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Press Play At Home: Watch Jesswar Perform A Quietly Ominous Version Of "XXL"

In the newest episode of Press Play At Home, watch Fijian-Aussie rap firebrand Jesswar perform a version of "XXL" that ripples with dark energy

GRAMMYs/Jul 15, 2021 - 07:29 pm

Hardcore hip-hop bangers are alive and well in 2021. They're just not from where—or whom—you might expect.

Meet Jesswar, a rising, Australia-born rapper who spent her formative years in Fiji. To hear her tell it, some of the seething rage in her artistry comes from being "mistreated" as a woman of color in music. "I was really tired of being overlooked," she told NME this year. "I was pretty angry."

In the newest episode of Press Play At Home, watch Jesswar channel that dark energy into a potent performance of "XXL," off her 2021 TROPIXX EP, that's both viscerally thrilling and hair-raisingly evocative.

Check out Jesswar’s performance above and click here to enjoy more episodes of Press Play At Home.

Vince Staples Talks New Self-Titled Album, Teases Upcoming Netflix Show & Graphic Novel

Denzel Curry press photo
Denzel Curry

Photo: Giovanni Mourin

interview

Denzel Curry Returns To The Mischievous South: "I've Been Trying To Do This For The Longest"

Over a decade after he released 'King of the Mischievous South Vol. 1,' Denzel Curry is back with 'Vol. 2.' The Miami rapper details his love of Southern hip-hop, working on multiple projects, and the importance of staying real.

GRAMMYs/Jul 17, 2024 - 01:10 pm

Denzel Curry isn’t typically one for repetition. His recent run of critically acclaimed projects have all contrasted in concept and musicality.

The Miami Gardens native has cascaded through boom-bap, synth-soaked trap metal, and cloud rap throughout his catalog. But on his upcoming project, King of the Mischievous South Vol. 2, Curry returns to the muddied, subwoofer-thudding soundscape that he captured on the first installment back in 2012. 

Curry was just 16 when he released King of the Mischievous South Vol. 1 Underground Tape 1996]. "I was a kid, man," Curry tells GRAMMY.com. "I was just trying to emulate my favorite rappers at the time who really represented the South. That was pretty much what I was on at the time – the Soulja Slims, the No Limits, but mostly Three 6 Mafia. And then I just put Miami culture on top of that."

Curry first explored the rough-cut "phonk" of Southern acts like DJ Screw and Pimp C as a teenager. His first mixtape, King Remembered Underground Tape 1991-1995, caught the attention of then-rising rapper and producer SpaceGhostPurrp. He shared Curry’s project on his social media accounts, making him an official member of South Florida’s Raider Klan.

Read more: A Guide To Southern Hip-Hop: Definitive Releases, Artists & Subgenres From The Dirty South

The now-defunct group is well behind Curry, who’s ascended from the infancy of his early SoundCloud days to mainstream success. But the rapid-fire delivery and hazy, rough-cut sounds of early Southern rap are still soaked into his musical fibers.

Reignited by the same musical heroes that led to Vol. 1, Curry is comfortable in old sonic form. Vol. 2's lead singles "Hot One" (feat. A$AP Ferg and TiaCorine) and "Black Flag Freestyle" with That Mexican OT fully capture the sharp-edged sound that stretched from Port Arthur, Texas to the Carolinas.

The rapper wanted to go back to the KOTMS series nearly a decade ago, but other projects and outside ventures derailed his return. "I tried to do this thing multiple times," Curry tells GRAMMY.com. "I remember revisiting a [social media post] from 2015 that was like, ‘KOTMS Vol. 2055 is now going to be called Imperial.’ I’ve been trying to do this for the longest." 

A string of bouncy, syrup-pouring, and playalistic Southern trap songs led him back to familiar grounds. The new 15-song capsule features Juicy J, 2 Chainz, Project Pat, That Mexican OT, Maxo Kream, and others inspired by the same pioneers that fall below the Mason-Dixon line.

GRAMMY.com sat down with Curry before the release of King of the Mischievous South Vol. 2 on July 19. The "Ultimate" rapper revealed his "Big Ultra" persona, his ability to crank out hits from his bedroom, and his recent discoveries being "outside." 

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length. 

What inspired you to revisit the 'King of the Mischievous South' series?

I was making two projects at once, and there was a through-line from the second half of the project. The second one I was working on kind of just manifested itself into what it is today, 12 years later. And it’s called King of the Mischievous South Vol. 2 because it has the same sonics as the first one.

You mentioned Three 6 Mafia being a big inspiration for Vol. 1. But what about Vol. 2? 

The first KOTMS was obviously Three 6 Mafia, and then Lord Infamous was really the person I looked up to, God rest his soul. I get my rap style from him — the rapid flows and stuff like that. You can even hear it on "Walkin’" and "Clout Cobain." But since I’m from Miami, I’m talking about stuff that predominantly happens in Miami. And  I’m influenced by Soulja Slim, Master P, DJ Screw, UGK, Trina, Trick Daddy, and Rick Ross.

How did you juggle the two different projects at once?

When I wasn’t working on one project, I was working on the other one. Sometimes I would be working on the same two projects on the same day. I was like, If this one won’t see the light of day until next year, this one has to hold fans over. And the one that was supposed to hold fans over ended up having a crazy through-line.

What were the studio sessions like?

When it came down to the production, I was just making these songs on the fly. A couple came out of Ultraground sessions, but the majority of the songs were made in my bed — just how it was with the first one. "Hot One" was made in my house downstairs, and "Hit The Floor" was made in a random room in an AirBnb. And I think the rest of the songs were made in an actual studio.

I was just flowing, doing my thing, and figuring things out. I was working on one project, and when I wasn’t getting called back to the studio, I was working on another one on the side. The grind didn’t stop.

Was there an element or feature that you really wanted to explore?

I just knew I wanted certain rappers to be featured on [project]. When I was working on "Set It," I originally wanted PlayThatBoiZay. But he didn’t get the record done or whatever the case may be. So, I sent it to Maxo Kream, and he ended up just doing it. And when I made "Wish List," I got Armani White on it.  Me and him came off of doing "Goated," so getting that record done was really simple. He pulled up to the studio and he said, "This is tight," and then jumped on the record.

Some stuff didn’t make the cut because we couldn’t get certain people. But the majority of the stuff that made the cut, we were like, "Yes, we did that." Then having people like Ski Mask the Slump God, 2 Chainz, Project Pat, and Juicy J — all these guys played a role. I’m getting people from the South, whether they’re from Texas, Florida, or the Carolinas. And even people outside of the South,  like A$AP Ferg and Armani White, they’re all influenced by the same artists. 

Learn more: A Guide To Texas Hip-Hop: Definitive Releases, Artists & Events

Your persona on the album, "Big Ultra." Break that down for me.

This is how the name came about — my boy’s nickname is Mr. Don’t Fold. It’s kind of a play on "Mr. Don’t Play," so we came up with "Big Ultra" because I’m doing "ultraground" stuff. It wasn’t on some superpower s—, it’s just me, pretty much. It’s how I wanted to be presented on this tape. It’s just me at the end of the day, it’s no persona.

You’ve been in the rap game for a while. Do you consider yourself a veteran?

I think I’m mostly in a formation period because my best years haven’t even happened yet. I feel like I’m just getting my reps in, preparing myself for my 30s. You know, going through the bulls—, having good times, having bad times.

By the time I get to 30, 35, and 40 — God willing — I could have a fruitful career and not be backtracked by dumb s—. I see myself as someone with a lot to offer because I’m still young.

Do you care about garnering more fame or acclaim? Or is there no need for it? 

All my projects are critically acclaimed. The main thing is staying good at what I do. That comes with a lot of effort, a lot of studying, and a lot of work. I take pride in my job and I have fun making music.

I think the hardest part is putting myself out there and being visible. I’m starting to understand that’s what I had to do. I got asked the same question five times in a row about when my album was dropping. I’ve been saying July 19 for the longest. Like, people really haven’t been paying attention? C’mon, bro.

What do you feel is the next step?

I’m just trying to be more visible where the younger generation is at. Most people know me for "Ultimate," "Clout Cobain," or the [XXL Freshman Class] Cypher if I’m being totally real with you. But in due time, everybody has blessings in certain parts of their career. And I’ve been blessed to have a career this long.

All I have to do is just deliver, be real with myself, and do what I have to do. I got to lean into being outside. I didn’t know who messed with me or who liked my stuff until I started going outside and talking to people. You never know who rocks with you until you're outside.  

As far as the music and experience, where does the album rank for you?

I didn’t think about where I’d rank this. We had a whole decade of producing great records, and people look forward to the album experience more than the single when it comes to me. This is what it is, and I just want people to enjoy it. It’s not something to put too much effort or thought into. It’s something you can bump into the club, or you could go to a show and turn up to it. That’s where I’m at with it. 

Are there any other sounds or genres you want to explore?

It’s going to happen when it’s supposed to happen naturally. But I do want to explore pop and R&B a year from now. I want people to be able to sing my songs and stuff like that.

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Blxst press photo
Blxst

Photo: Amy Lee

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5 Rising L.A. Rappers To Know: Jayson Cash, 310babii & More

From San Diego to the Bay Area, Seattle and beyond, the West Coast bursts with talent. Los Angeles is at the heart of this expanse, and these five rappers are just a few who are showcasing the vibrant sounds of West Coast hip-hop.

GRAMMYs/Jul 15, 2024 - 01:36 pm

GRAMMY winners Kendrick Lamar and Mustard have long repped their California roots. Earlier this summer, their powerhouse anthem "Not Like Us"  brought West Coast rap back to its roots and shone a global spotlight on the scene. 

Lamar and Mustard are at the forefront of a renaissance in West Coast rap. Their shared roots in Southern California cities — Mustard from Los Angeles and Kendrick from Compton — adds authenticity and resonance to their partnership. Their undeniable chemistry was on display in the video for "Not Like Us," which received a million views less than an hour after its release.

Mustard's signature beats and Lamar's profound lyricism has resurfaced the sound and culture that makes West Coast rap so unique and paved the way for a new generation of artists. All signs suggest that another impactful collaboration may appear on Mustard's upcoming album, Faith of A Mustard Seed.

Learn more: A Guide To Southern California Hip-Hop: Definitive Releases, Artists & Subgenres From L.A. & Beyond

Kendrick Lamar headlined the electrifying Pop Out concert on Juneteenth, which also featured sets from Mustard and DJ Hed. The event saw a handful of L.A. rappers, opening for Lamar in a showcase of  the vibrant talent that defines the region's rap scene.

The West Coast is a vast reservoir of talent, stretching from the Bay Area to Seattle. At the heart of this creative expanse is Los Angeles, which brings fresh perspectives, innovative styles, and renewed energy to hip-hop, ensuring the genre thrives. With the stage set for these newcomers to shine, it's the perfect time to take a closer look at some of the rising talents poised to impact the rap scene. While this list only scratches the surface, it offers a glimpse into the diverse and exciting talent from SoCal, the epicenter of the West.

Blxst

Arising from Los Angeles, Blxst initially played the background as a producer but soon demonstrated his ability to excel across all facets of music creation. Blxst's breakout moment came with his platinum-certified single "Chosen," which solidified his place in the music industry. His collaboration on Kendrick Lamar's "Die Hard" from Mr. Morale And The Big Steppers further showcased his skill for crafting hooks that elevate tracks, resulting in two GRAMMY nominations.

As he prepares to release his debut album, I'll Always Come Find You on July 19, Blxst stands at a pivotal point in his career. With a great resume already to his name, his forthcoming album promises to showcase his undeniable talent and leave a lasting impact on the West Coast music scene.

Bino Rideaux

Bino Rideaux is a South Central native and frequent collaborator with the GRAMMY-winning rapper Nipsey Hussle. He is the only artist to have a joint project with Hussle, No Pressure, released before the prolific rapper's untimely death. Rideaux has hinted at having a treasure of unreleased music with Hussle, saved for the perfect moment and album.

Rideaux  is known for creating tracks that get the city outside and dancing. He has made three beloved projects with Blxst, titled Sixtape, Sixtape 2, and Sixtape 3 resulting in sold-out shows and a special place in West Coast Rap fans' hearts. Endorsed by industry heavyweights like Young Thug, Rideaux continues to carve his path at his own pace. His journey is nothing short of a marathon, echoing the enduring legacy of his mentor.

Read more: Nipsey Hussle's Entrepreneurial Legacy: How The Rapper Supported His Community & Inspired Rap's Next Generation

Kalan.FrFr

Kalan.FrFr, whose name stands for "For Real For Real," is an artist whose music is as genuine as his name suggests. Growing up in Compton and Carson, Kalan.FrFr has always stayed true to his roots, and exudes the unyielding confidence essential to making it in the City of Angels.

His breakthrough mixtape, TwoFr, showcased his ability to shine without major features, delivering verses with catchy hooks and melodic rap. He's shown he's not confined to one sound, delivering vulnerable tracks like "Going Through Things'' and "Never Lose You." His EP Make the West Great Again, Kalan.FrFr both proves his loyalty to his origins and highlights his versatility. Kalan.FrFr's signature punch-in, no-writing-lyrics-down style keeps his fans on their toes, ensuring that whatever comes next is unpredictable but authentic.

Jayson Cash

Jayson Cash, a rapper hailing from Carson — the same city as TDE artist Ab-Soul — stays true to West Coast rap, from his lyrics to his beat selection. Listening to Jayson Cash's music is like diving into a vivid life narrative. His prowess as a lyricist and storyteller shines through in every verse. He gives his fans an insight into his journey, making it a relatable music experience.

Cash made waves with his debut mixtape, Read The Room, and scored a Mustard beat on the song "Top Down." Two years later, their collaboration continues, with Cash writing on Mustard's upcoming album. Though often seen as an underdog, Cash is not to be underestimated, earning cosigns from West Coast legends like Suga Free and Snoop Dogg. His latest project, Alright Bet, includes a notable feature from Dom Kennedy.

310babii

310babii has achieved platinum-selling status at just 18 years old, while successfully graduating high school.  Yet 310babii's career began in seventh grade, when he recording songs on his phone showing early signs of motivation and creativity. His 2023 breakout hit "Soak City (Do It)" quickly gained traction on TikTok — and caught the ears of Travis Scott and NFL player CJ Stroud.

As the song grew in popularity, it led to a remix produced by Mustard, who invited the Inglewood native to join him onstage during his set at The Pop Out. 310babii's innovative spirit shines through in his distinctive visuals, exemplified by the captivating video for his song "Back It Up." His recent debut album, Nights and Weekends, released in February, underscores his evolving talent and promise within the music industry.

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Megan Thee Stallion performs during 2024 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival on June 16, 2024 in Manchester, Tennessee
Megan Thee Stallion performs at 2024 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival

Photo: Erika Goldring/Getty Images

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6 Takeaways From Megan Thee Stallion's 'Megan': Snakes, Shots & Self-Assurance

From the serpentine theme to Japanese rhyme schemes, Megan Thee Stallion's third album snatches back her own narrative and isn't afraid to take a bite.

GRAMMYs/Jun 28, 2024 - 06:07 pm

Beware of venom: Megan Thee Stallion is not biting her tongue on her new album, simply titled Megan.

The GRAMMY winner's first full-length release in two years is also the first to drop under her own control. Fans have been ready for this release even before the first single, "Cobra," came out in November. The second single, "Hiss," followed in January and brought the star her first No. 1 hit on the Billboard’s Hot 100 and Global 200 charts. These songs, as well as the third single, "BOA," foreshadowed a certain slithery theme that helped shape the album.

Megan was released on June 28 and features guest stars such as GloRilla, Victoria Monét, Big K.R.I.T. and Kyle Richh as well as her longtime ace producers like Juicy J (who made "Hot Girl Summer" among other calling cards) and LilJuMadeDaBeat, who produced Stallion anthems like "Big Ole Freak," "Body" and "Thot S—."

Here’s what we learned from listening and vibing to the latest work by three-time GRAMMY winner Megan Thee Stallion.

A Theme Snakes Through Megan

As could have easily been predicted from the first three singles "Cobra," "Hiss" and "BOA," and now the album track "Rattle," there is a hint of a snake theme that wends its way through the album from beginning ("Hiss") to end ("Cobra").

In several songs, she denounces all the snake behavior that she has encountered from former lovers, friends, and haters who support those who have caused actual harm to her. In the music video for "Cobra," Megan literally sheds her old skin to reveal a shining new layer.

Megan Is Calling The Shots This Time 

"I feel like Biggie, 'Who Shot Ya?’/But everybody know who shot me, bitch/ So now, let’s stop speaking on the topic," she rapped in "Who Me (feat. Pooh Shiesty)" off her 2022 album Traumazine. MTS was referencing the July 2020 incident in which rapper Tory Lanez shot her in the foot, and was subsequently charged with assault with a semiautomatic firearm and carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle. 

Turns out, she wasn’t done referencing the topic. Now, she’s one taking the shots. MTS takes aim at less-talented women rappers on "Figueroa" (named for a Los Angeles street known for prostitution), and at Lanez on "Rattle," when she suggests that his male supporters should schedule a conjugal visit with him in prison. (Lanez is currently serving a 10-year sentence while simultaneously going through a divorce with wife Raina Chassagne.)

More Megan Thee Stallion News & Videos

Inspiration Comes From Everywhere

The star and her collaborators incorporate unexpected musical influences on Megan via creative sampling. Megan Thee Stallion speeds up and flips Teena Marie's 1984 ballad "Out on a Limb" for "B.A.S." a song she co-produced with her longtime ally LilJuMadeDaBeat. "BOA" is cleverly crafted from sounds in the first solo hit by Gwen Stefani, 2004’s "What You Waiting For?" 

UGK are reunited from across the heavenly divide on the Juicy J-produced "Paper Together," with Bun B contributing new work and the late Pimp C joining in lyrical spirit. This is especially significant when considering that Juicy J produced "Intl’ Players Anthem (I Choose You)," UGK’s 2007 hit with Outkast. Juicy J also made the beats for Megan’s famous song "Hot Girl Summer." 

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to samples waiting to be discovered on Megan. There are many more riffs and other musical notions that the sample bank in our brains have yet to detect.

Self-Love Is Queen 

Whether she’s affirming, "I’m worthy, not worthless" on "Worthy," or literally touching herself in the auto-erotic "Down Stairs DJ" (which joins masturbation masterpieces like Divinyls’ "I Touch Myself" and Tweet’s "Oops"), Megan is grounded in songs that promote self-love as the best kind of love. 

She does admit that this is sometimes a challenge to embody, as when she talks about lingering depression on "Moody Girl." But the album generally moves towards the light.

She Loves Japan 

One of the big surprises on Megan is that she raps in two languages. She rhymes beautifully in Japanese on "Mamushi" with Yuki Chiba, a seasoned rapper from Japan who is influenced by the Southern swag. (Just take a look at the Memphis moves and Houston rhyme schemes of his viral song "Team Tomodachi."

On "Otaku Hot Girl," she raps about the manga series "Naruto" and drops other anime references to show her love of Japanese pop culture. 

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

Megan's Game Is Tight 

Megan is the first album to be released on Megan Thee Stallion’s own label. It follows her split from 1501 Certified Entertainment, a record label with which she was engaged in a protracted and ugly legal battle for earnings. 

She now has the muscle of the major label Warner Brothers as a partner for her independent venture, Hot Girl Productions. She also recorded an Amazon Original song called "It’s Prime Day" for a commercial, as well as an exclusive Amazon edition of Megan

It’s safe to say that this album represents a new level of business freedom and acumen for Megan Thee Stallion.

PRIDE & Black Music Month: Celebrating LGBTQIA+ & Black Voices

Clipse perform onstage during the BET Hip Hop Awards 2022 at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on September 30, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia
Clipse perform in 2022

Photo: Terence Rushin/Getty Images

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Everything We Know About Clipse's First Album In 15 Years: Pusha T And Malice Rise Again

While there's no title or release date for the new Clipse album, brothers Pusha T and Malice have teased the essence of the project, including a preview of their first new song, "Birds Don’t Sing," since 2009.

GRAMMYs/Jun 21, 2024 - 06:02 pm

Legendary Virginia Beach rap duo Clipse have mostly been on ice since 2009's Til the Casket Drops — and that decade and a half off ends now.

The duo, composed of brothers and rap phenoms Pusha T and Malice, is back with a new, John-Legend-featuring song, "Birds Don't Sing," from a reunion project whose title has yet to be disclosed. Listen to a preview of the new song, their first new track as the Clipse since 2009, below.

It's bracing to hear purveyors of witty, sneakily profound coke raps get real about the deaths of their parents: "Lost in emotion, mama's youngest / Tryna navigate life without my compass," King Push raps at the outset. "Some experience death and feel numbness / But not me, I felt it all and couldn't function.”

It only gets realer from there: "You told me that you loved me, it was all in your tone / 'I love my two sons' was the code to your phone," Malice raps in his verse. If "Birds Don't Sing" is any indication, Clipse's first album in forever will be illuminating indeed.

We don't know much about the "Grindin'" hitmakers' reunion album, other than what Pusha T and Malice revealed in a wide-ranging Vulture interview. But for hip-hop fans, the breadcrumbs they dropped are enticing indeed.

It Will Reflect The Clipse's Maturation

Pusha T is vocal about hating the Pharrell-produced Til The Casket Drops, which has always left their story hanging. They seem to be all in on this LP — one that's designed on their own terms.

"I think the album shows the supreme maturation of a rap duo," said Push. "I think this is where you get the difference between taste and filler. This music is curated. This is a high taste-level piece of work.

"You can only have that level of taste when you have the fundamentals down to a science," he continued. "I think it's been definitely missing. Then there's the competitive aspect." Added Malice: "This is smart basketball. It's fundamentals."

Read more: For The Record: How Clipse's Lord Willin' Established Virginia's Foothold In Rap

Pharrell Williams Produced The Entire Album

Despite Pusha T's reservations about Til The Casket Drops, Pharrell Williams has been an integral part of the Clipse's operation since the beginning — and he returns to produce the new project.

"Pharrell producing everything is also an ode to the type of music and the type of albums we want to make," he added. "We still want to make full bodies of work. These are movies, man. These aren't just songs. This isn't just a collection of joints we went in and banged out."

Maturation Doesn't Mean Abandoning Coke Raps

As Pusha T points out in the interview — yes, they rap about selling coke, but to reduce it to that is to miss the point entirely.

"There's no way that you can listen to that level of storytelling and experience and just walk away just saying 'That's coke rap.'" Malice says. "If you just want to say that it's just crack rap, then you can't even assess what's really being said or what's going on."

Indeed, what the Clipse staked their claim on isn't off the table. In fact, it's lined up and ready. 

Get Ready For A Bona Fide Clipse Era

As Pusha T stresses, this Clipse revisitation will come from multiple directions: "Appearances, touring, and a rap album of the year" are coming down the pike.

As more information about the forthcoming Clipse album flows in, keep GRAMMY.com bookmarked so you know the details — as these fraternal MCs join forces once more.

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