meta-scriptMegan Thee Stallion & Beyonce Win Best Rap Performance For "Savage" | 2021 GRAMMY Awards Show | GRAMMY.com
Megan Thee Stallion accepts 2021 GRAMMY with a look of excited awe

Megan Thee Stallion accepts 2021 GRAMMY

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Megan Thee Stallion & Beyonce Win Best Rap Performance For "Savage" | 2021 GRAMMY Awards Show

The Houston hotties take home Best Rap Performance for "Savage Remix" at the 63rd GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Mar 15, 2021 - 01:21 am

Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé won Best Rap Performance for "Savage Remix" at the Premiere Ceremony of the 63rd GRAMMY Awards. This marks Megan's first career GRAMMY win, and she gave a joyful acceptance speech for the monumental moment.

Their track bested fellow nominees Big Sean with Nipsey Hussle, DaBaby, Jack Harlow, Lil Baby and Pop Smoke

Stay tuned to GRAMMY.com for all things GRAMMY Awards (including the Premiere Ceremony livestream), and make sure to watch the 2021 GRAMMY Awards show, airing live on CBS and Paramount+ tonight, Sun., March 14 at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT.

Check out all the complete 2021 GRAMMY Awards show winners and nominees list here.

Photo of Sexyy Red performing onstage during at the 2024 Rolling Loud Festival in Los Angeles. She is wearing a blue bikini top with white stars, red and white shorts, white sunglasses, and bright red hair.
Sexyy Reds perform onstage at the 2024 Rolling Loud Festival in Los Angeles

Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

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New Music Friday: Listen To New Albums & Songs From Sexyy Red, Charlie Puth, Vince Staples, Aaron Carter & More

Don't slide into your Memorial Day weekend without stocking your New Music Friday playlist with fresh tunes. Here are new albums and songs from Willie Nelson, Maya Hawke, Arooj Aftab, Trueno, and many more.

GRAMMYs/May 24, 2024 - 02:11 pm

Memorial Day weekend is upon us, which means we're inching closer to another music-filled summer. Less than halfway through 2024, we've received a veritable bounty of new music from Green Day, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Kacey Musgraves, Zayn … the list goes on and on.

Clearly, no matter which musical world you inhabit, 2024 has had something for you — and the slate of today's releases continues that streak. Pull up your favorite streaming service — or dust off your record player — and check out this slate of new music that's fresh out of the oven.

Sexyy Red — In Sexyy We Trust

The #MakeAmericaSexyyAgain train is unstoppable. Amid numberless recent accolades — including five nominations at the 2024 BET Awards, including Best Female Hip Hop Artist and Best New Artist — Sexyy Red has dropped a new EP, In Sexyy We Trust. By the sound of "Awesome Jawsome," we all live in Sexyy's lascivious, irresistible universe: "Give me that awesome jawsome, suck it, baby, use your teeth / Shake your dreads between my legs, do it for a G." (Take that under advisement.) And with more than 8.3 million YouTube views for her "Get it Sexyy" music video, legions are clamoring for her second official release without a doubt.

Charlie Puth — "Hero"

"You smokеd, then ate seven bars of chocolate / We declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist." So recounted the one and only Taylor Swift in the title track to her new album, The Tortured Poets Department, which rocketed Puth's name even further into the public consciousness. This shine partly inspired Puth to release "Hero": "I want to thank @taylorswift for letting me know musically that I just couldn't keep this on my hard drive any longer," he stated on Instagram. "It's one of the hardest songs I've ever had to write, but I wrote it in hopes that you've gone through something similar in your life, and that it can fill in the BLANK for you like it did for me," he continued. Leave it to a hero to shake that loose for Puth.

Vince Staples — Dark Times

If you're currently rounding a difficult corner in your life, Vince Staples' latest album is a trusty companion. Take the first single "Shame on the Devil," where he licks his wounds amid thick isolation and friction with loved ones. "It's me mastering some things I've tried before that I wasn't great at in the beginning," he said in a statement. "It's a testament to musical growth, song structure — all the good stuff." By the sound of this haunted yet resolute single, Dark Times could materialize as Staples' most realized album to date — and most hard-won victory to boot.

Willie Nelson — The Border

By some counts, Willie Nelson has released more than 150 albums — try and let that soak in. The Red Headed Stranger tends to crank out a Buddy Cannon-produced album or two per year in his autumn years, each with a slight conceptual tilt: bluegrass, family matters, tributes to Harlan Howard or the Great American Songbook. The earthy, muted The Border is another helping of the good stuff — this time homing in on songwriters like Rodney Crowell ("The Border"), Shawn Camp ("Made in Texas") and Mike Reid ("Nobody Knows Me Like You.") Elsewhere, Nelson-Cannon originals like "What If I'm Out of My Mind" and "How Much Does It Cost" fold it all into the 12-time GRAMMY winner's manifold musical universe.

Listen: Listen To GRAMMY.com's Outlaw Country Playlist: 32 Songs From Honky Tonk Heroes Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard & More

Arooj Aftab — Night Reign

Arooj Aftab landed on the scene with the exquisitely blue Vulture Prince, which bridged modern jazz and folk idioms with what she calls "heritage material" from Pakistan and South Asia. The album's pandemic-era success threatened to box her in, though; Aftab is a funny, well-rounded cat who's crazy about pop music, too. Crucially, the guest-stuffed Night Reign shows many more sides of this GRAMMY-winning artist, whose most transcendent work seems still ahead of us. By the strength of songs like "Raat Ki Rani" and "Whiskey," this Reign is for the long haul.

Explore More: Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer & Shahzad Ismaily On New Album Love In Exile, Improvisation Versus Co-Construction And The Primacy Of The Pulse

Aaron Carter — The Recovery Album

By all means, we should have Aaron Carter alive, healthy and, yes, recovered. But the beloved singer unexpectedly died in November 2022. (He accidentally drowned in his bathtub after taking sedatives and inhaling a spray cleaner.) Still, the 2000s-era teen star, who gave us "I Want Candy," "Aaron's Party (Come Get It)" and "That's How I Beat Shaq," left us with a poignant, posthumous statement in The Recovery Album: "Tomorrow is a new day / Tryin' to shake the pain away / 'Cause I'm still in recovery," he sings in the title track. Carter, who was open about his struggles with addiction, substance abuse and mental health, is also in the news for a rough ride of a documentary, Fallen Idols: Nick and Aaron Carter. But if you'd rather focus on Carter the artist, The Recovery Album shows that his considerable talent remains undimmed.

DIIV — Frog in Boiling Water

The idiom of a frog in boiling water is a familiar one, but it's never quite unfolded in music like this — and DIIV, one of rock's most impressionistic acts, is the band for the job. In a press statement, the group, led by Zachary Cole Smith, called Frog in Boiling Water a reflection of "a slow, sick, and overwhelmingly banal collapse of society under end-stage capitalism." To wit, tracks like "Brown Paper Bag," "Raining on Your Pillow" and "Soul-net" sound like dying in a beautiful way. "Everyone Out," another album highlight, provides a clear, critical directive.

Shenseea — Never Gets Late Here

To hear Jamaican leading light Shenseea tell it, she's been boxed in as a "dancehall artiste," but she's so much more than that. "By next year I want to be international," she said back in 2018. "An international pop star." Her second album, Never Gets Late Here, might be that final boost to the big time she's chasin. Throughout the sticky-sweet album, the genre traverser tries on disco vibes ("Flava" with Voi Leray), an Afrobeats tint ("Work Me Out" with Wizkid), and a bona fide, swing-for-the-rafters anthem in the power ballad "Stars." "Everyone is looking at everything I'm going through," she recently told Revolt, "which is special because they can see the fight I'm getting, but still see me pushing and persevering."

Trueno — EL ÚLTIMO BAILE

Argentine phenom Trueno — a rapper, singer and songwriter of equal fire — has been on a sharp rise ever since his debut, 2020's Atrevido. This time, he's especially leaning into his rap skills as he pays homage to his beloved hip-hop. And, as he explained to Rolling Stone, he's been diligently crafting this artistic culmination. "We also don't want to rush anything. We're working day and night on it," he said of EL ÚLTIMO BAILE. "I'm an artist who's all about albums and big projects, so I'm immersed in this." We're about to be, too.

Yola — My Way

Yola has been nominated for six GRAMMYs to date; this impressive feat has thickened the momentum behind her latest batch of music. For her new My Way EP, the British singer/songwriter tapped GRAMMY-nominated producer Sean Douglas, who's worked with everyone from Lizzo to Madonna to Sia. Not that this synthesist of progressive R&B, synth pop, electronica, and more needs a reintroduction. But if you're not already on board with this musically keen, lyrically conscious artist, songs like "Future Enemies" should lure you there.

2025 GRAMMYs To Take Place Sunday, Feb. 2, Live In Los Angeles; GRAMMY Awards Nominations To Be Announced Friday, Nov. 8, 2024

Atarashii Gakko!, Ikura of Yoasobi, Hiroa Fukuda and Moeka Shiotsuka of Hitsuji Bungaku, King Gnu
(Clockwise from upper left): Atarashii Gakko!, Ikura of Yoasobi, Hiroa Fukuda and Moeka Shiotsuka of Hitsuji Bungaku, King Gnu

Photos: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella, Dana Jacobs/Getty Images, Justin Shin/Getty Images, Gene Wang/Getty Images

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10 Neo J-Pop Artists Breaking The Mold In 2024: Fujii Kaze, Kenshi Yonezu & Others

Japan’s domestic pop market has incredible depth and growing Western interest. From Vocaloid acts to anime-centric productions and a plethora of genre-bending releases, the country's musicians and solo artists are breaking ground and making noise.

GRAMMYs/May 23, 2024 - 01:38 pm

At this year’s Coachella, Japan’s music industry made a statement: out with the old, in with the new. Where previous years hosted legacy acts like Utada Hikaru and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, up-and-coming hitmakers YOASOBI and cult favorites Atarashii Gakkou! played to sizable crowds in 2024. They represent just the tip of the iceberg for Japanese musicians touring stateside: J-R&B star Fujii Kaze will tour the country this month, and numerous acts have seen exposure abroad thanks to anime soundtrack work and streaming playlists such as Spotify’s Gatcha Pop.

Anime, by far the country’s biggest cultural export, is a major factor in Japan’s music industry, with songs composed for animated films, TV, and streaming projects — and to a lesser extent video games — making up a growing number of the country’s most dominant pop hits. "Anison," or anime songs, have become extremely prestigious commissions for the country’s pop musicians, especially for younger artists who have seen anime gain traction both in Japan and internationally. 

That younger generation is now taking control of the charts, and making inroads into international markets by leaning into what makes their music and culture unique. For musicians like Kenshi Yonezu, vocal synthesizer software Vocaloid allowed them to develop their own musical voice on their own terms. The most famous Vocaloid artist, Hatsune Miku, also played Coachella this year as a video-projected anime avatar. There’s also remarkable freedom to play with genre in J-pop. Acts freely swap between sounds —from alternative rock to funky city pop, or R&B to electro-pop — in the span of a few songs. 

These factors have made Japan’s domestic pop market one of the most interesting to watch in the world. It’s gotten to the point where top English-language artists aren’t seeing the success they used to in the country, largely because the Japanese public has shifted its attention toward Korean and domestic artists. For Westerners, Japan can seem like another world, and this is especially true for its music scene. 

To bridge the gap, GRAMMY.com has created a primer to 10 of Japan’s most interesting new acts. Who knows, you might just see them stateside soon. 

Ado

Japan isn’t exactly a happy country. Social pressure is high, the economy has been stagnant for years even before its current monetary crisis and its brutal work culture is not exactly the envy of the world. Young people often feel as though they have nothing to look forward to but misery, so when someone comes along and says it’s okay to tell the adults in your life to f— off, it resonates.

This is essentially how 22-year-old singer Ado (born 2002) became the voice of Gen Z. Late in 2020 amid the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic, she burst onto the J-pop scene with "Useewa," a rock-centric track composed by Vocaloid producer Syudou whose title translates, roughly, to "Shut the f— up." Detailing the angst of having to grin and bear the conformity of adulthood and the satisfaction of rejecting it, the song clearly struck a chord with young people in Japan. The song’s brash lyrics also sparked a moral panic from parents and the media over its anti-conformist message.

Ado’s charismatic, fiery vocal delivery, coupled with a nasty anime visual, really sells the whole package, making it a rage-filled counterpart to YOASOBI’s similarly disaffected "Yoru ni Kakeru." 

"Usseewa" topped the Billboard Japan Hot 100, the Oricon Digital Singles and Streaming charts, and the Spotify Viral 50 Japan. The video reached 100 million views on YouTube within 150 days of release. Ado has since earned more hits, furthering her wild persona with the even louder and wilder "Show." She also earned a starring role as a singer in One Piece Film: Red, the most recent theatrical installment of the biggest manga franchise in the world. 

Atarashii Gakko! 

There’s a saying in Japan about the risks of refusing to conform to society’s expectations: "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down." When it comes to finding success on the international music market, however, the opposite seems to be true. The world loves Japan when it’s at its zaniest and most distinctive, and artists that lean into this are often able to build a following abroad.

Case in point: A rapping girl group wearing vintage-inspired sailor-suit school uniforms called Atarashii Gakko! (translation: New School). The group just played Coachella and, prior, performed on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." To be sure, a lot of the foursome’s appeal is in the visual department. The group’s wild, Beastie Boys-esque video for "Tokyo Calling" pairs their sukeban girl gang-style outfits with a plethora of retro visual references: kaiju films like Godzilla, Super Sentai, even Bollywood-style dance. Musically, they’re just as mixed up, having taken on ‘80s city pop in "Otonablue" as well as adding to Japan’s legacy of unique hip-hop on "NAI NAI NAI." 

The group’s ethos since forming in 2015 has been to shine a new path for Japan’s youth by embracing individuality and nonconformity, and it’s paid dividends so far. Their new album, AG! Calling, is set for release June 7.

Creepy Nuts

There’s a lot of bizarre, potentially conflicting elements in Creepy Nuts’ hit song "Bling-Bang-Bang-Born." There’s the sound-effect-bubble title, the anarchic rapping of vocalist R-Shitei, and producer DJ Matsunaga’s use of a Jersey Club beat (a trend with forward-thinking East Asian pop acts). There’s also the fact that it was composed for an anime about…wizards with muscles

In any case, the theme song for the TV anime "Mashle: Magic and Muscles" has pulled some chart magic of its own, topping the Billboard Japan Hot 100 for eight weeks straight earlier this year, largely thanks to the viral "BBBB dance" challenge. The duo have also taken the song worldwide, reaching No. 8 on Billboard U.S.’s Global 200 and performing the song on Global Spin. If you want to find the biggest J-Pop hit of this exact moment, look no further. 

Fujii Kaze

Raised in small-town Okayama prefecture in the western reaches of Japan, Fujii Kaze is being positioned as the next big artist to emerge from the country. He toured Asia in 2023 and will come to America this May; he also launched the Japanese version of Tiny Desk Concerts earlier this year. He’s also been working with international talent, such as Kendrick Lamar and 21 Savage producer DJ Dahi on the piano-driven hip-hop track "Workin’ Hard."

The video for "Matsuri," in which Fujii (the artist lists his surname first) traipses around a Japanese garden and parties with foreigners at a traditional mansion, feels almost like a tourist advertisement for the country, projecting an image of refined, effortless Japanese cool. Recent song "Hana," produced by Charli XCX and Utada Hikaru collaborator A. G. Cook, feels even more like a play for the international market with a ‘70s California soft rock backing track and a visual that puts Fujii on a journey through the desert.

Herein lies the secret to Fujii Kaze’s appeal: he’s hot and cool at the same time. His success is predicated not just on good looks and buttery croon, but on a smooth, easygoing persona that feels native and international at the same time. "Matsuri," with its chill yet glamorous R&B production and can’t-be-bothered lyrics ("there’s no reason to suffer / no need to be disappointed / I really couldn’t care less") exemplifies his laid-back mentality. He’s also, notably, shunned the anime market, preferring to put his songs in basketball promos and telecoms commercials – anime is cool enough for Megan Thee Stallion but not for Fujii, it seems. 

Hitsujibungaku

Just as grunge reignited America’s love of rock music in the ‘90s, Japan also embraced guitar-oriented, pop-rock in the same decade thanks to bands like B’z, Number Girl, Southern All-Stars, Asian Kung-Fu Generation, and Visual Kei groups like L’Arc-en-Ciel and X Japan. As the U.S. began to embrace hip-hop and dance-pop in the 2000s, rock and metal persisted in the Japanese mainstream. New bands continue to perform at "live house" venues in hip areas like Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa neighborhood, while groups playing niche styles like math rock, shoegaze, and metalcore have found support. CHAI, tricot, Alexandros, Otoboke Beaver, and Official Hige Dandism are just a few bands that have emerged from this milieu in recent years to success at home and abroad.

Tokyo-based trio Hitsujibungaku offers a good starting point of where Japan’s rock scene is going. The majority-female group found success on the anime song circuit last year, delivering the end credits track for mega-popular TV anime "Jujutsu Kaisen." "More than words" which became the lead single for their recent album 12 hugs like butterflies, immediately stuck out for its shuffling, nostalgic melody, and evocative, fuzzy layering of guitar tone influenced by shoegaze. 

Kenshi Yonezu

More than most mega-successful J-pop artists, Kenshi Yonezu owes his success to the Vocaloid and internet music communities in which he forged his artistry. Raised in rural Tokushima, he began his career as a teenager in the late 2000s, uploading music to the video site Nico Nico Douga under the name Hachi, and soon found his most successful tracks were the ones that used Vocaloids like Hatsune Miku. Like many artists in the digital age, Yonezu’s early work was entirely DIY, as thanks to Vocaloid he was able to produce, write, and even design artwork for his music all on his own.

Eventually, Yonezu signed to a major label and began to split time between his Vocaloid tracks as Hachi and music made under his own name. His album Bootleg won Album Of THe Year at the Japan Record Awards in 2018, and he became known for tender, uptempo ballads like "Uchiage Hanabi" and "Lemon" (the latter of which still reigns as the most-viewed video by a Japanese musician on YouTube with over 800 million views). 

Two high profile anime commissions have driven Yonezu’s star beyond Japan. In 2022, he produced the opening theme for the highly-anticipated adaptation of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s acclaimed manga Chainsaw Man. "Kick Back" departed from Yonezu’s biggest hits by leaning into the show’s action premise with drum and bass beats and an aggressive guitar melody. Buoyed by the anime’s success, "Kick Back" topped the Oricon and Billboard Japan singles charts and even charted in the U.K., Canada, and the U.S., where it became the first Japanese-language song to be certified gold by the RIAA. 

Then in 2023, he produced and sang "Spinning Globe," the end credits theme for Hayao Miyazaki’s first film in a decade, The Boy and the Heron. It was the first time the anime auteur, who usually uses older pop music or score from usual composer Joe Hisaishi, had chosen a contemporary pop artist to write for him. 

King Gnu

King Gnu aren’t afraid to mix it up. They gained acclaim in Japan by pursuing a pop rock sound that’s one part city pop, one part hip-hop. Tracks like "Hakujutsu" and "Kasa" pair sick riffs and boogie basslines with turntable scratching and delicate, yet powerful vocals from Daiki Tsuneta and Satoru Iguchi.

Last year they scored a major hit with "Specialz," which was used as an opening theme for popular anime "Jujutsu Kaisen." Setting the mood for the show’s bleak second season with metallic techno drums and brawny guitar riffs, the menacing song peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Japan Hot 100 and currently has over 166 million Spotify streams. Tsuneta also leads the collective millennium parade, who lean toward electronic music and scored a hit with "U," from the Mamoru Hosoda musical anime BELLE

MAISONdes

Conceptual projects are much more common in the Japanese pop landscape than one might expect. Case in point: MAISONdes. While not a band or a collective, MAISONdes is an imaginary apartment building where lonely hearts find solace in song. The virtual building is accessible through a website, and each song produced for the project is assigned a room number and created by a randomly-paired team of producers and vocalists that changes with each track. Participants have included chart star Aimer and VTubers such as KAF and Hoshimachi Suisei. 

Too complicated? Too weird? At least the music is good, focused on high-energy electro pop reminiscent of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, idol pop, and the Vocaloid, anisong, and netlabel acts of recent decades. As such, the most high-profile MAISONdes tracks have been those produced for anime and promotional campaigns. They’ve done all the opening and ending themes for the recent TV anime reboot of classic comedy manga "Urusei Yatsura," and their most recent track, "Popcorn" was a collab with Sanrio celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hello Kitty, one of the original kawaii culture icons. The hyperactive song gained a million views on YouTube within three days of being posted. 

Vaundy

City pop — the ‘70s and ‘80s musical movement that blended American funk and AOR with disco and synthpop — looms large in the J-pop landscape. Although its revival has somewhat peaked following the pandemic, that hasn’t stopped guys like Vaundy from channeling the sound into their own music.

His breakout hit "Tokyo Flash" paired the grooves of the city pop era with a more down-to-earth arrangement with simpler production. Further attempts to modernize the sound have also found success: "Todome no Ichigeki," written for the popular anime "Spy x Family," featured a grand, orchestral instrumental and a guest verse from rapper Cory Wong. With romantic lyrics reminiscent of City Pop king Tatsuro Yamashita, it’s a true return to the retro style. 

Of course, like most J-pop musicians, Vaundy isn’t a stylistic purist. He’s also applied his confident vocal style to several brisk rock tracks, resulting in chart success. His heavy metal jam for the Chainsaw Man TV anime soundtrack, "CHAINSAW BLOOD," peaked at 13 on the Billboard Japan Hot 100, while the poppier "Kaijuu no Hana Uta" went to No. 2 after he performed the song on the "2022 Kohaku Uta Gassen" New Year’s Eve show. 

YOASOBI

Inarguably the focal point of contemporary J-pop, no other act has defined the current era in Japan more than YOASOBI. The duo of Ayase and Ikura burst onto the scene in 2019 with the song "Yoru ni Kakeru," based on a short story posted on the site Monogatary. Pairing an upbeat instrumental with bleak, literary lyrics about death and suicide, it’s the most unlikely of pop hits. Released in late 2019, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to grip Japan a few months before the rest of the world. "Yoru ni Kakeru" became a massive, award-winning smash. Billboard Japan named it the first song in its chart history to pass 1 billion streams, and Oricon named it the most-streamed song of the Reiwa era just last month. 

Read more: From Tokyo To Coachella: YOASOBI's Journey To Validate J-Pop And Vocaloid As Art Forms

Since then the band have become major hitmakers and fixtures of the anison production line, writing theme tracks for hit anime like "Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury" and "Frieren: Journey’s End." They scored another era-defining hit with "Idol," their opening song for the controversial 2023 showbiz satire "Oshi no Ko." Responding to the anime’s twisted tale of a mysterious J-pop idol with dark secrets, the duo paired a bombastic instrumental with lyrics that perfectly capture the cardinal rule of stardom: tell all and reveal nothing. 

The song became such a cultural phenomenon in Japan that YOASOBI performed it at last year’s "Kohaku Uta Gassen" New Year’s TV special flanked by dozens of J-Pop and K-Pop idols, including members of NewJeans, LE SSERAFIM, and Nogizaka46. 

A Guide To Cantopop: From Beyond And Sam Hui To Anita Mui

Kid Cudi performs at Coachella 2024
Kid Cudi, whose music often discusses mental health, performs at Coachella 2024.

Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Coachella

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10 Times Hip-Hop Has Given A Voice To Mental Health: Eminem, J. Cole, Logic & More Speak Out

From the message of "The Message" to Joe Budden's vulnerable podcast and Jay-Z speaking about the importance of therapy, read on for moments in the history of hip-hop where mental health was at the forefront.

GRAMMYs/May 20, 2024 - 03:10 pm

In a world of braggadocio lyrics, where weakness is often looked down upon, hip-hop can often seem far from a safe place to discuss mental health. 

But underneath its rugged exterior, hip-hop culture and its artists have long been proponents of well-being and discussing the importance of taking care of one's mental health. Openness about these topics has grown in recent years, including a 2022 panel discussion around hip-hop and mental health, co-hosted by the GRAMMY Museum, the Recording Academy's Black Music Collective, and MusicCares in partnership with the Universal Hip-Hop Museum. 

"Artists are in a fight-or-flight mode when it comes to being in this game," said Eric Brooks, former VP of Marketing & Promotions at Priority Records who worked with NWA and Dr. Dre. "And there need to be strategies on how to deal with the inner battles that only happen in the mind and body."  

The panel only scratched the surface of the many times hip-hop culture has illuminated critical mental health issues that often remain hidden or under-discussed in the music industry. In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, read on for 10 times hip-hop has shone a light on mental health. 

J. Cole Apologized To Kendrick Lamar

A long-simmering beef between Drake and Kendrick Lamar was reignited in March 2024 when Metro Boomin' and Future released "Like That." The track featured a scathing verse from Kendrick, where he took aim at  Drake and J. Cole, and referenced the pair's collaborative song "First Person Shooter." 

The single begged for a response, and J. Cole, under what was presumably a significant amount of pressure, surprise-released his Might Delete Later. The album featured "7 Minute Drill," in which Cole calls Kendrick's To Pimp, A Butterfly boring. 

But the same week Cole's album came out, he apologized to Kendrick onstage at his Dreamville Fest, saying it didn't sit right with his spirit and that he "felt terrible" since it was released. Cole added that the song didn’t sit right with him spiritually and he was unable to sleep. Cole subsequently removed "7 Minute Drill" from streaming services. 

Strong debate followed about whether or not Cole should have removed the song. However, many heralded Cole’s maturity in the decision and said it was an important example of not doing things that don’t align with one's true emotions, and avoiding allowing others expectations of you weight down your own physical and mental health.

SiR Spoke Candidly About Depression & Sobriety

Although an R&B artist, TDE singer SiR is hip-hop adjacent, having collaborated with former labelmate Kendrick Lamar on tracks like "D'Evils" and "Hair Down." SiR recently spoke with GRAMMY.com about the troubles that followed him after the release of his 2019 album Chasing Summer.

"I was a full-blown addict, and it started from a string of depression [and] relationship issues and issues at home that I wasn't dealing with," SiR says. After the Los Angeles-based singer had hit rock bottom, he found the spark he needed to do something about it. His initial rehab stint was the first step on the road to change.  

"I was there for 21 days [in 2021]. [The] second time, I was there for two months and the third time wasn't technically rehab…I did personal therapy, and, man, [that] did wonders," he recalls. 

SiR also tackled the stigma many Black communities place on therapy and seeking help for mental health issues. "I would've never done something like that if I was in any other position, so I'm thankful for my issues because they led me to a lot of self-reflection and forgiveness," SiR says.

Big Sean Educated His Audience About Anxiety & Depression 

One of the biggest challenges in addressing anxiety and depression is the feeling that those issues must be kept under wraps.  In 2021, Big Sean and his mother released a series of videos in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Month, in which the GRAMMY nominee opened up about his battles with depression and anxiety. 

In one of those videos, Sean and his mother discussed  the importance of sleep and circadian rhythms when managing depression and mental health issues. In an industry that prioritizes the grind, the hip-hop community often overlooks sleep — much to its detriment.

"Sleep is the most overlooked, disrespected aspect of our well-being," said Myra Anderson, Executive Director & President of the Sean Anderson Foundation and Big Sean's mother. "Even one day without good sleep can mess up your hormones severely." 

As a busy recording artist, Sean concurs that, for him, a lack of sleep contributes to challenges with anxiety. “If I’m not in the right mindset, I don’t get the right sleep,” says Sean in the mental health video series. “Then that anxiety rides high, and my thoughts are racing. I’m somebody that lives in my head.”

G.Herbo's "PTSD" Addressed The Impact Of Street Violence

Eastside Chicago's G. Herbo is an artist vital to the city's drill music scene. On "PTSD," the title track of his 2020 album, Herbo raps about his struggles coping with violence and loss. 

"I can't sleep 'cause it's a war zone in my head / My killers good, they know I'm hands-on with the bread / A million dollars ahead, I'm still angry and seeing red / How the f*ck I'm 'posed to have fun? All my n— dead."  

The lyrics echoed the realities of what G. Herbo grew up seeing in O-Block, considered by many to be one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago. But it wasn't just a song title; G. Herbo was diagnosed with PTSD in 2019 and began therapy to manage it, showing that even rap's most hardened have opened themselves up to professional help. 

"I'm so glad that I did go to therapy," G. Herbo told GRAMMY.com in July 2020. "I'm glad that I did take that leap of faith to just go talk to somebody about my situation and just my thoughts and get 'em to a person with an unbiased opinion." 

Joe Budden Opens Up About His Darkest Times 

In 2017, on the "Grass Routes Podcast," rapper-turned-podcaster Joe Budden opened up about multiple suicide attempts and his lifelong battle with depression. 

"For me, there have been times where I've actually attempted suicide," Budden shared. "As open as I've been when it comes to mental health, it wasn't until retirement from rapping that I was able to dive into some of the things the fans have seen." 

Never one to shy away from rapping about his mental health struggles, Budden songs like "Whatever It Takes" peel back the layers on an artist fighting his demons: "See, I'm depressed lately, but nobody understands / That I'm depressed lately, I'm sorta feelin repressed lately." 

Budden continued to be a champion for mental health that year, including on his former Complex show "Everyday Struggle," where Budden broke down while discussing the suicide death of fellow rapper Styles P's daughter. 

In recent years, Budden has uses his wildly popular "The Joe Budden Podcast" as a tool to discuss his own struggles and raise awareness of mental health issues. 

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five Broadcast A Serious "Message"

Hip-hop culture has long used rap as a tool to highlight mental health and the everyday struggles of its community. Released in 1982, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five's "The Message" is an early, effective example of vulnerability in hip-hop.

"The Message" described the mental health impacts of poverty and inner-city struggle, describing desperate feelings and calling for support in underserved communities: "I can't take the smell, can't take the noise / Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice." Perhaps the most recognizable lyric comes from Melle Mel, who raps, "Don't push me cause I'm close to the edge/I'm trying not to lose my head." 

Eminem Got Honest About Depression While In Rehab

On "Reaching Out," Queen and Paul Rodgers sing "Lately I've been hard to reach / I've been too long on my own / everybody has a private world where they can be alone." These lyrics were sampled on the intro to Eminem's 2009 single "Beautiful," a raw tale of the rapper's struggles with depression. Half of the song was written while Eminem was in rehab, including lyrics like "I'm just so f—king depressed/I just can't seem to get out this slump." 

The lyrics pierced the core of Eminem's audience, who were able to see the parallels between the struggles of a rap superstar and their own issues. The song reached the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for a Best Rap Solo Performance GRAMMY Award. In an interview with MTV about the song, Eminem said it was an important outlet for him at a challenging time. 

But it was far from the first time Eminem has discussed mental health. One of the earliest examples was in his song "Stan," where Eminem rapped from the perspective of an obsessed fan who ended up killing himself and his wife after Eminem failed to respond to his fan mail. In a 2000 interview, Eminem told MTV that he wrote the song to warn fans not to take his lyrics literally. 

Logic Sparked Change With A Number

One of the most impactful moments hip-hop has seen regarding mental health and sparking change was when Logic released his song "1-800-273-8255" in 2017. The record, named after the real National Suicide Lifeline Prevention phone number, which is now 988, hit the top three on the US Billboard Hot 100.

Following the song's release, the British Medical Journal released a study sharing data that showed the song contributed to a 27 percent increase in calls to the prevention hotline that year and may have even contributed to an actual reduction in deaths by suicide. 

Logic's single further proved that rap music's impact extends well beyond charts and sales. "1-800-273-8255" highlighted the connection artists have with their fans, as well as the ways music can be a tool to cope with challenges like mental health and suicidal thoughts. 

Kid Cudi Opened Up About Suicidal Urges 

Cleveland's own Kid Cudi has never shied away from putting his emotions on record, rapping vividly throughout his career about his struggles with mental health. Cudi records, like the hit single "Pursuit of Happiness," are brutally honest about trying to find happiness in a world filled with trials and tribulations. 

In a 2022 interview with Esquire, Cudi recalled checking himself into rehab in 2016 for depression and suicidal urges. He had been using drugs to manage the weight of his stardom and even suffered a stroke while in rehab. "Everything was f—ed," Cudi said. 

Cudi took a break to develop stability, returning to the spotlight with the 2018 project Kids See Ghosts in collaboration with Kanye West.. Today, Cudi and his music remain pillars of strength for those facing similar challenges.   

Jay-Z Detailed The Importance Of Therapy & Getting Out Of "Survival Mode"

In 2017, Jay-Z released his critically acclaimed thirteenth studio album. 4:44 was packed with lessons on family, mental health, and personal growth.

An interview with the New York Times, Jay-Z discussed how helpful therapy had been to him. Therapy helped the rap superstar in his interactions with other people — something that had been hardened growing up as a black man in Marcy Projects. "I grew so much from the experience," he told the Times.

"I think the most important thing I got is that everything is connected. Every emotion is connected, and it comes from somewhere. I understand that, instead of reacting to that with anger, I can provide a softer landing and maybe, 'Aw, man, is you O.K.? You're in this space where you're hurting, and you think I see you, so you don't want me to look at you. And you don't want me to see you,'" he said. "You don't want me to see your pain."

The album also unpacked Jay-Z's infidelity. "I'll f— up a good thing if you let me," he raps on "Family Feud." In the same interview, Jay-Z shared that growing up in the hood put him into "survival mode," impacting his abilities to be a good partner and husband earlier in life. 

"You shut down all emotions. So even with women, you gonna shut down emotionally, so you can't connect," he reflected. "In my case, like it's, it's deep. And then all the things happen from there: infidelity." 

"I Made My ADHD Into My Strength": Understanding The Link Between Rap & Neurodivergence

Chief Keef press photo 2024
Chief Keef

Photo: Casimir Spaulding

interview

Chief Keef On 'Almighty So 2,' His Long-Awaited Return To Chicago & Why He's "Better Now Than I Ever Was"

More than a decade in the making, Chief Keef unveiled the second installment of 'Almighty So.' The rapper details why the new album is not a sequel to his 2013 mixtape, but rather another symbol of his artistic evolution.

GRAMMYs/May 14, 2024 - 02:51 pm

Chief Keef fans have been awaiting a sequel to his influential mixtape Almighty So since he released it in 2013. The project came out in the midst of a magnificent and experimental run for Keef, when he was changing his style seemingly at will from Almighty's almost avant-garde soundscapes to woozy, autotuned melodies (Bang Pt. 2) to stoic street tales (Back From the Dead).

Keef, now 28, has been well aware of the anticipation for a follow-up to Almighty So, teasing the project since 2019. Five years later, it's finally here — but it might not quite be what fans were expecting.

In keeping with Keef's mercurial and exploratory artistic nature, Almighty So 2 has very little to do with its predecessor, save that comedian Michael Blackson does skits on both. In fact, Keef tells GRAMMY.com that the title of the project does not mean that he views it as a sequel to Almighty So.

"There's no connection at all," he asserts. Almighty So is his nickname, and one of his many alter egos; it stems from "Sosa," the Scarface-inspired nickname he's been using since the beginning of his career. The title, he says, "is not just a project that I dropped years ago. It's me. I'm still almighty."

Almighty So 2, released May 10, is indeed very different. It boasts a Keef who is nearly free of vocal doublings and ad libs, ready to let his voice clearly be heard on a wide range of subjects, including some introspective and emotional looks at himself, going all the way back to his childhood.

Several days before the project's release, GRAMMY.com caught up with Keef while he was at home in Los Angeles. Below, the Chicago-born rapper breaks down the album's lyrics and music, its most surprising guest appearance, how he views his own legacy, and his return to his hometown for the first time in over a decade.

This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

You've been talking about this record since 2019, and originally you were saying it's going to have a lot of melody. The album I heard is very different from that. Can you tell me how and why the vision changed?

I just wanted to do something I never did. A couple of songs is stuff that you probably would never hear me do.

What's different about those songs?

Just more rapping about real things instead of flexing or talking about cars and weed. I'm rapping about real stuff in my life — in life, period.

"Believe" is like that. 

Oh yeah, "Believe," I forgot about that. You really know these songs. Okay, that's dope.

I heard that song as being about wanting and trying to change. Can you tell me about writing that and deciding to open up a little bit?

When I was making that beat, it gave me that feeling of, let some stuff out. That's all.

There's a line on there that really grabbed me. You're talking about growing up and you say you had to be an "evil kid." The word "evil" really struck me. What do you mean by
"evil"?

Because I was always smart — brilliant, intelligent. My circumstances had to be different, though. There wasn't a way for me to really show…I had to do the streets thing. I had to be a gangbanger. I had to grow up doing all that stuff instead of my potential that I know that I have, that I'm using doing all this stuff like designing. I can do everything. Really, literally. I probably could fly a plane, too.

Before I get into my ideas about it, what's different about your rapping on this album?

I feel like I'm just old. I'm 28, I'm finna be 29 now, man. I'm not the same young boy that grew up in Chicago on 54th and 61st. I guess you can call it growth.

I still got some stuff on there like the regular Sosa — the turn up, the fight-in-the-club or whatever you want to call it. Jump around, mosh pit music. I still got that. 

I was thinking more about just the sound of your rapping. There was almost no doubling, almost no ad libs. Your voice is very clear. Can you tell me about that creative decision?

I haven't been doubling like that. I don't know why I stopped it. You're right, I wanted to be more clear. 

Once I do a song, if I didn't do the ad libs, it must have not needed ad libs. When I do ad libs, it's like, I gotta do these ad libs. And if a song doesn't have ad libs on it, probably I can't really say the stuff that I want to say on the ad libs, or I didn't know how to put it. So I just said, scratch the ad libs and it's good like that. It's perfect. You don't need it, or the doubles. 

You have two songs on this record, "Runner" and "1,2,3," where you do that Dipset thing of talking back to the vocal sample. Why'd you do that?

I grew up on Juelz [Santana] and Cam'ron and Jim Jones. On 61st, we was a clique called Dipset, which comes from them. That's where I come from, so that's what I know. I guess I'm still living that right there.

Tell me about making beats for this album. There was some sampling in there, which is something you haven't done too much of.

I started sampling in probably 2019, 2020, or something like that. A lot of my producer friends, even my rapper friends, be like, "I love the way you sample. Damn, how do you sample like that?" Even though sometimes, I'll just let a sample play — it won't even be a chopped-up sample. 

If you get a beat from someone else, do you go in and add stuff to it?

Yeah. I can't take a beat and not put my stuff on it. Because it might be a dope beat, but if I feel like it need a couple more snares or a snare roll or some extra high hats or a bridge, I'll add my stuff in.

The album has some introspective lyrics, but it's also very funny.

I want to have some fun with it. A lot of people just drop projects and be regular degular. I wanted to do different. 

Like one song on the album, it takes four minutes to come on. It's just a beat and there's a skit playing of a dude in heaven talking. It's for car rides or trips. I don't know, I just wanted to do something different than what's regularly done all the time.

What's the connection between this album and the first Almighty So? Why call it Almighty So 2?

There's no connection at all. It's just, Almighty So, that's me. It's not just a project that I dropped years ago — it's me. I'm still Almighty So. I might not call myself that all the time, but it's forever me because when I did come out, it's something that I made and I stuck with it. 

It's just a name that everybody know. It's going to go down in the books. Forever, I'm Almighty So. I just had to do a number two, as in growth. It's the growth version of me.

I'm trying to display that I'm not the same 16, 17, 18-year-old that was running around Chicago with a gun on his hip. I'm far away in Los Angeles, California in a big, stupid-ass house with nine bathrooms and eight bedrooms. I got 12 cars outside my house, and they all mine. I don't have to have that gun on my hip. I ain't gotta watch my back all the time. 

I'm not the same. I'm a different guy. I feel like I'm better now than I ever was. I'm a better individual: the way I think, the way I talk. I'm more talkative now. At first, I wasn't even f—ing talking, bro. At first, you couldn't get me to say s— but a couple words.

When was the last time you listened to the first Almighty So?

I don't listen to that thing. Everybody else around me do. From friends to fans, everybody still listen to it, but I don't listen to it, barely ever. Every blue moon, I might end up playing it somehow. Because don't forget, I was listening to that s— nonstop when I made it. And I had to perform a lot of it too. So I know it by heart. I don't need to listen to it.

You have your first performance in Chicago in many years coming up at the Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash in June. How are you feeling about it?

It's been a while, man. I ain't gonna lie, it's gonna be like I'm a tourist when I go there. 

It's been a long, long time. It's been like 11, 12 years since I touched the pavement in Chicago, or Illinois, period. I'm ready. I know it's going to be a big thing. A lot of new people probably think I'm a ghost. There probably be teachers like, "Yeah, he went to this school," [and the students will be like,] "No, no, he ain't real." 

So a lot of people are going to be excited, just knowing I'm from there and I ain't been there in so long. People that's not in even Chicago — all them surrounding cities gonna show up [too], because Sosa has not been home. And they know it's gonna be big.

Given what happened back in 2015, when the cops shut down your hologram's concert, are you worried that the authorities will be looking for an excuse to shut it down?

Hopefully they won't shut it down. I ain't been there in 11 years. I ain't done nothing to no-motherf—ing-body, man. I ain't in no cases, no RICOs, no murders, none of that s—. Leave me the f— alone, man. 

I've been chilling, making clothes and making music. Don't shut me down. And even if they did, I don't care. I'm going home. Back to L.A. I go. At least y'all know that I tried.

From the beginning of your career, you've had this association with the word "turbulence." You use Turbo as an alter ego.

[Laughs] How do you know all this? This is some Nardwuar s— right now, man.

When did that start? Do you remember the first time you were like, "Oh, that word, that's me?"

You said, when did it start? It's my alter egos I just make in my damn head. That's all. I'm versatile, so I never make the same sounding s—. Every song you listen to of mine, it's not going to be like, "That sounds like the last one I just played."  

I just got my alter egos, and I just make names. And then Turbulence, Turbo, that just came with one of my alter egos from 2017. Every other year I got a new name and a new ego.

Lately I haven't done it, though. I've been chilling, on some grown man ish. I feel like [making alter egos is] more the young Sosa. Like I said, this was in 2017 when I made that name. I haven't really been doing it lately. No new aliases.

You talked earlier about designing clothes and doing other creative stuff. When you're making art or graphics, or designing clothes, what feels the same as making music to you, and what feels different?

It's the exact same thing. S—, just like I make a beat, making a shirt takes the same creativity. It's just in a different form. Instead of melodies, you're using pictures and s—. You're drawing stuff. Instead of drawing that melody in FL Studio, you're drawing an angel for a shirt.

It's the exact same thing. Even the colors. The colors are like the EQ on the beat or on the song — it brings out the light in the stuff. 

So yeah, it's actually the same thing to me. And I've been doing this same s—. All the clothing, the beats, I've been doing the exact same thing that I'm doing now since 2008. How many years is that? That's a long time.

Like the Glory Boys logo: I made that logo in late 2009. I was what, 13, 14? I was doing this s— since I was 10, 11. It started when my momma bought me a computer. She bought me a computer when I was like 6. And then I was doing unbelievable things, unimaginable things. 

When I was doing that, I knew that this is my calling. Like, you real good with computers, if you're not good with nothing else. Anything with a screen, I could do it my sleep. If I show you the s— I can do, you'd be like, what in the f—? I'm talking coding — I can code some s— up. Your mind would be blown.

One of the things that does connect this album to the first Almighty So is you have Michael Blackson come back. Why?

Because he was on the first one. I'm just like, I got a skit or two for him. I got a couple of different skits from a couple different people. I got Fabo from D4L on there. He's on "Almighty" the song, talking. I got Donterio from my city, a funny dude I mess with. He be like, "On baby, on baby" — he famous for saying that. 

I got Michael Blackson. I wanted to make it fun and funny, so it ain't just like you're riding around listening to regular music. I wanted to make it a type of movie, but just in the music form. 

One of the guest appearances that really got my attention was Tierra Whack. I thought she was great.

Yeah, me and Tierra, we're real friends and we talk. And I love the way she do everything, so I had to put her on my s—, man. Just on some random s— — like, they won't expect no damn Tierra Whack, you know? So I had to do that. And I got my little weird ways, I'll tell you that.

I wouldn't have guessed she would be on this album.

Yeah, I know you wouldn't. Nobody would. Chief Keef and Tierra Whack? How and where and when? I wanted her to do something different than what she do. I was like, "I got this song I want you to do, but it ain't nothing like you always do. It's different." And she's like, "Hell yeah, come on, let's do it." That's my dog, for real for real.

A lot of critics talk about how influential you are. Are you aware of people saying that stuff about you?

Everywhere! If I had 500 M's every time [I heard that], I'd be Jeff Bezos. The f—? I think I'd probably be bigger. I would be more rich!

I be hearing that a lot, though, man. I be tired of hearing that s—. I be like, we know. Me, you, and God know that. It's okay. Let people do what they do, man. I was a big fan of Gucci [Mane] and Lil Wayne. Still am. So if I got people who love me like that, s—, man. 

I used to get mad about it, but I don't give a f—. I'm a big fan of those two boys I just said. Even to this day, we still ride around listening to the old Gucci. If you get in our car and we on tour, all you going to hear is Gucci Mane from 2006, 7, 8, and 9, 2010, 2011. And we still even sometimes take our raps [from that]. The old Lil Wayne, I still even rap like that. If you listen to "Jesus," I got his flow — some Lil Wayne, the old Wayne, inspiration. So I guess I inspire, the way they inspire me.

Are you still determined to change your style frequently? That used to be a thing about you: every year you'd have a whole new approach to music.

You hip, bro. You smart as hell, I ain't gonna lie. That's why I'm talking to you like I am. But anyway, you're right, I don't necessarily. 

How I am, though, I never do the same s—, like I told you. You'll never say, "This sounds exactly the same as the other one." I probably got, like, two songs [that sound alike], and that's just if I'm messing with the same producer. 

So I can't say that every year I take that approach. But I guess every day I take that approach, or any time I pick up the damn microphone. I'm just trying to think, I want to do something different, or at least try.

Do you think of yourself primarily as a rapper? A producer? A person who's good with computers?

What I say is I got angles like Kurt. You know Kurt Angle? Jack of all trades. 

Call me Jack, don't call me Sosa. I guess I got a new alias today — we made one.

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