meta-scriptQuestlove Keynote & More Added To ASCAP I Create Music Expo | GRAMMY.com

Questlove

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Questlove Keynote & More Added To ASCAP I Create Music Expo

Other additions to the expo include a panel on emo rap and Nashville's take on of international sounds

GRAMMYs/Apr 13, 2019 - 04:15 am

GRAMMY-winning musician, DJ and producer Questlove will have a keynote conversation with GRAMMY-winning songwriter and ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams at the ASCAP I Create Music Expo.

The Roots drummer will also be presented with ASCAP Creative Voice Award, the membership organization announced. Others added to the expo panels include GRAMMY-nominated DJ and producer TOKiMONSTA. The event will take place May 2−4 in Los Angeles at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. 

"This Is Us" composer Sidd Khosla, Freddy Kennett of Louis The Child, songwriter Priscilla Renea and singer/songwriter Stephen Bishop were also added as panelists. 

Among other additions: The Rise of Emo rap panel featuring Morgan Freed, producer Charlie Shuffler, and artists Lil Aaron and Kreayshawn and Nashville Goes Global, which will feature Ashley Gorley, Tommee Profitt, Chris Farren, Steven Battey and Dave Kuncio and will explore the city's support of international sounds. 

Wyclef Jean and "Shallow" writer Anthony Rossomando are some of the music creators previously announced for the music expo designed to give rising music makers tools and resources.  

For more information on how to attend the expo, visit ASCAP's website

(Clockwise) Nina Kraviz, Shygirl, TOKiMONSTA, Annie Nightingale, Aluna
(Clockwise) Nina Kraviz, Shygirl, TOKiMONSTA, Annie Nightingale, Aluna.

Photos: Victor Boyko/Getty Images for MAX&CO; Jo Hale/Redferns; Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix; Peter Stone/Mirrorpix via Getty Images; Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

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5 Women Essential To Electronic Music: TOKiMONSTA, Shygirl, Nina Kraviz & More

In celebration of Women's History Month, read on for five women working as DJs, producers, organizers and broadcasters whose contributions have shaped the dance and electronic space.

GRAMMYs/Mar 7, 2024 - 02:30 pm

A dance floor just isn’t the same without a bustling crowd of attendees bobbing to the beat. Nor would electronic music be electronic music without its culture-shifting women.

Women are effecting change while commanding dance floors, a duality inherent to the experience of being a woman in electronic music. Although women are becoming more visible across the genre — gracing the covers of editorial playlists, starting labels, and topping lineups — most do not operate in the limelight. Many, like some of the changemakers underscored below, work tirelessly behind the scenes toward a more equitable future. 

The women on this list span generations and creative roles, but are unified by their propulsive contributions to the electronic space. By persisting against the status quo and excelling at their respective crafts, they have and will continue to expand what’s possible for women in electronic music. 

To honor Women’s History Month, GRAMMY.com highlights some of the many needle-moving women in electronic music, as well as one rising talent, working as DJs, producers, organizers, and broadcasters.

Annie Nightingale

Radio Broadcaster & Television Presenter

"This is the woman who changed the face and sound of British TV and radio broadcasting forever. You can’t underestimate it," fellow BBC Radio 1 broadcaster, Annie Mac, wrote in an Instagram post honoring the life and legacy of the late Annie Nightingale. Nightingale died on Jan. 11, 2024, at her home in London. She was 83.

There is nothing hyperbolic about Mac’s characterization of Nightingale. After beginning her career as a journalist, Nightingale went on to have an enduring impact on the airwaves and was a pioneering presence in radio and television broadcasting. In addition to becoming BBC Radio 1’s first woman presenter, Nightingale, who joined the station in 1970, was also its longest-serving host. She maintains the Guinness Book of Records’ world record for the"Longest Career as a Radio Presenter (Female). Nightingale notably also co-hosted BBC’s weekly TV show, "The Old Grey Whistle Test." 

Across her six decades in broadcasting, Nightingale became both a trailblazer and, later, an emblem of what was possible for women in the industry. A celebrated tastemaker who took her talents to the decks, DJing festivals around the world, Nightingale paved the way for the following generations of women broadcasters and radio DJs while famously turning listeners on to releases running the gamut of genres: punk, grime, acid house, and everything in between. In 2021, she established an eponymous scholarship (“The Annie Nightingale Presents Scholarship”) to empower women and non-binary DJs in electronic music. The three recipients selected annually are featured in a special edition of “Annie Nightingale Presents” on Radio 1.

“Ever since I began, I have wanted to help other young broadcasters passionate about music to achieve their dreams on the airwaves, and now we at Radio 1 are to put that on a proper footing,” Nightingale said at the time of the scholarship’s foundation.

Beyond broadcasting and DJing, Nightingale also embraced the written word. She published three memoirs, Chase the Fade (1981), Wicked Speed (1999), and Hey Hi Hello (2020). 

TOKiMONSTA

DJ/Producer

That women in the dance/electronic industry face a disproportionate amount of adversity compared to their male counterparts is no secret. These hurdles are hard enough to clear without a rare and serious cerebrovascular condition that significantly increases one’s risk for sudden aneurysm or stroke. But in 2015, TOKiMONSTA confronted both. Her sobering diagnosis — Moyamoya disease — necessitated not one, but two brain surgeries. The interventions left her unable to talk, write, or understand speech and music. 

Yet three months later, after slow and steady strides to recovery, TOKiMONSTA took the stage in Indio Valley to play to a crowd of 15,000 at Coachella 2016.

A beacon of both tenacity and invention, the name TOKiMONSTA bespeaks a laundry list of culture-shifting accomplishments in the electronic space. She was notably the first woman to sign to Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label, where her first album, Midnight Menu, debuted in 2010. In 2019, she earned her first-ever GRAMMY nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album — the first Asian American producer to be nominated in the Category.

Over the years, achievement has gone hand-in-hand with advocacy for TOKiMONSTA. The Korean American electronic experimentalist has been vocal about gender inequities in the music business and was profiled in the 2020 documentary Underplayed. Directed by Stacey Lee, the production focused on dance music’s pervasive and persistent gender imbalances through women DJ/producers’ first-hand accounts of inequality. 

Nina Kraviz

DJ/Producer & Label Head

Equal parts crate digger, disruptor, and needle mover, Nina Kraviz is writing history for women in electronic music in real time. The Siberian dentist-turned-DJ-producer, whose discography dates back to 2007 (her first 12’, "Amok," was released via Greg Wilson’s B77 label), isn’t just one of the first names to break in the global techno scene — she’s also one of the first women in techno to become a headline act. 

Kraviz’s toes have touched some of electronic music’s most venerated stages, ranging from Tomorrowland to Gashouder to Pacha Ibiza, not to mention places off the genre’s beaten path. Her 2018 headline stint at the base of the Great Wall of China is a flashpoint of her rich history of propulsive contributions to the electronic space, and one as anomalous as her ever-off-the-cuff sets. Live, the avant-gardist blends techno, acid, psytrance, experimental, and house in blistering, maximalist fashion, slipping in releases from her own imprint, трип ("Trip"), along the way. 

Kraviz has spearheaded the subversive label since 2014, where she’s deftly blurred the lines between emergent and established talent across its tally of releases. In 2017, she launched Galaxiid, an experimental sublabel of трип, an endeavor that has further substantiated her status as one of electronic music’s finest and most eccentric selectors. 

Aluna

Singer/Songwriter, DJ/Producer & Label Head 

After making an early name for herself as one-half of the electronic duo AlunaGeorge, Aluna Francis, known mononymously as Aluna, has compellingly charted her course as a solo act since 2020. As she’s sung, song written, and DJ/produced her way to prominence, the Wales-born triple-threat continues to demonstrate her artistic ability while re-emphasizing electronic’s Black, Latinx, and LGBTQIA+ roots, flourishing amid her own creative renaissance.

In 2020, Aluna penned an open letter addressing the lack of diversity and pervasive inequality in the dance/electronic ecosystem. Following a lack of true change, Aluna has tirelessly extended her hand to acts from underrepresented groups in an effort to diversify the white, heteronormative dance/electronic industry. Near the end of 2023, in partnership with EMPIRE, Aluna founded Noir Fever to "feed the future of Black Dance Music." The label will broadly embrace Black dance music, with an emphasis on female and LGBTQIA+ artists. 

"Every time I found myself on one of those dry, outdated festival lineups or playlists with no other Black women, I’d ask myself, what would have to change for this to not happen again?How can I create a sustainable pathway and not just an opportunity for tokenism?" Aluna shared in a series of tweets announcing Noir Fever last November. "It was obvious to me that a label would give me the opportunity to do that and ultimately ensure the hottest new Black Dance Music is being supported." 

Shygirl

Singer/Songwriter, Rapper, DJ/Producer

In one breath, she’s opening for Beyoncé on the Renaissance World Tour. In another, she’s toplining a glossy club hit. In yet another, she’s cerebrally delivering bars with both control and cadence. Shygirl’s wheelhouse is a multidimensional kaleidoscope of artistic abilities: she can sing, she can write songs, she can rap, and she can DJ/produce. Simply put, there’s not much that the vanguard of experimental electronic music in the making can’t do. 

The 30-year-old multi-hyphenate, studied under Sega Bodega, Arca, and the late SOPHIE. She expertly flits between hyperpop, grime, industrial hip-hop, electronica, and R&B, among other styles, on her gamut-running releases. But Shygirl does so with idiosyncrasy and flair — two traits that define her approach and distinguish her singular sound. Even Rihanna has taken notice — Shygirl’s 2016 single alongside Bodega, "Want More," soundtracked one of Fenty Beauty’s advertisements in 2019.

Shygirl's Club Shy EP landed on Feb. 16; she helms a party series of the same name that started in East London and has since stopped by Los Angeles, Brazil, Chicago, and New York. 

Though Shygirl no longer runs the label arm of NUXXE, the hybrid club collective/record label she co-founded made waves following its establishment in 2016. In addition to releasing Shygirl’s first single ("Want More"), NUXXE pushed out other trajectory-solidifying productions, including her debut EP, Cruel Practice, while empowering her with a fluency in label operations that will serve her well as she increasingly expands her electronic footprint. 

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Hip-Hop 50
A tribute to the 50th anniversary of hip-hop at the 2023 GRAMMYs

Photo: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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GRAMMY.com’s 50th Anniversary Of Hip-Hop Coverage: A Recap

The Recording Academy’s celebration of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary included televised events and captivating interviews. Check out the wide range of articles and features produced by GRAMMY.com commemorating this musical milestone.

GRAMMYs/Dec 28, 2023 - 02:51 pm

When we look back at the Recording Academy’s 2023, the 50th anniversary of hip-hop will loom exceptionally large.

The ongoing celebration permeated every facet of the world’s leading society of music professionals this year, from the 65th Annual Awards Ceremony in February to the special airing of "A GRAMMY Salute To Hip-Hop" in December — a dense, thrillingly kaleidoscopic televised tribute to the breadth of this genre.

One major accompaniment to this was coverage of the genre’s legacy via GRAMMY.com, the editorial site run by the Recording Academy. If you haven’t been keeping up, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a highlight reel of the work GRAMMY.com published in honor of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.

We Profiled Rising Stars

From Lola Brooke to Tkay Maidza, GRAMMY.com engaged in comprehensive in-depth interviews with artists who are at the forefront of shaping the future of hip-hop, and held a roundtable discussion about exactly what the next 50 years might look like. 

We Published Conversations With Legends

DJ Kool Herc and Questlove, who have played unquestionable roles in hip-hop’s continuing evolution, spoke to GRAMMY.com about their profound and abiding connections to the idiom.

The Contributions Of Women Were Highlighted

Without the inspired vision of countless women, hip-hop would not be what it is today. The "Ladies First" segment, which kicked off "A GRAMMY Salute To Hip-Hop" featuring Queen Latifah, Monie Love, and MC Lyte, among other lady greats with Spinderella as DJ, was an ode to this. 

In acknowledgment of female trailblazers in a world dominated by men, GRAMMY.com wrote about teen girl pioneers, women behind the scenes, a revealing Netflix doc, and women artists pushing the genre forward in 2023, from Ice Spice to Lil Simz.

We Revisted Hip-Hop’s Biggest Releases

From Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) to Jay-Z’s The Black Album to Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy, GRAMMY.com dove deep into the core hip-hop canon. We also broke down the genre’s development decade by decade through the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, 10s, and 20s, with a focus on classic albums from each era.

Listen To GRAMMY.com's 50th Anniversary Of Hip-Hop Playlist: 50 Songs That Show The Genre's Evolution

We Criss-Crossed The Country

GRAMMY.com’s series of regional guides — from the Bay Area and SoCal, to Texas and the Dirty South, to D.C. and NYC highlight hip-hop’s diversity of culture and sound.

We Went International

Although hip-hop is a quintessentially American phenomenon, its impact, appeal, and influence has spread worldwide. The international appetite for hip-hop was showcased in coverage of Latinx and Argentinian rappers to know, as well as five international hip-hop scenes to know: France, Nigeria, Brazil, South Africa, and England.

We Explored Hip-Hop’s Larger Impact

Hip-hop is more than a sound. It’s a culture that permeates almost every sector of life. Showcasing this effervescence, GRAMMY.com ran pieces about the evolution of hip-hop’s influence on educational curriculum worldwide, as well as its biggest fashion and style moments.

We Covered On Stage Celebrations

"A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop," the two-hour special that aired in December on CBS and is available on demand on Paramount+ represented a culmination of the Recording Academy’s 50th year anniversary celebration.

Revisit the 2023 GRAMMYs’ hip-hop revue, and check out a recap of "A GRAMMY Salute" with photos, a rundown of all the performers and songs and coverage of the Black Music Collective’s Recording Academy honors in February.

It Didn’t Stop There…

Notable coverage also included the evolution of the mixtape, 11 Hip-Hop Subgenres to Know and 10 Binge-worthy Hip-Hop Podcasts, as well as a breakdown of Jay-Z’s Songbook and Snoop Dogg’s discography.

For everything GRAMMY.com and all things hip-hop — including our rap-focused run in the GRAMMY Rewind series — visit here.

2023 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined Hip-Hop

Questlove
Questlove

Photo: Leon Bennett/Getty Images for Netflix

interview

For Questlove, "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" Is Crucial For Rap's Legacy

When Questlove worked on the Hip-Hop 50 revue at the 2023 GRAMMYs, the experience was so stressful that he lost two teeth. But he didn't balk at the opportunity to co-produce a two-hour special; the task was too important.

GRAMMYs/Dec 7, 2023 - 05:45 pm

Today, Public Enemy's 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is correctly viewed as a watershed not just for hip-hop, but all of music. But when Questlove's father overheard him playing it, it didn't even sound like music to him.

"He happened to pass my room while 'Night of the Living Baseheads' came on and he had a look of disgust and dismay, like he caught me watching porn," the artist born Ahmir Thompson tells GRAMMY.com. "He literally was like, 'Dude, when you were three, I was playing you Charlie Parker records, and I was playing you real singers and real arrangers, and this is what you call music? All those years I wasted on private school and jazz classes. This is what you like?'

"I couldn't explain to him: 'Dad, you don't understand. Your entire boring-ass record collection downstairs is now being redefined in this very album. Everything you've ever played is in this record,'" he says. "If my dad — who was relatively cool and hip, but just getting older — couldn't understand it, then I know there's a world of people out there that are really just like, whatever."

That nagging reality has powered him ever since — whether he's co-leading three-time GRAMMY winners the Roots, authoring books and liner notes, or directing Oscar-winning films.

And that path led straight to Questlove's role as a executive producer for "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop," which will air Sunday, Dec. 10, from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. ET and 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. PT on the CBS Television Network, and stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

Questlove makes no bones about it: working on that 12-minute Hip-Hop 50 revue at the 2023 GRAMMYs was taxing. So taxing, in fact, that he lost two teeth due to the psychological pressure. But he soldiered on, and the result is an inspiring rush of a two-hour special.

"The thing that really motivated me — Look, man, roll up your sleeves and run through this mud — was like, if there ever was going to be a hip-hop time capsule, a lot of the participants in this show are somewhere between the ages of 20 and 60, and everybody's still kind of in their prime," he says.

"So that way,” Questlove continues, “in 2030, 2040, 2050, when our great, great, great, great grandkids are born and they want to look up someone, this'll probably be one of the top five things they look up. And I wanted to be a part of that."

Read on for a rangey interview with Questlove about his role in "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years of Hip-Hop," in all its dimensions.

Explore More Of "A GRAMMY Salute to 50 Years of Hip-Hop"

This interview has been edited for clarity.

What can you tell me about your involvement in "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop"?

I could be the guy that complains and complains and complains and complains: Man, I wish somebody would dah, dah, dah. Man, somebody needs to dah, dah, dah. And then the universe the whole time is poking you in the stomach like a dog. You think you're going to be drumming for life — like, that's your job.

So I went through this period where I just hated the lay of the land. And now people are like, "Well, the door is open if you want to come and see if you could change it." And for me, it was just important to.

And at first, I was really skeptical about this because even when I was an artist, my peers all the time would — I say in air quotes jokingly, but it's like, man, I know they're serious — they would just call me a suit. Whenever someone's called a suit in a sitcom or it is like, that's always the bad guy. Or especially for me that's known for all this artistry.

But for me, it's like, I can either just sit on the sidelines and watch this thing slowly kind of go in a direction that I don't want it to go. And often with the history of Black music in America, we're innovating this stuff, but we're really not behind the scenes in power positions to control it or to decide what direction it is. And it's a lot of heartbreaking and hard work.

After the success of the thing that we did in March — that 12-minute revue thing — I'll be honest with you. For 12 minutes that was like going through damn near, and I'm not even using hyperbolic statements by saying, coming out within an inch of my life.

When that moment was literally over and I was on the airplane landing back in New York, two of my teeth fell out. That's the level of stress I was [under]. Imagine landing in JFK and I got to rush to "The Tonight Show," but then it's like, Oh, wait, what's happening? Oh God, no! My teeth are falling out! And going to emergency surgery. My whole takeaway was like: Never again.

So of course when they hit me in July, "Hey, remember that 12 minute thing you did? You want to do the two-hour version of it?" I was like, "Hell no." And of course I hell noed for three weeks and it's like, "All right, I'll do it, but I'll just be a name on it. I ain't doing nothing." And then it went from that to like, "All right, what do you need me to do?"

What I will say is it's a two-hour show in which you got to figure out how to tell [the story of] hip-hop's 50-year totality — its origins, its peak period, its first moments of breaking new ground, the moment it went global around the world. You got to figure out a way to tell this story in two-hour interstitials and be all-inclusive. 

It was just as stressful, even up until four hours ago. I'll just basically say that my teeth didn't fall out, thank God. And it was worth everything, because it's really a beautiful moment.

Sorry for that 12-hour answer, but that's just how my life rolls.

It was a great answer. What was your specific role behind the scenes?

Oh, I'm a producer. Jesse Collins called a group of us in to help facilitate: me, LL [Cool J], Fatima Robinson, Dionne Harmon, Brittany Brazil. There's a group of nine of us who were producers.

So, [part of] my actual division of labor thing was finding people to help facilitate music. This is a genre in which maybe the first six years of the art form, there was no such thing as an instrumental. "Or, "Hey, J.Period, can you recreate 'Check Out My Melody' by Eric B. & Rakim with no vocals in it?"

Finding the right people to do the music, sometimes I'd have to do it myself. And a lot of people in hip-hop have been super burnt. Super burnt. And I mean, that's putting it lightly.

And so you're giving these impassioned, Jerry Maguire, help-me-help-you speeches. The amount of times I was like, "Look, I really want you to reconsider your answer. This is our legacy we're talking about."

I'm using terms that a lot of these people, frankly, are hearing for the first time, Because like I've said in past interviews, hip-hop started as outlaw music. No one thought it was going to be a thing. So there's a whole generation that had to lay out the red carpet, just so that the next generation could benefit from it while we disposed of them.

But then that next generation gets disposed of, and then here comes my generation. And then the next thing, you wake up and it's like, "Oh, we're not relevant anymore," and dah, dah, dah.

And I'm trying to convince people, "Wait, you don't understand. Now we have a seat at the table. Now we get to control. All that we talked about, we need to control our destiny, and this is our culture." And there was a lot of that. And some people [were like], "All right, I'll do it for you." [To which I said,] "No, no, don't do it for me. Do it for the culture."

But then there were also people like, "Man, never again. F— all that." And there was also, "Hey, why wasn't I asked?" and all that stuff.  So in these two hours, you're going to see eight to nine segments in which we try to wisely cover every base.

This is the "Lyricist" section, and this is the "Down South" section. And ["Ladies First"] is all about the ladies. And this is for those that passed away. And this is for the club bangers. And this is for music outside of America. And this is for the left-of-center alternative hip-hop.

Yes, we wanted to include everybody, but this is network television. And at that, you only get eight to 12 minutes at a time. So that's even hard. "Hey, why can't I do my chorus and my verse?" "Look, man, you got 32 seconds." If you've ever seen those "Tom and Jerry" cartoons where they're juggling plates in a kitchen — like 30 at a time — I don't recommend that to anybody.

But we got through it. I want everyone to feel proud of where hip-hop has come, because to be nine years old and to get on punishment for hip-hop — you know what I mean? I come from that generation. You've got to pay a price to live this culture.

And now it's established. So that's why I got involved. So there was a lot I had to do. A lot of calls, a lot of begging, a lot of arrangements, a lot of talking to people about clearing their samples, to call up publishing companies: "Look, it's just a four-second segment. It's just one drum roll. Can you please overlook it just for the sake of it?"

The amount of times I had to give those speeches. So yeah, that's what I had to do.

Jesus.

And that's just me. It's nine of us. So there's lighting directions, and choreography, and wardrobe, and dealing with clearance — like FCC, and, "They can't say that." And, "All right, which one of us is going to try to call Snoop to ask him that sort of thing?"

And the amount of Zooms that we were on at five in the morning in the Maldives or halfway around the world.

There must be some component of this process where you recognize that there could never be a perfect two-hour special. There could never be a perfect 200-hour special. There must be something freeing about realizing that nothing can be comprehensive when you're dealing with a cultural ocean like this.

[At one point], I had to take a hip-hop break. And the first thing that I did a week later, after recuperating, was I went on YouTube and I just watched every award show I remember watching — like prime Soul Train Awards back in '87, '88, '89, the years that Michael Jackson was killing the GRAMMYs.

Award shows were so magical to me, when I was a kid. There was a period just between five to maybe 15 or 16 in which I religiously watched that stuff, and you just take it for granted.

When Herbie Hancock did Rockit back in 1983 with all those mechanical break dancers, I wonder the work and the headaches that it took to make that happen. The drummer from Guns N' Roses [was] missing while they had to do "Patience" at the American Music Awards — and Don Henley, of all people, was just on the sidelines like, "Does anyone know how to drum?"

I was in the audience during the whole Chris Brown-Rihanna controversy of [2009]. I was literally at the GRAMMYs. There were like 40 minutes left, and I watched the producer run up the aisles.

Because the thing was, that was the year they decided, "You know what? This is going to be the first year in which we're going to ask artists to double down on stuff. So we're going to have Rihanna sing three songs, and we're going to have Chris do two songs. We're going to have Justin Timberlake. And then, suddenly, their absence now means that there's five major gaps open.

And they had 40 minutes left before they went to go live and I'm watching the producer make an announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, something just happened. We can't get into it."

The level of viralness now on Instagram or Twitter is expected, but back then it was like, Oh, I wonder what happened? And they're just running up the aisles to Stevie Wonder, "Yo, can you [mimics rapid-fire, inaudible chatter]?"

And I'm looking at him, pondering: What the hell are they asking him? And then Stevie's getting up and doing it, and then, "Jonas Brothers, can you duh, duh, duh? Boyz II Men. Where's Al Green? Is Al Green here?" So literally, I'm watching them solve a headache in real time. And with 20 minutes left, backstage rehearsing, and we were really none the wiser.

I've seen that a few times. My very first GRAMMYs was when Luciano Pavarotti got sick and someone just randomly asked, "Hey, does anyone out there know the lyrics to 'Ave Maria'?" Aretha Franklin raised her hand, and we were all like, 'Wait, we mean the Italian version, like that 'Ave Maria.'" And she's like, "I do know the version."

We underestimated if Aretha Franklin from Detroit, Michigan knew how to sing something in Italian. And within a half hour she was on that stage and she killed that s—.

So it made me literally recapitulate every award show I ever watched.Now I'm watching with the analytical eye: I wonder what headaches it took to put that together? So, it changed me as a spectator and a participant.

I have a friend who's been a dedicated hip-hop fan his entire life. We were talking about the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. He questioned the entire enterprise, arguing that it's an arbitrary number that doesn't mean much to true rap fans. What does the 50th anniversary of hip-hop mean to you, personally?

Well, to me, it's important. There's an interlude that I put on the Things Fall Apart record. The album starts with an argument from [the 1990 film] Mo' Better Blues in which Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes' jazz musician characters are arguing about just the disposability of the art form.

And it ends with a quote from Harry Allen saying that the thing about hip-hop is that most people think that it's disposable: Let me get what I can out this thing, and I'll throw them out the window. And on top of that, people don't even see it as art. And that really hit me in the gut, because I see the beauty of it.

This is kind of why I got into the game of: first it was with liner notes, and then with social media doing these mammoth history posts. And then it's like, Alright, well, let me write some books, because I'm afraid that no one's doing this level of critical thinking about this particular thing.

I know that the disdain and the dismissiveness that I got from some of hip-hop's participants does sort of stem from a place of ego being bruised. And it's righteous. It's righteous anger. But I also knew that if I sat on the sidelines, then it's like when I have grandkids and they Google this, and if it was a half-assed job, then that's my fault. And I definitely don't want to be the guy that talks, talks, complains, complains, without being a part of it.

So yeah, for the amount of people that prematurely died before the age of 30, and for the startling volume of people that have recently passed away in the last three years because of health issues, cardiac arrest, strokes, a lot of us are dying… You and I are talking right now, right when Norman Lear has passed away at the age of 101.

I just read that in The New York Times.

Dude, can you imagine "Tupac Shakur Dead at 103"? Can you imagine that for hip-hop?

It's a survival tool, because for a lot of us, that was the way out of poverty. It was vital for me. I couldn't just sit back and not watch one person behind the wheel. I have to be the designated driver. So, that's why it's important to celebrate that number.

And a big part of my convincing them was like when they were going to pass, like, "Nah, dog, I'm cool. I got a gig that night," I was like, "Dude, we're not going to do this for the 51st or the 52nd. And frankly, will we be here?" I will be 92 years old if it makes it to the 75th. You know what I mean?

The only person that got in my face was Latifah like, "Excuse me, I will be here for the 75th and I will be for the 100th. You don't know when I'm leaving." So I was like, "More power to you, Dana. All right, good. Queen Latifah will be here for the 100th."

What I'm gathering from what you're saying is that no matter what, it's important to have an organization of this prestige canonize this cultural force.

Oh, absolutely. And I know that oftentimes we play the game of public appearances for the gaze of the establishment. I don't want to get into that thing either: making performative celebrations just so that the mainstream can celebrate us.

I have to say that when you watch it, it really doesn't come off as compromised. This thing really looks good. That was the one thing that we laughed at in the group chat, like, "Man, we just went through Apocalypse Now, and are we all saying it was worth it?"

There are at least three people in my production thread that were sort of like, "Uh-huh, never again. I will never again subject myself." And one of them is dead serious. One of them started doing something the opposite, like, "Nah, I'm just doing classical music from now on. There's no stress there." But it was worth it. It was worth it to me.

Questlove

*Questlove in 2023. Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images*

It looks to be a classy, expansive special. I'm excited for it to air.

The best part about it? So if you remember, to me, the star of the 12-minute version that we did at the GRAMMYs in March, was Jay-Z.

It was one of the things where it's like, "Hey, do we even ask Jay-Z?" And that's the one guy we decided ourselves, "Well, let's pass on him because number one, he's already performing with DJ Khaled, so we'll pass on him."

Jay-Z actually wound up being the star of that because he was a fan mouthing it in the audience, which to me was almost like better than us just doing a song with Jay-Z on stage. But the audience is the absolute star.

To see Chuck D smile — I've never seen Chuck D smile. As all these acts are coming out and Chuck D's like, singing [Sly and the Family Stone's] "Everyday People," like Boston fans sing "Sweet Caroline" at Red Sox games. Who knew that Chuck D was so jovial about things? But that's with everyone in the audience watching, supporting each other.

So that to me is also an important thing because as audience members on stage, they're ripping it, but as audience members, they're supporting each other. And that, I think is the most important part, because a lot of my take was like, "Wow, I didn't know that dah, dah, dah was so supportive." Or, "Man, Nelly actually knows every Public Enemy lyric. Who knew?" There are a lot of "Who knew?" moments that will shock people for this show.

I'm so glad you brought that up. That was one of my favorite moments during the Hip-Hop 50 performance at the 2022 GRAMMYs. Jay-Z is a billionaire twice over and a global cultural figure, but we see him in the audience, grinning ear-to-ear like a little boy, doing finger guns in the air.

He's getting his life back. And it's important. Especially now, I'm all about joy. And it's not even just like this particular hip-hop figure celebrating his music.

When Chance the Rapper comes out, again, I'm like, "Wow, [Cee] Knowledge from Digable Planets knows Chance?" And then I was like, "Well, they got kids, so of course I'm sure their kids play around the house." I'm doing all this analytical things like, "Wait, how do they know this song? And this is past their age range."

And that to me is the most telling part of this whole thing, to watch generational people get out of their actual zone and to find out that they're fans of — when GloRilla comes out, to watch [Digable Planets' Ladybug] Mecca mouth the lyrics. I was just like, "Oh, wow, OK."

That kind of puts to bed that stereotype that we only listen to the music in our realm. So, yeah, man — to me, that was the magic part of it all.

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Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

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He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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