, and the festival's theme this year in Brooklyn will be "We See You."

Tickets are on sale now at the festival's website.

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Khruangbin poses against a softly backlit pastel background featuring a sunset
Khruangbin

Photo: David Black

feature

5 Songs To Get Into Khruangbin Ahead Of Their New Album 'A La Sala'

Khruangbin's latest record, 'A La Sala,' is a return to the psych-rock trio's jammy, spaced-out beginnings. Ahead of the album's April 5 release, dip your toe into their discography with these five great tracks.

GRAMMYs/Apr 2, 2024 - 01:34 pm

Houston-based psych rock trio Khruangbin — which means airplane in Thai — are beloved for their globally flavored, luxuriously spacious brand of psych rock. Much of Khruangbin's music is instrumental, laden with funky-yet-chill bass licks, reverb-drenched guitar, calm yet precise drumming and plenty of room to breathe; you could certainly take flight with a spin of any of their four albums.

Guitarist Mark Speer, bassist Laura Lee Ochoa and drummer Donald "DJ" Johnson Jr. found inspiration in cassettes of '60s and '70s era Thai funk bands who fused surf rock with their native folk songs. They'd listen to these tapes while driving out to the countryside barn where they recorded the first album, 2015's The Universe Smiles Upon You. Leisurely unhurriedness, space to roam and underappreciated global sounds with a Texas lilt — this is Khruangbin

As they've grown, Khruangbin has added more global influences to the mix, yet maintained a clearly identifiable sound — one that invites you in and reminds you to breathe deeper. Sophomore release Con Todo El Mundo brought in deeper funk and soul influences from the Mediterranean and Middle East, including the work of Iranian pop superstar Googoosh.

"To [simply] call us Thai funk is a great disservice to the people who made that music in the first place. We’re going to put whatever influence we like into the music. Otherwise, it’s boring," Speer told Bandcamp in 2018. "Funky drums, dub bass, melodic guitar, those are the only rules.”

Songs from Con Todo El Mundo were heard on popular TV shows including "Barry" and "The Blacklist," exposing Khruangbin to a whole new fanbase. Even Jay-Z and Barack Obama joined the fan club. "Texas Sun" with Leon Bridges, their biggest song to date, earned a coveted spot on the former President Barack Obama's 2020 Summer Playlist.

Khruangbin have been touring nearly nonstop since their debut album, and will perform at Coachella on both Sundays. Their live shows are a colorful sonic quilt, and so beloved that the band sold out three nights in a row at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City.

Their upcoming fourth album, A La Sala, due out April 5 on Dead Oceans, is a return to the band's beginnings: spacious, jammy tunes without any outside collaborators. Lead single "Love International" highlights Khruangbin's talent for expertly crafted, soothing instrumentals that invite listeners into a dreamlike space.

Much like the rare global tunes they found inspiration in, Khruangbin is just waiting to be discovered. And once you do, you're hooked and ready to swim in their calming waters. Ahead of A La Sala, take a listen to five essentials from Khruangbin's extensive catalog to get a taste of their unique, inviting sound.

"White Gloves" (2015)

"White Gloves" is one of the trio's first songs with lyrics. The Universe Smiles Upon You track atop which Lee sings of a deceptively simple-yet-sad story of a queen who wore white gloves and died in a fight.

Speer's dreamy, echoing guitar and Johnson's slow-and-steady drumbeat paired with Lee's delicately funky bass, oohs and ethereal vocals make this track feel heavenly and light. Close your eyes and listen to the song's mournful tones, and imagine that perhaps the band is singing in heaven as the queen wanders the clouds with her clean white gloves.

"Maria También" (2017)

The lead single on Con Todo El Mundo, "Maria También" goes full vintage surf rock with a rollicking bassline that vaguely recalls the Surfaris 1963 hit "Wipe Out." They add flourishes of handclaps, bells and sneaky yeahs. It's perhaps one of the band's most driving, urgent tunes — definitely the most so on this album, which was dedicated to Lee's Mexican-American grandfather. 

One of the band's goals on the album was to channel the energy and sound of the outdoor music festivals they'd been playing. "The kick drum is more present in the mix, it drives people to dance,” Johnson told Bandcamp. On "Maria También," the banging kick and jubilant festival energy are fully present.

And in the music video for "Maria También," the trio nods to the Iranian pop influences on the song and album by featuring the many women artists who thrived in Iran prior to the revolution in 1979 but were pushed out by it.

"Time (You and I)" (2020)

This joyful lead single from 2020's Mordechai offers a taste of Khruangbin's more upbeat and vocal side. On it, Lee poetically muses: "That's life / If we had more time / We could live forever," a fitting anthem for the newly locked-down world it came out in. 

Towards the end of the nearly six-minute track, they repeat "That's life" in a variety of languages, a very Khruangbin statement in itself. There's a little bit of jingly cowbell on "Maria También," and here we're gifted with more cowbell flourishes, touches of synth and a healthy dose of funk.

"Doris" with Leon Bridges (2022)

"Doris" is a tender, heartfelt tune dedicated to Leon Bridges' grandmother, from Khruangbin's second collaborative EP, Texas Moon. It's also a great example of the way the band uses space as a powerful tool within their music. 

Here, minimalist instrumentation and a slow, mellow beat allows Bridges' rich voice to shine. In conversation with GRAMMY.com in 2020, Johnson and Bridges compare "Doris" and "Father Father" — another touching and spacious Texas Moon track — to the chopped and screwed sounds of '90s Houston hip-hop.

"It is so slow. And it leaves so much space. The listener is waiting for the next thing to happen within the song," Johnson said of "Doris." "I think that's something that you can really take advantage of, being from Texas and from the South and understanding chopped and screwed culture and that it's okay for things to be slow. It's okay to wait for stuff. I think it goes with the whole Southern way of life, how people slow cook food down here. When my people barbecue, they start the day before. And I take all of that mindset into the music."

"Lobbo" with Vieux Farka Touré (2022)

On 2022 collaborative album Ali, the Texas trio worked with Malian singer, songwriter and guitarist Vieux Farka Touré for a moving tribute to his late father and legendary GRAMMY-winning West African guitarist, Ali Farka Touré, reimagining his music. Khruangbin's playing fits so perfectly with Vieux's haunting voice, languid guitar and the "desert blues" Ali Farka Touré created, it's almost surprising they didn't write these songs together. On the second track, "Lobbo," we get spacious, bluesy guitars and Lee echoing and amplifying Touré's voice for a beautiful, almost mournful tune.

Ali was Khruangbin's most recent studio album, which was followed with a string of live albums, so A La Sala marks a return to where they began, just the three of them jamming together. Yet with them, they bring the influences of their travels and newly discovered records of the world, adding new flavor, wisdom and flourishes to their sound.

Leon Bridges & Khruangbin's DJ Johnson Talk Magic Of New EP 'Texas Moon,' Bringing The Church & Houston Hip-Hop Into Their Music

Gary Clark, Jr.
Gary Clark, Jr.

Photo: Mike Miller

interview

Gary Clark, Jr. On 'JPEG RAW': How A Lockdown Jam Session, Bagpipes & Musical Manipulation Led To His Most Eclectic Album Yet

Gary Clark, Jr.'s latest record, 'JPEG RAW,' is an evolution in the GRAMMY-winning singer and guitarist's already eclectic sound. Clark shares the process behind his new record, which features everything from African chants to a duet with Stevie Wonder.

GRAMMYs/Mar 18, 2024 - 01:10 pm

Stevie Wonder once said "you can’t base your life on people’s expectations." It’s something guitarist and singer Gary Clark, Jr. has taken to heart as he’s built his own career. 

"You’ve got to find your own thing," Clark tells GRAMMY.com.

Clark recently duetted with Wonder on "What About The Children," a song on his forthcoming album. Out March 22, JPEG RAW sees Clark continue to evolve with a mixtape-like kaleidoscope of sounds.

Over the years, Clark has ventured into rock, R&B, hip-hop blues, soul, and country. JPEG RAW is the next step in Clark's eclectic sound and sensibility, the result of a free-flowing jam session held during COVID-19 lockdown. Clark and his bandmates found freedom in not having a set path, adding elements of traditional African music and chants, electronic music, and jazz into the milieu.

"We just kind of took it upon ourselves to find our own way and inspire ourselves," says Clark, a four-time GRAMMY winner. "And that was just putting our heads together and making music that we collectively felt was good and we liked, music we wanted to listen to again."

The creation process was simultaneously freeing and scary.

"It was a little of the unknown and then a sense of hope, but also after there was acceptance and then it was freeing. I was like, all right, well, I guess we’re just doing this," Clark recalls. "It was an emotional, mental rollercoaster at that time, but it was great to have these guys to navigate through it and create something in the midst of it."

JPEG RAW is also deeply personal, with lyrics reflecting on the future for Clark himself, his family, and others around the globe. While Clark has long reflected on political and social uncertainties, his new release widens the lens. Songs like "Habits" examine a universal humanity in his desire to avoid bad habits, while "Maktub" details life's common struggles and hopes. 

Clark and his band were aided in their pursuit by longtime collaborator and co-producer Jacob Sciba and a wide array of collaborators. Clark’s prolific streak of collaborations continued, with the album also featuring funk master George Clinton, electronic R&B/alt-pop artist Naala, session trumpeter Keyon Harrold, and Clark’s sisters Shanan, Shawn, and Savannah. He also sampled songs by Thelonious Monk and Sonny Boy Williamson.

Clark has also remained busy as an actor (he played American blues legend Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis) and as a music ambassador (he was the Music Director for the 23rd Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor).

GRAMMY.com recently caught up with Clark, who will kick off his U.S. tour May 8, about his inspirations for JPEG RAW, collaborating with legendary musicians, and how creating music for a film helped give him a boost of confidence in the studio. 

This interview has been edited for clarity.

You incorporated traditional African music on JPEG RAW. How did it affect your songwriting process?

Well, I think traveling is how it affected my songwriting process. I was over in London, and we played a show with Songhoy Blues, and I was immediately influenced. I was like, "dang, these are my musical brothers from all the way across the world." 

I always kind of listened to West African funk and all that kind of stuff. So, I was just listening to that in the studio, and just kind of started messing around with the thing. And that just kind of evolved from there. I was later told by Jacob Sciba that he was playing that music trying to brainwash me into leaning more in that direction. I thought we were just genuinely having a good time exploring music together, and he was trying to manipulate me. [Laughs.]

I quit caring about what people thought about me wanting to be a certain thing. I think that being compared to Jimi Hendrix is a blessing and a curse for me because I'm not that. I will never be that. I never wanted to imitate or copy that, no disrespect. 

You’ve got to find your own thing. And my own thing is incorporating all the styles of music that I love, that I grew up on, and [was] influenced by as a pre-teen/teenager. To stay in one space and just be content doing that has never been my personality ever…I do what I like.

I read that you play trumpet at home and also have a set of bagpipes, just in case the mood strikes. 

I used to go collect instruments and old cameras from thrift stores and vintage shops and flea markets. So, I saw some bagpipes and I just picked them up. I've got a couple of violins. I don't play well at all — if you could consider that even playing. I've got trumpet, saxophone, flutes, all kinds of stuff just in case I can use these instruments in a way that'll make me think differently about music. It'll inspire me to go in a different direction that I've maybe never explored before, or I can translate some of that into playing guitar. 

One of my favorite guitarists, Albert Collins, was really inspired by horn players. So, if you can understand that and apply that to your number one instrument, maybe it could affect you. 

Given recent discussions about advancements in AI and our general inundation with technology, the title of your album is very relevant. What about people seeing life through that filter concerns you? Why does the descriptor seem apt?

During the pandemic, since I wasn't out in the world, I was on my phone and the information I was getting was through whatever social media platforms and what was going on in certain news outlets, all the news outlets. I'm just paying attention and I'm just like, man, there's devastation

I realized that I don't have to let it affect me. Just because things are accessible doesn't mean that you need to [access them].  It just made me think that I needed to do less of this and more of being appreciative of my world that's right in front of me, because right now it is really beautiful.

You’ve said the album plays out like a film, with a wide range of emotions throughout. What was it like seeing the album have that film-like quality?

I had conversations with the band, and I'd expressed to them that I want to be able to see it. I want to be able to see it on film, not just hear it. Keyboardist Jon Deas is great with [creating a] sonic palate and serving a mood along with [Eric] "King" Zapata who plays [rhythm] guitar. What he does with the guitar, it serves up a mood to you. You automatically see a color, you see a set design or something, and I just said, "Let's explore that. Let's make these things as dense as possible. Let's go like Hans Zimmer meets John Lee Hooker. Let's just make big songs that kind of tell some sort of a story." 

Also, we were stuck to our own devices, so we had to use our imagination. There was time, there was no schedule. So, we were free, open space, blank canvas.

The album opens with "Maktub," which is the Arabic word for fate or destiny. How has looking at different traditions given you added clarity with looking at what's happening here in the U.S.?

I was sitting in the studio with Jacob Sciba and my friend Sama'an Ashrawi and we were talking about the history of the blues. And then we started talking about the real history of the blues, not just in its American form, in an evolution back to Africa. You listen to a song like "Maktub," and then you listen to a song like, "Baby What You Want Me to Do" by Jimmy Reed…. 

The last record was This Land, but what about the whole world? What about not just focusing on this, but what else is going on out there? And we drew from these influences. We talked about family, we talked about culture, we talked about tradition, we talked about everything. And it's like, let's make it inclusive, build the people up. Let's build ourselves up. It’s not just about your small world, it’s about everybody’s feelings. Sometimes they're dealt with injustice and devastation everywhere, but there's also this global sense of hope. So, I just wanted to have a song that had the sentiment of that.

I really enjoyed the song’s hopeful message of trying to move forward.

Obviously, things are a little bit funky around here, and I don't have any answers. But maybe if we got our heads together and brainstorm, we could all figure something out instead of … struggling or suffering in silence. It's like, let's find some light here. 

But part of the talks that I had with Sama'an and his parents over a [video] call was music. He’s from Palestine, and growing up music was a way to connect. Music was a way to find happiness in a place where that wasn't an everyday convenience, and that was really powerful. That music is what brought folks together and brought joy and built a community and a common way of thinking globally. They were listening to music from all over the world, American music, rock music, and that was an influence.

The final song on the album, "Habits," sounds like it was the most challenging song to put together. What did you learn from putting that song together?

Well, that song originally was a bunch of different pieces, and I thought that they were different songs, and I was singing the different parts to them, and then I decided to put them all together. I think I was afraid to put them all together because we were like, "let's not do these long self-indulgent pieces of music. Let's keep it cool." But once I put these parts together and put these lyrics together, it just kind of made sense. 

I got emotional when I was singing it, and I was like, This is part of using this as an outlet for the things that are going on in life. We went and recorded it in Nashville with Mike Elizondo and his amazing crew, and it's like, yep, we're doing it all nine minutes of it.

You collaborated with a bunch of musicians on this album, including Naala on "This Is Who We Are." What was that experience like?

Working with Naala was great. That song was following me around for a couple of years, and I knew what I wanted it to sound like, but I didn't know how I was going to sing it. I had already laid the musical bed, and I think it was one of the last songs that we recorded vocals on for the album. 

Lyrically, it’s like a knight in shining armor or a samurai, and there's fire and there's war, and this guy's got to go find something. It was like this medieval fairytale type thing that I had in my head. Naala really helped lyrically guide me in a way that told that story, but was a little more personal and a little more vulnerable. I was about to give up on that song until she showed up in the studio. 

"What About the Children" is based on a demo that you got from Stevie Wonder. You got to duet with him, what was that collaboration like?

Oh, it was great. It was a life-changing experience. The guy's the greatest in everything, he was sweet, the most talented, hardworking, gracious, humble, but strong human being I've been in a room with and been able to create with. 

I was in shock when I left the studio at how powerful that was and how game changing and eye-opening it was. It was educational and inspiring. It was like before Stevie and after Stevie.

I imagine it was also extra special getting to have your sisters on the album.

Absolutely. We got to sing with Stevie Wonder; we used to grow up listening to George Clinton. They've stuck with us throughout my whole life. So, to be able to work with him and George Clinton — they came in wanting to do the work, hardworking, badass, nice, funny — it was a dream. 

Stevie Wonder and George Clinton are just different. They're pioneers and risk takers. For a young Black kid from Texas to see that and then later to be able to be in a room with that and get direct education and conversation…. It's an experience that not everybody gets to experience, and I'm grateful that I did, and hopefully we can do it again.

In 2022, you acted in Elvis. What are the biggest things you've learned from expanding into new creative areas?

I really have to give it up to a guy named Jeremy Grody…I went to his studio with these terrible demos that I had done on Pro Tools…and this guy helped save them and recreate them. I realized the importance of quality recordings. Jeremy Grody was my introduction to the game and really set me up to have the confidence to be able to step in rooms like that again.

I played some songs in the film, and I really understood how long a film day was. It takes all day long, a lot of takes, a lot of lights, a lot of big crews, big production.

I got to meet Lou Reed [while screening the film] at the San Sebastian Film Festival, and I was super nervous in interviews. I was giving away the whole movie. And Lou Reed said, "Just relax and have fun with all this s—." I really appreciated that.

Do you have a dream role?

I don't have a dream role, but I do know that if I was to get into acting, I’d really dive into it. I would want to do things that are challenging. I like taking risks. I want to push it to the limit. I would really like to understand what it's like to immerse yourself in the character and in the script and do it for real.

You're about to go out on tour. How will the show and production on this tour compare with the past ones?

We're building it currently, but I'm excited about what we got in store as far as the band goes. There are a few additions. I've got my sisters coming out with me. It's just going to be a big show.There's a new energy here, and I'm excited to share that with folks. 

The Black Crowes' Long Flight To New Album 'Happiness Bastards': Side Projects, Cooled Nerves & A Brotherly Rapprochement

David Macklovitch and Patrick Gemayel from Chromeo
Patrick Gemayel and David Macklovitch of Chromeo

Photo: Alexander Gay

interview

Chromeo On Their New Album 'Adult Contemporary,' Taking Risks And 30 Years Of Friendship

"We're in a little bit of our Steely Dan double-breasted suits era," Chromeo's David Macklovitch says of their sophisticated new album. Ahead of 'Adult Contemporary,' Macklovitch and Patrick Gemayel spoke about developing sophisticated dance music.

GRAMMYs/Feb 15, 2024 - 07:27 pm

Dave 1 and P-Thugg —  the dapper duo best known for their modern funk project, Chromeo — have been friends their entire adult lives. The bond that has deepened over the past 30 years shines on their latest venture, Adult Contemporary.

Out Feb. 16, Adult Contemporary explores  maturity through the lens of relationships — including their own. The duo wrote, produced, performed, and arranged every song on the album, which blends funky beats with cheeky lyrics.

But before they became Dave 1 and P-Thugg, David Macklovitch and Patrick Gemayel were a couple of skaters in Montreal making hip-hop in the '90s. In the decades since, they've garnered GRAMMY nominations for their album Head Over Heels and worked with A-list artists like D.R.A.M., Toro y Moi, and French Montana, while traveling the world. 

As Chromeo, the duo's subtle yet efficacious humor — as well as their history of collectively riding the highs and lows life throws at them, as only close friends could — is reflected throughout their discography. Adult Contemporary is no exception: On the glitzy disco tune, "BTS," Macklovitch proudly sings, "Sometimes rest can be better than sex."

"The challenge for us is taking music that's made for the dance floor, but trying to infuse some sophistication and intelligence in it," Macklovitch reflects. "There was a lot of sophistication in the arrangements on this album. We're in a little bit of our Steely Dan double-breasted suits era."

Their evolution from teenage friends to synth icons reflects a journey enriched by lasting camaraderie and musical innovation. 

"The music is as hungry and as raw as the first album, with, of course, the added value of everything we've learned in the last 20 years," Gemayel continues.

Read on to discover what the duo shared with GRAMMY.com on their enduring partnership, navigating the music scene, and their vibrant approach to life and art.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

*Why did you title this album Adult Contemporary?*

Macklovitch: This one is called Adult Contemporary because of two things. It's very lyrically cohesive. All the songs in general talk about mature relationships and different facets of mature relationships. From commitments to codependency to insomnia to ambiguousness to breakups with "Personal Effects," and so on. 

Also, it's been 20 years since we put out our first album. So we're definitely in the adult period of our career. And also we really find the phrase "Adult Contemporary" hilarious 'cause it's a nod to the worst genre of music, but also, maybe the best, or the funniest one. We always felt it could have been the title of a men's magazine, or an erotic magazine in the seventies 'cause of "adult." 

And so that play of like adult contemporary, aka really mushy, and kind of sappy… but also adult contemporary, like edgy and adults only. We thought it was a very Chromeo kind of contrast. It works on many levels. 

Also, our favorite Hall And Oates song is "Adult Education." There’s always a nod.

Given you guys have been "adults" in terms of age for a while now, what makes this album more adult compared to others?

Gemayel: I don't know if it's an adult album. The subjects on this album are mature and adult, but the music goes back to our first two records. 

We get asked about [longevity] a lot. How do you keep your career going for so long? How do you keep the friendship going so long? How do you keep a duo going for so long? We're at a stage where these subjects are now in our repertoire and our vocabulary, but our hunger and our desire to keep making music is still the same as day one. 

Macklovitch: We went back to the raw feel of the Fancy Footwork era. Also, our last two albums were more collaborative. This is one where P. and I did basically everything. We had other people play on the record, but we wrote and produced everything ourselves. But then we were able to inject a lot of the experience that we've acquired along the way. 

After 30 years of friendship, what has it been like to become adults alongside one another?

Macklovitch: We were at each other's eighteenth birthdays. We were at each other's thirtieth birthdays. We went through so many pivotal moments of life together. I remember when I applied to grad schools, and P's the one who drove me to the different post offices in New York City to drop off my applications. 

We went to the GRAMMYs together. We went to the JUNOS in Canada together. Most of the countries we've been to, we visited them together for the first time. 

Gemayel: Yeah pivotal moments. Every record we do is a pivotal moment. Us meeting is a pivotal moment. That's what keeps us together, going strong, and still wanting to release records. 

There's something new every day. Every day there's a pivotal moment. Yes, of course, I remember the day Dave moved out of Montreal to go to Columbia. I helped him move, and we did the road trip together. Or the time we got arrested in the car going to Florida. There's a lot. But for me, it's a continuation. It's an accumulation of pivotal moments. 

It's not measured by the birthday parties or the album releases. Every day offers that same experience of "I'm glad you're my best friend."

Macklovitch: That’s a great way to say it. Another thing about the adult theme of the album is that there's been this fixation on youth for the last five or six years. There are all these really funny viral TikToks of Gen Z kids being ageist on purpose, which I find hilarious. 

But everybody agrees. Youth is dumb. 

Your youth was miserable. My youth was miserable. Youth is dumb. Youth is the worst time. What was happening culturally in the last few years is that you had all these like adult corporations or business interests or cultural movements fixating on kids. And it's absurd. It's supposed to be the other way around. 

When you were a kid, you were looking up to people. You're looking up to your older brothers, your older brother's friends. You were looking up to an older skater, or you're looking up to Nas, or you're looking up to a rock band. These are your north stars. These are your guiding lights, and it shouldn't be the other way around. 

Who was the best moment of the GRAMMYs? Tracy Chapman, and, by the way, the Gen Z kids will be the first ones to say that. "Oh, my God! Iconic" Tracy Chapman. Joni Mitchell. Annie Lennox. They stole the show. 

Kids need OGs to look up to. Look at Miley Cyrus. She's 31. She's at the top of her game. She's had the best song of her career: "Flowers" is the only song I really love of hers. That one transcends, and it goes into this universal, timeless category.

Gemayel: Killer Mike is our age, and he was out and proud. "Don't tell me I'm too old."

Macklovitch: This is the Zeitgeist, my friends.

Why did you veer away from making everything yourselves for the last two albums? And then what brought you back?

Macklovitch: Every album we make is a reaction to the previous album. It's almost like having a conversation with your own body of work. When we did White Women, we had never collaborated with anybody, and we wanted to expand the sound, expand the circle, and try other features. It was super exciting, and that did really well. 

Then we went into Head Over Heels. Truth be told, We had a really nice album budget. So we were like, "Let's go, Rolls Royce. Let's get all these big [people]." 

We moved to LA to make it. We did this expensive Los Angeles album. We had heard so much about the LA session writer/producer world. We were curious because we're just two little dorks from Montreal by way of New York. 

We've done everything by ourselves our whole life. We wanna know how the sausage is made. So we went and saw that, and It was cool. We learned so much. We made great friendships, and we were able to fulfill our dreams like having The-Dream on a song. 

But then, once that's done, and then the pandemic starts and P and I are together, we're like, "You know what? Let's go back to the essence." We don't wanna be with anybody in a room. Not because they're gonna give us Covid. We gotta go back to quality time. The two of us. 

Gemayel: Like Dave said, every album is a reaction to our previous album. But it's a reaction to our full career. We're filling the gaps. And that's again, longevity. "How do you keep this exciting?" You always look back and be like, "We did this. We did this. We did that." We don't rest on our laurels. We still have something to prove. How do we complete this narrative of the Chromeo career that we hope is gonna last until we're in the hospital making beats in a bed?

What was it like taking the experience you had in L.A. with Head Over Heels back to the more internal process of making Adult Contemporary?

Gemayel: It's great. It's amazing. We're collecting tools as we go in our career. Music, vocabulary, tricks. Expand our vocabulary all the time. We started collecting records, figuring out how songs are made, what funk music is, how to dissect it, how to study it. We just keep collecting stuff along the way. 

Macklovitch: I think it helped the lyrical consistency of the album, too. When you write with other people there are five people in a room that have to sign off on every lyric. So I think when I was bringing lyrics to P on this album, we were really editing them together. 

A lot of our songs could get too cringy. It could get too Weird Al Yankovic. You really have to ride the line. It's much harder to do that than to write sad boy music. So P and I go through the lyrics, and we parse the lyrics together, and we take out the stuff that looks like it's too overthought.

I think working with other people and having that high standard in rooms with like five or six people with strong opinions — It helped our dynamic as well. 

The one guest artist on the album is La Roux who sang on "Replacements." What is it like to work with her? Also, I heard an instance where it sounds like you interpolated the vocal melody from her song "I’m Not Your Toy," into "I Don’t Need A New Girl." How did working with her influence the album beyond her vocal feature?

Macklovitch: It's great to work with her. She's super opinionated. She's a very thorough perfectionist. We've had a 15-year friendship with her. 

Last year she came out at Coachella, and we did a funk version of "Bulletproof." But then people liked it so much that we had to release it. 

We make the collaboration really organic and multi-faceted. So when you say that you hear her in other bits of the album, it's really cool. I didn't even have "I'm Not Your Toy" in mind, but it's real when the listener hears it. Not necessarily when the author thinks about it. 

So the fact that you hear it makes it valid. Doesn't matter if we thought about it or not. Cause who knows? Who knows what’s within my subconscious? Maybe it was there somewhere.

It’s like the tree falling in the woods philosophical exercise. It becomes real when someone else acknowledges it. 

Macklovitch: Music is a listener-oriented discipline. When we play live, people ask us, "Yo, you must be so excited." We always answer we're excited, but we're only excited if the crowd’s having a good time. It's really about you guys.

When P and I play a show we're like two chefs. The restaurant is packed. The stakes are high. There are a couple of Bon Appétit journalists in the room. We're stressed. We want to give you the best meal that we can give you. 

So you're asking us if we're excited. Do you go into the kitchen and be like, "Hey, chef! Are you excited?" They’ll be like "Can't talk. Busy." That's how we play a show. It's about you. It's not about us, and if you've had a great time at the show, then we can kick back after the show. We did our job.

Two strong themes from this album are gratitude and contentment. How did the gratitude and the contentment that you feel around your friendship fuel this album?

Gemayel: It's a little bit like I said before. We find pivotal moments every day. Whether you’re closing a show, doing accounting, thinking about the stage setup and how we can afford it. Or thinking about new ideas for songs, demos, patch sounds, melodies. Every moment that you get to work towards a goal is a great moment for me. 

It's in the continuum. I think that not resting on your laurels is the Chromeo motto. Never do that. So how you stay focused is you enjoy every little bit of annoying and fun moments of your career. 

Macklovitch: There are a lot of tribulations that we go through that allow us to always stay humble and never take things for granted. It always keeps us hungry. 

We always wanted to have a GRAMMY nomination. We got a GRAMMY nomination, but it's like for the nerdiest category — Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical — which actually suits us so well. But, of course, we're against Beck. Of course we didn't win the GRAMMY. So now we gotta get another one. 

Or we'll play a show that's like this triumphant show and we feel amazing. We're on the high. Then we gotta go do a corporate DJ set. You're lucky when you have those, but it might be like the Christmas lunch party for some company somewhere, and it's super awkward. 

For every success, there's always a really funny episode that grounds us. That keeps us hungry all the time.

Gemayel: The way our music is made gives you an insight into how we survive for that long. You put humor into everything. So I sometimes prefer the bad moments because we just end up laughing and making a thing out of it. You just gotta roll with the punches. That's what having a good partner is all about.

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Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

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He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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