meta-scriptRebelution Plots Good Vibes Summer Tour With Protoje, Collie Buddz & More | GRAMMY.com
Rebelution

Rebelution

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Rebelution Plots Good Vibes Summer Tour With Protoje, Collie Buddz & More

The reggae band from California will bring its get-away-from-it-all vibe cross-country this June through August, with even more show dates added

GRAMMYs/Mar 1, 2019 - 05:46 am

Rebelution, the GRAMMY-nominated reggae band from Santa Barbara,Calif., has added even more dates to its recently-announced Good Vibes Summer Tour 2019 with  Protoje, Collie Buddz, Durand Jones & the Indications and more. The 30+ date tour kicks off on June 13 in Albuquerque, N.M., visiting amphiteaters and other summer-ready outdoor venues across the country, closing out at the Beach at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on Aug. 30 and 31.

Towards the end of the tour, on Aug. 24 the band will make a stop at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colo., where they recorded 2016's Live At Red Rocks album. This scenic show will feature support from both Protoje, who's joining the first nine shows, and Collie Buddz, who joins for the tenth, as well as a special appearance from GRAMMY-winning reggae group Morgan Heritage, plus the Meditations and Judge Roughneck. Durand Jones & the Indications are on board for the first 13 dates, after which Iya Terra will swap with them for two shows in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Rebelution's most recent album, 2018's Free Rein, was their fifth time breaking into the Billboard 200. Discussing its track "City Life," Eric Rachmany told us it inspires getting away from it all to "beautiful, pristine places," which follow him when he performs it. "I'm like 'oh, as soon as this tour is over I'm gonna go lay low on a beach somewhere in Hawaii,'" he said. "Every time we play that song live, that's what I think about."

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Recent first-time GRAMMY nominee Protoje will supporting 20 of their dates. He was the featured artist on Rebelution's track "Inhale Exhale" from their 2016 album Falling Into Place, which was nominated for Best Reggae Album at the 59th GRAMMY Awards. Protoje's 2018 album A Matter Of Time was recently nominated in the same category at the 61st GRAMMY Awards.

Tickets are on sale at Rebelution's website, including details regarding the changing lineup. DJ Mackle will be supporting the group throughout their tour. 

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One Take: Rebelution's Eric Rachmany On Touring & Good Advice

Aaron Frazer press photo Pacific Ocean
Aaron Frazer

Photo: Rosie Cohe

interview

Aaron Frazer Dives 'Into The Blue': How His New Album Goes Further Beneath The Surface Than Ever Before

The singer, songwriter and drummer with Durand Jones & the Indications discusses his new sophomore solo album. The result of many big life changes, 'Into The Blue' sees Frazer digging into a broader range of influence and emotion.

GRAMMYs/Jun 26, 2024 - 01:30 pm

If Aaron Frazer had not wound up singing and playing drums with the soul outfit Durand Jones & the Indications, or on his own solo records, he suspects he may have ended up working as a music history teacher.  

"My favorite classes in college were music history. Even something I knew already, like the history of rock and roll, those are songs your dad probably played, but hearing it through the lens of somebody who truly loves it and looks at you and says, ‘Isn’t this amazing?’ that stirs something up in you," says Frazer.

Unfortunately for his would-be music students, Frazer did decide to make music. He started making hip-hop beats in high school, then learned to play the drums and studied music engineering at Indiana University, where he met the musicians who would form Durand Jones & the Indications in 2012. The quintet have released three studio albums (and one live record) of R&B, soul, and disco, each of which open with a statement of political consciousness.

It was in the early days of the Indications that Frazer learned he could do more than play drums and write songs: he had an innate ability to sing in the upper-range falsetto — an extremely useful tool in soul ballads. Arguably, Frazer's delicate lead on the Indications' 2017 single "Is It Any Wonder?" helped popularize the group.

Frazer released a solo album in 2021, fittingly titled Introducing…, produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach.  With ample amounts of his signature falsetto, the debut is rooted in pure, sweet soul that could easily be mistaken for a recording from the '60s. Interspersed throughout his songs are bouncy bass lines, flourishes of horns, strings, organ and piano, funky guitar patterns, and backing vocals. Lyrics tell earnest stories of love, breakups, disappointment, loneliness, and joy.  

Frazer's second solo album arrives June 28.  Into The Blue features some of his trademark sweet soul sounds, and adds in inspiration from the Spaghetti Western film scores of Ennio Morricone, the lush jazz-rock recordings of David Axelrod, and late-90s hip-hop from artists like Nas and Jay-Z.

Into The Blue is a collaboration with GRAMMY-winning producer Alex Goose, known for his crate-digging samples and collaborations with artists like Brockhampton and Madlib. Goose and Frazer have a shared love of the tension that many hip-hop songs create by rigging disparate elements together. 

Similarly, Into The Blue combines cinematic string sections, breakbeats, and tambourines with driving bass lines, fuzz guitar, iPhone recordings and one-take vocals, and added a range of samples, including the '90s R&B group Hi-Five. Frazer’s love of hip-hop is evident in the beats: if you were to isolate the drumming on many of his tracks, they could easily lay the bedrock for an MC to rhyme over. 

Frazer recently spoke with GRAMMY.com about creating Into The Blue, his experiences with the Indications, working with Dan Auerbach, and his new life on the West Coast.

What inspired the new sounds you’re exploring inInto The Blue’?

There were multiple changes in my life. My relationship of five years came to an end, and I moved across the country by myself from New York to Los Angeles. 

Durand Jones and The Indications had just finished an insane year of touring. We had spent seven or 10 months on the road. No more partner, no more band, and I was in a new city where I didn’t know many people. I was heading into the unknown, literally and emotionally, that was the feeling of the album.

What sound were you aiming for?

I’m a student of so many genres of music. So sonically, I’m always on a quest to bring all my influences together seamlessly and authentically, and I believe I’ve done that. It’s rooted in classics but [sounds] contemporary. 

It’s soul music, and falsetto-driven, but with a country Western influence I’ve liked since high school, like Mississippi John Hurt, and gospel and disco, and always hip-hop. Hip-hop has been in my DNA since high school; I wanted to partner with a hip-hop producer to bring that DNA to the forefront.

How did you combine those specific musical elements?

The construction of the album took a ton of work, but I think all of the influences blend together and it really makes sense. If you listen to Ennio Morricone and David Axelrod, they both have these cinematic string arrangements and operatic vocals, but the drums are like MPC fodder — like proto hip-hop. 

With Morricone, you hear the bass and it’s heavy. You hear the grimiest timpani drum sound. That is RZA all day. In hip-hop, they rely on samples, and they end up in conversation with so many records. It’s like chutes and ladders short cuts but with a homebase of cohesion. 

How did you first get into hip-hop, and how exactly does it appeal to you?

I was probably 10 when I first heard hip-hop. In high school I started making beats on Fruity Loops. I loved Will Smith’s "Big Willie Style" and Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life." "Annie" is the softest s— ever, but he put this pocket behind it. It moved me, and lit my brain up. 

In high school I drummed for a musical production of Annie, and when we got to "Hard Knock Life," of course I started playing the Jay-Z version. The teacher was like, "Can you not do that?" 

You got into sound engineering at Indiana University. What attracted you to that work?

At that time I didn't have any sort of music theory background. I thought about majoring in percussion, but I’m not a classical music guy and I’m not a jazz drummer. I grew up listening to rock and hip-hop. Meg White and Questlove were my heroes, so I wasn’t shaped for the conservatory. I just wanted to make beats. My parents suggested I learn the practical side of things so I could get a job, so I was like okay, let me do this and figure it out

The Indications guys were classmates in the recording program. We started out making rock and roll, but we bonded over Dilla’s "Donuts," and the Jerry Butler "Just Because I Really Love You" sample pulled on our heartstrings. We geeked out on that, and then we met Durand [Jones], and that was the first time I could bring all my influences together. We were rowdy but soulful.

Is that around the same time you started singing a lot of falsetto vocals?

I discovered I could sing falsetto when I made a scratch vocal track for Durand. It was far enough removed from my own speaking voice that I could hear it as its own instrument, and it just felt like me for the first time. It’s been my signature style ever since.  

In the last few years, I’ve figured out ways to incorporate both registers of my voice. I didn't grow up singing, so it’s still an adventure to learn that instrument.

How did Durand Jones & The Indications impact your life? 

They are family. We have been through so much together. We traveled the world together. We put in so many hours on the road, and so many miles, and we got through it together. It’s not easy to tour, to get in the trenches and get in a van. Being able to grind it out together and grow together, being a part of a band that writes and produces together.

Now I think about us like the Avengers. There’s a main story line, and you create a universe around it, and everyone has their own worlds and universes. Right now I’m drumming on [keyboardist] Steve Okonsky’s jazz record, and Okonsky is playing bass on my record. I produced a record with a Durand on vocals.

It’s important to have a place you can go and learn from each other and collaborate, and also have a place to go on your own. We all are eclectic, I don’t think we’ll ever run out of interesting avenues to explore.

Dan Auerbach produced your first solo album, 'Introducing…in 2021. What did you learn from that experience? 

We were writing three or four songs a day, and we wrote the record in a week. We were blasting through songs. Dan accesses and celebrates first instinct and intuitiveness. You do two sessions a day, and you come out with a song per session.

Read more: From The Black Keys To Behind The Board: How Dan Auerbach's Production Work Ripples Through The Music Community 

On the new record, I tinkered for hours over some moments, but many moments just happened. On the song "The Fool," we used iPhone files. You can hear the drummer say "play it again," just like a demo. It had magic to it. We tracked it again, but the voice memo had a looseness to it, and I gave myself permission to use something that wasn’t perfect.  

"Perfect Stranger" was a one-take vocal. I could have auto-tuned it, but wanted it to sound like I was on the edge of tears, and about to lose it, which I was. Dan gives himself that same permission to embrace spontaneity.

You and producer Alex Goose experimented with samples on this new album. How so?

This record is fusing my childhood artistic self with the artist I’ve grown into. The first beat I ever made, I didn’t have production software. I had a CD compilation of jazz, put it in my tower computer, opened up Windows Movie Maker, dragged the audio in there and moved it around. That was one of my first experiences making my own music and looping. I wanted to bring that vibe back. One of the things that makes hip hop sound the way it does, is the tension created by rigging disparate elements together. 

Recorded with different rooms, preamps, and signals creates an amalgamation that you can’t get when everyone is playing in the same room. We recorded stuff in different places and stack those recordings on top of each other, so it feels hip hop even though it's not. When people hear this record, they might wonder if they’re hearing samples. 

What challenges popped up making this record?

When I first started, after moving to L.A., I was having trouble writing lyrics. I felt sad and heartbroken and lonely. At a certain point, a friend convinced me not to fight it, and just write about what I was feeling. As soon as I did, songs started to flow. 

I’m a private person, but audiences today expect you to share all details of your life. There’s no backstage options for artists now. It required me to be vulnerable, and remember the good things about my relationship and show people the giddiness and excitement of a new relationship. The challenges were more emotional than musical.

You’ve performed on shows like "The Tonight Show" and "CBS Saturday Morning." You have more than 4.8 million monthly listeners on Spotify. How does it feel to know your music is reaching so many people? 

It is wild. I think a lot about how lucky I am, knowing how many people in the world put out music every day on Spotify or Soundcloud or YouTube. It’s insane. I’m incredibly fortunate to reach people and talk to people about my records.

You have to work really hard and be really good but there’s also an element of luck. I try to help my bandmates and friends and also give people I don’t know a platform, tell my fans about them, and bring people on tour.

With the exception of college in the Midwest, you’ve always lived on the East Coast. How’s the West Coast treating you?

It’s definitely a cultural adjustment. I moved here because that’s where the culture lives. Soul music kind of fell by the wayside for a few decades, but now there’s a revival. The communities that kept that music precious and safe and alive and thriving were on the West Coast, from S.F. to L.A. and Phoenix, and San Antonio. That’s where this culture is alive, so I wanted to go and experience that, and see what doors open. 

I miss the subway and public transit. I miss my midnight honey turkey sandwich from the bodega, but L.A. has shown me so much love. It’s crazy to see all the lowrider, Chicano soul bands out here.

When the Indications first started, we made our music in a basement, not a bar. We weren’t entertaining people, so it was a soft, sweet soul, and it really touched a nerve. That style has exploded. It’s cool to know that we had a hand in shaping this movement.  

How Durand Jones' Debut Album 'Wait Til I Get Over' Helped Him Explore His Roots & Find Self-Acceptance 

Hector "Roots" Lewis, Romain Virgo, Iotosh, Lila Iké, Samory I and Tarrus Riley in collage
(From left) Hector "Roots" Lewis, Romain Virgo, Iotosh, Lila Iké, Samory I, Tarrus Riley

Photos: Courtesy of the artist; Johnny Louis/Getty Images; Courtesy of the artist; Yannick Reid; Horace Freeman; Courtesy of the artist

list

10 Artists Shaping Contemporary Reggae: Samory I, Lila Iké, Iotosh & Others

In honor of Caribbean American Heritage Month, meet 10 artists who are shaping the sound of contemporary reggae. From veterans who are hitting great strides, to promising newcomers, these acts showcase reggae's wide appeal.

GRAMMYs/Jun 19, 2024 - 01:51 pm

The result of audacious experimentation by studio musicians and producers, reggae originated  in Jamaica circa 1968 in Kingston, Jamaica. Along with its various subgenres of lovers rock, roots, dub and dancehall, reggae has influenced many music forms and found adoring audiences all over the world.

An authentic expression of the singers and musicians’ surroundings and experiences, reggae evolved from its 1960s forerunners, ska and rocksteady, shaped by contemporary influences such as American jazz and R&B, and mento, Jamaican folk music. Likewise, today’s reggae music makers draw from genres such as hip-hop (especially its trap strain) to create a generationally distinctive sound that still remains tethered to Jamaica's musical history.  

In the 2020s, the Best Reggae Album GRAMMY winners reflect the diverse musical palette that comprises contemporary reggae. EDM influences and reggaeton (a genre built upon digitized dancehall reggae riddims) remixes dominate the 2024 winner Julian Marley and Antaeus' Colors of Royal. The award’s 2023 recipient — Kabaka Pyramid's The Kalling, produced by Damian and Stephen Marley — intertwines traditional roots reggae with Kabaka’s love of hip-hop. The late, great Toots Hibbert was posthumously awarded the 2021 GRAMMY for Time Tough, a hard rocking, R&B influenced gem that captured Toots’ soulful exuberance. In 2020 Koffee became the youngest and first female awardee in the category for Rapture, which features the most experimental soundscapes among this decade’s winners. Ironically, the most traditional approach to reggae is heard on American reggae band SOJA’s 2022 winner, Beauty in the Silence.

Read more: Lighters Up! 10 Essential Reggae Hip-Hop Fusions

In honor of Caribbean American Heritage Month, which was officially designated by a Presidential proclamation in June 2006, here are 10 Jamaican artists who are shaping contemporary reggae. Some are veterans who are currently hitting the greatest strides of their professional lives, others are newcomers at the threshold of extremely promising careers. All are committed to their craft and upholding reggae, even if their music ocassionally sounds unlike the reggae of a generation ago.

Kumar Bent (and the Original Fyah)

In the mid 2010s, Jamaican band Raging Fyah had a significant impact on the American reggae circuit, with their burnished, inspirational roots reggae brand as heard on such songs as "Nah Look Back" and "Judgement Day." They toured the U.S. with American reggae outfits including Stick Figure, Iration and Tribal Seeds, and supported Ali Campbell’s version of UB40 in the UK. Raging Fyah’s album Everlasting was nominated for a 2017 Best Reggae Album GRAMMY.

The following year, charismatic lead singer and principal songwriter Kumar Bent (along with guitarist Courtland "Gizmo" White, who passed away in 2023) left due to differences with their bandmates.

In 2023 Kumar teamed up with Raging Fyah alumni, drummer Anthony Watson, keyboardist Demar Gayle and backing vocalist/engineer Mahlon Moving to create The Original Fyah. In February they performed at the band’s annual Wickie Wackie festival in Jamaica and they’ve recorded an album due for upcoming release (Demar has since moved on to other projects.)

Kumar, 35, a classically trained pianist, has recorded two solo albums, including Tales of Reality with Swiss studio band 18th Parallel; they’ll tour Europe together in October. Kumar’s acoustic guitar sets have opened several dates for stalwart Jamaican band Third World this year.

Each of his musical endeavors are focused on bolstering Jamaica’s signature rhythm.

"Reggae from the 1970s and ‘80s was special because Jamaican artists made the songs exactly how they felt, and found an audience with the sounds they created," Kumar tells GRAMMY.com. "If we (Jamaicans) keep making R&B, hip-hop sounding music, we are giving away what we have for something else that we are not as good at."

Lila Iké

Lila Iké's multifarious influences run deep. "I am a Jamaican artist who is influenced by different music and you’re going to hear that coming through," she said in a June 2020 interview with The Daily Beast, following the release of her debut EP The ExPerience

While Jamaican music expanded beyond what Iké called "the purist reggae vibe," she told The Daily Beast that "it’s important to maintain the music’s indigenousness. I incorporate that into the rhythms I use and my singing style because I want young people to know, this music doesn’t start where you hear it, it has transcended many years and changes." 

Born Alecia Grey, she chose the name Lila, which means blooming flower, and Iké, a Yoruba word meaning the Power of God. Her vocals are a singular, mesmerizing blend of smoky, soulful expressions with a laid back yet poignant rendering. Lila’s effortless versatility is rooted in her upbringing in the rural community of Christiana. Her mother listened to a wide range of music, R&B, jazz, soul, country and reggae, with Lila, her mom and sisters singing along to all of it. 

Lila moved to Kingston to pursue her musical ambitions; she performed on open mic nights and posted her songs on social media. Protoje reached out to her via Twitter with an invitation to record. From that initial meeting, Protoje has managed and mentored her career. Through his label In.Digg,Nation Collective’s deal with RCA Records, Lila will release her debut album later this year; Protoje also produced the album’s first single, the reggae/R&B slow jam duet "He Loves Us Both" featuring H.E.R.

Hezron

A passionate singer whose vocals marry the grit of Otis Redding with the cool of Marvin Gaye, singer/songwriter and musician Hezron has yet to achieve the widespread impact his talents merit, although he's been planting seeds since 2010. That year, his single "So In Love" was the first of Hezron's substantial musical fruits and exceptional catalog.

On his 2022 self-produced, remarkable album Man on a Mission, Hezron explores a range of Jamaican music and history. On the rousing ska track "Plant A Seed," Hezron's guttural, gospel inflected delivery is reminiscent of Toots Hibbert as he warns his critics, "You think you bury me and done but you only planted a seed." The album also features a scorching R&B jam "Tik Tok I’m Coming"; an acoustic, mystical acknowledgement of Rastafari, "Walk In Love and Light"; and a stirring plea to "Save The Children." The album’s title track is a spirited reggae anthem offering support to anyone in pursuit of their goals while underscoring Hezron’s own purpose.

"Man on a Mission is about my personal journey, the obstacles I’ve had to overcome in the music business and beyond. I’m telling myself, telling the world, this man is on a mission to restore Jamaican music to a prominent place internationally," Hezron tells GRAMMY.com. 

In November 2023 Hezron embarked on a global mission: a two-month tour of Ghana, followed, this year, by summer shows in Canada and the U.S. before returning to Africa, with dates in Ivory Coast, Kenya, and South Africa.

Iotosh

A self-taught multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and vocalist, Iotosh (born Iotosh Poyser) made his name as a producer who can seamlessly blend disparate influences into progressive reggae soundscapes. He’s produced singles for several marquee acts who emerged from Jamaica’s reggae revival movement of the previous decade including Koffee’s "West Indies," the title track on Jah9’s Note to Self featuring Chronixx, and Jesse Royal’s "Rich Forever", featuring Vybz Kartel. He also produced five of the 10 tracks on Protoje’s GRAMMY-nominated album Third Time’s The Charm.

Iotosh’s parents (Canadian music TV journalist Michele Geister and Jamaican singer/songwriter/producer Ragnam Poyser) came from different musical worlds, so he heard a multiplicity of genres growing up, including hip-hop, rock, funk, soul, reggae and R&B. Iotosh wanted to replicate all of those sounds when he started making music, which led to his genre blurring approach. 

As an artist, his 2023 breakout single the meditative "Fill My Cup" (featuring Protoje on the remix) was followed this year by "Bad News," which explores grief that follows losing a loved one, both on one-drop reggae rhythms. He describes his debut eight-track EP, due in September, as "a mix of traditional reggae and elements of contemporary music, pop, hip-hop and R&B." 

"In my productions, I try to have some identifiable Jamaican aspects, usually the bassline, which I play live," Iotosh tells GRAMMY.com. "Reggae is based on a universal message, it’s peace and love but contextually it comes from a place of enlightening people about forces of oppression. If that message is in the music, it’s still reggae, no matter what it sounds like." 

Iotosh will make his New York City debut on July 7 at Federation Sound’s 25th Anniversary show, Coney Island Amphitheater.

Read more: Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Kabaka Pyramid On Embracing His Voice & The Bold Future Of Reggae

Mortimer

Producer Winta James first heard Mortimer while working on sing-jay Protoje’s acclaimed 2015 album Ancient Future, and decided he was the right singer to provide the evocative hook on the opening track, "Protection." About a year after they recorded the song, Mortimer became the first artist Winta signed to his company Overstand Entertainment.

In 2019 Mortimer (born Mortimer McPherson) released his impressive EP, Fight the Fight;  single "Lightning," was especially noteworthy for its roots-meets-lovers rock sound anchored in a heavy bass and delicately embellished with a steel guitar. Mortimer’s sublime high register vocals express a refreshingly vulnerable perspective: "Girl, my love grows stronger each day, baby please don't hurt me just because you know I'll forgive." 

"The songs that get me the most are coming from a place deep within," Mortimer told me in a January 2020 interview. "I started out writing what I thought was expected of me as a Rasta, militant, social commentaries, but it was missing something. Before I am a Rastaman, I am a human being, so I dig deep, expressing my feelings simply, truthfully."

Mortimer’s debut album is due in September and his latest single, "Not A Day Goes By," addresses his struggles with depression: "I’ve given up 1000 times, I’ve even tried to take my own life," he sings in a haunting tone. Mental health struggles remain a taboo topic in reggae and popular music overall; Mortimer’s raw, confessional lyrics demonstrate his courageousness as an artist, and that bravery will hopefully inspire others going through similar struggles to speak out and get the help they need.

Hector "Roots" Lewis

Earlier this year, Hector "Roots" Lewis made his acting debut in the biopic Bob Marley: One Love, earning enthusiastic reviews for his portrayal of the late Carlton "Carly" Barrett, the longstanding, influential drummer with Bob Marley and The Wailers.  Formerly the percussionist and backing vocalist with Chronixx’s band Zinc Fence Redemption, Hector is blazing his own trail as a vocalist, songwriter and musician. 

The son of the late Jamaican lover’s rock and gospel singer Barbara Jones, Hector’s profound love for music began as a child. In 2021, Chronixx launched his Soul Circle Music label with Hector’s single "Ups and Downs," an energetic funky romp that’s a testament to music’s healing powers.  The song’s lyric "never disrespect cuz mama set a foundation" directly references Hector’s mother as the primary motivating force for his musical pursuits. 

In 2022 Hector toured the U.S. as the lead singer with California reggae band Tribal Seeds (when lead singer Steven Jacobo took a hiatus) taking his dynamic instrumental and vocal abilities to a wider audience. The same year, Hector released his five-track debut EP, D’Rootsman, which includes regal, soulful reggae ("King Said"), 1990s dancehall flavor ("Nuh Betta Than Yard") and R&B accented jams "Good Connection." 

Co-produced with Johnny Cosmic, Hector’s latest single "Possibility" boasts an irresistible bass heavy reggae groove. On his Instagram page, Hector dedicates "Possibility" to people who are facing the terrors of "warfare, colonialism, depression and oppression," urging them to "believe in the "Possibility" that they can be free from that suffering." 

Read more: 7 Things We Learned Watching 'Bob Marley: One Love' 

Hempress Sativa

The daughter of Albert "Ilawi Malawi" Johnson, musician and legendary selector with Jah Love sound system, Hempress Sativa was raised in a Rastafarian household where music played an essential role in their lives. Performing since her early teens, she developed an impressive lyrical prowess and an exceptional vocal flow, effortlessly switching between singing and deejaying. 

Consistently bringing a positive Rasta woman vibration to each track she touches, Hempress Sativa’s most recent album Chakra is a sophisticated mix of reggae rhythms, Afrobeats ("Take Me Home," featuring Kelissa), neo-soul ("The Best") and cavernous echo and reverb dub effects ("Sound the Trumpet"), a call to action for spiritual warriors. On "Top Rank Queens" Hempress Sativa trades verses with veterans Sister Nancy and Sister Carol, each celebrating their deeply held values and formidable mic skills as Rastafari female deejays. 

Hempress Sativa is featured in the documentary Bam Bam The Sister Nancy Story, (which premiered at the Tribeca Festival on June 7) recounting the legendary toaster’s influence on her own artistry. Speaking specifically about Sister Carol, Hempress tells GRAMMY.com, "She is my mentor and to see her, as a Rastafari woman from back in the 1970s, maintain her standards and principles, gives me the confidence moving forward that I, too, can find a space within this industry where I can wholeheartedly be myself."

Learn more: The Women Essential To Reggae And Dancehall

Tarrus Riley

One of the most popular reggae songs of the 2000s was Tarrus Riley’s dulcet lover’s rock tribute to women "She’s Royal." Released in 2006 and included on his acclaimed album Parables, "She’s Royal" catapulted Tarrus to reggae stardom; the song’s video has surpassed 114 million YouTube views.

Tarrus has maintained a steady output of hit singles, while his live performances with the Blak Soil Band, led by saxophonist Dean Fraser, have established a gold standard for live reggae in this generation. Tarrus’s expressive, dynamic tenor is adaptable to numerous styles, from the stunning soft rocker "Jah Will", to the thunderous percussion driven celebration of African identity, "Shaka Zulu Pickney" and the EDM power ballad "Powerful," a U.S. certified gold single produced by Major Lazer, featuring Ellie Goulding

His 2014 album Love Situation offered a gorgeous tribute to Jamaica’s rocksteady era (during which time his father, the late Jimmy Riley, started out as a singer in the harmony group the Sensations). Tarrus’s most recent album 2020’s Healing, includes meditative reggae ("Family Tree"), trap dancehall with Teejay referencing racial and political sparring on "Babylon Warfare," and the pop dancehall flavored hit "Lighter" featuring Shenseea (the song’s video has surpassed 102 million views). 

Healing’s title track ponders what the new normal will be like, "without a simple hug, so tight and warm and snug/what will this new life be like, without a simple kiss, Jah knows I'd hate to miss."

Recorded and released at the height of the pandemic, Healing is deserving much greater recognition for its luminous production (by Tarrus, Dean Fraser and Shane Brown) brilliant musicianship, nuanced songwriting and forthright expression of the myriad, conflicting emotions many underwent during the lockdowns.

Samory I

Samory I is among the most compelling Jamaican voices of this generation, whose mesmeric tone is both a guttural cry and a clarion call to collective mobilization. Born Samory Tour Frazer (after Samory Touré, who resisted French colonial rule in 19th century west Africa), Samory I released his critically acclaimed debut album, Black Gold, in 2017.  

His latest release Strength is produced by Winta James, and was the only reggae title included on Rolling Stone’s Best 100 albums of 2023. The modern roots reggae masterpiece features the affirming "Crown," on which Samory commands, "I stand my ground, I will not crumble/I keep my crown here in this jungle."  Mortimer is featured on "History of Violence," which details the generational trauma that plagues ghetto residents over a classic soul-reggae riddim. "Blood in the Streets" is a blistering roots reggae anthem, an anguished exploration of the conditions that have led to the violence: "Shame to say the system that should be protecting Is still the reason we suffer/The perpetrators blame the victims, do they even listen? Can they hear us from the gutter?" 

Despite the societal and personal suffering that’s conveyed ("My Son" bemoans the death of Samory’s firstborn), Samory I offers "Jah Love" urging the wronged and the wrongdoers to ‘Show no hate, hold no grudge, seek Jah love," It’s an inspirational conclusion to Strength, rooted in Rastafari’s deeply meshed mysticism and militancy.

Romain Virgo

There’s a scene in the video for Romain Virgo’s 2024 hit "Been there Before" where he sits alone in an  empty room cradling a gold object with three shooting stars; those familiar Romain’s career beginnings will recognize it as the trophy the then 17-year-old won in the Jamaica’s talent contest Digicel Rising Stars, in 2007. "Been There Before" is a compelling sketch of Romain’s life’s struggles, yearning for something better, as set to a throbbing bassline: "To be someone was my heart’s desire/so me never stop send up prayer," he sings in a melancholy, quavering tone.

Growing up poor in St. Ann, Jamaica, the trophy represents the contest victory that changed Romain’s life. One of the Rising Star prizes was a recording contract with Greensleeves/VP Records. On March 1, Romain released his fourth album for VP The Gentleman, one of 2024’s finest reggae releases, evidencing Romain’s increasing sophistication as a writer and nuanced vocalist.

Throughout his career Romain has vacillated between romantic lover’s rock stylings ("Stars Across The Sky"), reggae covers of pop hits (Sam Smith’s "Stay With Me") that are so good, you’ll likely forget the originals, and organic, tightly knitted collabs including the aforementioned "Been There Before" featuring Masicka, all of which has created Romain’s large, loyal fan base and a hectic international performance schedule.

Yet, Romain’s greatest success might be maintaining the wholesome, humble personality that captivated Jamaican audiences when he won Rising Stars 17 years ago. "People have seen me grow in front of their eyes," Romain tells GRAMMY.com. "I enjoy singing positive music, knowing my songs won’t negatively impact kids. Being a husband and father now comes with much more responsibility in holding on to those values, it feels like a transition from a gentle boy into a gentleman." 

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Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

video

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

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

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

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

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

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

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

Looking for more GRAMMYs news? The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Durand Jones_WaitTilIGetOver
Durand Jones

Photo: Rahim Fortune

interview

How Durand Jones' Debut Album 'Wait Til I Get Over' Helped Him Explore His Roots & Find Self-Acceptance

The soul singer — best known for his work in the quintet Durand Jones and the Indications — reflects on home, family and having faith in yourself on 'Wait Til I Get Over,' his debut solo album.

GRAMMYs/May 5, 2023 - 01:06 pm

Durand Jones has been around the world — traveling much further than his humble beginnings would belie. As a founding member of popular soul group Durand Jones & the Indications, the 30-year-old singer has packed the Hollywood Palladium and sold out European tours; he’ll soon head to Japan as a solo act.

Yet the independent artist wanted his debut solo album to be an evocative, almost visceral portrait of the unincorporated hamlet along the Mississippi River where he grew up. "I wanted it to sound like hot, musty, zesty, sweet magnolias on a hot July day," he says.

While that may be a highly specific sense tied to memory, it’s with good reason. Jones is from the sugarcane field-laden Hillaryville, Louisiana, a town in the Atchafalaya Basin wetlands about an hour from New Orleans. Hillaryville’s history, characters, sounds, and smells are the bedrock of Wait Til I Get Over, the singer/songwriter’s sonic memoir.

"Leaving Hillaryville for the very first time, I realized just how special it was, and how unique it was — the people, the music, the culture, the art of it," Jones tells GRAMMY.com. "I wanted to tell my story…but where does it begin? And it didn't begin with me. It began after the Civil War when these eight formerly enslaved men created this town. And so I wanted to start there and find a way to capture that musically."

The results are a cornucopia of Southern soul, from its roots in gospel and blues to fuzzy, muddy rock and spoken word. Throughout, Jones creates nuanced portraits of the characters that have populated his life — his grandmother, members of his church, a married lover — whose presence help Jones investigate his sense of self. Faith, queerness and determination all feature in the 12-track LP, which is equal parts earnest reflection and deep groove.

Jones has carried that bounty of emotion ground with him throughout his musical journey, yet Wait Til I Get Over (out May 5 via Dead Oceans) is the first time he’s truly dove deep. "Too many of us in places like where I'm from are often shut down, or just made to believe that you're not capable of doing something like this," he says. "But if I could tell my 17-year-old self that he’s worth it, I would." 

Durand Jones doesn’t have his bags packed in the hours before flying from his home in San Antonio to Bloomington, Indiana — where he went to college with members of the Indications and where he’ll rehearse for his upcoming solo tour — but he was ready to dive into the baggage of youth, place and the concept of home with GRAMMY.com. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You went to college at Indiana University, Bloomington; it's funny that that's still kind of a home base for you.

I know! They have a little term in Bloomington: the Bloomerang. I just keep going back. I’m a Gulf kind of guy, so it's weird to me to fall in love with a place so landlocked. There’s something about it, got a little charm to it.

Home is obviously a major theme that runs through your record; when did you leave Hillaryville?

I left for the first time when I was 17 years old in 2007. And then I went back to Hillaryville around 2014. I didn't think that I was going to stay a while, but there were different plans from the universe. And I stayed there until the end of 2020.

I was just getting the small-town blues, honestly. It was nice to be at home when I was on the road for 200 days of the year, but being in Hillaryville during the pandemic every day, small town things started to get to me. It made me realize I still need to travel and see the world and do things.

Did you ever think you would be homesick or wistful for this place that you've spent so much of your life?

I never thought I would. I started to get real homesick once I started to realize just how special it was to me and to the people in the community, even though it's no longer what it once was.

Why was it important to you to put those feelings out and use this place as the setting for your debut?

Well, I wanted to tell my story. My work with the Indications is done collectively, so you're only getting a part of me — you're not getting the full thing.

I was really inspired a lot through books like Sing Unburied Sing and Mean We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward; Citizen, Claudia Rankine, Just Above My Head and Fire Next Time by James Baldwin; Grapefruit, Yoko Ono [and] Toni Morrison. These books really inspired me to tell a story in a memoir or a novel form, but through music.

So I wanted to hit these things that I was going through. I wanted to capture the essence of it all. [Secretly Group Co-Founder] Chris Swanson asked me what I wanted this record to sound like, and I straight up told him I wanted it to sound like hot, musty, zesty, sweet Magnolias on a hot July day in Louisiana. And he wrote with me with that [in mind].

I really wanted to have night sounds and the feeling of being next to the river. We gathered pictures of Hillaryville — specifically my father's trailer — we wanted these raw raucous sounds to be there as well as some sweet and tender moments. [We wanted to] capture the essence of my grandmother and the elders.

As somebody who's been following your career for a while, it's easy to follow the musical through lines from revivalist soul to disco to gospel and beyond. But when we spoke last about Colemine Records and I asked how this album was going, you sort of took a deep breath and said, "Man, I made a rock record."  Why was that definition nerve wracking to you?

I really built this house of sorts with the Indications. We've been moving towards a sweeter and sweeter sound as our records progress, which has been really great for me because it's challenged me so much to learn how to change my voice and mix it up. It made me fall in love even more with artists like Luther Vandross and Dionne Warwick. But deep in my soul, I'm such a student of Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. And those were parts of myself that I really desired to express.

So during this record, I really wanted to go back to my roots a bit and, and push myself a little more and push the band a little more too. I'm really, really proud of the outcome.

The album has all of these big, kind of operatic songs. As a whole, Wait Til I Get Over moves from somber and a little serious to rocking and exploding with joy. Was the expression of joy important to you?

Definitely. I almost named this record A Letter To My 17-Year-Old-Self, but in a way it's still a letter to not only that 17-year-old kid within me, but also to all of these other kids in the rural South. I hope that they will have a chance to see or hear this record and hear that joy and hear the seriousness, the pain, the triumphs, all of it, and know that they could do something like this.

Too many of us in places like where I'm from are often shut down or just made to believe that you're not capable of doing something like this. But if I could tell my 17-year-old self that he’s worth it, I would. Lose that impostor syndrome. You deserve any seat you get at any table.

Did you feel like you were put down or not encouraged in the way you would have liked to when you were younger? Or was your family generally pretty supportive?

It was very contradicting, it's so weird. My grandmother, from the beginning, really supported me. She was the light in the darkness for me and my siblings growing up, because we were estranged from my mom. I didn't know my mom. She left me when I was about 3 years old.

My grandmother really stepped in and really helped my dad take care of us. She was the first person that took me to get my very first musical instrument — a saxophone — and she always encouraged me to go beyond and do college and do music. [My dad] was like, "great, but I'm not going to pay for anything." And I appreciated that because it made me work really hard, but it did kind of sting.

Doing all of the recitals and all of those different things and seeing other friends’ families fill up and like my family, not, it really kinda hurt. Once I started to do stuff with the Indications and people started to ask him about what I was doing while he was at church, he started to get interested. Once he saw me on TV then really got interested.

Are the characters on this album — Gerri Marie, Sadie — real people?

Yes. I love starting this record with Gerri Marie, because it really embodies the spirit of her. She has such a welcoming spirit and presence. She has this pristine quality about her that feels expensive, but she's also like a Southern lady. So like she still has that hot sauce in her bag, you know?

I wanted to capture all those beautiful things about her. She's someone that I truly love deeply. I just don't know if I can be the guy for her that she wants me to be, because I'm such a rolling stone. I showed the song to her and she was really ecstatic about it; very tearful.

Sadie is a lady I met in New Orleans. And I was a young 20-something guy, naive and gullible. And once we met, she would invite me over to her house for crawfish etouffee. One thing will lead to another and we would end up fooling around, which was cool. But she was married.

I think I was looking for love in all kinds of crazy places. But I realized that those kinds of thrills lead to nothingness. And that's not what I'm looking for. [When] my friends hit me up about the music for "Sadie," I immediately knew I was going to write about this lady. But I wanted to do a turn in the lyrics and make it seem like the husband found out — he didn’t really find out.

We might not be having this conversation if he did.

Hell no! I'd be six feet in somebody's casket, for real. My homewrecking days are over.

Speaking of love in all its permutations, "That Feeling" is really tender and the first love song you’ve written about a man. I'm curious why it's taken you until now to come out with your music.

I'm starting to ask myself why it's taken me so long. And I think a lot of that had to do with I was so afraid of what my small little community would think. And in a lot of ways, I'm still afraid; I haven't been back to Hillaryville since that song has come out. But for the most part, I've been met with love and acceptance and empathy. It’s been such a beautiful process for me to come out as a bisexual dude.

I think the answer is why it took so long is, I had to unpack the trauma that I held deep inside of myself. I grew up in church and I love my pastor — he gave me my first car, granted it was like 1996 Honda Elantra, little rinky dink car, but he think me to be like, really exceptional —  but also at the same time, nearly every Sunday, he was talking about how homosexuality was wrong. Being gay was bad, you're gonna go to hell if you do s— like that.

Anytime he would bring that stuff up, it always felt like a knife to the heart and it would make me so frickin' anxious and really sad. I remember just being an adolescent and like praying to God and being like, If you love me like why did you make me this way?

I had to unpack all of that stuff. And I've learned through James Baldwin that if I wanted to overcome this, one of the best ways to do it is to do art in vulnerability, because that's an ultimate form of strength. And if I wanted to tell my story, this had to be included within it.

Speaking of church, the title track features a choir to fantastic effect — but it’s really your voice layered multiple times, and recorded in your bedroom. Why did you choose to record yourself as a choir as opposed to using an actual choir?

There was a sound that I was going for that I knew couldn't necessarily be taught. There's like, knowledge and wisdom; you live to get the wisdom and you learn to get the knowledge.

I felt like doing it myself would be a real big challenge, but also I could try to honor the folks that are big inspirations for me vocally that were at home. Like this man Jardino, I tried to sing like him in there; I tried to sing like Miss Dawn, like Vanessa …. I tried to emulate these different voices. At first I was afraid it would sound like a bunch of Durands, but I've been surprised that people don’t know it’s all me.

There's also a line in that song that really stuck with me, "Getting by with just self-esteem." Can you tell me a little bit about what that line, or that theme, means to you?

At the time I was writing these tunes, I was literally getting by with nothing. Like I didn't have any money. At the lowest point, I was working a minimum wage job and they would schedule you like 37, 38, 39 hours a week just so they could make sure that you wouldn't get 40 hours so they didn’t have to give you health insurance. That job, and going back and forth to court to keep felonies off my record, and all of this bulls— that happened in Indiana, right when I was finishing grad school, which was insane.

All I had was the belief that I still was worth it. I still had something to give, something to say in this music, life, world, place. Sometimes for you to be successful, you need to fail. Fall right on your face. Maybe once or twice, maybe three times. I'm still falling on my face. And I feel like failures are just as important as the success. 

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