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5 Things Spotify's ‘The Big Hit Show’ Podcast Has Revealed About Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly,’ From A Prince Cameo To Kanye West's Influence
Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ is revered as one of the greatest hip-hop albums ever. Here are five facts about the standout sophomore studio album.
When you’re as big a star as Kendrick Lamar, you remain a trending topic even during a four-year hiatus. Fresh off a Super Bowl halftime performance, the 13-time GRAMMY winner is extending his rare availability by joining Spotify’s The Big Hit Show podcast to help break down arguably the most ambitious album in his storied career: To Pimp a Butterfly.
The 2015 project served as the follow-up to Lamar’s now-classic debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city (GKMC). To Pimp a Butterfly earned the Compton native mass critical acclaim, including three GRAMMY wins and No. 19 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. One Pulitzer Prize and nearly seven years later, Lamar and The Big Hit Show are shedding light on the album through multiple hour-long episodes, with interviews from Barack Obama, Sounwave, George Clinton, Dave Free and others.
Here are five takeaways from the first two episodes:
1. There were three different versions of “King Kunta”
Mark “Sounwave” Spears, a frequent producer of Lamar, breaks down the different versions of the track by their respective amounts of groove.
“The original was completely different, super jazzy, it didn’t have the groove that it had,” Sounwave, a two-time GRAMMY winner, shared.
Following a request for more listener-friendly elements, Sounwave said he shared a much more complex version of the track that featured a piano and flute — but Lamar already knew exactly what he wanted.
Sounwave said Lamar beatboxed his preferred version, and after a studio session with Thundercat, created the version of “King Kunta” the world knows today.
2. Prince was supposed to be on the album
According to Dave Free — a two-time GRAMMY nominee, and longtime Lamar collaborator and friend — To Pimp a Butterfly was partly inspired by Lamar’s fascination with Prince.
The collaboration went as far as Lamar and Prince doing a session at Prince’s home studio in Chanhassen, Minn. While the work from that session never made it onto To Pimp a Butterfly, Free said that the spirit of Prince (a seven-time GRAMMY winner) taught Lamar an important lesson.
“Prince don’t care man. He’s doing him. That’s what we learned the most,” Free recalled on the podcast. “Do you. Do it with poise. Do it with respect. Do it with intention. But do you.”
3. The deep meaning behind “U”
Jammed between GRAMMY-winning tracks “Alright” and “These Walls,” “U” has been memed to oblivion since its initial release. These memes usually represent frustration or anger, albeit jokingly, but also capture the song’s raw emotion. “U” kicks off with a jarring scream and showcases what some close to Lamar consider to be his darkest moments.
Lamar felt powerless following the 2013 drive-by shooting and later death of his close friend, 23-year-old Chad Keaton. The passing happened at a time when the world was beginning to crown him the best rapper alive.
“A friend never would leave Compton for profit or leave his best friend brother, you promised you’d watch him,” Lamar raps on “U,” referring to the loss.
As painful as Lamar's lyrics and the accompanying sounds of crashing alcohol bottles are, descriptions from artists in the studio at the time of the track’s recording are just as heavy.
“I’ve never seen him like that,” Sounwave explained. “I felt him bombard himself with every hard thought that was hitting him at that moment just to get that feeling.”
4. Anna Wise helped come up with the album’s name
Singer/songwriter and producer Anna Wise isn’t the biggest name on the list of Lamar collaborators, but following their collaboration on GKMC’s “Real,” Lamar reached out to the former Berklee student for the title of his next album.
“I was thinking of butterflies, but I thought that was kind of silly,” Wise explained.
However, that thought stuck with Wise as she searched her local library’s metaphysical section for an album name. The first page she opened was a new chapter titled “Conversations with a Butterfly.” The three-time GRAMMY nominee took a picture, sent it to Lamar and the rest is history.
Wise would also go on to feature on the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration-winning track “These Walls” from To Pimp a Butterfly.
5. South Africa and Kanye West share credit for influencing the album
Collaborators of Lamar don’t agree on any single, influential source on To Pimp A Butterfly, but they do all circle back to two major sources of inspiration: South Africa and Kanye West’s 2013-14 Yeezus tour.
After sensing reluctance to join him on tour, West offered Lamar a selection of beats and two tour buses: one for traveling and one with a built-in studio for recording, where Lamar dove into sounds that collaborators described as experimental.
“It was the first time I’ve ever seen someone have a proper studio on the tour bus,” GRAMMY-winning producer Flying Lotus recalled.
Lamar’s trip to South Africa, between GKMC and To Pimp a Butterfly, was far less transactional. According to Top Dawg Entertainment President Punch, Lamar’s emotional connection to Africa got so extreme following his trip that he had to ask the 39-time GRAMMY nominee to tone it down.
“He went to Africa and it changed his perspective on a lot of different things. I had to remind him ‘Yo, you went to Africa. Your whole audience didn’t go to Africa,” Punch says.
Lamar himself speaks on the importance of his South Africa trip throughout episode two of the podcast, reflecting on an emotional experience inside Nelson Mandela’s cell.
“I remember going inside that cell and how humble I was that this man that was fighting for equality served 18 years in that small, little cell but still kept his mental capacity. It inspired me 100%,” Lamar recalled. “I can’t let these four corners define who I am or who my homeboys are. The whole concept about To Pimp a Butterfly was to share that experience with them, to go back to Compton and tell them what I’ve learned.”
Barack Obama Is Nominated For His Third GRAMMY For Best Spoken Word Album. For His Musical Legacy, It's The Tip Of The Iceberg.
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10 College Courses Dedicated To Pop Stars And Music: Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny & Hip-Hop
In honor of Music in Our Schools Month, check out nine college-level music courses that dissect punk and EDM, global hip-hop culture and the discographies and careers of superstar acts like the Beatles and Harry Styles.
There’s never been a better time to be a music-loving college student.
Beginning in the mid to late aughts, an increasing number of academic institutions have begun offering courses dedicated to major music acts. In the late aughts, rap maverick Jay-Z made headlines after becoming the subject of a Georgetown University course taught by Michael Eric Dyson, a sociologist and best-selling author of Jay-Z: Made in America. In the Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z, students analyzed Hova's life, socio-cultural significance and body of work.
It's easy to see why students would be attracted to these courses — which fill up quickly and are often one-time-only offerings. The intertwining of celebrity and sociology present such fertile grounds to explore, and often make for buzzy social media posts that can be a boon to enrollment numbers. For instance, Beyhivers attending the University of Texas at San Antonio were offered the opportunity to study the Black feminism foundations of Beyoncé's Lemonade in 2016. Meanwhile, Rutgers offered a course dedicated to dissecting the spiritual themes and imagery in Bruce Springsteen's catalog.
Luckily for students clamoring to get a seat in these highly sought-after courses, institutions across the country are constantly launching new seminars and classes about famous pop stars and beloved musical genres. From Bad Bunny to Harry Styles, the following list of popular music courses features a little something for every college-going music fan.
Bad Bunny's Impact On Media
From his chart-topping hits to his advocacy work, Bad Bunny has made waves on and off stage since rising to fame in 2016. Now graduate students at San Diego State University can explore the global superstar's cultural impact in an upcoming 2023 course.
"He speaks out about Puerto Rico; he speaks out about the Uvalde shooting victims and uses his platform to raise money and help them," said Dr. Nate Rodriguez, SDSU Associate Professor of Digital Media Studies. "How does he speak out against transphobia? Support the LGBTQ community? How does all of that happen? So yes, it’s very much relevant to journalism and media studies and cultural studies. It’s all of that mixed into one."
A Deep Dive Into Taylor Swift's Lyrics
Analyzing Taylor Swift's lyrics is a favorite pastime among Swifties, so it's fitting that her work and its feminist themes have been the focus of a string of university courses over the years.
In spring 2022, the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University launched an offering focused on the "Anti-Hero" singer's evolution as an entrepreneur, race and female adolescence. The waitlisted course — the first-ever for the institution — drew loads of media attention and Swift received an honorary degree from NYU in 2022.
In spring 2023, honors students at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas can analyze the 12-time GRAMMY winner's music and career in a seminar titled Culture and Society- Taylor Swift.
Kendrick Lamar's Storytelling & The Power Of Hip-Hop
Since dropping good kid, m.A.A.d. City in 2012, Kendrick Lamar has inspired a slew of academics to develop classes and seminars around his lyrical content and storytelling, including an English class that juxtaposed his work with that of James Baldwin and James Joyce.
More recently, Concordia University announced that the 16-time GRAMMY winner will be the focus of The Power of Hip Hop, It’s Bigger Than Us, a course examining the lyrical themes of Lamar’s works, such as loyalty, fatherhood, class and racial injustice.
"No artist speaks to this ethos louder and more intricately than King Kunta, the prince of Compton, Kendrick Lamar, 10 years after good kid, m.A.A.d. City dropped," said Yassin "Narcy" Alsalman, the Montreal hip-hop artist and Concordia Professor who developed the class which launches in winter 2023. “He showed us it was okay to work on yourself in front of the world and find yourself internally, that family always comes first, that community and collective missions are central to growth and that sometimes, you have to break free."
EDM Production, Techniques, and Applications
If you dream of hearing your own EDM tracks played at a massive music festival à la Marshmello, Steve Aoki and Skrillex, this all-in-one course at Boston's Berklee College of Music has you covered. Learn about the cultural origins of the various EDM styles — like techno, trance, drum and bass and more — and the techniques that artists use to achieve these sounds.
In between thought-provoking cultural seminars, students will receive lessons on how to operate the technologies necessary to create their own EDM masterpieces, including synths, digital audio workstations (DAW) and samplers.
Harry Styles And The Cult Of Celebrity
While many celebrity-focused courses center around sociology, the Harry’s House singer/songwriter has inspired his own digital history course at Texas State University in San Marcos: Harry Styles and the Cult of Celebrity: Identity, the Internet and European Pop Culture.
Developed by Dr. Louie Dean Valencia during lockdown, the class will cover Styles’ music along with topics like gender, sexual identity and class — but the singer-songwriter’s personal life is off limits. Stylers who are lucky enough to grab a spot in this first-ever university course dedicated to their fave can expect to revisit One Direction’s catalog for homework.
"I’ve always wanted to teach a history class that is both fun, but also covers a period that students have lived through and relate to," Dr. Valencia wrote in a Twitter post. "By studying the art, activism, consumerism and fandom around Harry Styles, I think we’ll be able to get to some very relevant contemporary issues. I think it’s so important for young people to see what is important to them reflected in their curriculum."
Global Hip Hop Culture(s): Hip Hop, Race, and Social Justice from South Central to South Africa
Since its inception, hip-hop has left a lasting mark on the world, influencing language, fashion, storytelling and beyond. At the University of California Los Angeles, students can learn about how the art form has shaped young minds as they analyze the various hip-hop scenes worldwide.
As part of a mission to establish the university as a leading center for hip-hop studies, UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies launched a hip-hop initiative featuring an artist-in-residence program, digital archives, and a series of postdoctoral fellowships. Chuck D, the founder of the barrier-breaking hip-hop group Public Enemy, was selected as the first artist-in-residence.
"As we celebrate 50 years of hip-hop music and cultural history, the rigorous study of the culture offers us a wealth of intellectual insight into the massive social and political impact of Black music, Black history and Black people on global culture — from language, dance, visual art and fashion to electoral politics, political activism and more," said associate director H. Samy Alim, who is leading the initiative.
The Music Of The Beatles
With their catchy two-minute pop hits, artsy record covers, headline-making fashions and groundbreaking use of studio tech, the Fab Five are among the most influential acts in music history. It’s no surprise, then, that they are the subjects of courses in a number of colleges and universities.
Boston’s Berklee College of Music offers The Music of Beatles, which digs into the group’s body of work as well as the music they penned for other acts. Alternatively, if you’re more interested in their post-breakup works, The Solo Careers of the Beatles dives into those efforts. Meanwhile, the University of Southern California takes a look at their music, careers and impact in The Beatles: Their Music and Their Times.
Symbolic Sisters: Amy Winehouse and Erykah Badu
Whether you want to learn about craft, management, building a career, or marketing your work, the Clive Davis Institute at NYU offers an impressive curriculum for musicians and artists. With seminars focusing on the works of Prince, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, and J. Dilla, a unique duo stands out: Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse.
Framing the pair as "symbolic sisters," this two-credit seminar explores and compares how each songstress fused different genres and styles to forge a magnetic sound of their own. Winehouse rose to prominence for her retro spin on the sounds of Motown and Phil Spector and rebellious styling. A decade before "Back to Black" singer hit the mainstream, Badu — who is recognized as one of Winehouse's influences — rose to stardom thanks to her seamless blend of jazz, R&B, and hip-hop and captivating urban-bohemian style, creating a template for singers like SZA and Ari Lennox.
Selena: Music, Media and the Mexican American Experience
From ascending to the top of the male-dominated Tejano genre to helping introduce Latin music to the mainstream, Selena Quintanilla's impact continues to be felt decades after her untimely death. Artists including Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Victoria "La Mala" Ortiz, Becky G and Beyoncé cite the GRAMMY-winning "Queen of Tejano" as an influence.
Throughout the years, her legacy and cultural impact have been the focus of dozens of college courses. In 2023, Duke University continues this tradition with Selena: Music, Media and the Mexican American Experience. The course will explore the life, career and cultural impact of the beloved Tejano singer.
The Art of Punk: Sound, Aesthetics and Performance
Since emerging in the 1970s, punk rock has been viewed as a divisive, politically charged music genre. Its unique visual style — which can include leather jackets, tattoos, chunky boots and colorful hair — was absorbed into the mainstream in the '90s, where it continues to thrive (to the chagrin of hardcore punks everywhere). Over the decades, dozens of subgenres have cropped up and taken the spotlight — including riot grrrl and pop-punk — but very few have left the impact of the classic punk sound from the '70s and its anti-establishment themes.
If you're interested in learning more about the genre that inspired bands like Nirvana, check out Stanford University's The Art of Punk seminar, which explores the genre's visual and sonic origins, as well as its evolution and connections to race, class, and gender.
Meet Me @ The Altar Reveal The 4 "Badass" Female Artists Who Inspired Their Debut Album, 'Past // Present // Future'
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The 2023 GRAMMYs Effect: Bad Bunny, Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo & More See Major Sales And Streams Boost After Record-Breaking Show
Take a look at the impressive gains that 2023 GRAMMYs winners and performers made in Spotify streams and album/song sales, from Beyoncé to Harry Styles.
The 2023 GRAMMYs weren't just historic, they were iconic — and the numbers show it.
The telecast itself saw a 30% increase in viewership, with more than 12.4 million viewers tuning into the Feb. 5 ceremony, the best ratings since 2020 per Nielsen data. In turn, several of the night's winners and performers saw major spikes in sales and streams.
Album Of The Year winner Harry Styles returned to the top 10 of the all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart, as Harry's House — which also took home the GRAMMY for Best Pop Vocal Album — earned 38,000 equivalent album units in the U.S., a 51% gain. His previous two albums, 2019's Fine Line and his 2017 self-titled debut also made gains, the former up 15% and the latter up 11%.
Kendrick Lamar and Adele also enjoyed increases in sales and streams on several albums. Lamar — who won three GRAMMYs this year, including Best Rap Album for Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers — had a 20% gain for his fifth LP, as well as a 26% gain for 2015's To Pimp a Butterfly, 11% for 2017's DAMN., and 6% for 2012's good kid, m.A.A.d city.
Adele's 30 had a 25% increase in equivalent album units, while her 2015 album 25 went up 14% and 2011 release 21 went up 10%. (30's lead single, "Easy On Me," earned Adele her fifth GRAMMY for Best Pop Solo Performance — a record in the category.)
After Beyoncé made GRAMMY history at the 2023 ceremony with her 32nd win, her Best Dance/Electronic Music Album-winning RENAISSANCE made a huge jump. The album earned 37,000 equivalent album units, up 109%, helping Bey move from No. 24 to No. 11 on the Billboard 200.
Rising jazz star Samara Joy also had a monumental night, scoring the coveted GRAMMY for Best New Artist. As a result, her 2022 album, Linger Awhile, made its debut on the Billboard 200, with an equivalent album units gain of 319% and a 5,800% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S. The project also hit No. 1 on the Jazz Albums, Traditional Jazz Albums and Heatseekers Albums charts for the first time, as well as the top 10 of the Top Album Sales and Top Current Album Sales charts.
Blues great Bonnie Raitt's win for Song Of The Year (for her 2022 track "Just Like That") served as one of the night's biggest surprises, but also served as a catalyst for some serious streams and sales success. The song spiked from about 10,000 daily on-demand streams in the U.S. on Feb. 3 to 697,000 the day after the GRAMMYs (Feb. 6) — a gain of around 6,700% — according to Luminate. The song's sales were even better, gaining more than 10,000% on Feb. 6; the rest of Raitt's discography also climbed 161%, from 333,000 on-demand U.S. streams on Feb. 3 to 869,000 on Feb. 6.
Most of the 2023 GRAMMYs performers also celebrated sales and streams increases post-telecast. Show opener Bad Bunny saw gains on his GRAMMY-winning albumUn Verano Sin Ti (up 16%), as well as his 2020 albums YHLQMDLG (up 11%) and El Ultimo Tour del Mundo (up 8%). One of the songs Bad Bunny performed, Un Verano Sin Ti single "Despues de la Playa," also saw a 100% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S. in the hour following the telecast.
Lizzo delivered a soaring medley of her Record Of The Year-winning smash "About Damn Time" and the title track from her AOTY-nominated LP Special, the latter of which saw a 260% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S. after the show. Special also moved 11,000 equivalent album units, up 52%.
Steve Lacy won his first GRAMMY in the Premiere Ceremony, Best Progressive R&B Album for his album Gemini Rights. He also took the GRAMMYs stage for a sultry rendition of his hit "Bad Habit," all helping Lacy see a 16% increase in equivalent album units for Gemini Rights.
Sam Smith and Kim Petras also celebrated a historic win at the 2023 GRAMMYs, taking home Best Pop Duo/Group performance for their viral hit "Unholy" — marking the first win in the category by a trans woman. That moment, combined with the pair's risqué performance, helped the song see an almost 80% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S.
The heartfelt In Memoriam segment catalyzed stream increases, the biggest coming from Quavo's "Without U," which he sang in tribute to his late Migos bandmate and nephew Takeoff; the song jumped 890% in U.S. streams following the show. Fleetwood Mac's "Songbird," which Mick Fleetwood, Bonnie Raitt, and Sheryl Crow sang in honor of late Fleetwood Mac member Christine McVie, experienced an almost 100% increase in U.S. streams.
In other U.S. Spotify stream gains for performers, Harry Styles' "As It Was," saw a more than 75% increase; Brandi Carlile's "Broken Horses" saw a more than 2,700% increase; DJ Khaled's star-studded "God Did" (featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and John Legend) saw a more than 650% increase; Mary J. Blige's "Good Morning Gorgeous" saw a more than 390% increase.
Streaming numbers are from DKC News, a PR representative of Spotify.
12 Classic Moments From The 2023 GRAMMYs, From The Heartwarming To The Surreal
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How Kendrick Lamar's 2023 GRAMMYs Wins Bolstered His GRAMMYs Legacy
The wildly talented rapper won golden gramophones in three rap categories for Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers and "The Heart Part 5." But as far as the GRAMMYs are concerned, that's just the tip of the iceberg.
When Kendrick Lamar stepped on stage at the 2023 GRAMMYs to receive his golden gramophone for Best Rap Album, he didn't strike a note of bravado or bluster — but of humility.
"First and foremost, I want to thank my family for giving me the courage and vulnerability to share these stories and share my truth with this album," Lamar told the audience at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, referring to Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers' plethora of raw-nerve confessionals.
"As artists, we're all entertainers — stupid, you know — and we say things to provoke thoughts and feelings and emotions," he continued. "This was one of my toughest records to make, and it allowed me to do that — and to share other people's experiences."
That Lamar could hit both artistic goalposts — bare his deepest vulnerabilities, fears and insecurities and channel them into daring and forward-thinking music — speaks to his utter magnitude as an artist. But there's a third component; for his trouble, Lamar was honored by the world's leading society of music professionals — for a staggering 17th time.
Since Lamar won his first golden gramophones for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song for To Pimp a Butterfly's "I" at the 2015 GRAMMYs, he's steadily built a GRAMMYs legacy in parallel with his unstoppable creative evolution.
Naturally, Lamar is a steady presence in the rap categories — with his win for Best Rap Performance at the 2023 GRAMMYs for non-album single "The Heart Part 5," he extended his lead as the most awarded artist in that category with six.
But as nominations go, he's consistently burst past the rap categories and into the General Field. This put him in a league of rappers as bona fide superstars, alongside the likes of Jay-Z, who's been nominated for General Field categories for decades, and Drake, who received an Album Of The Year nomination in 2014 for his feature on Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d city.
Another component of Lamar's GRAMMY legacy is his malleability; he hasn't only been nominated for GRAMMYs for his universally acclaimed releases, but those in collaboration with other artists, and on soundtracks. At the 2019 GRAMMYs, Lamar was nominated for Album Of The Year for the Black Panther soundtrack — which he curated and executive produced — as well as Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year for the SZA-featuring lead single, "All the Stars."
Finally — and most eye-grabbingly — Lamar has delivered at least a couple of the most unforgettable GRAMMY performances of all time, At the 2016 GRAMMYs, his literally fiery one-two salvo of "The Blacker the Berry" and "Alright" got the whole world talking. Two years later, Lamar performed a politically charged medley of "XXX," "DNA," and Jay Rock's "King's Dead," studded with military imagery and blazes of gunfire.
Lamar's latest golden gramophones have only added fuel to the rapper's boundless ascent. And with material as uncompromising and vulnerable as "The Heart Part 5" and Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, these GRAMMY wins show that courage can truly pay off.
How Hip-Hop Took Over The 2023 GRAMMYs, From The Golden Anniversary To God Did
Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for the Recording Academy
How Hip-Hop Took Over The 2023 GRAMMYs, From The Golden Anniversary To 'God Did'
It's the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, but the 2023 GRAMMYs celebrations didn't stop at the epic, MC-saturated blowout. Here are five ways the genre took over Music's Biggest Night.
The 2023 GRAMMYs' ambitious, world-beating tribute to hip-hop's 50th anniversary is getting a lot of ink — for a very good reason.
Featuring an ensemble ranging from progenitors like Grandmaster Flash and Run-DMC, to legends such as Too Short and Missy Elliott, and modern-day practitioners like Lil Baby, GloRilla and Lil Uzi Vert, the tribute segment was stunning not only on a logistical level, but on conceptual, emotional and historical planes.
But the Recording Academy's tribute to this landmark in time wasn't siphoned off to that 15-minute segment — not even close. In fact, the entirety of Music's Biggest Night radiated with the courageous, intrepid, forward-thinking spirit of hip-hop.
The tribute performance was just one of many nods to rap during GRAMMY week. Days before, Lil Wayne, Missy Elliott and Dr. Dre were honored by the Recording Academy’s Black Music Collective in a ceremony that contained performances by Snoop Dogg, 2 Chainz and Ciara. And the pre-GRAMMY gala featured a performance from Weezy, Latto and Lil Baby.
At Music’s Biggest Night, the hip-hop love roared fully to life. Here are five ways hip-hop took over the 2023 GRAMMYs, a foreshadowing of an entire year in celebration of the epochal artform — with the extended hip-hop tribute as a springboard.
GloRilla performing at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Photo: Getty Images for the Recording Academy
A Global Hip-Hop Rager For The Ages
Until Music's Biggest Night, to fit hip-hop's evolution and essence into 15 minutes would seem logistically untenable. But the Academy did the impossible.
The Questlove-curated set moved lightning-quick from '70s and '80s pioneers, to 2000s radio dominators like Nelly, all the way to the current era.
Like with the last Super Bowl's ensemble cast of rap greats, the result was emotionally walloping, historically edifying and visually spectacular.
Most importantly, the music was exceptional — a tip of the hat to a precious form of American expression. To anyone who still subscribes to some form of stigma — you don't know what you're missing.
The Rap Categories Contained Serious Jewels
Let's take a step back, though, and examine the 2023 GRAMMYs' hip-hop nominees and winners themselves.
Kendrick Lamar was well-represented in both the General and Rap fields, and commensurately for Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers and Lamar's non-album single "The Heart Pt. 5."
For the former, Lamar won Best Rap Album; for the latter, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. With the success of "The Heart Pt. 5," he is now the most-awarded artist in the latter category.
Together, these offerings comprise something of a creative and emotional watershed for Lamar. As for Pusha T, It's Almost Dry — nominated for Best Rap Album — contained some of his most crystal-sharp coke raps to date.
Plus, the sheer range of guests on DJ Khaled's GOD DID — nominated for Best Rap Album — could be the ultimate testament to his indomitable spirit, curatorial acumen and infectious sense of largesse.
This also applies to fellow nominees from Future, who won Best Melodic Rap Performance for "WAIT FOR U," to Jack Harlow, who was nominated liberally throughout the Rap field.
Given the level of craft throughout, hip-hop isn't just ripe to be celebrated for its past, but for its boundless future.
Dr. Dre Was Presented With A Global Impact Award
At the 2023 GRAMMYs, seven-time GRAMMY winner Dr. Dre was the recipient of the inaugural Dr. Dre Global Impact Award for his multitude of achievements through his innovative, multi-decade career.
Dr. Dre was presented the award after a plethora of televised bona fides, and offered his thanks to the Recording Academy and Black Music Collective for the prestigious honor in light of the Recording Academy's celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.
A tribute to Takeoff during the 2023 GRAMMYs. Photo: Getty Images for the Recording Academy
Quavo Performed A Moving Tribute To The Late Takeoff
There's a bittersweetness to celebrating hip-hop on a global scale in 2023, as so many of its best and brightest have died far too young in recent years.
Among these tragedies was the senseless death of Takeoff, one-third of the family-bound rap trio Migos, along with Offset and Quavo.
Read More: Remembering Takeoff: Why The Unassuming Rapper Was Foundational To Migos
As part of the In Memoriam segment, backed by worship ensemble Maverick City Music, Quavo honored his late nephew with a soul-searing version of "Without You."
"Tears rollin' down my eyes / Can't tell you how many times I cried," he rapped before an empty microphone stand, poignantly hung with Takeoff's chain. "Days ain't the same without you / I don't know if I'm the same without you."
John Legend, Fridayy, and DJ Khaled performing at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
DJ Khaled & Company Closed The Curtain With "GOD DID"
At the end of the ceremony, DJ Khaled brought out collaborators Jay-Z, John Legend, Lil Wayne, Fridayy, and Rick Ross for a rendition of GOD DID's title track, which was nominated for Song Of The Year, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance.
Seated horizontally in an opulent, Last Supper-esque tableau, the stars sang their hooks while bathed in purple light, closing out the 2023 GRAMMYs with laconic flair.
It was a fitting conclusion to Music's Biggest Night, one that placed hip-hop where it belongs: on the top shelf.
2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Winners & Nominees List