Photo: C Flanigan/FilmMagic
New L.A. Recording Studio Residency To Help Develop Emerging Artists
Australian record label Future Classic and Dropbox team up to ignite creative opportunity for up-and-coming talent
The creative collaboration between Australian tastemaking indie label Future Classic and data storage provider Dropbox continues with their announcement of plans to partner for a Los Angeles studio residency program for emerging artists.
The two companies began their collaboration last year, opening a studio together in L.A.'s Frogtown neighborhood. For their new residency, they'll be selecting two artists to receive two weeks of studio time and industry mentorship with flights included.
"We're so excited to be partnering with Future Classic for the second year in a row, this time with a program that leverages Dropbox Paper as a tool for artists to express themselves and communicate how they are so much more than the music they create," said Dropbox head of brand partnerships Liz Armistead. "The Future Classic x Dropbox Studio continues to be a great place for artists to connect and collaborate, and the Studio Residency will allow up-and-comers to leverage technology and mentorship that they wouldn't otherwise be able to access."
Future Classic's roster includes GRAMMY winner Flume, GRAMMY nominee SOPHIE and Aussie electronic duo Flight Facilities. They also just released the new album by Nick Murphy (formerly known as Chet Faker), Run Fast Sleep Naked. Together in their shared creative studio with Dropbox, they've hosted a wide variety of artists including Moses Sumney, JPEGMAFIA, Glass Animals, Aloe Blacc and more.
We're throwing a FREE party in collaboration with @Dropbox to celebrate @futureclassic's new Studio Residency program at the #FutureClassicxDropboxStudio in LA. Catch @chromesparks, Late Verlane + more TBA at @Moth_Club on 14th May— Eat Your Own Ears (@EatYourOwnEars) April 30, 2019
RSVP for tickets: https://t.co/84HaaTg2OH pic.twitter.com/IzxNZYTPRm
Future Classic founder and CEO Nathan McLay adds, "The partnership with Dropbox has been incredibly organic, we share the same ethos when it comes to creative collaboration, and we're delighted they are as intrigued as we are to experiment with new technology and create opportunities for artists. We've always been inspired by discovery and creative-driven artist development so I can't wait to start digging through the artist submissions and see where it leads."
In celebration of the new studio residency, Future Classic and Dropbox will be hosting parties in L.A., London and Sydney. For more information and to apply, visiting the project's website.
Photo: Dana Trippe
Tkay Maidza On Her 'Sweet Justice' Inspirations: Tarot Cards, Lost Passports And Trusting Herself
Tkay Maidza knows karma tastes sweet. In an interview with GRAMMY.com, the singer-rapper reflects on her second album Sweet Justice, self-discovery after getting stranded in Berlin, and working with GRAMMY-winning producers Flume and Kaytranada.
There are few situations more stressful than losing your passport. But luckily, for Tkay Maidza, the panic-ridden circumstance ended up being a blessing in disguise.
Forced to wait in Berlin for her visa, the hip-house musician decided to take advantage of her involuntary months-long stay by making a pact with herself to do something new every few days. Soon, late nights and new friends reminded Maidza what life was all about, and Berlin became the birthplace of creative renewal — and her second album Sweet Justice.
"I feel the most creatively free when I'm having fun," the Zimbabwe-born, Australia-raised artist tells GRAMMY.com over Zoom. True to her vibrant spirit, Sweet Justice is a product of not only her search for novel experiences, but also the liberty she unlocks by breaking routine.
Long before her rejuvenating Berlin ventures, Maidza's 10-year-plus musical journey took off with her stomping debut single "Brontosaurus," leading to the success of her 2016 self-titled debut album. Influenced by visionaries like Azealia Banks and Kendrick Lamar, the singer/rapper honed her skills even further with a refreshing EP trilogy titled Last Year Was Weird (2019-2021) — and her ambition landed her opening slots on Billie Eilish and Dua Lipa's massive 2022 tours.
Ups and downs transpired after her three-prong EP series — as Maidza changed management, ended some rocky friendships, and moved to Los Angeles. Following this transitional period — and a few insightful tarot card readings — karma emerged as a core theme for Sweet Justice.
While Maidza is in firm control of her artistic vision (she gives thanks to her Capricorn placements), she's still welcome to the liberation that manifests upon leaving everything up to the universe. There's a restorative, exhilarating energy that floods Sweet Justice, and with influences like Missy Elliott and Janet Jackson, it's no wonder her fusion of hip-house, R&B, and alternative pop resonates so deeply.
Maidza is continuing to tap into life's many joys and adventures. As much as she loves diving into Reddit threads and playing tennis, she's back on the road, celebrating her album release by touring through 2023's last couple months.
Fresh off a flight from London, Maidza chatted with GRAMMY.com about her creative reinvention, understanding music as an experience, and how Sweet Justice came to life.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Tarot card readings helped inspire some of the themes in Sweet Justice, like karma and rebirth. Tell me about that.
I've kind of been always obsessed with tarot card reading since I started touring. I think it's because my mom would tell me that she kind of knew that I was going to venture off into music, but she was waiting for the right moment to tell me. So it became something to do whenever I had some confusion in terms of where to go.
After the Last Year Was Weird project, I was going through a lot of transitions — in regards to friends, from moving cities from Australia to LA. There was a big question mark of what to do next after my EPs. I remember, in a lot of the situations that I was experiencing, it didn't feel really fair. But when I had tarot readings, I kept getting the Justice card… that was kind of my theme for the album. I was like, I just have to regain my confidence and be healthy and be well and leave it all to the universe.
Also, I just took inspiration from the actual [Justice card] artwork with the reds, golds, and how the person in the terracotta is like sitting down in the middle; it's about balance and transformation.
I was just about to say, the album cover is gorgeous. Was it partially inspired by the Empress tarot card, too? I feel like they're a bit similar.
Definitely. There's always the High Priestess and the Empress. I just felt like with the Justice card, there's a lot of red, and I wanted to focus more on those colors.
But yeah, when I was doing my last EPs, that was more based on the High Priestess, where the centerpiece is a woman, and it's also the idea of birth and rebirth and abundance and enlightenment. And I think it has this ethereal feeling as well, and those three pictures, they also give that emotion of endless possibilities.
I feel like I've always been working up to working with these producers. They were on my wish list since I began making music. Working with them in person, I feel like I was being pushed by basically trying to impress them, like I wanted to make sure it was a song that I could imagine them having with another artist. It was just putting my best foot forward.
I'm so lucky that they're all really nice people. And they were like, Whoa, this is sick. Wow. This is cool. They weren't really trying to control the sessions or anything, it was more so them letting me be myself. And that level of me pushing myself just came from making sure it was up to par with how I see them as producers.
What surprised you the most about the album making process?
The thing that surprised me the most was probably the amount of trust that I had in myself. I hadn't really trusted myself that much before, and in this process, I was working with so many different producers, so I kind of held it together more than I thought. I thought it might turn into a big mess where you're like, Oh my god, I need to rely on someone, but it flowed so easily. I felt like I was in a really good energy for two or three months where I made six songs that I just really love.
Beforehand, I was kind of in this bubble of not writing for eight months. So I was like, oh my god, I have to literally finish this before the end of the year. And it was the right time, right place, right people. And it came together. I think it was mostly just my attitude towards the whole process was what surprised me because I've definitely had moments where I feel stuck.
Right, finding the right headspace is just so important, especially for creative projects. When you kind of stumble into a period of uncertainty, or face a creative block, how do you navigate that?
I try to listen to a lot of music, but I also just try to live and have fun. If I get into a block, there seems to be some sense of monotony going on in my life; I'm not as inspired because I'm not experiencing enough. It could just be like, I'm just too zoned in on one aspect of my life. But when I open it up, then there's like a more free flowing energy, and I'm able to make the most out of every moment of the day.
It's important to switch up your routine! What are your favorite hobbies, outside of music?
I love playing tennis. I honestly love being on Reddit. I don't even know if that's a hobby. Listening to podcasts, hiking, going bowling, going to aquariums. Going on long drives to random places that I've never been, just seeing the environment that I'm in. And I think I'm really lucky being in LA because you can travel 30 minutes to an area you've never been in. It's a completely new experience.
Your EP trilogy Last Year Was Weird served as your reintroduction to the world. What was your approach to that three-part project versus Sweet Justice?
When I went into the three LPs, it was almost like a rebranding for me, in the music sense, but [also] as a person. I wrote down 50 things I hoped to achieve five years from now… I had to grow as a person as well, because I was on the beginning of experimenting with old R&B, old rap, and all that. I knew I really liked it.
But then those three EPs were the process of me improving. I hoped that when each project came out, it would catch onto more people. So that was the rebrand and hopefully, there's new people that come on the journey. And I was really lucky to see that that's what happened.
With Sweet Justice, the idea was reconfirming and doubling down that this is the space that I sit in… In some ways, it's saying I'm a chameleon, but I think there's a common thread with a lot of songs from the EPs and this album.
And that's what I wanted to further cement because I feel like sometimes artists can do something that's really dope, and then they just completely jump to the other side again, and you're just like, What? So yeah, I just wanted to further cement that I'm like, This is who she is, and I hope you like it.
You mentioned rebranding. Does that process feel natural to you, or do you feel like there's more of a pressure to reinvent yourself constantly?
It wasn't natural; it felt necessary to me. When I started off in the music industry, I wasn't really sure what I was doing; everything I released felt like trial and error. By the time I got to Last Year Was Weird, I was like, OK, we've been in the music industry for like, five years, and now we can't be reactive, we have to be proactive. So it just felt more meaningful when things worked out, because it was what I was setting out to do each time. I just wanted to make sure that I had control of the direction that I was going instead of being like, oh, this random song that I made in a session worked out.
One thing I love about your artistry is that you emphasize making music into a full, lush experience. What are some of the ways you feel music transcends just pressing play on your phone?
Having the complete package brings you back to a moment in time. When I think of when Kanye West released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, you can remember that year — when you saw the music videos, the emotion that evoked. And how it was relevant to your actual life.
When you cover all those bases, it's not just a song. You're living it. And I'm almost inviting everyone to understand my perspective… Making it immersive is so important to me. Because sometimes you might not understand the song, but if you see it, and you see the way the person is holding themselves, it sells it more to you, and it makes you love it more… they're coming along on this journey with you.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
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.
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."
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.
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."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: M. Caulfield/WireImage for VH-1 Channel - New York
15 Songs That Will Make You Dance And Cry At The Same Time, From "Hey Ya!" To "Dancing On My Own"
Whether it's "Tears of a Clown" or "Tears in the Club," take a listen to some of the most sneakily sad songs by Outkast, TLC, Avicii and more.
In 2003, OutKast scored their second No. 1 hit with "Hey Ya!" The timeless track has an upbeat energy that makes you want to shake it like a polaroid picture — until you happen to catch its rather unhappy lyrics.
"Are we so in denial when we know we're not happy here?" André 3000 sings on the second verse. The line that follows may sum up its contrasting nature: "Y'all don't wanna hear me, you just wanna dance."
The ability to make listeners feel (and physically react) to a wide range of emotions is part of the genius of songwriting. Tunes like "Hey Ya!" — a sad narrative disguised by an infectious melody — is one trick that has been mastered by Outkast, R.E.M., Smokey Robinson, Robyn and many more.
If you've ever happily boogied to a beat before realizing that the lyrics on top are actually a big bummer, you're certainly not alone. BBC and Apple Music both call such tracks Sad Bangers, a fitting name for what's become an unofficial genre over the past half-century.
In light of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, GRAMMY.com compiled a list of 15 songs that will both get you in your feelings and get your body moving.
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles — "The Tears of a Clown" (1967)
The upbeat music on this Motown classic was written by Stevie Wonder, a 25-time GRAMMY winner who is deft at crafting tearjerkers that will tease your body into joyful dancing. The bassoon-bottomed song registers at 128 beats per minute, a tempo that's still favored by modern dance music producers. So when Smokey sings, "The tears of a clown/When there's no one around," you'd be forgiven for also welling up just a little bit while you're in the groove.
Gloria Gaynor — "Never Can Say Goodbye" (1975)
Gloria Gaynor reimagined the Jackson 5's 1971 pop hit "Never Can Say Goodbye" for the disco era. The sweeping string arrangements and trotting beat helped to fill dance floors, and to make the poignant song about holding onto a love of her own. Other cover versions by Isaac Hayes and the Communards also capture the contradictory vibe.
Tears For Fears — "Mad World" (1983)
British duo Tears For Fears became internationally known after outfitting their first danceable hit with a depressing and dramatic chorus that's hard to shake even 40 years after its release: "I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad, the dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had." Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith would later release more uplifting fare, such as "Everybody Wants to Rule The World" and "Sowing the Seeds of Love."
Kate Bush — "Running Up That Hill" (1985)
Kate Bush has had three twirls through charts around the world with "Running Up That Hill," beginning with its 1985 release and then as an unlikely Summer Olympics closing ceremony song in 2012.
"And if I only could, I'd make a deal with God/And I'd get him to swap our places/Be running up that road/be running up that hill/With no problems," she sings in the chorus of the racing track, longing to be more worry-free.
More recently, a placement in the Netflix drama Stranger Things in 2022 earned the weepy, minor key-led dance number a whole new generation of fans. The English artist was recently named a 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
Midnight Oil — "Beds Are Burning" (1988)
Midnight Oil lead singer Peter Garrett channeled the rage he felt from early climate change and the lack of Aboriginal land rights in the Australian Outback into "Beds Are Burning." The powerful dance tune flooded airwaves and dance floors around the world in the late '80s, reaching No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
"How can we dance when the Earth is turning?" he sings in the rousing chorus. "How do we sleep while the beds are burning?"
Garrett clearly had a personal connection to the song's yearning message: He later dedicated his life to environmental activism as the leader of the Australian Conservation Foundation, and became an elected Member of Australia's House of Representatives.
Crystal Waters — "Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)" (1991)
A house music hit about a woman without a home, "Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)" helped New Jersey singer Crystal Waters achieve international success despite a somewhat somber subject. A subsequent parody on the sketch comedy series "In Living Color" drew attention to the contrast of having happy and upbeat instrumentation with dispiriting lyrics.
"She's just like you and me/But she's homeless, she's homeless," rings the chorus. "As she stands there singing for money/La da dee la dee da…"
R.E.M. — "Shiny Happy People" (1991)
This upbeat collaboration is between rock group R.E.M. and B-52's singer Kate Pierson.The jangly guitar pop makes you want to clap your hands and stomp your feet, but the lyrics make you question if everything is indeed quite so shiny and happy.
The song is rumored to be about the massacre in China's Tiananmen Square, because the phrase "Shiny Happy People" appeared on propaganda posters. Pierson isn't so sure about that, though.
"I can't imagine that R.E.M. was thinking at the time, Oh, we want this song to be about Chinese government propaganda," she said in a 2021 interview with Vulture. "It was supposed to be shiny and happy. It was a positive thing all-around."
TLC — "Waterfalls" (1994)
"Waterfalls" was a worldwide hit for TLC in 1994, thanks to its sing-along chorus and funky bassline. The song's insistent bounce softens a firm lyrical warning that pulls people back from the edge: "Don't go chasing waterfalls/Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to/I know that you're gonna have it your way or nothing at all/But I think you're moving too fast."
"We wanted to make a song with a strong message — about unprotected sex, being promiscuous, and hanging out in the wrong crowd," Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas shared with The Guardian in 2018. "The messages in 'Waterfalls' hit home. I think that's why it's our biggest hit to date."
Outkast — "Hey Ya!" (2003)
André 3000 sings about loveless relationships to a whimsical, time-shifting dance beat on this Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping smash. The seriousness of the song — which André 3000 once explained is about "the state of relationships in the 2000s" — got lost among many listeners.*
Its unhappy lyrics were masked by André's peppy singing, as well as the song's jangly guitar and keyboard-led groove, which infectiously doubles up in speed at the end of every four beats. Even Outkast themselves couldn't help acknowledging the song's juxtaposition in a 2021 tweet.
Robyn — "Dancing On My Own" (2010)
A penultimate example of a sad banger is "Dancing On My Own" by Swedish pop star Robyn. The rueful song — a top 10 hit in multiple countries — commands you to shake your stuff, while also picturing yourself watching your ex move on at the club. Calum Scott's 2016 cover really brings out the sadness that can be obscured by Robyn's uptempo version.
"Said, I'm in the corner, watching you kiss her, oh no/And I'm right over here, why can't you see me?" Robyn sings in the chorus. "And I'm giving it my all/ But I'm not the girl you're taking home."
Fun. — "Some Nights" (2012)
fun. (the trio of Jack Antonoff, Andrew Dost and Nate Ruess) is best known for the zeitgeist-grabbing pop-rock power ballad "We Are Young," which is about the relentlessly positive enthusiasm of youth out on the town. The title track to their 2012 album Some Nights (which contains "We Are Young") is a much dancier, yet sadder song.
"What do I stand for?" Ruess asks as your feet shuffle along to the beat. "Most nights, I don't know anymore."
Avicii — "Wake Me Up" (2013)
Avicii collaborated with soulful pop singer Aloe Blacc for this worldwide chart-topper that is considered one of EDM's peak anthems. The slapping beat masks the track's sad, self-reflective lyrics about being lost.
The Swedish DJ/producer's 2018 death by suicide adds an even heavier air to Blacc's impassioned chorus: "So wake me up when it's all over/When I'm wiser and I'm older/All this time I was finding myself, and I/I didn't know I was lost."
Flume featuring Kai — "Never Be Like You" (2015)
"Never Be Like You" isn't the fastest cut in Australian DJ/producer Flume's bass-heavy discography, but the wispy track still has an irresistible bump to it. Canadian singer Kai begs her lover not to leave her ("How do I make you wanna stay?"), but her lovely tone still manages to keep the song hopeful.
FKA twigs featuring The Weekend — "Tears In The Club" (2022)
Perhaps the most overt selection of this entire list is "Tears In The Club," which finds FKA twigs and The Weeknd taking to the dancefloor to shake off the vestiges of a bad relationship. The singer/dancer has been candid about being in an abusive relationship, and the song is a lowkey bop that's buoyed by despairing chants such as, "I might die on the beat, love."
Everything But The Girl — "Nothing Left to Lose" (2023)
Nearly 30 years after DJ/producer Todd Terry helped introduce Everything But the Girl to the international dance music community with a remix of "Missing," the duo leaned into their electronic side on "Nothing Left to Lose." A single from their first album in 24 years, Fuse, "Nothing Left to Lose" features a squelching electronic bassline that contrasts the song's helpless yearning.
"I need a thicker skin/ This pain keeps getting in/ Tell me what to do/ 'Cause I've always listened to you," the pair's Tracy Thorne sings on the opening verse. Later, she makes a demand that fittingly sums up the conflicts of a quintessential sad banger: "Kiss me while the world decays."
Photo: Rachel Kupfer
A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.
It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.
Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.
Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.
In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.
Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.
There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.
Say She She
Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.
While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."
Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.
Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.
Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.
Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.
L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.
During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.
Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.
Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.