Nhandi Craig Talks Debut EP, Trusting Her Process & Creating In A Pandemic


Photo by Michele' Ghersi


Nhandi Craig Talks Debut EP, Trusting Her Process & Creating In A Pandemic

"I've never done something like this in my life. I’m not sure where this is going to take me, for all I know someone could pick this up and it could literally change my life,” the L.A.-based DJ and hip-hop producer tells the Recording Academy

GRAMMYs/Jun 4, 2020 - 10:47 pm

At 17 years old, Los Angeles-based DJ and producer Nhandi Craig has already accomplished what many artists set out to achieve within the span of a career. After falling in love with DJing through the popular video game "DJ Hero," Craig enrolled at Jam Master Jay's (RUN-D.M.C) Scratch Academy in Los Angeles and within a year became the youngest graduate of the program. By age 10 she made it to the finals of "America's Got Talent" and performed for thousands at Radio City Music Hall. By 11, the Obamas asked her to spin at the White House for the 2014 White House Easter Egg Roll. Soon after, she became a resident DJ on iHeartMedia’s Real 92.3 and was off traveling cities around the world for primetime gigs—Ibiza, Italy and Monte Carlo, to name a few.

Her forthcoming debut EP, Nhandi, is the product of a completely new venture into production, which translates to long nights and early mornings in the studio, a cross-collaboration between Craig and a few of her favorite up-and-coming artists and a quarantine-induced creative boost, all taking place between the demands of work and school. The project, four years in the making, is finally due out this Friday (June 5), just seven days before Craig’s high school graduation.

"The inspiration with doing this EP, it’s funny you know because I never really started producing with the idea of 'Yeah, I’m going to make an EP.' I started producing and I was kind of unsure what I was going to do with it. I just thought it would be something outside of DJing that I could do, but I didn’t know that it was going to be such a huge step in my career and it was going to be this highly anticipated thing that people are really looking forward to hearing," she tells the Recording Academy.

As opposed to DJing, which by now is practically second nature for Craig, producing is a "whole other ballpark" with its own extensive set of challenges. Luckily, her sensibility for tempo and composition from spinning has only fostered the spark for making beats.

"With producing, I’m constantly learning new things, different sounds. My inspiration came from listening to other producers and that motivated me to create." She cites GRAMMY-winning producers and hip-hop mainstays like Missy Elliott, Pharrell, Boi-1da and Timbaland as major sources of influence in discovering her own sound and mastering her craft, both technically and sonically. "Eventually I just knew that this was going to turn into an EP, because this is what I love to do."

Self-titled EP: Nhandi
Photo by Sacha Waldman

In fact, Craig's passion for production is so deeply rooted that after months of staying over at her mentor and multi-platinum producer Prime Maximus' house to record in his at-home studio, she took it upon herself to flip her mom's walk-in closet into a fully functioning recording space. It was here that the finishing points of the EP most came alive, especially after California's stay at home orders following COVID-19 gave Craig ample time to face the project and materialize her vision. From recording into the early morning only to wake up and do it all over again, or jumping out of bed and running to the studio after receiving a 4 A.M. text with the stems for a long-awaited verse, it was almost as if Nhandi's EP had no choice but to blossom naturally in the D.I.Y. space that she had created all on her own.

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have created a speed bump for the project in terms of its collaborations, Nhandi says that the challenge of not having present studio sessions with other artists only helped to strengthen their collective dedication and seeing the greatness within the project. Nhandi features guest spots from friends and up-and-coming collaborators, including Compton rapper AD, Las Vegas-based beatboxer, rapper and producer J Hype and Big Boy signee Elijah Banx, who appears on Craig’s favorite cut from the project, "Cold Hearted." The song addresses moving on from past relationships with new clarity over trap and hip-hop-driven production. "Its the most melodic, the most catchy, and definitely something that you can just vibe to," says Craig.

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Ahead of the release, Nhandi admits that she’s "honestly really all in the feels… I can’t even put it into words." Nervous but excited, she recalls a time where the confidence to even share her beats with friends or family wasn’t fully fledged. "Being able to listen to my songs and not judge myself for them because I like them is the best feeling in the world. I feel like I finally accomplished the feeling that I’ve been longing to feel as a producer… seeing the end product is the most exciting, the growth from when I started until now." At long last, she’s eager for the world to receive her labor of love.

"Trusting myself has been such a hard process… When people hear this I want them to know that they can do whatever it is they want with their sound, to be confident in it and to stand behind it strongly and loudly. It’s all about energy with the songs that you put out. That’s just what it takes. To have that energy, you have to trust your sound, that’s something that I’ve learned and it’s something that I want people to understand when I put this out," she says.

Nhandi and Prime Maximus
Photo by Ellen Craig

"I’ve never done something like this in my life. I’m not sure where this project is going to take me, for all I know someone could pick this up and it could literally change my life."

As for advice that she can offer other young musicians looking to explore their sound or release that very first body of work, Nhandi says it’s really all about learning to dig into yourself wholeheartedly.

"Try not to fight reality. If you do that, you stir up so much negative energy and it transpires through your music and creative process. Try not to overthink. It can be good and bad when you overthink, because you can see all the possibilities of how something will play out, but don’t overthink to the point where its hindering you from creating or deteriorating your self confidence and trustworthiness in your music. Trust yourself and even when you want to give up, when you aren’t sure what you’re doing or where you’re going, live in that moment. Feel all of the rage, all of the anger, all of the sadness, all of the upset. Feel the emotions you need to and then get right back to it," she says.

"Producing and making music should not feel like a chore rather than a passion. There are going to be setbacks in this process because it’s not easy. Don’t invalidate your feelings. Do whatever you can to express and release them because energy and emotion can and will transpire in your creativity if you let them get the best of you."

Nhandi is available on all platforms on June 5.

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Jay-Z And Meek Mill's REFORM Donates Surgical Masks To Vulnerable Prison Population

Meek Mill

Photo: Brian Stukes/Getty Images


Jay-Z And Meek Mill's REFORM Donates Surgical Masks To Vulnerable Prison Population

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says correctional facilities are particularly vulnerable places for COVID-19 to spread

GRAMMYs/Apr 7, 2020 - 05:01 am

Jay-Z and Meek Mill's criminal justice reform organization REFORM has donated roughly 100,000 surgical masks to correctional facilities including in the states of New York, Tennessee and Mississippi.

The organization said it donated 50,000 masks to New York City's Rikers Island Correctional Facility, 40,000 masks to the Tennessee Department of Correction and 5,000 to Mississippi State Penitentiary. Spin reports that an additional 2,500 masks were sent to a Rikers medical facility. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says correctional facilities are particularly vulnerable places for COVID-19 to spread.  

"Incarcerated/detained persons live, work, eat, study, and recreate within congregate environments, heightening the potential for COVID-19 to spread once introduced," according to the CDC. Other vulnerabilities include the fact that incarcerated people, for the most part, can't leave and, depending on the size of the facility, space for someone to medically isolate could be limited.

"We need to protect vulnerable people behind bars & GET THEM OUT!" REFORM said in a tweet. The organization sees this as a threat to public health and said on its website that it is working with experts and advocates "to develop a set of common-sense recommendations that would make us all SAFER."

They also announced on Twitter that they helped the South Carolina Department of Corrections locate 36,000 masks for their population. 

Across the nation, COVID-19 cases have been popping up in correctional facilities, including North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee

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EDC 2019: Alison Wonderland, TOKiMONSTA, Deadmau5, Above & Beyond, Tiësto, More

Alison Wonderland

Photo: Mauricio Santana/Getty Images


EDC 2019: Alison Wonderland, TOKiMONSTA, Deadmau5, Above & Beyond, Tiësto, More

The world-renowned EDM fest has released the lit roster of over 240 artists for its 23rd annual event, set to return to its ninth year in Las Vegas from May 17–19

GRAMMYs/Mar 28, 2019 - 04:55 am

Today Insomniac, which hosts the now-global Electric Daisy Carnival and other major EDM events, announced the highly anticipated lineup for its flagship Las Vegas fest, set to take place May 17–19 this year. EDC 2019 is positively stacked, featuring GRAMMY winners Diplo, David Guetta and Tiësto, plus GRAMMY nominees TOKiMONSTA, Paul Oakenfold, Deadmau5, Above & Beyond and Kaskade.

Deadmau5 will be making his first return to the fest since 2010, bringing his new "Cube 3.0" stage setup, and Guetta will be back for his first time since the 2012 event. Australian singer/songwriter DJ/producer extraordinaire Alison Wonderland, plus GRAMMY-nominated rave icons Steve Aoki, Armin van Buuren will also bring fire to the three-day event.

Unlike a typical music festival lineup, EDC lists theirs alphabetically by day, giving way to a treasure hunt to the many gems across the lines of names. Underground techno queens Charlotte De Witte, ANNA and Amelie Lens will all perform at the event, which has eight(!) stages, along with fellow techno heavy-hitter Adam Beyer.

South African DJ/producer and underground house legend Black Coffee will also perform, as well as fellow house heavyweights Green Velvet, Patrick Topping and GRAMMY nominee Eric Prydz. Green Velvet will be offering two sets, one as Get Real, his project with Detroit legend Claude VonStroke.

Several artists will be hopping on the decks together, including Topping, who will be doing a B2B set (a.k.a. back-to-back, or collab set, for those not up on the rave lingo) with fellow British DJ Eats Everything. U.K. dubstep stalwarts Skream and Rusko are on the lineup for an "old skool dubstep set," which, as Your EDM put it, is "absolutely unheard of."

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But wait, who are the headliners? Pasquale Rotella, CEO and co-founder of Insomniac, believes that headliners are everyone that attends the festival, spreads the love and makes all the magic possible.

"Being a Headliner means looking at the world a little differently, and seeing beauty and inspiration everywhere you look. It’s about lifting up the people around you and making time for your family and friends. This is a journey we all take together—always connected and committed to one another," Rotella said in a statement on Insomniac's website.

If you want to get your dance on and check out the carnival rides, interactive art and plenty of lights and lasers with EDC in Vegas, you're in luck; tickets are still available. Check out EDC's website for more info.

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Dreamville Festival 2020 Is Officially Canceled Due To COVID-19

J. Cole

Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images


Dreamville Festival 2020 Is Officially Canceled Due To COVID-19

The second annual music festival from J. Cole's Dreamville Records squad and friends was first postponed from April until August, and will now have to wait until 2021

GRAMMYs/May 19, 2020 - 02:27 am

Dreamville Festival has announced they are canceling their 2020 event due to public safety concerns caused by coronavirus. The second annual edition of the one-day music fest, hosted by J. Cole and his talent-filled Dreamville Records, was originally slated to take place on April 6 at Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh, N.C., but was rescheduled to Aug. 29 after the pandemic struck the U.S.

Like countless other events that were set to take place this year, it will now have to wait until 2021. Dreamville says all 2020 ticket holders will be receive refunds soon.

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"After much deliberation and careful monitoring of the current situation, we have decided to cancel Dreamville Festival 2020. Although we originally hoped it would be possible to bring you the festival this August, the ongoing uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic has made this timeline no longer possible. This decision has been extremely difficult to make, but the safety of our fans, artists, and staff is always our top priority, and nothing will ever take precedence over your well-being," the organizers wrote in a statement shared across their social channels and on the fest's website.

The message also shared details on refunds, noting that all tickets purchased online will automatically be refunded to the original payment method, beginning this week. Fans who bought physical tickets from official points of purchase can request a refund here.

"Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate this. Please stay safe, healthy, and sane so we can reunite with you in 2021," the statement added.

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According to Pitchfork, the debut Dreamville fest also faced unforeseen setbacks; it was originally set for Sept. 15, 2018 at Dorothea Dix Park but was pushed to April 6, 2019, due to Hurricane Florence. The 2019 event featured performances from Dreamville head Cole and labelmates J.I.D, BAS and Ari Lennox, as well as SZA, Big Sean, 21 Savage, 6LACK, Rapsody, Nelly and other heavy-hitters in hip-hop and R&B.

No artists have been revealed yet for the second edition of the fest.

The Dreamville squad earned their first two collective GRAMMY nominations at the most recent 62nd GRAMMY Awards; for Best Rap Album for the collaborative Revenge Of The Dreamers III and Best Rap Performance for one of its singles, "Down Bad." Cole earned a total of five nods, including for his work on that project, and took him his first GRAMMY win for his feature on 21 Savage's "A Lot."

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Houseparty’s "In The House": Katy Perry, John Legend, Alicia Keys + More

Katy Perry

Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images


Houseparty’s "In The House": Katy Perry, John Legend, Alicia Keys + More

The three-day livestream event taking place this weekend (May 15-17) will allow users to view performances and segments while chatting with friends in realtime

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2020 - 12:46 am

Houseparty, the face-to-face social video app, is bringing a star-studded lineup of performances, workouts and cooking lessons to its users, including appearances by Katy Perry, John Legend, Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys and more than 40 other celebrities. The event, "In The House," will take place over the course of three days, beginning this weekend on Friday, May 15 and running through Sunday, May 17.

Per Rolling Stone, the event’s programming will see a live performance of Perry’s unreleased track “Daisies,” slated to be released on Friday, May 15, in addition to sets by Legend, Chvrches and others. The program will also feature special cooking lessons on unique recipes provided by Snoop Dogg, 2 Chainz and Zooey Deschanel. Alicia Keys will also host a karaoke session and lead a 30 minute at-home workout. The full lineup and event schedule are available here.

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The three-day event will allow those who tune in to enjoy free performances from the comfort of their homes, and they’ll be able to chat and interact with friends via the app all in real time. In a statement to Variety discussing the program, Houseparty CEO and co-founder Sima Sistani said “We are bringing back appointment viewing… to capture that feeling of sitting on the couch for that special show with your family or friends on a Friday night.”

Houseparty is available to download for free on iOS and Android devices, as well as online where users can tune in to stream the live event. Each segment will air again 12 hours following its original stream for those who may have missed the original broadcasts.

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