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Latin Music Industry And Artists Discuss The Genre's History, Cultural Impact And Future Trends At 2020 GRAMMY Week Panel

Tainy at 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2019

Photo: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

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Latin Music Industry And Artists Discuss The Genre's History, Cultural Impact And Future Trends At 2020 GRAMMY Week Panel

Presented by The Recording Academy, the official GRAMMY Week panel featured industry luminaries and the genre's leading artists who discussed the evolution of Latin music and the road ahead for the scene

GRAMMYs/Jan 25, 2020 - 12:13 am

There's no denying the massive impact Latin music is having on global pop culture today. On any given day, it's commonplace to hear all-Spanish songs, Latin-influenced rhythms and Spanish-language remixes and features on mainstream radio, TV and film. 

The industry stats paint a vivid picture of just how far of a reach Latin music currently commands: With global hits like Luis Fonsi's and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito," still the most-streamed music video of all time, leading the charge, Latin music today stands as the fifth-most popular genre in America.

To celebrate the international success and ongoing growth of the Latin music industry, The Recording Academy this week presented a special panel during GRAMMY Week 2020, the first-ever official event of its kind from the organization behind the GRAMMYs. Hosted at the Soho Warehouse in Downtown Los Angeles, the intimate panel featured industry luminaries and the genre's leading artists who discussed the evolution of the Latin music industry and culture, its current developments and issues, and the future trends to watch in the scene.

"We felt that there was a void, and this conversation needed to happen during GRAMMY Week, a time when the music community comes together to really celebrate creators and all their accomplishments," Laura Rodriguez, a social media specialist with The Recording Academy and one of the night's hosts, said of the panel. "We knew it had to be impactful and really drive the message on how Latin music is bringing la cultura to the altura." Co-host Jennifer Velez, a staff writer for GRAMMY.com, added in a statement that "the overwhelming support for the panel validates the need for conversations like these in and out of Latinx music spaces."

Here are some of the key takeaways from the event. 

Latin Music Has Come A Long Way…

The night's conversation began with a nod to the so-called "Latin explosion" of the late '90s, an era that saw Latin pop entering the national mainstream like never before, with major artists like Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias and Jennifer Lopez dominating the charts in the U.S. More than 20 years later, Latin music is once again one of the foremost genres not only in the U.S.—for the second consecutive year, the U.S. Latin music industry in the States reported double-digit growth in 2018, according to the RIAA—but also around the world.

"What you see today is honestly an explosion of... [artists] singing in Spanish, and they're singing in Spanish not [only] here, not [only] in Latin America, but they're also singing Tel Aviv, in London, all over the world," Rudy Lopez Negrete, an agent at CAA, said. "And that has never happened. That is incredible. That's a real explosion. It was paved by so many others, but we're in an apex of our industry and our genre, in terms of music, that's never been had." 

…But The Industry Is Still Facing Some Of The Same Issues

While Latin music has become a major part of the larger global mainstream culture, the industry continues to struggle with some of the same cultural and social issues that afflicted the scene 20 years ago. 

Yvonne Drazan, VP Latin Division of West Coast at Peer Music and a self-described "OG" in the Latin music industry for decades, remembered her time during the first Latin explosion when she worked with genre luminaries like Selena

"It was extremely exciting for all of us that were working in the industry at the time because we felt like we were finally being heard," she recalled. "But at the same time, we struggled a lot with the stereotypes of what Latin community is and what Latin music is. At that time, I felt as though all of those artists—Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin—they were doing American music in English because I don't feel like anybody felt as though they had the license to be able to bring in their Latin influences into what was happening at the moment. So it was sort of like, you can be Latino, but you have to sound like you're not Latino." 

Read: "Amplifying Music’s Reach" GRAMMY Week Panel Discusses Human Connection, MusiCares Research, Outreach, & More

"While I do believe that the general market has opened the doors to the Latin community and to Latin music and Latin artists," she continued, "but every now and then when there are these opportunities, I always feel as though the general market wants to embrace the Latin market, but they want us to fit into a very specific box. I feel like that's the biggest challenge that we've had as the general market has embraced us more and more. They still want to put that wardrobe on us… or do whatever it is so that we can be identified as what they think a Latino is supposed to be. We still have to pass that hurdle in order for us to really be a part of the overall general market."

There Is A Gender Problem In Latin Music

Gender imbalance has been an ongoing issue that's affected the wider music industry, impacting genres like country and rap as well as the producer realm. The Latin music industry, too, is facing a gender imbalance problem, with female artists lacking representation on the Latin charts and radio. 

Loren Medina, owner of Guerrera PR, Marketing & Management, sees Latin music's gender issue as a symptom of a larger cultural and societal problem. 

"Music always is parallel to our culture," she said. "As women, we're still fighting to be equal. For instance, how many women are engineers? Not engineers in music, just engineers in general. I think once the narrative changes in our culture [where] you could be a producer, you could be an engineer, I think, more women will start going into that. I've seen a rise in female producers... but I think that music and culture is parallel. I think that's all changing, and that's going to change music as well."

Read: Closing The Gap: How Latina Artists Are Combating Gender Inequality In Urban Music 

For Drazan, the answer to the gender issue stems from a lack of representation at the executive level. Diverse voices and representation at the executive table, she says, will bring forth the change necessary to equalize the playing field.

"There are not enough of us that are in positions that are decision-makers, people that are green-lighting the stuff," Drazan says. "There has to be people in those positions that are open to gender, ethnicity, all of it. Until there are more women in the position of bringing those creators together, it's not really going to change. So the responsibility is squarely on us that are in the industry to bring those other girls and other voices up with us to be in positions to green-light stuff."

Beyond Reggaeton

The current wave of Latin music and artists has paved a path for urbano genres like reggaeton, Latin trap and dembow. Still, while urban-leaning sounds and genres dominate the scene, tastes within the larger Latin marketplace vary widely. It's a reflection of the extensive cultural diversity within the Latin demographic itself.

Recently, there's been a rise in next-gen Latin alternative artists, with bedroom producers and DIY artists like Los Retros, Jasper Bones and Omar Apollo leading the charge. 

Latin R&B is one of the next scenes to watch, says Drazan. 

"On the Latin market," she said, "that side of the urban genre hasn't really broken through yet, but it's like right there. There's a really incredible movement in Mexico right now with a lot of really cool R&B artists that are singing in Spanish. I'm just like waiting for like that moment when one of these [artists] breaks through and really opens that more melodic, poetic romantic side of urban music that we're missing."

Read: Sheléa Serves GRAMMY Week Motivation: "This Is Why I Do What I Do, To Give To The Next Generation" 

Tainy, a premier reggaeton and Latin pop producer who's worked with everyone from Wisin & Yandel to Bad Bunny, sees crossover potential for Afrobeats, a mushrooming genre and scene, and Latin music.

"To me, if the music is amazing, it will find its way either way," he says. "But I think, little by little, most of the artists are getting to know the music coming from different places and seeing how they could adapt that to their music or see if that helps the public to get to know these artists. I don't think it's far away for it to be like that next movement that also has a lot of fan base on the Latin side."

The Future Of Latin Music

While Latin music is currently experiencing a massive boom, the entire industry is already looking ahead at the next opportunities on the horizon and the future of the genre. 

For Medina, Latin music will continue to expand into the global mainstream, largely thanks to genre-defying artist and the changing sociopolitical landscape on a worldwide scale. 

"There are enough artists like Kali Uchis and Jessie Reyez and Omar Apollo and Cuco that are genre-benders [and] are going to keep fusing stuff," she said. "I think it's going to continue to evolve. I think that we're already mainstream music, and we're just going to be much more integrated... We are mainstream, and we're going to continue to be mainstream, and people are going to listen to our music whether they understand it or not because the whole entire culture, in a political sense, is changing in our country. And that's going to make this grow even more. So I'm optimistic."

Read: Los Angeles' First Permanent Latin Music Gallery Launches At GRAMMY Museum

On a market scale, Lopez Negrete echoes the sentiment. He agrees the only path for Latin music and the overall Latin culture is adelante.

"I think what we're doing is impacting culture," he says. "We're doing that through music, we're doing that through fashion, we're doing that through food. We're doing that through so many different things. It's not just happening in the United States. It's starting to happen globally as well. We're starting to be seen as a sector within the U.S. that can impact global perception in all kinds of different things."

"In terms of brands and corporations trying reach our consumer base," he continues, "no matter what way music goes, the consumer base is going to continue to grow. It's going to continue to be more important than ever. As brands trying to continue to attract that base, whatever the hell we come up with, that's what they're going to tap into. It's an incredibly exciting time and it's not going anywhere."

Tainy, in perhaps the most musically optimistic statement of the night, agrees that the possibilities within the genre are limitless. 

"I think it's only going to get bigger, so hopefully we keep expanding because that's the main thing: just to like see what's never been done or hasn't been tried," he said. "That's what gonna make this music exciting and make it not go anywhere."

2020 GRAMMY Awards: Complete Nominees List

Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

 
This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.

DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Samantha Smith and John Legend

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle And John Legend Win Best Rap/Sung Performance For "Higher" | 2020 GRAMMYs

DJ Khaled, Nipsey Hussle and John Legend take home Best Rap/Sung Performance at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Jan 27, 2020 - 09:05 am

DJ Khaled, featuring Nipsey Hussle and John Legend, has won Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Higher" at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards. The single was featured on DJ Khaled's 2019 album Father of Asahd and featured Hussle's vocals and Legend on the piano. DJ Khaled predicted the track would win a GRAMMY.

"I even told him, 'We're going to win a GRAMMY.' Because that's how I feel about my album," DJ Khaled told Billboard. "I really feel like not only is this my biggest, this is very special."

After the release of the song and music video -- which was filmed before Hussle's death in March -- DJ Khaled announced all proceeds from "Higher" will go to Hussle's children.

DJ Khaled and co. beat out fellow category nominees Lil Baby & Gunna ("Drip Too Hard"), Lil Nas X ("Panini"), Mustard featuring Roddy Ricch ("Ballin") and Young Thug featuring J. Cole & Travis Scott ("The London"). Hussle earned a second posthumous award at the 62nd GRAMMYs for Best Rap Performance for "Racks In The Middle." 

Along with Legend and DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG paid tribute to Hussle during the telecast, which concluded with "Higher."

Check out the complete 62nd GRAMMY Awards nominees and winners list here.

Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Aerosmith, Gwen Stefani And Blake Shelton To Perform At The 2020 GRAMMYs

Lizzo

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Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Aerosmith, Gwen Stefani And Blake Shelton To Perform At The 2020 GRAMMYs

Some of music's biggest stars will take the stage at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards, taking place Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, and broadcasting live on CBS at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT

GRAMMYs/Jan 8, 2020 - 07:32 pm

Get ready to #UnexpectEverything as the first wave of performers for the 62nd GRAMMY Awards has been announced. Artists taking the stage on Music's Biggest Night are first-time nominee breakout stars Billie Eilish and Lizzo, who will each make their GRAMMY stage debuts; powerhouse artists Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, who will take the GRAMMY stage together for the first time ever; and four-time GRAMMY winners and 2020 MusiCares Person of the Year Aerosmith, who will perform a medley of some of their legendary hits. It all goes down on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, live from STAPLES Center in Los Angeles and broadcasted live on the CBS Television Network at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

Rock icons Aerosmith make their triumphant return to the GRAMMY stage this month as performers, nearly 30 years after making their GRAMMY stage debut at the 33rd GRAMMY Awards in 1991. In addition to their career-spanning performance, the legendary band is also being honored as this year's MusiCares Person Of The Year, which will recognize their considerable philanthropic efforts over five decades as well as their undeniable impact on American music history. Through the years, Aerosmith have shown support for a number of charities around the world, including frontman Steven Tyler’s Janie’s Fund.

The 2020 GRAMMYs will also feature highly anticipated debut performances from two of the biggest breakout artists of the past two years: Billie Eilish and Lizzo. 

First-time GRAMMY nominee and performer Billie Eilish is in the running for some of the night's biggest awards, including: Best New Artist; Album Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Album for her 2019 album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?; and Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance for album single "Bad Guy."

Lizzo, who received the most nominations at the 2020 GRAMMYs with a total of eight nods, is making her debut as both a GRAMMY nominee and performer this month. She's up for several major awards, including Best New Artist. Her 2019 album, Cuz I Love You [Deluxe], is also up for Album Of The Year and Best Urban Contemporary Album, while album track "Truth Hurts" is nominated for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. Album tracks "Exactly How I Feel" and "Jerome" are also nominated for Best R&B Performance and Best Traditional R&B Performance, respectively. 

Taking the GRAMMY stage together for the first time ever, three-time GRAMMY winner Gwen Stefani will perform alongside Blake Shelton, a current GRAMMY nominee who's up for Best Country Solo Performance for his 2019 track, "God’s Country."

Tune in to the 62nd GRAMMY Awards, which are once again hosted by Alicia Keys, on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, and broadcasting live on CBS at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT to catch all these amazing performances and to see who will take home the night's biggest awards. 

Camila Cabello, H.E.R., Jonas Brothers, Bonnie Raitt & More To Perform At The 2020 GRAMMY Awards

BTS Release Stunning Music Video For 'Map Of The Soul: 7' Single "Black Swan"

BTS - "Black Swan" Music Video

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BTS Release Stunning Music Video For 'Map Of The Soul: 7' Single "Black Swan"

The striking visual is the latest offering from the South Korean septet's chart-topping album

GRAMMYs/Mar 4, 2020 - 11:19 pm

BTS are back with another stunning music video off their newly released, chart-topping album Map Of The Soul: 7. Today (March 4), the global pop superstars released the official music video for "Black Swan," the first single off the album.

Simple yet striking, the "Black Swan" video shows the South Korean septet deliver a gorgeous dance performance inside an equally beautiful theater. Directed by YongSeok Choi and co-directed by Guzza, both from the Lumpens creative collective, the visual depicts the members of BTS transforming from swans into the song's eponymous black swans onstage. 

The "Black Swan" video follows the group's recent cinematic visual for Map Of The Soul: 7 single "ON," which last week (Feb. 28) broke YouTube's record for most views for a video premiere. Last month (Feb. 21), BTS released the Kinetic Manifesto Film: Come Prima, the first visual for "ON" that unfolds like a short film.

Released last month, Map Of The Soul: 7, BTS' fourth studio album, is breaking records around the world. Already the best-selling album of the year worldwide, the album topped the Billboard 200 chart, their fourth No. 1 album in the U.S., while lead single "ON" currently sits at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, marking their highest record on that chart to date.

Read: BTS Talk New Album 'Map Of The Soul: 7': "The Genre Is BTS"

In an interview with the Recording Academy last month, BTS explained their creative approach to Map Of The Soul: 7, which sees the group exploring everything from pop ballads to hip-hop jams.

"I think it's less and less meaningful to divide music into genres now," BTS member Suga said. 

"The genre is BTS. That's the genre we want to make and the music that we want. New genre," the group's Jungkook, V and J-Hope added. 

Map Of The Soul: 7 follows a dazzling performance from BTS at the 62nd GRAMMY Awards last month. They joined Lil Nas X in a star-studded performance of "Old Town Road" that also featured Billy Ray Cyrus, Diplo and Mason Ramsey

Map Of The Soul: 7 marks BTS' first full-length project since their 2018 album, Love Yourself: Tear, which topped the Billboard 200 chart and solidified the group as the first Korean act to accomplish that record-setting feat. It's also the second installment in BTS' ongoing Map Of The Soul series, which launched with the chart-topping Map of the Soul: Persona EP last April.

Why is K-pop's popularity exploding in the United States?