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2021 In Review: 8 Trends That Defined Rap

From TikTok challenges to a rise of the Dirty South, revisit some of the biggest trends that rap's rising stars and heavy hitters brought in 2021

GRAMMYs/Dec 21, 2021 - 06:19 pm

After a social injustice-battling, pandemic-stricken 2020, rap returned this year with a much-needed dose of bangers and star power.

This year was mostly dominated by extravagant albums released by rap's elite, as well as impressive entries from promising up-and-comers. As fans inched toward a place of somewhat-normalcy, rap once again provided the backdrop to our collective moments at concerts, music festivals and get-togethers.

While it may have been easy to get lost in the year's rapid-fire releases, there were a few artists whose songs and albums either started new trends or advanced old ones. Below, find eight lyrical, sonic and cultural trends that appeared in rap this year — and may just continue in 2022.

Surprising Samples

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Florida rappers Yungeen Ace, FastMoney Goon, Spinabenz and Whoppa Wit Da Choppa got fans’ attention with "Who I Smoke." The ruthless diss track went viral for its head-turning sample, Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles," as well as its golf-inspired music video.

The quintessential 2001 pop song and sunny golf course video are a stark contrast to the song's graphic lyrics, which shed light on longstanding gang beef and gun violence in the rappers' Jacksonville community. Shock value is nothing new to hip-hop, but the song's disruptive juxtaposition, anchored by an admittedly infectious beat, opened new doors.

Foolio, one of the single's targets, continued the trend in his response track, "When I See You," which samples Fantasia's song of the same name. While sampling an R&B hit is a classic rap maneuver, the 2006 song’s contrast with Foolio’s particularly vicious lines made "When I See You" another unexpected offering. 

Melodic Drill

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Beginning as a forceful subgenre in Chicago, New York City and U.K. rap scenes, drill has been steadily creeping its way into the mainstream since the 2010’s.

Polo G, a Windy City native known for his somber, auto-tuned bars, carried drill further into the mainstream this year with his third studio album, Hall of Fame. Unlike its volatile predecessor, Polo uses a more melodic form of drill to wear his heart on his sleeve, making the sound more accessible to mainstream audiences.

Of course, the 22-year-old isn't the only rapper to capitalize on the growing trend. G Herbo's 25 and Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow's Still Sleep? also furthered drill this year, with Migos even dabbling in the subgenre on Culture III.

Domino Remixes

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"Beat Box" by SpotemGottem was already picking up steam in 2020 with a remix by Pooh Shiesty — but in 2021, remixing the bass-heavy track became a full-on trend.

Rappers have long put their own spin on another artist's song, but "Beat Box" snowballed into a frenzy of derivatives like rap fans haven't seen in a while. After its first 2021 remix by DaBaby, "Beat Box 3," the song got new life with versions by Latto, Polo G, Renni Rucci, Lil Yachty, Calboy, Deante' Hitchcock, Dreezy, NLE Choppa and more.

The remix sensation shone a light on up-and-comer SpotemGottem, also giving hip-hop's competitive nature and borrowing culture an opportunity to thrive.

Pop-Rap Crossovers

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Pop-rap crossovers enjoyed chart-topping success this year, one prime example being Lizzo and Cardi B's "Rumors." The larger-than-life collaboration — which arrived with an equally extravagant video — peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Songs Chart, proving pop-rap collisions are a trend that is here to stay.

Another genre-blurring hit was "Demeanor" by Pop Smoke and Dua Lipa, which appeared on the former's posthumous album, Faith.

TikTok Domination

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Rap and pop were this year's most popular genres on the app, a trend that doesn't seem to be slowing down going into 2022. Beginning with Erica Banks’ "Buss It" and continuing with fiery tracks like "I Am" by Baby Tate and Flo Milli, rap music once again dominated viral dances and challenges on TikTok.

One artist whose music has become a comfortable fixture on the app is Coi Leray, whose song "TWINNEM" elevated the #MeganKneesChallenge. Though the challenge was initially inspired by Mouse On Tha Track's "Knees Like Megan" (an homage to Megan Thee Stallion's indisputable twerking skills), the pulsing beat of "TWINNEM" helped the tune become the second soundtrack to the challenge.

Old Classics, New Hits

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Recycling old classics into new hits is a typical win-win in hip hop, and it proved to be a successful formula again this year. Several 2021 rap hits were powered by nostalgic samples, such as Polo G's "Bad Man (Smooth Criminal)," borrowing Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal"; Drake and Young Thug's "Way 2 Sexy," sampling Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy"; and Moneybagg Yo's "Wockesha," using DeBarge's 1983 track "Stay With Me" — a song famously sampled “Foolish” by Ashanti, who was featured on a remix of "Wockesha."

While City Girls' "Twerkulator" first reached fans as a viral TikTok leak, the Afrika Bambaataa-nodding track emerged as one of the best sampling rap songs this year. Plagued by clearance issues, the song — which samples Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" and interpolates lyrics from Cajmere's "Percolator" — didn't appear on City Girls' 2020 album, City on Lock. However, its official release in May of 2021, along with a Missy Elliott-directed music video, gave the twerkable anthem potential and served as the Miami duo's comeback hit following the release of their album.

Dirty South

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While Atlanta and Houston have often stolen rap's southern spotlight, Kentucky and Tennessee-born players came through in a major way this year. Gritty street tales told with southern swagger resulted in albums like Moneybagg Yo’s A Gangster's Pain, EST Gee's Bigger Than Life Or Death, Pooh Shiesty's Shiesty Season and more.

A Gangster's Pain by Moneybagg Yo was a particular win for the southeastern region, earning the Memphis native his first-ever platinum-certified and Billboard 200 No. 1 album.

Girl-Powered Collabs

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Women-powered collaborations have been a hip-hop mainstay for decades, but they arguably hit their commercial stride last year with the viral successes of songs like Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé's "Savage (Remix)" and Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's "WAP."

As female rappers continue to stake out more of their deserved territory in the genre, the trend continued this year, whether through raunchy raps or friendship-celebrating singles. One of these releases was BIA's "Whole Lotta Money (Remix)" featuring Nicki Minaj. Peaking at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100, the collaboration showed the potential for when a female rap veteran offers a helping hand to a burgeoning star.

Honorable Mention: Posthumous Albums

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Though posthumous albums are not a flash-in-the-pan hip-hop trend, they were once again a somber necessity this year after the loss of several genre pillars. Always a bittersweet listen, posthumous efforts like Juice WRLD's Fighting Demons, Pop Smoke's Faith and MF DOOM's Super What? were a way for fans to hear what artists were working on and enjoy what they wanted us to enjoy.

One posthumous album that perfectly accomplished this was DMX's Exodus. While some posthumous works have been criticized for lacking completion and content, listeners could tell that Exodus was DMX's vision.

All but one collaboration, "Money Money Money" featuring Moneybagg Yo, were recorded prior to Dark Man X's passing, and the body of work he was so excited to release was pushed forward by his longtime friend and collaborator Swizz Beatz. With Exodus, a truly genre-shaking death was honored by a fitting and respectful tribute, which could influence future posthumous efforts for years to come.

2021 In Review: 8 Trends That Defined R&B

Leon Michels, center, poses with Black Thought, Kirby and members of El Michels Affair backstage at "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon."
Leon Michels, center, poses with Black Thought, Kirby and members of El Michels Affair backstage at "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon."

Photo: Rosalind O'Connor/NBC via Getty Images

interview

Behind Leon Michels' Hits: From Working With The Carters & Aloe Blacc, To Creating Clairo's New Album

Multi-instrumentalist turned GRAMMY-nominated producer Leon Michels has had a hand in a wide range of pop and hip-hop music. Read on for the stories behind his smash hits with Norah Jones, Black Thought, Kalis Uchis, Aloe Blacc, and others.

GRAMMYs/May 27, 2024 - 03:17 pm

A child of New York’s ultra-niche soul revival scene of the early 2000s, multi-instrumentalist turned producer Leon Michels has had an extensive reach into global pop music. As both producer and session man, Michels has worked with the Carters, Norah Jones, Black Thought, the Black Keys, Kalis Uchis, and Aloe Blacc — to name a few.

He has held to a specific creative vision for more than two decades, first through his heavily sampled El Michels Affair projects and a healthy schedule of releases through Truth & Soul records and later, Big Crown, the label he co-founded with DJ Danny Akalepse in 2016. He runs a studio in upstate New York called the Diamond Mine North, where he does most of his work since relocating from New York City in 2017. He has two GRAMMY nominations to his name, for Mary J. Blige’s Good Morning Gorgeous and Lizzo’s Special.

Trained originally on piano, he took up drums and eventually saxophone through the guidance of his high school music teacher, Miss Leonard. "[She] is actually the person I owe it all to. She started this jazz band when I was in fifth grade, and there's no drummer, so she asked me if I would learn drums," he tells GRAMMY.com. "I did that, and she would give me Duke Ellington cassettes, Sydney Bichet, Johnny Hodges. She would just feed me music."

Daptone Records co-founder Gabe Roth recruited and mentored Michels while he was still in high school, and the teenager soon became a regular touring member of what would become the Dap-Kings, backing singer Sharon Jones during an early run of success in the mid-2000s. " I joined Sharon Jones when it was the Soul Providers. We went on tour in Europe with them. Somehow my parents let me do it. I don't even understand. Gabe came over and sweet-talked them."

Michels left the group in 2006 after seven intense years, wanting to spend more time recording than enduring the grind of touring. His chosen timing caused him to miss out by mere "months" on the group’s recording sessions for Amy Winehouse’s four-time GRAMMY winner Back To Black. Despite what appeared to be a major missed opportunity, he turned his focus to his group El Michels Affair after initial encouragement from the 2005 album Sounding Out The City, released on Truth & Soul, the label he had co-founded. 

Finding his inspiration in the intersections of soul and hip-hop, as a fully committed instrumentalist producer, he was able to develop an analog soundscape that quickly caught the ears of artists including Raekwon and other Wu-Tang Clan alumni, with whom he toured in 2008. This led to the follow-up album Enter The 37th Chamber in 2009. Samples from El Michels Affair, including those by Ghostface Killah, Jay-Z, Just Blaze, J. Cole, and Travis Scott quickly proliferated and opened doors. Via the Lee Fields album My World, Michels' work caught the attention of Dan Auerbach, with whom he and his longtime collaborator and bassist Nick Movshon toured from 2010 to 2012.

Producing the Aloe Blacc song "I Need A Dollar" in 2010 further enhanced his credentials and provided the financial stability to allow him to be true to his creative spirit, which he has done successfully over the last decade.

Leon Michels spoke to GRAMMY.com about some key career recordings, including his latest release with singer Clairo.

Clairo – "Sexy to Someone" (Charm, 2024)

I met Clairo almost three years ago. I made a record with her that took three years to complete, which is actually one of the longest stretches I've ever spent on a record.

She’s made two records before this. Her first record, Immunity, came out when she was 19. It's a pop record, and it was very successful. But she's a total music nerd like me. She’s constantly scouring the Internet for music. The way people, especially young people, ingest music these days is just insane. She's got great taste.

Her first record was super successful. She made her second record, Sling, with Jack Antonoff, and it was an ambitious folk record, and a huge departure from her first record. I think it caught her audience off guard, but it was kind of a perfect move because now she can make whatever she wants. 

When she came to me, I was excited but slightly confused. What do I do? Because in those situations, you think, well, I need to facilitate a successful pop record, but she just wanted all the weird s—.

It’s this cool mix of pop elements, but some of the music sounds like a Madlib sample. All of it is steeped in pretty cool references and older music, but her perspective is a 25-year-old’s, and she’s an incredible songwriter. It's a really cool mix.

Norah Jones - "Running"  (Visions, 2024)

Norah used to hit up me and Dave Guy, trumpet player in the Menahan Street Band and the Roots, if she needed horns.

As we were coming out of the pandemic, she hit me up and wanted to make some music. We made a few songs and then after that, she asked me to produce her Christmas record, which was super fun because I've never listened to Christmas music. I started to enjoy it, which was weird because I had thought I hated Christmas music. I mean, once you start to dig for Christmas records, pretty much all of your favorite artists have them. I was listening to Christmas music from March to October the entire year. 

After that, we made Visions, which is all original stuff. Norah's just so talented. Her musicianship is actually some of the most impressive I've ever seen or worked with. She's so good that when I play with her, I get intimidated and I forget basic harmony and music theory!

Read more: 5 Inspirations Behind Norah Jones' New Album 'Visions': Nightly Dreams, Collabs, Harmony Stacks & More

We cut that record,  mostly just the two of us. There's a couple of songs where we got a band, but most of it was in my upstate studio. She would just come over from nine to three. She would come after she dropped her kids at school and then have to leave to pick them up. It was super fun to make, essentially just jamming all day.

[Overall] it’s not a huge departure for Norah, but sonically it is a departure, and it's got this very loose, "un-precious" quality. That's maybe a little different from her other stuff.

"Running" was her choice as a single. When it comes to singles — the songs that have actually been most successful — I've wanted to take those off the record. I have no idea what's going to be the hit or not.

Black Thought - "Glorious Game" (Glorious Game, 2023)

That was a total pandemic record — at the start of the pandemic when everyone was completely locked in, we had no idea what was going on.

Black Thought texted me out of the blue, and I think he was just trying to stay busy. So he just said, "Can you send me songs?" I sent him maybe two songs and then he sent back finished verses three or four hours later. Most of that record was just me sending him s— and him sending it back, and then going like that. We had probably 20 songs. 

The time I did spend in the studio with him was, he's a total savant. He sits there while you're playing a song, and it kind of looks like he's on Instagram or f—ing around, you know what I mean? Does this guy even like this song? And then 45 minutes later, he’ll be like "Aight, ready." And he goes in there and, and he'll rap four pages of lyrics in one take. It's insane. He remembers everything;  we'll do a song and then three years later, he'll have to redo it, but he'll know the lyrics from memory.

There's a couple of things that I figured out on that record. One: The thing I love about sampled hip-hop production the most is it's almost always pitch-shifted, which makes a giant difference in the sound. And if the piano has decay or vocals have vibrato, when you pitch it up, it becomes something that is so uniquely hip-hop. The second thing was, with hip hop, one of the best parts about sampling is the choices a producer has to make when they are limited to chopping a two-track mix.  If you have multi-tracks, there are too many options. 

I think that record resonated with people who are hip-hop aficionados who really love the art of emceeing. 

Aloe Blacc - "I Need A Dollar" (Good Things, 2010)

We had just recorded the Lee Fields record, My World. Eothen Alapatt, who used to be a label manager at Now Again, was a friend of mine. [Jeff Silverman and I] started Truth & Soul, but we had no infrastructure. We thought My World would have a bigger reach if Stones Throw took care of the press and distribution. And so Eothen said "Yeah, we can do that, but instead of paying us, just make a record with this artist we have, Aloe Blacc."

I had no idea who he was. And so that was the business deal. We didn't get paid for the record initially. The payment was that they were going to promote Lee Fields record for us. So [Aloe] came to New York, and I did it with my partner at the time, Jeff Silverman, also Nick Movshon, who played on the entire record.

He wanted to do this Bill Withers thing. "I Need A Dollar" was probably my least favorite song on the record. I think I have this aversion to anything that's slightly cheesy, but I've gotten better at it. But at the end of the day, it's just a good song. It got picked up as the theme song to an HBO pilot called "How To Make It In America." And then, it just blew up in Europe. It was No. 1 everywhere. But it never hit in America.

It kind of set me off on a weird path for a minute, because I got a taste of success. And made some poor career decisions. I tried to a do lot of songwriting sessions with strangers.  It was maybe four years until I decided to just make El Michels Records.  

The Carters - "SUMMER" (EVERYTHING IS LOVE, 2018)

At the time, I was making these sample packs and sending them out to producers. One of them was this slow jam, and so the producers called me up and said "We used one of your samples. It's for a giant artist. We can't tell you who it is. You have to approve it now. And you can't hear it, but it's going to change your life." That’s what they kept saying to me. Then they said "It's coming out in two weeks."

So I figured they used one of my samples and chopped it up and did their thing to it.  And so when the record came out, it was Beyoncé and Jay-Z. It was the first track on that record they did together, the Carters. And it was mostly just my original sample with some new bass and string section. So basically it was just Beyoncé and Jay-Z over an El Michael's Affair track. The track was called "Summer," and my original never came out. 

So just hearing Beyoncé, hearing these giant pop voices that I associate with absolute hits, over my song, that was pretty cool.

Liam Bailey - "Dance With Me" (Zero Grace, 2023)

Me and him just have a very crazy chemistry when it comes to music, because it all happens super fast and with very little thought. Sometimes I'll listen to Liam's stuff, and I actually don't know how we did it. That is actually the goal. That’s why Lee "Scratch Perry" is the greatest producer of all time, because he could access that instant input, instant output type of creativity. It just passes through him and then it's on the record. Making music with Liam is like that; I'll make some instrumental, or I'll have an idea and then he'll freestyle lyrics one or two times.

To me, it sounds gibberish, but then he'll go through it and change one or two words and all of a sudden has this crazy narrative, and it's about his childhood [for example]. When I’ve worked with him, he has this same process where it's just kind of "hand to God" s—, just let it happen. I was trying to make something the way Jamaicans did, [like] that brand of Jamaican soul from the mid-'60s. 

Brainstory - "Peach Optimo" (Sounds Good, 2024)

I met those guys through Eduardo Arenas, who's the bass player from Chicano Batman, and he had recorded a couple of demos from them. And they had one song in particular that really caught my attention, which made it onto their first record called "Dead End."

They’re three jazz kids. Their dad was a gospel singer and loved soul and Stevie Wonder. So they grew up on all that stuff as well. Producing a band like Brainstory is super easy, because they rehearse all the time. Most of their songs are written; all I have to do is maybe shuffle around sections or just essentially cut stuff out. Because a lot of times when bands write music and rehearse every day, they just love to play, so sections are endless. 

I'll…have a sound in mind for the record, some reference for me and the engineering hands to kind of work from. And in the case of Sounds Good, the reference for the whole sound of the record was that this is Gene Harris song called "Los Alamitos Latin Funk Love." This is kind of the vibe of the entire record. We just cut that record over the course of a year, but it was two sessions that were maybe six days each. 

Kevin is the main vocalist and he's amazing. He can do that sweet soul background stuff perfectly. And when he does [his own] background vocals, it's this thing that not a lot of people can do where he changes his personality. So he becomes three different people. Then the background sounds like an actual group. 

Behind Mark Ronson's Hits: How 'Boogie Nights,' Five-Hour Jams & Advice From Paul McCartney Inspired His Biggest Singles & Collabs

Kylie Minogue
Kylie Minogue attends the 66th GRAMMY Awards Pre-GRAMMY Gala

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic via Getty Images

news

2024 GRAMMYs: Kylie Minogue Wins First-Ever GRAMMY For Best Pop Dance Recording For "Padam Padam"

Kylie Minogue beat out David Guetta, Anne-Marie, and Coi Leray; Calvin Harris featuring Ellie Goulding; Bebe Rexha and David Guetta, and Troye Sivan. This is the first-ever win in this brand-new category.

GRAMMYs/Feb 4, 2024 - 09:02 pm

Kylie Minogue has taken home the golden gramophone for Best Pop Dance Recording — an all-new category — at the 2024 GRAMMYs, for "Padam Padam."

Minogue came ahead of of David Guetta, Anne-Marie and Coi Leray ("Baby Don’t Hurt Me"); Calvin Harris featuring Ellie Goulding ("Miracle"); Bebe Rexha and David Guetta ("One in a Million"); and Troye Sivan ("Rush").

The win marks Minogue’s second GRAMMY win after six career nominations. She had previously won Best Dance Recording for "Come Into My World."

The Australian pop star — along with producer Peter "Lostboy" Rycroft and mixing engineer Guy Massey — are the first-ever winners of the Best Pop/Dance Performance category. It was one of three new categories introduced at the 66th GRAMMYs; the other two are Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical and Best African Music Performance. 

Lostboy took the stage to accept the award on behalf of himself, Minogue, and Massey. 

"Padam Padam" charted at No. 7 on Billboard's Hot Dance/Electronic chart; it was a much bigger hit in the UK, where it was a No. 1 hit. The song was embraced by the LGBTQ+ community on both sides of the Atlantic. 

"It's hugely important to me and so touching," said Minogue of her popularity with LGBTQ+ fans in an interview with GRAMMY.com earlier this year. "I hope that for that community and beyond, I just want to say I am open-minded and I want people to be happy in themselves. That community needed support and still needs support. I'm here. And they padamed for me."

Keep checking this space for more updates from Music’s Biggest Night!

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Winners & Nominees List

Ice Spice GRAMMY Feature Hero
Ice Spice

Photo: Will Heath/NBC via Getty Images

feature

The Rise Of Ice Spice: How The "Barbie World" Rapper Turned Viral Moments Into A Full-On Franchise

Ice Spice charmed the masses with her flirty rhymes and playful, Bronx-born personality. Now with four nominations at the 2024 GRAMMYs — including Best New Artist — she's solidified her position as Gen Z rap royalty.

GRAMMYs/Jan 31, 2024 - 06:53 pm

From Slick Rick to Cardi B, rap has long been synonymous with exorbitant personalities. But in 2023, Ice Spice showed that you can still make noise with subtle charm.

The 24-year-old charmed the masses with her nonchalant flow and demeanor, paired with boisterous Bronx drill beats. Just two years into her career, Ice Spice was coined the "People's Princess" — a title first given to the late Princess Diana, whose name serves as the title for the rapper's breakthrough single. 

While Ice's Bronx pride, Y2K fashion and relatable disposition contribute to her appeal, a fan noted on Twitter that her most prominent qualities mirror Diana's: "Resilient, determined and blazing their own trail - in [her] own way." Even her mentor (and "Princess Diana" collaborator) Nicki Minaj co-signed the royal title: "Catch it!!" she exclaimed in a March 2023 Instagram Story.

Ice Spice's reign was solidified by countless accolades in 2023, as she scored four top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and over a billion streams. And when it came to the 2024 GRAMMYs, her impact is apparent: not only did Ice Spice earn her first four nominations, but she's the only rapper up for Best New Artist. (She also earned nods in the Best Rap Song and Best Song Written For Visual Media Categories for her "Barbie World" collaboration with Minaj, as well as Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for her "Karma" collaboration with Taylor Swift.)

2024 GRAMMYs: Explore More & Meet The Nominees

The first inklings of Ice Spice's virality came in 2021, when she began making music with her college friend-turned-producer and fellow Bronx native RIOTUSA. That year, the rapper took part in TikTok's "Buss It" challenge, with her seductive dance moves going viral. She quickly capitalized on the moment, using her growing number of followers to draw attention to her music. She soon released debut songs like "Bully Freestyle" and "Name of Love," but it was the following year that officially ignited her rap takeover.

In the summer of 2022, Ice Spice's independently released "Munch (Feelin' U)" single was virtually inescapable following a Drake co-sign, nearly 120 million Spotify streams and a music video that became a meme (Lil Nas X even donned Ice Spice's video look for Halloween). The song's rapid popularity led to a deal with 10K Projects and Capitol Records shortly after its release. But it also had naysayers questioning if the rapper was an industry plant and doubting her career success.

"Everybody was tryna be like, 'Oh, she a one-hit wonder,'" Ice Spice said of her critics in an episode of Genius' "Verified" series. "But now, it's like, 'What? Two-hit wonder?'"

When it comes to virality, Ice Spice has the Midas Touch — and she's well aware of it. Whether it's her signature phrases "grah" and "like", her passion for twerking ("But I'm still shaking ass in the deli", she exclaims on "Deli"), or self-affirmations that are perfect for Instagram captions ("How can I lose if I'm already chose? Like," she assures on "Bikini Bottom"), her calm, cool and collected confidence has held a tight grip on social media and beyond.

"I wouldn't consider myself a lyricist. Obviously, lyrics go into music and I do think about them, and I do be having bars in my music but they're just super simple," she told Complex in October. "I want them to be digestible, I don't want them to fly over people's heads and they never catch it. I want people to hear it right away and be like, 'OK, that was cute.' But it's also fun at the same time."

Following the release of her Like ..? EP in January 2023, Ice Spice proved her versatility and knack for hit-making with an onslaught of both niche and A-list collaborations. Massive singles like "Boy's a Liar Pt. 2" with fellow Gen Z princess PinkPantheress and the "Princess Diana" remix with Nicki Minaj peaked at No. 3 and 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively.

In fact, "Diana" helped Ice Spice already land a history-making feat: it marked the first time that No. 1 co-billed by two women topped Billboard's Hot Rap Songs chart since its launch 34 years ago. And through that collab, Ice Spice gained a mentor in Minaj.

"She be telling me to learn from her mistakes — just watching her in general, if you pay close enough attention, you gonna see what you should do," Ice shared with The Guardian about Minaj. "I love to talk to her about things that I can't talk about publicly — it just means so much to be able to have somebody like her."

Ice Spice further proved her mainstream appeal last May, propelling into the pop stratosphere alongside Taylor Swift. The two joined forces for a remix of Swift's Midnights track "Karma," which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the rapper's highest-charting song to date as of press time. 

"I relate to Ice in many ways, but I think her dedication and focus is what blew me away from the very start," Swift, who brought the rapper on stage at the New Jersey stop of her blockbuster Eras Tour, shared with Variety in September. "She's extremely professional without being cold. Playful and fun without ever taking her eye off the prize. 

"She knows what is and isn't 'her' and sets those boundaries with grace," Swift continued. "She studies the industry and other artists' careers but is very clear about charting her own definitive, original path. It's her ability to carefully find that balance that impresses the hell out of me."

Ice Spice kept the momentum going last June, latching on to the summer's biggest pop culture moment — the Barbie movie. And what better way to celebrate the occasion than with the Head Barb herself?

The rapper reunited with Minaj for "Barbie World," which sampled Aqua's 1997 Eurodance smash "Barbie Girl" and soundtracked the closing credits of the blockbuster. The drill-meets-Jersey-club collaboration debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Ice Spice's fourth top 10 hit in just four months. 

"Where we come from, our borough is often 'judged' — people have a lot of mixed opinions on it. So to be able to have such an iconic song with the type of genre that comes from where we're from is awesome," producer RIOTUSA told Billboard of the track. "[We] get to shed new light on the genre and bring it to a bigger place."

Ice Spice wrapped a momentous year with multiple festival performances including Rolling Loud and Hot 97's Summer Jam, a Best New Artist win at the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards, a brilliant partnership with Dunkin' Donuts (the commercial announcement of the Ice Spice Munchkins Drink featured actor and Dunkin superfan Ben Affleck), a musical guest debut for the season 49 premiere of "Saturday Night Live" in October (Swift made a surprise cameo to introduce her new BFF), and opening for Doja Cat's Scarlet Tour in November.

And just one week into 2024, the rapper spawned her first viral moment of the year, sharing a snippet of a hilariously unserious bar, "Thinking you the s—, bitch you not even the fart." The clip was a preview of her first release of 2024, aptly titled "Think U The S— (Fart)," which racked up eight million views on the teaser alone.

On Jan. 30, Ice Spice confirmed that her forthcoming album (titled Y2K, which alludes both to her style and her January 1, 2000 birth date) is coming this year; though she didn't announce a release date, she did reveal it's "almost finished". On the heels of a massive 2023, there's no doubt Ice Spice is ready to continue her rap domination — one drill anthem at a time.

"I always felt like I could do anything I tried to do, but especially now it feels like anything is possible," she told The Guardian. "Being at award shows, being on magazine covers, getting huge features — all those moments made me feel like, Wow, we're really doing it big."

The Official 2024 GRAMMYs Playlist is Here: Listen To Songs By SZA, Doja Cat, Taylor Swift, Jon Batiste, & More

David Guetta performing in Budapest in 2023
David Guetta performs at the 2023 Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary.

Photo: Joseph Okpako/WireImage

interview

David Guetta Reveals The "Accidents Of Life" That Birthed Hits With Bebe Rexha, Nicki Minaj & More

With two nominations at the 2024 GRAMMYs, David Guetta is still proving to be one of dance music's stalwarts. Hear from the hit-making producer about how some of his biggest hits with Sia, Kid Cudi and more came to be.

GRAMMYs/Jan 25, 2024 - 07:24 pm

After more than 30 years as a DJ/producer, David Guetta knows the secret to success within dance music.

"What made me famous is to have songs that could be timeless and crossover into the pop world, but are still being played by all the DJs," the French producer says. "It's always a big challenge to do a dance record that every DJ would play, but at the same time would touch the emotions enough so that people that are not in clubs or in festivals would be touched by it. It's that duality that I have to fight every time."

With 14 No. 1 dance hits and two GRAMMYs to his name now — as well as two more nominations at the 2024 GRAMMYs — Guetta flashes a coy smile and says, "I think I've found a few tricks to make it work."

Guetta is one of the inaugural nominees in the new Best Pop Dance Recording Category. He has not one, but two songs in Category: his latest collab with Bebe Rexha, "One In A Million," and his Haddaway-sampling hit with Anne-Marie and Coi Leray, "Baby Don't Hurt Me." 

As the only artist with two nominations in the Category, Guetta's latest GRAMMY nods further solidify his legacy as one of dance music's biggest crossover acts. While he's been making a name for himself since getting his start on the Parisian underground, Guetta broke through to the mainstream U.S. market with his serendipitous collab with Kelly Rowland, "When Love Takes Over," in 2009.

Since then, he's made countless hits for himself and others. He's the in-demand producer behind the Black Eyed Peas' 2009 smash "I Gotta Feeling" who could get Nicki Minaj to sing ("Turn Me On") and Sia to step into the spotlight ("Titanium"), all the while helping to build new talent, such as his frequent collaborator (and current co-nominee) Rexha. 

His latest single is with another pop princess, Kim Petras, a fast-paced dance floor collab titled "When We Were Young" that samples Supertramp's "The Logical Song." Just after making tour stops in South America, Guetta sat down with GRAMMY.com to share the stories behind some of his biggest hits, from his crossover breakthrough with Kelly Rowland to his latest GRAMMY-nominated collab with Bebe Rexha. 

"When Love Takes Over" feat. Kelly Rowland (2009)

Kelly Rowland, I have to give an homage to her because she is the first pop artist that came to me. She was in a club in Cannes where I was playing. All the records I did before that were with this incredible vocalist, Chris Willis. I had some very big dance records, like "Love is Gone" for example. That was really massive in our culture, but I never worked with a big famous pop artist.

So, I'm in Cannes DJing, and I play the instrumental of "When Love Takes Over," and Kelly comes to the DJ booth and asks me, "What is this record?" I said, "It's just a beat I made," and she said, "I really like it. Can I try to write something on it?" 

Crazy, right? I have so much respect for her. I'm grateful to her for life because to go to a DJ that you don't even know, hear a beat and spot that it is a hit? That's big! 

We did this collab, and the record went to No. 1 in the U.K. and charted in 30 countries or something crazy, and this was the first step for me into a big crossover. Right after that, I had "Sexy B—" with Akon, and that was massive and very influential. One of the most influential records I've made, I think. 

"Sexy B—" feat. Akon (2009)

I'm in the U.K. at BBC One radio performing "When Love Takes Over" with Kelly Rowland. Akon is performing after me, and he says "Ah, it's you! You also did 'Love is Gone.' I love those records. Let's do something," so I booked at Metropolis in London that same night. I bring him to the studio, and we did "Sexy B—" that night.

In this industry, it's a lot about "You're only as good as your last hit," so many people basically look at the top 10 say, "Okay, let's work with this guy because it's current." I was never too much like that. I'm just looking for talent, really, and the accidents of life. Because if you look at all my biggest hits, they happen by accident.

Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" (2009)

Dance music is not usually the main leading genre. You have more pop or hip-hop, some moments it was rock, but dance was always more niche. At the same time, it has a huge influence on pop. I've seen an interesting phenomenon, though: Every time there's a major crisis and people are really stressed and suffering, dance music rises.

At the end of the 2008 financial crisis that was so tough on people, I produced "I Gotta Feeling" for Black Eyed Peas, and it was like a revolution at this time. Everyone was like, "What is this?" and then from one day to the other, every radio was playing dance music all day. 

Now, we're in the second time. We've just gotten out of COVID, we have the war in Ukraine and Russia. "I Gotta Feeling" was such a happy song, which is not what I do usually, and again, now, "I'm Good (Blue)" is having the same type of moment. I think dance music has the power to help people forget everything, just live in the moment and feel good. 

"Memories" feat. Kid Cudi (2010)

"Memories" with Kid Cudi is also funny to see how everything is connected — because in the case of "Memories," I'm shooting the video of "I Got A Feeling" with Black Eyed Peas. One of the cameos of the video is Kid Cudi, and I'm also a cameo in the video. I was like, "Oh wow, you're Kid Cudi? I love your work! We should do something together," and boom. We book the studio the day after, and we have "Memories.

"Titanium" feat. Sia (2011)

Titanium was a similar situation. Sia was a very cool and very respected artist, but she was not a big pop artist. Funnily enough, at the time, she decided to stop being an artist and just be a songwriter.

We were working together as a producer and a songwriter for another artist, but when I heard her voice on that record, I was like, "It's impossible. No one is going to be able to sing like this." I literally begged her to stay on the record, and she was like, "Look, I'll do it, but I don't want to do any interviews. I don't want to do a video. I don't want to do tours. I don't want to do any of it." I'm like, "Okay, no problem. Just give me your voice."

After it was released, she became a huge artist. I remember being in the studio with her after "Titanium," and she would receive messages from Rihanna and Beyoncé fighting for her songs. It was really crazy, really incredible. She became one of the most respected artists on the planet. 

"Hey Mama" feat. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack (2015)

I have a long history with Bebe, and we started to work together with "Hey Mama." It's a funny story because I had the sample, and I had Nicki's rap, and I felt the sample was my chorus. It took me two years to understand that the sample needed to be the post, and I needed a real chorus. Imagine spending two years on a record. I was going crazy!*

I knew it was a hit, but it was not totally there. I realized I needed to push the chorus back, make it a post and play some chords.

When you are in the studio, there's studio A, B, C and D — and the door of Studio D was open. I heard this crazy voice, and I come in the door like, "Wow, who's singing?" That was Bebe! She was not an artist yet, but a songwriter. She was writing with a friend of mine and asked, "Can you guys try something on this hook that makes me suffer so much?" In 15 minutes, they wrote the hook. It was insane.

In the middle of the record being released, she asked to feature on the record because she wanted to start an artist career of her own. We changed the credit, then she became a big artist. 

"I'm Good (Blue)" with Bebe Rexha (2022)

Funnily enough, we made this song four years before the release. I was living in London at the time, and Bebe texted me, "I'm going to be in London. Do you want to do something?"

We were writing in the studio, and just for the vibe, we tried that idea. Honestly, I don't use many samples — maybe only three records in my career — but I was like, "Imagine bringing back that happy vibe, it would be so much fun, and those chords are so good." 

So we did it, and honestly, no one believed in it. Still, as a DJ, I try to only play my own productions, so I made a festival version with that exact hook, and I played it at a festival. A few years later, someone sampled it, used it on TikTok, and it was a huge hit. Bebe texted me like, "Do you know what's happening on TikTok?" 

She showed me and she's like, "You got maximum two weeks to finish the record." So I finished the record! 

Two days before it was released, I played it at a festival in the U.K., and everyone was singing all the words. I could not believe it. The record was not out! Usually it's a struggle to build a record, sending it to DJs and to have the support of radio and streaming platforms. Now, it was already a hit before it was out. That's crazy!

"Baby Don't Hurt Me" with Anne-Marie and Coi Leray (2023)

I did this as a follow-up to "I'm Good (Blue)," digging in the classic dance music records from the '90s and 2000s. To be completely honest, I come from house music, and at that time, I would not play Euro dance records. I would be like, "Oh, this is so cheesy." But with life experience, you learn to respect the melodies. I look at it in a very different way, because I'm probably less snobbish with age.

I think a lot of producers are obsessed with technicalities and get caught on "Oh, I found this special way of side-chaining reverb and panning it." At the end of the day, if you have a melody, you can go up against the best-sounding record in the world and always win. 

Those huge Euro records from that time had massive melodies, and "What is Love?" That record is insane! A lot of my ideas for songs come from my DJ sets, and I was playing a mashup of "What Is Love?" and I could see everyone was screaming as much as when I play "Titanium" or those massive records. 

At the same time, Max Lousada, who's the head of Warner Music Group, hooked me up with Ed Sheeran. He also loved "I'm Good." I have this crazy video of him jumping on stage with me when I'm playing it and going absolutely crazy. I was so honored because this guy is such a genius. Ed was like, "Let's have fun," and then we wrote a few songs. I have a few weapons to put out in the year to come, and one of the songs was "Baby Don't Hurt Me." He wrote the verses. 

Anne-Marie is my friend, and she is very good friends with Ed Sheeran. We'd been talking about making a record, the three of us, so I called her. She's one of the most fun people I know, and most down to Earth. So easy to work with, so I had two verses from her. 

Then one day, another crazy accident! I made a remix for Coi Leray of the song "Players" — I was in L.A., and I felt it was cooler to play it for her in the studio where she was recording her album. So I go to the studio and play the remix, and she goes absolutely crazy. She jumps on the table and starts to dance. It was such a vibe, so positive. 

She's like, "David, why don't you stay with us? We have two more days to finish the album." I'm like, "Of course," and there I am making hip-hop beats. We did a few records, one of them being "Make My Day" with a sample of "Pump the Jam" for her album. And we did another one with a sample of James Brown called "Man's World." I really love that record. 

So I produce those two records with Coi, and I'm like, "Can we do a swap? Can you do a verse on my record?" And that's how she did "Don't Hurt Me." If I had asked the record company, it probably would never have happened. You need to give to receive. 

I didn't go to the studio thinking I'm gonna ask her that. I just did it because I thought she was amazing and I was super happy to help her with the album. I'm sure she's going to be a massive artist, and she jumped on my record. 

"One In A Million" with Bebe Rexha (2023)

[Bebe and I] have this special relationship together. I think she's extremely talented. The job I respect the most in our industry is songwriting, and she's a great songwriter. She can sing, but she can write too. That is a different level of looking up to [someone].

"One in a Million" is a little more my traditional style, with a piano arpeggio and a beautiful song. I loved the record from the first second. It has a little bit of a Coldplay vibe that I really love. A lot of people say it feels a little bit like what I did with Kelly Rowland with "When Love Takes Over." It's not the same chords, but it's a feeling, let's say. 

I'm hoping for the best [at the GRAMMYs]. It would be amazing if we could win, for me but also for her. I really want her to win, because I think she's so talented. She deserves the win. 

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