meta-scriptRadiohead, Bon Jovi, LL Cool J Among 2018 Rock Hall Nominees | GRAMMY.com
Radiohead, Bon Jovi, LL Cool J Among 2018 Rock Hall Nominees

Jon Bon Jovi

Photo: Steve Jennings/WireImage.com

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Radiohead, Bon Jovi, LL Cool J Among 2018 Rock Hall Nominees

Depeche Mode, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, the Meters, Kate Bush, and Nina Simone also make the list of nominees for the class of 2018

GRAMMYs/Oct 5, 2017 - 06:21 pm

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has announced its class of 2018 nominees, which includes GRAMMY winners Bon Jovi, Radiohead, Eurythmics, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Dire Straits, LL Cool J, Judas Priest, and Rage Against The Machine.

Also making the nominee cut are Depeche Mode, Kate Bush, the Cars, J. Geils Band, MC5, the Meters, the Moody Blues, Nina Simone, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Link Wray, and the Zombies

To be eligible, a nominee's first single or album had to have been released in 1992 or earlier. The artists making their first appearance on the ballot include Radiohead, Bush, Dire Straits, Judas Priest, Nina Simone, Radiohead, and Rage Against The Machine, with the latter two appearing in their first year of eligibility.

The class of 2018 will be announced in December. The 2018 induction ceremony is scheduled for April 14, 2018, at Public Hall in Cleveland, Ohio.  

For the sixth year in a row, the public can cast votes for the nominees they believe deserve induction via the hall's website until Dec. 5. The top five acts will comprise the "fan's ballot," counting as one of the ballots that determine the class of 2018.

Radiohead's Thom Yorke Announces Solo Tour, Album Reissue

Living Legends: Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson On Pushing His Own Limits
Bruce Dickinson

Photo: John McMurtrie

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Living Legends: Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson On Pushing His Own Limits

On his new album 'The Mandrake Project,' Dickinson's first solo release in 18 years, the metal singer engages in a magical epic with multifarious influences.

GRAMMYs/Feb 28, 2024 - 02:30 pm

Bruce Dickinson performs heavy metal and flies it through the sky. 

As the charismatic and energetic singer of Iron Maiden, Dickinson has fronted the band for most of the last 42 years. The philosophical performer has been nicknamed the Air Raid Siren — which is amusing given that he has also been a commercial airline pilot and has flown Maiden’s private plane Ed Force One on tour. 

And Maiden has certainly taken flight with few landings. The British heavy metal legends have maintained a steadfast following for decades, from their classic ‘80s albums like Number of the Beast and Powerslave (which turns 40 this year) to the recent Book of Souls and Senjutsu. Their last four albums have gone Top 10 in America. But Dickinson has also recorded substantial solo material, and will be hitting the road for a two-month European tour starting in Paris on May 26.

His seventh and latest album, The Mandrake Project, is his first in 18 years and has been a decade in the making. The album combines varied metal elements free from the distinctive Iron Maiden gallop. "Resurrection Men" has a Spaghetti Western vibe, while "Fingers In The Wind" offers a Middle Eastern flavor. The gothic closing song "Sonata (Immortal Beloved)," which started gestating 25 years ago, is a slowly churning, 10-minute epic. 

Such musical exploration is common for Dickinson. Starting with his 1990 solo debut, Tattooed Millionaire, he's employed melodic hard rock, grunge, and heavy metal elements with lyrics that he might not explore within Maiden, where historical and fantastical themes tend to reign. Dickinson’s 1998 album The Chemical Wedding — which featured Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith, when both had been estranged from the band — is a superlative  heavy metal album from the ‘90s. 

The Mandrake Project has spawned a comic book series from Z2 Comics with the same name; the first issue is out now and 11 more quarterly issues are forthcoming. The story stars Dr. Necropolis who seeks to restore his brother’s soul from Hell. The first issue includes hallucinogens, sex magic, the defiant ghost of William Blake, and a manipulative scientist named Professor Lazarus. Dickinson spun off the story concept from the album, and he also co-wrote the story for "Revelations" in the Iron Maiden comic anthology inspired by their seminal album Piece Of Mind

Dickinson spoke to GRAMMY.com about his new album and comic, his creative solo career, and how he wants to challenge himself and his audience. 

Why did you decide to re-record "If Eternity Should Fail"—  a contribution you made to Iron Maiden’s Book Of Souls almost a decade ago — as "Eternity Has Failed"?

First of all, it was written as a solo track. In fact, the [new] album was going to be called If Eternity Should Fail back in 2014, and [bassist] Steve [Harris] borrowed it [for Maiden]. It was always my intention to repossess the track. 

All I've done really is a version of it that's more reflective of my tastes than the Maiden thing. I always wanted to do the Ennio Morricone [flute] bit at the beginning. 

At the same time, by developing the comic book, I'd also moved on a story that I could import back into the words, into the lyrics. According to the story of the comic book, Eternity has failed. Death is over and done with. I quite like that. I thought we can rejig it with a slightly different emphasis on it. Put a few bits of chanty stuff at the end. Generally it's a different groove to the Maiden groove. It's more of an even type groove. 

The Mandrake Project is not a concept album but spawned from the comic, and the first video connects with the story in the first issue. 

I wanted it all to hang together. I thought, it's a waste of money doing a video that doesn't cross over from one to the other. Now the irony of that video [for "Afterglow of Ragnarok"] is that ... I went, It has nothing whatsoever to do with anything on the comic. How am I going to do this? It was a dream by Necropolis in which he's taken his acid trip using Mandrake potion, and he dreams he's at the end of the world and sees the shaman foretelling his future. There's the weird mirror that he sees himself talking to himself and sees things. The mirror can also be a portal into the other world of his dreams, and back out of it at the end. 

So I wrote that up as a treatment for a video and then [realized] there is no way we can afford to shoot that video. So I turned it into an eight-page comic as a kind of a prequel to the comic [series]. And we'll give it away just to get people in the mood for what might be coming next. I did that with [writer] Tony Lee and with [artist] Staz Johnson, so it was kind of a dummy run for what was going to be each 34-page comic. 

Then, at the 11th hour, I find this director, Ryan Mackfall, and we get on great. We love all the same types of weird folk horror movies from Britain from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and early Universal horror. He said, "I'll be able to shoot this and I'll be able to get it in on budget." I went, "That's great, mate, but what are you going to actually shoot?" He said, "Well, you've already done it. I'm going to shoot the comic." 

You were a child in the ‘60s, and that decade really informs a lot of your work: There’s the Hammer Horror vibe of your current videos. The organ work on this album reminds me of Deep Purple. Monty Python’s humor heavily influenced your two racy, aristocracy-lampooning Lord Iffy Boatrace novels. You love singer Arthur Brown, one of the original shock rockers. What is it about the ‘60s that keeps informing your work? 

I actually don't think about that. But if I had to think about it, I would say the ‘60s, up till the mid-‘70s, was a golden time because there were all these barriers being broken down in music. Nothing was impossible. Everything was possible. Everything was plausible. You had Mahavishnu Orchestra, and then on the other hand you had Led Zeppelin. Nobody excluded anything. Nobody said, "I can't listen to John McLaughlin because I listen to Motorhead." They're not mutually exclusive. It's all music. And in the ‘80s that got completely lost. Everybody was segmented up to their little silos, and it pissed me off. 

When I started doing this…the people I admired were not just rock stars. And because I effectively don't look like a rock star — tall, skinny and blonde…. I was much more about being a storyteller and an artist. Increasingly, whether it's a comic book or an autobiography, everything I do for public consumption is telling stories. And if you tell an interesting story in a way that makes people go, I didn't expect that twist, then I put that back into music. A lot of this album has got a lot of unexpected little twists that I hope bring a little smile to people's internal monologue. 

You were working on your second solo album Balls To Picasso when you heard Roy Z's Latin rock band Tribe of Gypsies recording in the adjacent studio and brought them in for your project. He's been your co-songwriter, producer, and guitar player on every album of yours since except one. Why do you two have such a great mind meld? 

Roy can be somewhat mercurial from time to time. To be fair, so can I. I’m trying not to sound pompous about this, but when we tap into something together, we tap into something that's bigger than the both of us. So as soon as that realization hits, we go, "Oh my God, put the mic on, capture that moment." But that initial moment of inspiration, when you’re both channeling something from somewhere — I don’t know whether it’s alien intelligence or whatever the hell it is — I don't question it. But you have to be there in person for it to happen and to notice it. But when it does happen with us, it happens quickly. Or not at all. 

Would it be fair to say that there's more of the arcane, the occult and the religious covered here than in Maiden? That seems to be where a lot of your personality and a lot of your interests lie. 

Definitely. I drop some things in with Maiden, but there are always some musical limits that are outside of the Maiden universe slightly. Morricone, surf guitar and stuff like that. If I said, "Steve, we need bongos, man, let's do some bongos" — he'd think I'd lost my mind. I have, but in a good way. So those are things that are expressions of my musical personality that are unalloyed by being in Maiden. 

I'm always on the lookout for some of Z’s musical textures, basically, in terms of sounds and things like that. It's a different way of working. It's more like two kids in a sandbox with me and Roy, and nothing is excluded. Ever. And anything's on the table if we want to have a go at something. 

Over 20 years ago, there were rumblings about The Three Tremors, a proposed vocal trio between you, Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, and Ronnie James Dio. How did that evolve, and why did it ultimately not happen? 

We had promoters salivating and people could see dollar signs. It was a great idea, but I didn't want to do it unless it was not just a commercial great idea, but an artistic great idea. I love Rob, I love Ronnie. And why they would want me, I don't know. Then Ronnie unfortunately got sick and passed away. So it was mooted that maybe [original Queensrÿche singer] Geoff Tate might fill in. We had a few meetings with Geoff, and I think the minds didn't quite meet in the way that I thought they should, so it was obvious that probably wasn’t going to work. 

By this point, however, Roy and I had already written two tracks for a potential album which used the voices of three singers in different ways during the songs. The intention was to write a whole album of material like that. I think that would have been quite cool, but the problem was it was a lot harder than it sounds.

"Tyranny of Souls" [which became the title track to Dickinson’s last solo album] was one of those tracks, and "Shadow of the Gods" [on the new one] was another. We didn't get any further than that. I did demo versions of those songs in which I actually did little imitation voices of Rob and Geoff to give an idea of where their lines would be in the song. So when the project didn't happen, I said, "Let's just record both those songs anyway." 

Maiden have made a massive impact on the metal world. One can argue that you are as influential as Metallica. Have you thought about why people keep coming back to the music and are so loyal after nearly 45 years? 

Stylistically, Maiden are, I think it's fair to say, unique. Nobody sounds like us. Even people who copy us, they still don't sound like us. And that's because we're not perfect. When people copy things, they try to make them perfect. But if the thing you're copying is imperfect to begin with, you can't copy it. You'll never be as imperfect as the thing you're trying to copy. It’s the same with The Rolling Stones who are far from perfect, but they're so perfectly imperfect, that they are the identity. 

I don't know how this happens, but [with] the six of us now together it sounds like Maiden and nobody else sounds like us. It's instant. You can hear it. Also, because we are authentic. That's quite rare in the modern world because everybody's so desperate. It's sad in a way that streaming and everything is just ripping the guts out of creativity. So if people want to be successful, they have to try too hard. Whereas you should be able to just relax and have fun and be successful. They have to go and do this and do that, and jump through hoops and manufacture their authenticity now. 

That's the biggest curse of being a creative now. If you come up with something that's unique people go, "Oh, yeah, but your problem is it doesn't sound like everybody else." 

Living Legends: Chicago's Robert Lamm On Songwriting and Longevity

Ahead Of The Smile's 'Wall Of Eyes,' Explore 10 Radiohead Side Projects
Thom Yorke performs with The Smile in London

Photo: C Brandon / Redferns / GettyImages

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Ahead Of The Smile's 'Wall Of Eyes,' Explore 10 Radiohead Side Projects

Radiohead may not have official plans to reunite, but its five members have been active with a slew of successful and sonically pleasing side projects. Among them is The Smile, which will release their second album on Jan. 26.

GRAMMYs/Jan 25, 2024 - 02:09 pm

It’s been more than seven years since Radiohead released their last album, A Moon Shaped Pool, and the band continues to make no promises about what — if anything — will be next for the quintet.

But that doesn't mean its members haven't been busy. In fact, the musicians behind the GRAMMY-winning English alt-rock band have been active outside of it since the mid ’00s. 

One of these notable projects is The Smile, formed in 2021 by Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke and lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. The group will release their second studio album, Wall of Eyes, on Jan. 26 before touring Europe this spring and summer. 

Other independent endeavors have also been critically celebrated: Beyond The Smile, Jonny Greenwood composed soundtracks for films including Daniel Day Lewis’ romance/thriller Phantom Thread. Bassist Colin Greenwood (Jonny’s older brother) was recently part of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' touring band. Drummer Phil Selway released a solo album, Strange Dance, in Feb. 2023, while guitarist Ed O’Brien made his first foray into writing and recording during the early days of the pandemic on his album, Earth

Selway believes these other pursuits are vital to Radiohead's reputation as one of the most innovative bands in history. "It’s such a healthy process when we step outside of Radiohead and reach beyond that," Selway told SPIN in 2023.

Still, there is a glimmer of hope Radiohead will soon return to the studio — perhaps encouraged by the success of 2021's KID A MNESIA, a reissue of their albums "Kid A" and "Amnesiac" along with previously unreleased material.

During a recent livestream with Crow Hill Company, as reported by NME, Selway said, "We’re all coming back around to that point now of thinking, Right, we’ve had a break — this is it. This feels like something to dive back into and really explore and see what other directions it can take us in." 

No matter how the future unfolds for Radiohead, their dedication to maintaining everything in its right place remains certain. 

Ahead of The Smile's new album, press play on 10 releases from Radiohead members' catalogs that showcase their affinity for musical exploration.

Thom Yorke - The Eraser

Though the title of Thom Yorke’s first solo album is The Eraser, he didn’t erase his esteemed musical legacy. Rather, he took it even further into his exploration of electronic styles on the 2006 album. Where collaborative instrumentals were prominent with Radiohead's melodic rock sound, Yorke leaned hard on synthy sounds and techno beats. 

Through his solo work, Yorke had complete freedom to develop comprehensive digital backdrops for his shuddering croon with longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. The band worked with Godrich to incorporate electronics on their albums Kid A (2000), Amnesiac (2001), Hail To the Thief (2003), and In Rainbows (2007). 

The title track opens with a looping piano hook, teasing a familiar instrumentalism. But Yorke quickly takes things in a more synthetic direction with affected drums and mechanical arps. "Cymbal Rush," the album’s closer, features a jittery low-frequency rhythm section alongside haunting ambient washes. The track "Atoms for Peace" utilizes a similar underlying jitteriness, but with the warm and optimistic energy of bright pads and an uplifting synth bassline. 

Atoms For Peace - Amok

Amok is the only studio album from Atoms For Peace, the band Yorke originally established to tour The Eraser as a full live experience. The group features Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on bass, Godrich on keys and programming, and seasoned session players Joey Waronker on drums and Mauro Refosco on Latin percussion. 

Unlike The Eraser, Atoms For Peace made the music for Amok together with Yorke who described himself as the band's "conductor" in a Rolling Stone interview. After producing music on his computer, Yorke would bring it to the other band members to reimagine for production in a live space.

This collaborative edge is immediately apparent on Amok, released in 2013. Album opener "Before Your Very Eyes" implements the nonconventional rhythmic layering that Yorke applied throughout The Eraser, but the individual voice of each instrument shines through. Refosco’s percussion taps complement Waronker’s light cymbal play while the quickfire intro guitar line from Yorke shares that percussive quality. Interplay between Flea’s affected bass and Godrich’s programmed melodies, like a call and response, infuses the music with a human touch.  

There Will Be Blood 

Even when Radiohead is active, Jonny Greenwood moonlights as a film composer. The guitarist made his first foray into film scoring with the 2003 documentary, Bodysong. 2007's There Will Be Blood was his second score, launching his (and the rest of the band’s) persistent, fortuitous relationship with director Paul Thomas Anderson

Greenwood has composed the soundtrack for four of Anderson’s last five films. Beginning with There Will Be Blood in 2007, then The Master (2012), Inherent Vice (2014), and Phantom Thread (2017). Anderson returned the favor, directing many works for Radiohead's A Moon Shaped Pool, including the music video for "Daydreaming," and live recordings of "The Numbers," and "Present Tense." 

Greenwood’s score for There Will Be Blood demonstrates the fruitful nature of his relationship with Anderson. Matching the emotional dread of star Daniel Day-Lewis’s descent into madness, Greenwood weaves hauntingly tense string arrangements throughout the film, including the use of string bows as percussion instruments to shift the mood from melancholic to one of frenzy and discombobulation. 

Philip Selway - Strange Dance

Phil Selway releases his music under his full name, and plays an entirely different role on his independent work than he does with Radiohead. As a solo artist, he writes all the songs and serves as the singer and guitarist instead of drumming. Released in February 2023, his third album, Strange Dance, features Portishead's Adrian Utley and electronics-focused multi-instrumentalist Hannah Peel.  

On Strange Dance, Selway takes what he learned honing his writing skills as a film composer and applies it to a pop-infused setting with producer Marta Salogni. He adeptly layers guitar parts with opposing rhythms to build the foundation on notable tracks like "Picking Up The Pieces." The title track uses expressive alternative percussion instruments and Selway’s airy voice as a perimeter, contrasting with expansive string and horn passages. 

Selway similarly ventured into film scores, composing the music for Polly Steele’s 2017 drama, Let Me Go

Thom Yorke - ANIMA

Yorke transformed the electronic sounds of his third album, 2019's ANIMA, into a soundtrack for a music film of the same name, produced with Paul Thomas Anderson. Yorke is the film’s protagonist, and the film focuses on movement as much as it does the music. Dozens of dancers (including Yorke) engage in choreography that matches the unconventional sounds and rhythms throughout three songs from the album: "Not the News," "Traffic," and "Dawn Chorus."

During "Not the News," dancers cycle around Yorke, responding to his own movement as he stumbles his way from a subway station into an underground cavern. His steps follow the song's breakbeat kick while eerie squeals at the peak of the frequency range hang above his falsetto. 

Eventually, he makes it back to the surface with the sun rising over an unnamed European city. When the melodious song, "Dawn Chorus" fades in, he is reunited with a woman he saw on the train earlier. He glides through the city alongside the song’s electronic backdrop while he states his lyrics with grounded confidence.

Dudu Tassa & Jonny Greenwood - Jarak Qaribak

Israel was one of the earliest countries to embrace Radiohead. The country's audience was the catalyst for the explosion of their now-mythical song, "Creep," when DJ Yoav Kutner frequently played it on his radio show. Since, the band has performed in Israel multiple times and brought Israeli artists on tour with them.

One of the Israeli artists who joined Radiohead on tour is Dudu Tassa, a celebrated rock musician and film composer. He and Jonny Greenwood first worked together on Tassa’s 2009 album Basof Mitraglim Le'Hakol, and in 2023, they recorded Jarak Qaribak, an album of nine Middle Eastern love songs.

The musical chemistry between them is palpable, enriched by their shared experience in both pop and film composition. Yet the songs also gracefully maintain harmony between their individual heritages. For example, Tassa produces sweeping strings and other Middle Eastern sonic hallmarks on "Taq ou-Dub," while Greenwood programs synthesized drums that could be spliced into a Radiohead song with ease.

EOB - Earth

Released in 2020 under his initials EOB, Earth was the first time Ed O’Brien wrote lyrics and recorded his own voice. He had been playing around with solo ideas since the days of OK Computer, and an extended trip to Brazil with his family in 2012 inspired him to create full songs. 

O’Brien initially thought about bringing those songs to Radiohead or having Yorke provide vocals with different musicians. He was also concerned with what the rest of the band would think of his solo effort, but he didn’t let that deter him:

"Of course you want the approval of your bandmates but it’s not the be-all and end-all. This is my own thing. It’s different to Radiohead," O’Brien told Noise11 in April 2021. 

O’Brien’s own thing is more guitar-driven than other side projects from Radiohead, but still features a wide range of influences. The album’s opener, "Shangri-La," is a hard rock tune built off heavy chords. The next track, "Brasil," is an eight-minute suite of organic house music. Serving as an homage to his inspiring trip there, this song contains a multitude of colors and soundscapes that flow in and out in perfect balance.

The Smile - A Light For Attracting Attention

The Smile is the first side project that includes two members of Radiohead: Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood are joined by Tom Skinner, previously the drummer for the now-defunct modern jazz ensemble, Sons of Kemet. With The Smile, Yorke and Greenwood once again return to their primary instruments: guitar and vocals 

The group's debut album, A Light For Attracting Attention, was released in 2022 to critical acclaim and spawned a world tour. Following two guitar-light Radiohead albums — King of Limbs (2011) and A Moon-Shaped Pool (2016) — Jonny doubles down on his expert fretwork on A Light For Attracting Attention. Thom’s vocals fuel the sharpness of the guitar with pointed consonants and a noticeable lack of rhymes. 

On "The Smoke," Jonny’s dialed-in guitar picking is the foundation, but he quickly begins playing with the meter, making 4/4 feel like something completely different (comparable to the intense syncopation of the Radiohead song "Myxmatosis"). Yorke and Skinner match this minimalism, creating space for an ensemble of horns and strings, a byproduct of Greenwood’s time as a composer.

"You Will Never Work In Television" sees Jonny and Thom rock harder than they have since In Rainbows. Open hi-hats from Skinner complement Jonny’s cruising, distorted strums that back Yorke's angsty cursing vocals.

Colin Greenwood's Myriad Bass Work

Colin Greenwood is the only member of Radiohead who doesn’t have a solo album to his name. Like plenty of bass players throughout time, Colin’s career mirrors that of his instrument: He’s rarely in the foreground, but his band members and musicians around the world respect his skills to the highest degree. It's no surprise Far Out Magazine describes Colin as "Radiohead’s secret weapon."

Within the Radiohead universe, Colin recorded bass for the EOB album, Earth, and Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack for Inherent Vice. He is also electronically talented, providing beat programming on Yorke’s second solo album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes.

Outside of Radiohead, Colin played on two albums from the Belgian-Egyptian singer Tamino: Amir (2018) and Sahar (2022). One standout track from Colin’s work with Tamino is the single "Indigo Night," which he performed with Tamino at SXSW in 2019. Colin proves his versatility in this romantic R&B song by serving as the vehicle moving the chord changes forward with skillful runs. 

The Weird Sisters

This Radiohead side project has a minimal catalog of just three songs; they only convened for one performance, and they will probably never play live again. Yet millions of people have seen their one performance, because it took place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The Weird Sisters is the band that performs at the Yule Ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In the 2005 film, Jonny Greenwood plays the role of lead guitarist Kirley Duke, providing pick-heavy riffs on the song "This is the Night," while the drummer Orsino Thurston (played by Phil Selway) helms a four-on-the-floor beat.

Greenwood and Selway weren’t the only members of major UK bands to convene for a bit of magical fun. Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey of Pulp joined the Weird Sisters on vocals and bass, respectively. To kick off the night, Cocker beckons the students to be "ready for some real music" before launching into the hard rock banger, "Do The Hippogriff."

For The Record: Let's Disappear Completely Into Radiohead's GRAMMY-Winning 'Kid A'

For Questlove, "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" Is Crucial For Rap's Legacy
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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20 Iconic Hip-Hop Style Moments: From Run-D.M.C. To Runways
LL Cool J

Credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images

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20 Iconic Hip-Hop Style Moments: From Run-D.M.C. To Runways

From Dapper Dan's iconic '80s creations to Kendrick Lamar's 2023 runway performance, hip-hop's influence and impact on style and fashion is undeniable. In honor of hip-hop's 50th anniversary, look back at the culture's enduring effect on fashion.

GRAMMYs/Nov 29, 2023 - 03:01 pm

In the world of hip-hop, fashion is more than just clothing. It's a powerful means of self-expression, a cultural statement, and a reflection of the ever-evolving nature of the culture.

Since its origin in 1973, hip-hop has been synonymous with style —  but the epochal music category known for breakbeats and lyrical flex also elevated, impacted, and revolutionized global fashion in a way no other genre ever has.   

Real hip-hop heads know this. Before Cardi B was gracing the Met Gala in Mugler and award show red carpets in custom Schiaparelli, Dapper Dan was disassembling garment bags in his Harlem studio in the 1980s, tailoring legendary looks for rappers that would appear on famous album cover art. Crescendo moments like Kendrick Lamar’s performance at the Louis Vuitton Men’s Spring-Summer 2023 runway show in Paris in June 2022 didn’t happen without a storied trajectory toward the runway.

Big fashion moments in hip-hop have always captured the camera flash, but finding space to tell the bigger story of hip-hop’s connection and influence on fashion has not been without struggle. Journalist and author Sowmya Krishnamurphy said plenty of publishers passed on her anthology on the subject, Fashion Killa: How Hip-Hop Revolutionized High Fashion, and "the idea of hip hop fashion warranting 80,000 words." 

"They didn't think it was big enough or culturally important," Krishnamurphy tells GRAMMY.com, "and of course, when I tell people that usually, the reaction is they're shocked."

Yet, at the 50 year anniversary, sands continue to shift swiftly. Last year exhibitions like the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Fresh, Fly, and Fabulous: Fifty Years of Hip-Hop Style popped up alongside notable publishing releases including journalist Vikki Tobak’s, Ice Cold. A Hip-Hop Jewelry Story. Tabak’s second published release covering hip-hop’s influence on style, following her 2018 title, Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop.

"I wanted to go deeper into the history," Krishnamurphy continues. "The psychology, the sociology, all of these important factors that played a role in the rise of hip-hop and the rise of hip-hop fashion"

What do the next 50 years look like? "I would love to see a hip-hop brand, whether it be from an artist, a designer, creative director, somebody from the hip-hop space, become that next great American heritage brand," said Krishnamurphy.

In order to look forward we have to look back. In celebration of hip-hop’s 50 year legacy, GRAMMY.com examines iconic moments that have defined and inspired generations. From Tupac walking the runways at Versace to Gucci's inception-esque knockoff of Dapper Dan, these moments in hip-hop fashion showcase how artists have used clothing, jewelry, accessories, and personal style to shape the culture and leave an indelible mark on the world.

*The cover art to Eric B and Rakim’s* Paid in Full

Dapper Dan And Logomania: Luxury + High Fashion Streetwear

Dapper Dan, the legendary designer known as "the king of knock-offs," played a pivotal role in transforming luxury fashion into a symbol of empowerment and resistance for hip-hop stars, hustlers, and athletes starting in the 1980s. His Harlem boutique, famously open 24 hours a day, became a hub where high fashion collided with the grit of the streets.

Dapper Dan's customized, tailored outfits, crafted from deconstructed and transformed luxury items, often came with significantly higher price tags compared to ready-to-wear luxury fashion. A friend and favorite of artists like LL Cool J and Notorious B.I.G., Dapper Dan created iconic one-of-a-kind looks seen on artists like Eric B and Rakim’s on the cover of their Paid in Full album.

This fusion, marked by custom pieces emblazoned with designer logos, continues to influence hip-hop high fashion streetwear. His story — which began with endless raids by luxury houses like Fendi, who claimed copyright infringement — would come full circle with brands like Gucci later paying homage to his legacy.

Athleisure Takes Over

Hip-hop's intersection with sportswear gave rise to the "athleisure" trend in the 1980s and '90s, making tracksuits, sweatshirts, and sneakers everyday attire. This transformation was propelled by iconic figures such as Run-D.M.C. and their association with Adidas, as seen in photoshoots and music videos for tracks like "My Adidas."

*LL Cool J. Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images*

LL Cool J’s Kangol Hat

The Kangol hat holds a prominent place in hip-hop fashion, often associated with the genre's early days in the '80s and '90s. This popular headwear became a symbol of casual coolness, popularized by hip-hop pioneers like LL Cool J and Run-D.M.C. The simple, round shape and the Kangaroo logo on the front became instantly recognizable, making the Kangol an essential accessory that was synonymous with a laid-back, streetwise style.

*Dr. Dre, comedian T.K. Kirkland, Eazy-E, and Too Short in 1989. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images*

N.W.A & Sports Team Representation

Hip-hop, and notably N.W.A., played a significant role in popularizing sports team representation in fashion. The Los Angeles Raiders' gear became synonymous with West Coast hip-hop thanks to its association with the group's members Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, and Ice Cube, as well as MC Ren.

 *Slick Rick in 1991. Photo: Al Pereira/Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives*

Slick Rick’s Rings & Gold Chains

Slick Rick "The Ruler" has made a lasting impact on hip-hop jewelry and fashion with his kingly display of jewelry and wealth. His trendsetting signature look — a fistful of gold rings and a neck heavily layered with an array of opulent chains — exuded a sense of grandeur and self-confidence. Slick Rick's bold and flamboyant approach to jewelry and fashion remains a defining element of hip-hop's sartorial history, well documented in Tobak's Ice Cold.

Tupac Walks The Versace Runway Show

Tupac Shakur's runway appearance at the 1996 Versace runway show was a remarkable and unexpected moment in fashion history. The show was part of Milan Fashion Week, and Versace was known for pushing boundaries and embracing popular culture in their designs. In Fashion Killa, Krishnamurpy documents Shakur's introduction to Gianni Versace and his participation in the 1996 Milan runway show, where he walked arm-in-arm with Kadida Jones.

*TLC. Photo: Tim Roney/Getty Images*

Women Embrace Oversized Styles

Oversized styles during the 1990s were not limited to menswear; many women in hip-hop during this time adopted a "tomboy" aesthetic. This trend was exemplified by artists like Aaliyah’s predilection for crop tops paired with oversized pants and outerwear (and iconic outfits like her well-remembered Tommy Hilfiger look.)

Many other female artists donned oversized, menswear-inspired looks, including TLC and their known love for matching outfits featuring baggy overalls, denim, and peeking boxer shorts and Missy Elliott's famous "trash bag" suit worn in her 1997 music video for "The Rain." Speaking to Elle Magazine two decades after the original video release Elliot told the magazine that it was a powerful symbol that helped mask her shyness, "I loved the idea of feeling like a hip hop Michelin woman."

Diddy Launches Sean John

Sean "Diddy" Combs’ launch of Sean John in 1998 was about more than just clothing. Following the success of other successful sportswear brands by music industry legends like Russell Simmons’ Phat Farm, Sean John further represented a lifestyle and a cultural movement. Inspired by his own fashion sensibilities, Diddy wanted to create elevated clothing that reflected the style and swagger of hip-hop. From tailored suits to sportswear, the brand was known for its bold designs and signature logo, and shared space with other successful brands like Jay-Z’s Rocawear and model Kimora Lee Simmons' brand Baby Phat.

 *Lil' Kim. Photo: Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images*

Lil’ Kim Steals The Show

Lil' Kim’s daring and iconic styles found a kindred home at Versace with

In 1999, Lil' Kim made waves at the MTV Video Music Awards with her unforgettable appearance in a lavender jumpsuit designed by Donatella Versace. This iconic moment solidified her close relationship with the fashion designer, and their collaboration played a pivotal role in reshaping the landscape of hip-hop fashion, pushing boundaries and embracing bold, daring styles predating other newsworthy moments like J.Lo’s 2000 appearance in "The Dress" at the GRAMMY Awards.

Lil Wayne Popularizes "Bling Bling"

Juvenile & Lil Wayne's "Bling Bling" marked a culturally significant moment. Coined in the late 1990s by Cash Money Records, the term "bling bling" became synonymous with the excessive and flashy display of luxury jewelry. Lil Wayne and the wider Cash Money roster celebrated this opulent aesthetic, solidifying the link between hip-hop music and lavish jewelry. As a result, "bling" became a cornerstone of hip-hop's visual identity.

Jay-Z x Nike Air Force 1

In 2004, Jay-Z's partnership with Nike produced the iconic "Roc-A-Fella" Air Force 1 sneakers, a significant collaboration that helped bridge the worlds of hip-hop and sneaker culture. These limited-edition kicks in white and blue colorways featured the Roc-A-Fella Records logo on the heel and were highly coveted by fans. The collaboration exemplified how hip-hop artists could have a profound impact on sneaker culture and streetwear by putting a unique spin on classic designs. Hova's design lives on in limitless references to fresh white Nike kicks.

Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams. Photo: Mark Davis/WireImage

Pharrell Williams' Hat At The 2014 GRAMMYs

Pharrell Williams made a memorable red carpet appearance at the 2014 GRAMMY Awards in a distinctive and oversized brown hat. Designed by Vivienne Westwood, the hat quickly became the talk of the event and social media. A perfect blend of sartorial daring, Pharrell's hat complemented his red Adidas track jacket while accentuating his unique sense of style. An instant fashion moment, the look sparked innumerable memes and, likely, a renewed interest in headwear.

Kanye’s Rise & Fall At Adidas (2013-2022)

Much more than a "moment," the rise and eventual fall of Kanye’s relationship with Adidas, was as documented in a recent investigation by the New York Times. The story begins in 2013 when West and the German sportswear brand agreed to enter a partnership. The collaboration would sell billions of dollars worth of shoes, known as "Yeezys," until West’s anti-semitic, misogynistic, fat-phobic, and other problematic public comments forced the Adidas brand to break from the partnership amid public outrage.

Supreme Drops x Hip-Hop Greats

Supreme, with its limited drops, bold designs, and collaborations with artists like Nas and Wu-Tang Clan, stands as a modern embodiment of hip-hop's influence on streetwear. The brand's ability to create hype, long lines outside its stores, and exclusive artist partnerships underscores the enduring synergy between hip-hop and street fashion.

*A model walks the runway at the Gucci Cruise 2018 show. Photo: Pietro D'Aprano/Getty Images*

Gucci Pays "homage" to Dapper Dan

When Gucci released a collection in 2017 that seemingly copied Dapper Dan's distinctive style, (particularly one look that seemed to be a direct re-make of a jacket he had created for Olympian Dionne Dixon in the '80s), it triggered outrage and accusations of cultural theft. This incident sparked a conversation about the fashion industry's tendency to co-opt urban and streetwear styles without proper recognition, while also displaying flagrant symbols of racism through designs.

Eventually, spurred by public outrage, the controversy led to a collaboration between Gucci and Dapper Dan, a significant moment in luxury fashion's acknowledgement and celebration of the contributions of Black culture, including streetwear and hip-hop to high fashion. "Had Twitter not spotted the, "Diane Dixon" [jacket] walking down the Gucci runway and then amplified that conversation on social media... I don't think we would have had this incredible comeback," Sowmya Krishnamurphy says.

A$AP Rocky x DIOR

Self-proclaimed "Fashion Killa" A$AP Rocky is a true fashion aficionado. In 2016, the sartorially obsessed musician and rapper became one of the faces of Dior Homme’s fall/winter campaign shot by photographer Willy Vanderperre — an early example of Rocky's many high fashion collaborations with the luxury European brand.

A$AP Rocky's tailored style and impeccable taste for high fashion labels was eloquently enumerated in the track "Fashion Killa" from his 2013 debut album Long. Live. ASAP, which namedrops some 36 luxury fashion brands. The music video for "Fashion Killa" was co-directed by Virgil Abloh featuring a Supreme jersey-clad Fenty founder, Rihanna long before the two became one of music’s most powerful couples. The track became an anthem for hip-hop’s appreciation for high fashion (and serves as the title for Krishnamurphy’s recently published anthology). 

*Cardi B. Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage*

Cardi B Wears Vintage Mugler At The 2019 GRAMMYs

Cardi B has solidified her "it girl" fashion status in 2018 and 2019 with bold and captivating style choices and designer collaborations that consistently turn heads. Her 2019 GRAMMYs red carpet appearance in exaggerated vintage Mugler gown, and many custom couture Met Gala looks by designers including Jeremy Scott and Thom Browne that showcased her penchant for drama and extravagance.

But Cardi B's fashion influence extends beyond her penchant for custom high-end designer pieces (like her 2021 gold-masked Schiaparelli look, one of nine looks in an evening.) Her unique ability to blend couture glamour with urban chic (she's known for championing emerging designers and streetwear brands) fosters a sense of inclusivity and diversity, and makes her a true trendsetter.

Beyoncé & Jay-Z in Tiffany & Co.’s "About Love" campaign

The power duo graced Tiffany & Co.'s "About Love'' campaign in 2021, showcasing the iconic "Tiffany Yellow Diamond," a 128.54-carat yellow worn by Beyoncé alongside a tuxedo-clad Jay-Z. The campaign sparked controversy in several ways, with some viewers unable to reconcile the use of such a prominent and historically significant diamond, sourced at the hands of slavery, in a campaign that could be seen as commercializing and diluting the diamond's cultural and historical importance. Despite mixed reaction to the campaign, their stunning appearance celebrated love, adorned with Tiffany jewels and reinforced their status as a power couple in both music and fashion.

Kendrick Lamar Performs At Louis Vuitton

When Kendrick Lamar performed live at the Louis Vuitton Men’s spring-summer 2023 runway show in Paris in June 2022 following the passing of Louis Vuitton’s beloved creative director Virgil Abloh, he underscored the inextricable connection between music, fashion and Black American culture.


Lamar sat front row next to Naomi Campbell, adorned with a jeweled crown of thorns made from diamonds and white gold worth over $2 million, while he performed tracks including "Savior," "N95," and "Rich Spirit'' from his last album, Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers before ending with a repeated mantra, "Long live Virgil." A giant children’s toy racetrack erected in the Cour Carrée of the Louvre became a yellow brick road where models marched, clad in designer looks with bold, streetwear-inspired design details, some strapped with oversized wearable stereo systems.

Pharrell Succeeds Virgil Abloh At Louis Vuitton

Pharrell Williams' appointment as the creative director at Louis Vuitton for their men's wear division in 2023 emphasized hip-hop's enduring influence on global fashion. Pharrell succeeded Virgil Abloh, who was the first Black American to hold the position.

Pharrell's path to this prestigious role, marked by his 2004 and 2008 collaborations with Louis Vuitton, as well as the founding of his streetwear label Billionaire Boy’s Club in 2006 alongside Nigo, the founder of BAPE and Kenzo's current artistic director, highlights the growing diversity and acknowledgment of Black talent within high fashion.

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