meta-scriptMeet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: TOKiMONSTA On Authenticity & Why 'Lune Rouge' Is "A Celebration Of Life" | GRAMMY.com
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: TOKiMONSTA On Authenticity & Why 'Lune Rouge' Is "A Celebration Of Life"

TOKiMONSTA

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

news

Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: TOKiMONSTA On Authenticity & Why 'Lune Rouge' Is "A Celebration Of Life"

We sat down with the L.A.-based experimental electronic music producer to talk about her feelings on the nom, pep talks from Skrillex and how working on the album helped her heal after brain surgery

GRAMMYs/Jan 19, 2019 - 04:13 am

Los Angeles native Jennifer Lee has been releasing experimental electronic music as TOKiMONSTA since 2009, beginning with her debut EP, Cosmic Intoxication. Implementing her childhood piano lessons and a desire to experiment with beats and sounds, Lee started to teach herself production and mixing techniques in her early 20s, initially as a hobby. But it wasn’t long before she began making waves in the electronic music community, particularly at L.A.’s popular underground Low End Theory parties, where she befriended artists like Flying Lotus, who signed her to his Brainfeeder label.

<iframe width="620" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uqKQfmWuuJo" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

By the end of 2015, however, Lee's world came to a screeching halt: She was diagnosed with a rare disease called Moyamoya, in which one of the main arteries to the skull narrows and reduces the supply of blood to the brain. She had two brain surgeries in early 2016, and, as she was recovering, lost her ability to speak and hear, including music. Fortunately, as she healed, Lee gradually regained the ability to hear and make music again.

The result is her third studio album, the dreamy and joyful Lune Rogue, which earned Lee her first GRAMMY nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album. We recently sat down with her to learn more about how working on the album helped her heal and reminded her of her voice and purpose as an artist, which is to "make music that makes me happy." We also discussed how excited she is to be recognized alongside her peers (Skrillex called to congratulate her), what she admires about the GRAMMYs, music's shifting representation landscape, and her advice for younger artists.

<iframe width="620" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KMpED8Iy7L8" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

READ MORE: Behind The Board: TOKiMONSTA On Creativity And Finding Common Ground Through Music

How did you hear about the news of your first GRAMMY nomination? What was your initial reaction?

I found out about my GRAMMY nomination Friday at 8 A.M. The night before, I played a show in L.A. and I hadn't seen my friends in a while, so we got a little tipsy. Friday I had a show in Hawaii and I didn't pack because I figured I'd wake up early and pack. So Friday morning I wake up in a panic because I haven't packed. I checked my phone and I have all these text messages like, "Hey, congratulations!"

I'm just in a full panic, hungover—which is not a common thing, by the way—and excited and flustered at the same time. I found out I was nominated, then I just sat on the ground amongst all my clothes for a minute and I couldn't figure out how to feel. I was really excited, but it was quite the morning.

It settled in over the day and I got to see everyone else who was nominated, especially in that category, which made me even more excited. Because they're all artists that I really love, all albums that I'd listened to this past year. I think it was the most rewarding and the most amazing to know that I was nominated with all these other amazing artists.

What made you want to pursue making music, and have there been any moments along the way that validated that?

What made me pursue music was my love for music. I think first and foremost, before being a creator, I'm a passionate lover of music. The music I make, I'm just a product of all my influences growing up and all the things I've listened to. When I was younger and was discovering all this music, it was at that first verge where I was like, "Hey, you can just download a program and make music by yourself?" So I downloaded some programs, I watched a bunch of YouTube tutorials, and I taught myself to make music. It was purely because I love music so much and I wanted to contribute. I had all these thoughts in my head and all these ideas I wanted to put down.

Because I had a background in piano, I knew how to create that way. So I started producing in that beginning, and then I was able to meet like-minded producers in L.A., and we had this place that we would hang out called Low End Theory. And my peers have also grown to be amazing, respected artists like Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing, Daedelus, and so on.

It was just the right time for me to decide to pursue it fully and I think it was validated by the fact that I was just in such a wonderful moment in music in L.A., where me and my friends were doing some of the coolest sh*t all over. There was no way to say no. "Hey, you can make music forever, potentially?" "Okay, I'll take that."

I think now it's just getting recognized by people all over the world. It's hard to really say, but I definitely feel validated now that I made the decision to do music, because I could have decided not to. I could have been too scared.

<iframe width="620" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RF5RdUzQxjI" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

In terms of challenges, you've shared that your Moyamoya diagnosis and recovery was incredibly taxing. How did you stay positive and what were your biggest lessons from that experience?

I think when anyone's going through a really trying time, it's not very easy to be positive. But it's also not very productive to be negative. Your life is so fragile. When I found out about my diagnosis, I decided to go in problem solving "let's fix this" mode. I was diagnosed with the disease in December 2015, and at the rate that it progresses—well, actually, that's the thing. No one knows the rate at which it progresses.

To give more detail, the vascularity in your brain starts to shut off. Your brain needs blood and oxygen and all these things—so I decided to really jump on it. I went out of my way to contact the correct doctors. I decided that I didn't want to wait to fix this. I decided to go and get these surgeries on my brain and they left me unable to talk and unable to speak; unable to understand anyone, unable to understand music, unable to make music. With all those things happening, it's not very easy to be positive. But my mind was focused on, "I can get past this."

I don't remember myself being explicitly positive at that time. I knew that I was definitely strong, and I knew that every day that there was progress in my speech faculties and in my ability to understand music. That incremental progress was where the positivity came from. I said, "Well, I see that I'm getting a little bit better. Let's push through this. I know that time is helping. I know that nothing is degrading. I know that I'm healing." And the doctors were saying good things.

So I pushed forward. I think in times of darkness for all of us, it's hard to be positive, but we can try to push forward and just hope and wish and visualize that through this darkness, there's something. There's that light at the end of the tunnel. Which is really cliché, but it's very true. And if you can focus on that and your healing, and on what may come after, that's good. It'll get you through it.

Because all you need to do is get through it. And then once you're there, it's all good. I get to be here. I get to be alive. I get to know that I have many years ahead of me. And it's also given me that opportunity to come to terms with who I am as a person and what I want to do, and what my voice is as a musician too, which is to make music that makes me happy. Because yeah, if I die tomorrow, I don't want to know that I lived on this earth making music that wasn't gratifying to myself.

<iframe width="620" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/PHLLeZ6UXP8" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

You worked on Lune Rouge after recovering from the brain surgeries—what parts of the process of working on music again was the most healing or empowering?

You know, it's really hard to understand how it feels to not hear music, because it's in everything. You have no soundtrack to your life. Even now, I don't remember what it's like. It's a part of my memory, and I remember that I went through that, but I don't feel that feeling anymore because my life is full of music again, and sound. And so, when I went through that process and lost that ability [to hear music], when it finally did start to come back, it was very gradual. I started to understand music again, but it took longer for me to start creating music.

I could hear music, but when I would try to go and create, it was bad. But once I was able to get to a point where I think enough time had elapsed and my brain had healed enough where I could make music again, it was the most awesome feeling ever. The gratitude and the feeling I had in my heart was so full, like I know that I'm okay and I'm the same person. You never know when you go through something like that, like I should be grateful I'm alive, but I might not be the same person I was before.

That being said, I'm not superhuman. I think everyone thinks that I went through this crazy surgery and now I can change time or something. I'm still just a normal person. I also didn't have to relearn anything. It was more like the memories and the thoughts, they just started to come back to the surface. So yeah, this whole album was healing and therapeutic for me. It's a celebration of life. And it is every single song I wanted to make.

And all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into it was joyful. I wasn't stressed out, I think this album was therapy to me. This album, in that way, means more to me than any other piece of work. It's not like the songs are necessarily better than other songs, because I love all the music I've ever put out. But this is a true milestone for me, and it means that for my family, it means it for everyone that's around me.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">LAST THING, i am a completely independent artist. there are no major labels or big companies behind me.  there’s no machine driving my project. if i can get here, you gotta know that you can too.</p>&mdash; T᷈O᷈K᷈iM᷈O᷈N᷈S᷈T᷈A᷈ (@TOKiMONSTA) <a href="https://twitter.com/TOKiMONSTA/status/1071082939033604097?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 7, 2018</a></blockquote>

<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Do you feel like getting your first GRAMMY nomination for this album validates your artistic journey in a deeper way?

When I found out that I won, I got a FaceTime from Skrillex, actually. He was in Thailand, somewhere far off, drinking out of a coconut or something. He was at a pool. And he was just like, "Congratulations! This is amazing!"

When I had found out that I was nominated, there was a piece of me—I think it's just self-deprecation—that was like, "I don't know. I'm really happy, but I'm scared. Do I deserve it?" And he just told me, "You know what? Think of it as the cherry on top." He was giving me a pep talk like, "You've been doing this for a long time! You deserve this!"

I don't think that this GRAMMY nomination validates me as a musician, because I know that I'm a musician. That is who I am. But it is nice to see that other people recognize me. So it's more of a recognition like, "We see you. This album is fantastic." I know that someone listened to the album. It's something I'm really happy to have, but it doesn't change who I am.

It will change opportunities in the future, which is really cool. It's also really cool to be able to see that the Recording Academy is listening, and they heard this album from this random person. Because I still look at myself as a random person. It's more and less than validation; it's its own special thing, to get nominated. I feel special.

<iframe width="620" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hVmbLMCVnDk" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

We're currently living in a time where conversations and gender and equality are finally working their way more into every corner of our lives, both personally and professionally. What challenges, if any, have you faced getting your music heard in a scene that has a long history of gender imbalance?

My experience in music is very different in many ways than other people's. I'll say this first: My approach to music making and my approach to myself as a musician was that my identity wasn't as important as the music that I was making. So I wasn't trying to flash my face, I wasn't trying to point out who I am as much. I mean, if you know, you know. I'm a girl.

But I wasn't out going, "Hey, pay more attention to me because I'm a female musician." It's like, no. I don't deserve more attention because I'm female; I just deserve equal attention, you know? I want people to know that I make music on the caliber as my male peers. And that being said, I always walked this path with that step forward. Music first. And that's helped me in many ways.

I think I have to admit, there are ways in which there were disadvantages thrown my way that I just wasn't aware of. I know there are rumors, people saying that I didn't make any of my own music, that I learned everything from a boyfriend, that a boyfriend made all my music, or that I have a ghost producer.

RELATED: Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Protoje On Evolving Reggae

And because of that, I felt like I had to validate myself further, to show people even more. I had to make the best music. I had to show people that I was producing. I'm very open to people looking at my sessions and teaching people things that I know, and sharing my knowledge so people know that I do know what I'm doing, and I'm willing to share that with you.

It's kind of hard. I mean, we live in a society right now in this very moment, where you can finally be heard by people. And people will look at you as a musician and not approach you with suspicion or whatever. They can look at you and be like, "Oh, you're a female. You make music. Cool." In the past, it wasn't like that, and I think that's the most way I felt injustice.

I've seen the landscape change so much. I feel like I'm in a good place now, and I made it through all that. And now, for all these young women coming up, people that are not male in this world, they have an equal opportunity to pursue music production in this genre, or other genres.

Do you have any advice for younger people trying to break into music?

My main key piece of advice is to be yourself and make music that speaks true to your heart. At the end of the day, I know it's much easier to be like, "Well, this song and this style of music is popular. I should do what that person is doing." No one's going be able to listen to your music and be like, "Oh, you made this." No, it's, "Oh, this sounds like a song someone else could have made."

You need people to disrupt that atmosphere, to disrupt the scenery, in order to have change. You might be the next person that everyone wants to emulate. But no one needs a double, triple, quadruple version of an artist that already exists. And now that the tools are so easy to make music, and it's so easy to make the same kind of music as other people, it's up to you as an artist to feel confident in your voice and what you want to do, and to be the change in that music landscape.

What are you most looking forward to in the New Year? Are there any big projects that you're starting to work on, or looking forward to?

The main thing I'm looking forward to this year is making more music, which is something I look forward to every year and every single day. As far as new projects, the next album. I don't think I ever want to stop creating. I don't want to take any breaks. At any given moment, I want to know that I have something ready to be heard. It doesn't need to be heard by a lot of people, but it needs to be heard by me. I just know that I want to make music and I think sharing it is a big part of who I am. I try not to overshare, so that being said, the big project is probably the next album. I don't know when it'll come out, but I'm definitely working on it.

How Rosalía Is Reinventing What It Means To Be A Global Popstar

6 Reasons Why Fred Again.. Was Dance Music's Rookie Of The Year
Fred again...

Photo: Photo by Kieran Frost / Redferns / GettyImages 

list

6 Reasons Why Fred Again.. Was Dance Music's Rookie Of The Year

Arguably dance music's buzziest star in 2023, Fred again.. topped off a breakout year with four nominations at the 2024 GRAMMYs, including Best New Artist. Take a look at some of the producer/songwriter's biggest feats that helped him get there.

GRAMMYs/Jan 30, 2024 - 05:06 pm

By any measure, 2023 was a remarkable year for electronic wunderkind Fred again.. Over 12 whirlwind months, the South Londoner born Fred Gibson accelerated himself from hyped producer to top-line artist, packing festival stages and selling out an eight-night Los Angeles residency.

While this explosive success seemed like it happened overnight, the Fred again.. phenomenon began building in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. As dance music continued its evolution away from the more-is-more EDM era, Fred again..'s earnest, deeply personal, yet still danceable productions struck a chord with fans craving connection in lockdown.

In contrast to big-name DJs up high on faraway festival stages, the producer felt endearingly grounded, from the intimacy of his music to the enthusiasm of his social media posts. His polished, wide-ranging sound — which blends influences from pop, UK garage, house, trance, and the post-dubstep of his key influence, Burial — is also deeply rooted in online culture, incorporating snippets and samples taken from FaceTime, YouTube and voice notes.

Fred again..'s reputation as a dance music star for the internet era set the stage for his Boiler Room performance in the summer of 2022, which has racked up 29 million views and climbing. The Boiler Room takeoff was buoyed by his Swedish House Mafia and Future collab, "Turn on the Lights again..," and a host of unreleased heat that materialized on his third album, Actual Life 3.

Building on this powerful momentum, Fred again.. evolved from internet sensation to full-on superstardom in 2023. His year of highs peaked with four nominations at the 2024 GRAMMYs, including the coveted Best New Artist Category — where he's the only dance act.

As Music's Biggest Night draws closer, here are six feats that made Fred again.. dance music's indisputable rookie of the year.

He Found GRAMMYs Glory On His Own Terms

Before breaking out as a solo artist, Fred again.. earned his stripes as a sought-after producer, working alongside everyone from grime luminaries Stormzy and Headie One to pop superstar Ed Sheeran. Fittingly, his first GRAMMY nominations were for work behind-the-scenes on Jayda G's luminescent house anthem "Both Of Us" (Best Dance/Electronic Recording in 2021) and Sheeran's global hit "Bad Habits" (Song Of The Year in 2022).

The 66th Annual GRAMMY Awards mark the first time he's been recognized for his own music. In addition to Best New Artist, the producer is nominated in Best Dance/Electronic Music Album, Actual Life 3 (January 1 – September 9 2022), and twice in Best Dance/Electronic Recordings for the '90s trance-channeling Romy collab, "Strong" and the bass-heavy "Rumble" with longtime collaborator Skrillex and Flowdan

The four nods are a crowning achievement for Fred again.. as a solo artist that recognizes his individual achievements while also celebrating his evergreen talents as a collaborator. 

He Built On Prior Success  

On his first solo album, 2021's Actual Life (April 14 – December 17 2020), Fred again.. reflected the isolation and strangeness of a COVID-19 lockdown by lacing audio clips of his "actual life" into a collage of electronic production. He followed it later that year with Actual Life 2, which used the same format to explore themes of grief and new beginnings with samples collected from his social feeds. 

"Social media is obviously capable of being a really negative thing," he later told NPR. "But it was also very clear to me that it is capable of being a very beautiful thing." 

That year, Fred again.. also released "Marea (We've Lost Dancing)," featuring musings via FaceTime from DJ-producer the Blessed Madonna on the loss of the dance floor community during the pandemic. Distilling the signature Fred again.. joy-meets-melancholy equation into a cathartic house package, the track became an unlikely lockdown anthem. In 2022, Fred again.. made his Coachella debut with a full live show, soundtracking sunset in the Mojave tent for a tightly packed crowd. 

Coming a few months after Coachella, Fred again..'s Boiler Room set — from his hometown of London, no less — was perfectly timed to send him stratospheric. Over a tight hour, his hybrid DJ-live set showcased his next-level skills on the Maschine+ drum machine/sampler and previews of new music that fans cut into clips and dissected online. Throughout it all, the producer projected a beaming, can't-quite-believe-it elation that was hard to resist. 

When Actual Life 3 arrived that October, complete with those Boiler Room highlights, its crowd-pleasing mix of emotion and jump-up energy already had a captive audience who were now desperate to catch Fred again.. live in 2023. 

He Formed An Instantly Iconic DJ Trio

Fred again..'s banner year was turbo-charged by his DJ bromance with brothers-in-bass Skrillex and Four Tet. Cheekily self-coined "the Pangbourne Mafia," a reference to the sleepy English village where they convened to make music, the trio kicked off 2023 with a surprise back-to-back-to-back set in London, and the fun snowballed from there. (As Fred again.. put it in 2022, "Other human beings are infinitely more inspiring than anything else in the world.") 

Following a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden in February 2023, the DJs were called in last-minute to close weekend two of Coachella. For fans who fell in love with Fred again..'s Boiler Room, it was a surreal thrill to hear "Danielle (smile on my face)" and "Delilah (pull me out of this)" ring out across an expansive sea of festival goers. 

He Ticked Major Goals Off His Bucket List

Instead of coasting on the goodwill of his breakout 2022, Fred again.. spent 2023 searching out new challenges and shades to his sound. In March, he teamed up with Irish singer/songwriter Dermot Kennedy (whose soulful croon appeared on the first Actual Life) and legendary lyricist The Streets on the track "Mike (desert island duvet)". 

Fred again.. appeared on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert series in April, which he approached with his customary wide-eyed zeal. The performance of Actual Life cuts featured Fred again.. as a one-man band, jumping between keyboard, vibraphone, marimba, and microphone, while looping his vocals and beats to dazzling effect. 

In May, hot on the heels of that adrenalized Coachella closer, he switched up the pace and released an ambient album, Secret Life, with his musical mentor Brian Eno, who he first met at just 16 years old in Eno's a capella choir group.

He Played His Biggest Live Shows To Date 

Closing Coachella with your best DJ buddies is hard to top, but Fred again.. kept leveling up. In June, he and his onstage partner Tony Friend played to an expanse of revelers on shoulders and waving colorful flags at Glastonbury, which he later called "my favorite show we've ever played". 

From there, he took his well-honed live show across the U.S. and Europe, complete with precisely-cued visuals across a multi-screen setup with LED panels. Instead of jumping from city to city, the producer set up record-breaking residencies in Los Angeles and New York that allowed him to deliver the same highs over multiple nights. 

This summer, he's set to headline Sunday night at Bonnaroo — reportedly his only U.S. festival appearance scheduled for 2024 — followed by select festival dates across Europe and the UK, including the famed Reading and Leeds double-header. 

He Kicked Off A New Musical Era 

In August, Fred again.. released "adore u" with Nigerian artist Obongjayar, describing it on his Soundcloud as "the first song of a whole new world to me". Inspired by the pair's respective siblings, "adore u" arrived as the perfect synthesis of Fred again..'s earnest, open-hearted world view and club-ready instincts. The producer followed "adore u" with the aching house shuffle ''ten," featuring US rapper Jozzy, and the rowdier drum & bass-filled "leavemealone" alongside previous Best New Artist nominee Baby Keem

This trio of 2023 songs reflects a broadening of Fred again..'s sound and influences ahead of his next album project. Whatever highs are yet to come, 2023 will stand as the year that Fred again.. made his own. 

David Guetta Reveals The "Accidents Of Life" That Birthed Hits With Bebe Rexha, Nicki Minaj & More

10 Halloween Songs That Have Won GRAMMYs: "Thriller," "Ghostbusters" & More
Ray Parker Jr performs "Ghostbusters" for Freeform's "31 Nights of Halloween Fan Fest" in 2019.

Photo: Image Group LA via Getty Images

list

10 Halloween Songs That Have Won GRAMMYs: "Thriller," "Ghostbusters" & More

With Halloween celebrations in full swing this Oct. 31, revisit 10 eerie or ghoulishly titled songs that have all been awarded music's top honor, from the 'Exorcist' theme to Eminem and Rihanna's "The Monster."

GRAMMYs/Oct 31, 2023 - 12:56 pm

If the holiday of trick or treating, pumpkin carving, and decorating your front porch with skeletons is your favorite of the year, then you'll no doubt already have a playlist stacked with creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky bangers ready to fire up on Oct. 31. But if you want to add a bit of prestige to your supernatural soundtrack, there's another list of Halloween-friendly songs to check out — one that highlights another celebrated annual occasion.

While the GRAMMYs might not yet have awarded Rob Zombie, Jukebox the Ghost, or And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead, it has embraced the odd musical spooktacular in several forms. In 1988, for example, it gave Halloween obsessive Frank Zappa Best Rock Instrumental Performance for Jazz from Hell. A year later, it handed Robert Cray Band Best Contemporary Blues Recording for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. And it's also dished out goodies (of the statuette, rather than the sweet, variety) to the likes of Mavis Staples' "See That My Grave Is Clean," Chick Corea's "Three Ghouls," and Mastodon's "A Sultan's Curse."

With Halloween 2023 fast approaching, here's a closer look at ten other tracks which left the music industry's biggest awards show completely bewitched.

Stevie Wonder — "Superstition" (1974)

It seems unlikely that Stevie Wonder walked under a ladder, crossed a black cat, or 'broke the lookin' glass' while recording "Superstition" — the squelchy Moog-funk classic kickstarted his remarkable run of 25 GRAMMY Awards when it won both Best Rhythm and Blues Song and Best R&B Vocal Performance Male in 1974. Taken from what many consider to be his magnum opus, Talking Book, "Superstition" also gave Wonder his first No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 in over a decade. And the soul legend further leaned into its supernatural theme in 2013 when he appeared as a witch doctor in a Bud Light Super Bowl commercial soundtracked by the Tamla favorite.

Mike Oldfield — "Tubular Bells" (1975)

Incredibly, considering how perfectly it complements all-time classic horror The Exorcist, Mike Oldfield's prog-rock epic Tubular Bells was recorded long before director William Friedkin came calling. Mike Oldfield, then aged only 19, used a variety of obscure instruments across its two mammoth pieces. Yet, it's the brilliantly creepy Steinway piano riffs which open Side One that are still most likely to bring anyone who experienced the movie's hysteria in a cold sweat. Oldfield was rewarded for helping to scar a generation of cinemagoers for life when a condensed version of his eerie masterpiece picked up the Best Instrumental Composition GRAMMY.

The Charlie Daniels Band — "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" (1980)

The Charlie Daniels Band certainly proved their storytelling credentials in 1979 when they put their own Southern country-fied spin on the old "deal with the devil" fable. Backed by some fast and furious fiddles, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" tells the tale of a young musician named Johnny who bumps into Beelzebub himself during a jam session in the Peach State. Experiencing a downturn in soul-stealing, the latter then bets he can win a fiddle-off, offering an instrument in gold form against Johnny's spiritual essence. Luckily, the less demonic party proves he's the "best that's ever been" in a compelling tale GRAMMY voters declared worthy of a prize, Best Country Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group.

Michael Jackson — "Thriller" (1984)

The 1984 GRAMMYs undeniably belonged to Michael Jackson. The King of Pop picked up a whopping 11 nominations for his first blockbuster album, Thriller, and then converted seven of them into wins (he also took home Best Recording for Children for his narration on audiobook E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial). Remarkably, the title track's iconic John Landis-directed video didn't feature at all: its making of, however, did win Best Music Film the following year. But the song itself did pip fellow superstars Prince, Billy Joel, and Lionel Richie to the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance crown. Jackson would also win a GRAMMY 12 years later for another Halloween-esque anthem, his Janet Jackson duet "Scream."

Duran Duran — "Hungry Like the Wolf" (1984)

Produced by Colin Thurston, the man behind another early '80s Halloween-friendly classic, (Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy"), "Hungry Like the Wolf" cemented Duran Duran's status as MTV icons. Alongside their much raunchier earlier clip for "Girls on Film," its jungle-themed promo was also responsible for giving the Second British Invasion pin-ups the inaugural GRAMMY Award for Best Music Video, Short Form; it featured on the Duran Duran compilation that was crowned Best Video Album, too. Frontman Simon Le Bon had been inspired to write their U.S. breakthrough hit by Little Red Riding Hood, giving the new wave classic its sinister, and appropriately predatory, edge.

Ray Parker Jr. — "Ghostbusters" (1985)

Ray Parker Jr. not only topped the Hot 100 for four weeks with his ode to New York's finest parapsychologists, he also picked up a GRAMMY. Just don't expect to hear "who you gonna call?" in the winning version: For it was in the Best Pop Instrumental Performance where "Ghostbusters" reigned supreme. The fact that Parker Jr. wrote, performed, and produced the entire thing meant he still took home the trophy. However, Huey Lewis no doubt felt he should have been the one making the acceptance speech. The blue-eyed soulman settled out of court after claiming the spooky movie theme had borrowed its bassline from "I Want a New Drug," a track Ghostbusters' director Ivan Reitman admitted had been played in film footage intended to inspire Parker Jr.

Ralph Stanley — "O Death" (2002)

Traditional Appalachian folk song "O Death" had previously been recorded by the likes of gospel vocalist Bessie Jones, folklorist Mike Seeger, and Californian rockers Camper Van Beethoven, just to name a few. Yet it was Ralph Stanley's 2002 version where GRAMMY voters first acknowledged its eerie a cappella charms. Invited to record the morbid number for the Coen brothers' period satire O Brother, Where Art Thou, the bluegrass veteran won Best Male Country Vocal Performance at the 2002 ceremony, also picking up a second GRAMMY alongside the likes of Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, and Emmylou Harris when the soundtrack was crowned Album Of The Year.

Skrillex — "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" (2012)

David Bowie fans may well feel aggrieved that his post-punk classic "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" was entirely ignored by GRAMMY voters, while the bro-step banger it inspired was showered with awards. The title track from EP Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites added Best Dance Recording to Skrillex's 2012 haul: the asymmetrically haired producer also walked away with Best Dance/Electronica Album and Best Remixed Recording: Non-Classical for his work on Benny Benassi's "Cinema." Packed with speaker-blasting beats, distorted basslines, and aggressive synths, Skrillex's wall of noise is enough to scare anyone off their pumpkin pie.

Eminem and Rihanna — "The Monster" (2015)

Who says lightning can't strike twice? Just four years after picking up five GRAMMY nominations for their transatlantic chart-topper "Love the Way You Lie," unlikely dream team Eminem and Rihanna once again joined forces for another hip-pop masterclass. Unlike their previous collab, however, "The Monster" didn't go home empty-handed, winning Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 2015 ceremony. The boogeyman hiding under the bed here, of course, isn't a Frankenstein-esque creation, but the mix of paranoia, self-doubt, and OCD that leads the Real Slim Shady into thinking he needs a straitjacket.

Jason Isbell — "If We Were Vampires" (2018)

While the Twilight franchise may have failed to add a GRAMMY to its trophy cabinet, it did pick up several nominations. But four years after the Team Edward vs Team Jacob saga wrapped up, folk hero Jason Isbell proved mythical bloodsuckers weren't a barrier to awards success. Emerging victorious in only the fifth ever Best Americana Roots Song category, "If We Were Vampires" is a little less emo than the various Twilight soundtracks. Still, as a love song dedicated to wife Amanda Shires, and the quiet acceptance that the Grim Reaper will inevitably end their story, it's certainly no less emotional.  

GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Eminem Show Love To Detroit And Rihanna During His Best Rap Album Win In 2011

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

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

video

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."

Looking for more GRAMMYs news? The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are here!

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. 

10 Essential Facts To Know About GRAMMY-Winning Rapper J. Cole

How Skrillex & Fred Again.. Became Dance Music's Favorite Friendship: A Timeline
Fred Again (L) & Skrillex (R) in 2023

Photos: Kate Green/Getty Images & Venla Shalin/Redferns

feature

How Skrillex & Fred Again.. Became Dance Music's Favorite Friendship: A Timeline

Before they both play Ill Points in Miami this October, journey back through the highlights of Skrillex and Fred again..'s party-starting bromance.

GRAMMYs/Oct 9, 2023 - 07:13 pm

Few friendships in dance music have burned as brightly as the bromance between Fred Gibson, aka Fred again.., and Sonny Moore, a.k.a. Skrillex. In a few short years, the English phenom and Los Angeles-born bass don have forged a dynamic bond as DJ partners, co-producers, and mutual muses.

Brought together as fellow Ed Sheeran collaborators, their partnership went legit on "Rumble," an instant wobbly-bass classic featuring grime MC Flowdan, which Fred teased in his star-making 2022 Boiler Room set. Mere months after "Rumble" officially dropped that January, they closed Coachella with a historic set alongside their buddy and studio secret weapon Four Tet. 

Alongside all the music and viral moments, the friendship has clearly given Skrillex — a producer always looking for his next musical evolution — a new lease on life. 

After a pinch-yourself start to the year that also included a sold-out show with Four Tet at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Skrillex and Fred again.. will meet again this October at Ill Points in Miami. While billed separately, there’s no keeping these two apart. With much more expected from this superstar pairing, we’re taking a look back through their friendship so far. 

2019: Before his breakthrough as a solo artist, Fred again.. earned his stripes as a producer for U.K. grime acts like Headie One, Stormzy and AJ Tracey, and pop stadium-filler Ed Sheeran. While hailing from different sides of the Atlantic, he and Skrillex were destined to meet some day. 

Returning as a producer on Sheeran’s 2019 album, No.6 Collaborations Project, Fred again.. intersected with Skrillex (and producer/engineer Kenny Beats) on "Take Me Back to London," featuring Stormzy. Fusing pop hooks with grime swagger, the song hinted at the crisp basslines and drums to come from future Skrillex/Fred team-ups. 

In this period, Fred played Skrillex an early iteration of "Rumble," which he’d been trading back and forth with Flowdan. "The first time I ever met Sonny, I played him the first version we had," Fred recalled in an interview with BBC Radio 1’s Jack Saunders.

Skrillex requested the "stems" (the individual isolated parts of a recording) and made a version that he worried missed the mark. "I didn’t like it," he also told Saunders. "I thought I ruined the song." He and Fred tweaked the elements until it  clicked — and their friendship was born.

2021: With COVID-19 keeping artists grounded, Fred again.. released Actual Life (April 14 - December 17 2020), a collection of achingly personal electronic elegies that cemented his signature sound.

He followed it later that year with Actual Life 2 (February 2 - October 15 2021), which explored themes of grief and catharsis through a collage of electronic production, samples and audio clips from the producer’s "actual life." Skrillex, meanwhile, kicked off the year by releasing his collaboration with Four Tet and Starrah, "Butterflies," setting the stage for more transatlantic collaborations. 

June 2022: To kick off summer, fast friends Skrillex and Fred again.. rented a house in the idyllic English village of Pangbourne to work on new music. As Skrillex recalled on Instagram, he had an album to finish, while Fred again.. was finalising music for his then-imminent Boiler Room debut. Four Tet agreed to come and hang out for a bit, bringing his toothbrush just in case he was compelled to stay. As Skrillex put it on Instagram, "This moment marked the birth of the Pangbourne House Mafia."

July 2022: When Fred again.. rolled up to his Boiler Room debut in London, no one could’ve predicted the energy to come. Surrounded on all sides by sweaty, screaming admirers, the producer blazed through a hybrid DJ-live set that blended house, U.K. garage, grime, drum & bass, and pop.

He also used the set to preview a few of his collaborations with Skrillex, including "Rumble," which sent fans clamouring for clues online. The Boiler Room session blew up on YouTube (where it now has 22 million views), catapulting Fred again.. and his to-be-released collaborations to a whole new level. 

October 2022: While promoting his third album, Actual Life 3 (January 1 - September 9 2022), Fred again.. sat down for an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe at Skrillex’s house in Los Angeles. "We’ve done a home swap at the moment," the producer told Lowe, "so he’s staying at mine in London and I’m at his in L.A." Now, that’s true friendship.

January 2023: After making fans wait, Skrillex and Fred again.. Kicked off the year with a bang and finally released "Rumble" via Skrillex’s OWSLA label. The pair also grabbed Four Tet for a surprise back-to-back-to-back DJ set at London’s Electric Ballroom, which featured a whirlwind of new and unreleased music. What started as a one-off show rolled into three extremely sold-out nights at different venues, with the trio of DJs clearly having the time of their lives.

February 2023: In a career-defining month, Skrillex released his much-anticipated album Quest for Fire, which featured collaborators like Porter Robinson, Missy Elliot, Mr Oizo, Bobby Raps, and — of course — Fred again.. and Four Tet. To celebrate the release, the "Pangbourne House Mafia" casually announced a show at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden, which sold out within three minutes. To warm up, the trio created pandemonium with an impromptu DJ set in Times Square, where they trialled some new edits ahead of the big show.

April 2023: After selling out Madison Square Garden without breaking a sweat, and releasing team-up track, "Baby again.." in March, the unlikely supergroup of Fred, Skrillex and Four Tet went looking for the next high.

As it happened, that opportunity came on the second weekend of Coachella. With Frank Ocean relinquishing his Sunday headlining spot after a divisive weekend performance, the festival left a tantalizing TBA in the final slot. Before long, the cat was out of the bag, and dance music’s new favorite trio were headed to the desert with memeable merch bearing the slogan, OMG TBA.

"I didn’t think I was gonna be back with my brothers like this for a longgggg time," Fred again.. wrote on Instagram. "Until last night. And here we are." 

Appearing on a circular stage deep in the crowd, the DJs closed down Coachella with the excitement of three friends who couldn’t quite believe their luck. 

June 2023: With the members of the "Pangbourne House Mafia" returning to life as solo artists after Coachella, Fred again.. announced a three-night run at New York’s Forest Hills Stadium in October, followed by Ill Points in Miami, and then eight shows at Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles. With LA being Skrillex’s hometown, the two producers are sure to cook up something new - after, this is one friendship with a lot more to give.

NEIL FRANCES Just Want To Have Fun & Get Fuzzy