Hero The Band perform at the Recording Academy Atlanta Chapter Annual Membership Celebration
Photo: Marcus Ingram/WireImage
Hero The Band perform at the Recording Academy Atlanta Chapter Annual Membership Celebration
Report: Music & Culture Infrastructure Can Create Better "Future Cities"
How sound planning for a creative future in our urban areas makes all the difference for artists and musicians
The future, as they say, is now. And for music makers around the world, building a future for themselves often starts at home, in their local creative community and in the city where they live. While technology has expanded communication and made the world smaller, cities continue to grow, making planning for the future a critical cultural mission of the present.
To that end, a new report by global organization Sound Diplomacy titled "This Must Be The Place" examines, "The role of music and cultural infrastructure in creating better future cities for all of us." The 37-page deep dive into community planning and development highlights the importance of creative culture in what it calls "Future Cities."
"The government defines ‘Future Cities’ as 'a term used to imagine what cities themselves will be like," the report states, "how they will operate, what systems will orchestrate them and how they will relate to their stakeholders (citizens, governments, businesses, investors, and others),'"
According to the report, only three global cities or states currently have cultural infrastructure plans: London, Amsterdam and New South Wales. This fact may be surprising considering how city planning and sustainability have become part of the discussion on development of urban areas, where the UN estimates 68 percent of people will live by 2050.
"Our future places must look at music and culture ecologically. Much like the way a building is an ecosystem, so is a community of creators, makers, consumers and disseminators," the report says. "The manner in which we understand how to maintain a building is not translated to protecting, preserving and promoting music and culture in communities."
The comparison and interaction between the intangibility of culture and the presence of physical space is an ongoing theme throughout the report. For instance, one section of the report outlines how buildings can and should be designed to fit the cultural needs of the neighborhoods they populate, as too often, use of a commercial space is considered during the leasing process, not the construction process, leading to costly renovations.
"All future cities are creative cities. All future cities are music cities."
On the residential side, as cities grow denser, the need increases for thoughtful acoustic design and sufficient sound isolation. Future cities can and should be places where people congregate
"If we don’t design and build our future cities to facilitate and welcome music and experience, we lose what makes them worth living in."
For musicians and artists of all mediums, the answer to making—and keeping—their cities worth living in boils down to considering their needs, impact and value more carefully and sooner in the planning process.
"The report argues that property is no longer an asset business, but one built on facilitating platforms for congregation, community and cohesion," it says. "By using music and culture at the beginning of the development process and incorporating it across the value chain from bid to design, meanwhile to construction, activation to commercialisation, this thinking and practice will result in better places."
The report offers examples of how planners and leaders are handling this from around the world. For instance, the Mayor Of London Night Czar, who helps ensure safety and nighttime infrastructure for venues toward the Mayor's Vision for London as a 24-hour city. Stateside, Pittsburgh, Penn., also has a Night Mayor in place to support and inform the growth of its creative class.
What is a music ecosystem? We believe the music influences and interacts with various sectors in a city. We have designed this infographic to show how music ecosystems work and impact cities, towns and places: https://t.co/0DIUpN1Dll— Sound Diplomacy (@SoundDiplomacy) August 14, 2019
Diversity, inclusion, health and well-being also factor into the reports comprehensive look at how music and culture are every bit as important as conventional business, ergonomic and environmental considerations in Future Cites. Using the Queensland Chamber of Arts and Culture as a reference, it declared, "A Chamber of Culture is as important as a Chamber of Commerce."
In the end, the report serves as a beacon of light for governments, organizations, businesses and individuals involved in planning and developing future cities. Its core principals lay out guideposts for building friendly places to music and culture and are backed with case studies and recommendations. But perhaps the key to this progress is in changing how we approach the use of space itself, as the answer to supporting music may be found in how we look at the spaces we inhabit.
"To develop better cities, towns and places, we must alter the way we think about development, and place music and culture alongside design, viability, construction and customer experience," it says. "Buildings must be treated as platforms, not assets. We must explore mixed‑use within mixed‑use, so a floor of a building, or a lesser‑value ground floor unit can have multiple solutions for multiple communities."
Here Are The Nominees For Best Rap Song At The 2024 GRAMMYs
Get a deeper look into the five tracks from Doja Cat, Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice, Lil Uzi Vert, Drake and 21 Savage, and Killer Mike, André 3000, Future and Eryn Allen Kane that earned the Best Rap Song nod at the 2024 GRAMMYs.
Rap music has changed a lot since the Best Rap Song category was introduced at the 2004 GRAMMYs. Most of the first year's nominees, even if they're still making music, now spend the majority of their time on things like making hit TV shows or running iconic fashion brands.
But the category, then and now, has its finger on the pulse; it gives us a cross-section of what makes hip-hop so important to so many people. The Best Rap Song nominees for the 2024 GRAMMYs are no different. The Category includes a pop princess taking a big left turn; two New Yorkers paying tribute to the greatest of all dolls; a Philly rapper taking us to the club; a duo who can't stop flexing on us; and a Dungeon Family reunion that spans generations.
Below, take a deep dive into the five tracks up for Best Rap Song at the 2024 GRAMMYs.
Attention" — Doja Cat
Rogét Chahayed, Amala Zandile Dlamini & Ari Starace, songwriters (Doja Cat)
"Attention" marked a new era for Doja Cat — one where she moved away from the pop sounds that made her famous, and into something harder and more aggressive.
In the weeks leading up to the track's release, Doja called her earlier rapping attempts "mid and corny" and referred to the music that broke her into the big time as "mediocre pop." So it only made sense that her big statement single would be exactly that — a statement.
The beat by Rogét Chahayed and Y2K has a drum loop that wouldn't sound out of place on Ultimate Breaks and Beats, and Doja lets the world see her inner hip-hop fan with some serious rapping — no mid or corny verses here. This is the Doja who can quote underground faves like Homeboy Sandman and Little Brother at the drop of a hat.
"Attention" finds Doja addressing her often-contentious relationship with fans and social media, as well as the controversies she went through leading up to the song's release. But the whole thing is playful and ambiguous. Does she want the world's attention, now that she has it? What is she willing to do to keep it? In this song — and even more so in its video — Doja plays with these questions like a truly great superstar.
"Barbie World" [From Barbie The Album] — Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice Featuring Aqua
Isis Naija Gaston, Ephrem Louis Lopez Jr. & Onika Maraj, songwriters (Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice Featuring Aqua)
Aqua's "Barbie Girl" was too sexy for Mattel when it was released in 1997 — the company sued the band, claiming that people would associate lyrics like "Kiss me here, touch me there" with their wholesome children's toy. So it's both ironic and, given the post-irony tone of the movie itself, somehow fitting that "Barbie Girl" is sampled in a major song from the new Barbie movie.
And who better to bring Barbie to life in rap form than the head of the Barbz? Soundtrack producer Mark Ronson said that there was no way to have a Barbie soundtrack without Nicki Minaj, and he was absolutely right. Nicki, with her career-long association with Mattel's most famous toy, was the perfect choice. Joining her on the track is the hottest rapper of the moment, Ice Spice. Ice's go-to producer RiotUSA did the music for the song, which accounts for both its aggressive drums and its sample drill-style use of the once-verboten Aqua hit.
Nicki and Ice have great chemistry in the song. Nicki doesn't treat the song like a movie soundtrack throwaway — her rhyming is clear, sharp, layered, and funny. And she gets extra points for referring to a bob-style wig as her "Bob Dylan."
"Just Wanna Rock" — Lil Uzi Vert
Mohamad Camara, Javier Mercado & Symere Woods, songwriters
Lil Uzi Vert took "Just Wanna Rock" from TikTok all the way to the GRAMMYs.
The track began as a snippet on the social media app, where it went viral, garnering hundreds of millions of views; even celebrities like Kevin Hart got into the act. When the actual song came out, at just about two minutes long, it wasn't much longer than a TikTok video. But it didn't need to be — the full track kept all the joy and danceability of the memeable excerpt.
"Just Wanna Rock" features Uzi acting as an MC, but not in a traditional going-for-the-cleverest-rhyme way. Instead, his voice is used more for its rhythmic qualities, darting in and out of the four-on-the-floor pounding of the kick drum with short, punchy phrases. "I just wanna rock, body-ody-ya" may not look like much on the page, but it's placed perfectly, and it's the kernel that blossoms into the rest of Uzi's performance.
He takes the rhythm of that initial phrase and plays with it throughout in increasingly intricate ways, while never losing sight of the source material. The song is heavily influenced by the Jersey club sound that has been all over hip-hop this year. As the most popular rap/Jersey club crossover of 2023, it makes perfect sense that "Just Wanna Rock" is in the running for Best Rap Song — even if it is unfinished.
"Rich Flex" — Drake & 21 Savage
Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, Charles Bernstein, Isaac "Zac" De Boni, Brytavious Chambers, Aldrin Davis, Aubrey Graham, J. Gwin, Clifford Harris, Gladys Hayes, Anderson Hernandez, Michael "Finatik" Mule, Megan Pete, B.D. Session Jr & Anthony White, songwriters
Simon and Garfunkel. Sam and Dave. Hall and Oates. To that list of great duos, it might be time to add Drake and 21 Savage. Seven years after their first collaboration, Toronto and Atlanta's finest finally got together for a full-length project in 2023, and Her Loss standout (and opener) "Rich Flex" is now up for an award on Music's Biggest Night.
"Rich Flex," like much latter-day Drake, has multiple beats. But in this case, that adds to the song's playful mood. Drizzy and 21 sound like they're actually having fun — Drake even playfully lapses into a sing-songy, nursery rhyme-esque melody on occasion. Savage, for his part, seems to be having a blast interpolating Megan Thee Stallion's "Savage" — a move which earned the Houston rapper a writing credit on the track.
Drake, as in a lot of his recent work, seems consumed with the costs of fame: haters everywhere you look, hangers-on who make your house feel like a hotel; women who won't leave you alone; unwanted attention from law enforcement. But he almost never sounds this engaged, even joyful, when addressing these topics. Maybe what he needed all along was a duet partner.
"Scientists & Engineers" — Killer Mike Featuring André 3000, Future And Eryn Allen Kane
Paul Beauregard, Andre Benjamin, James Blake, Tim Moore, Michael Render & Dion Wilson, songwriters
It was Andre 3000's first appearance on a song in two years that got all the attention at first. But there's a lot more to "Scientists & Engineers" than the fact that the reclusive half of OutKast shows up.
For one thing, it's what he shows up with. Andre's verse is smart, well-observed, poetic, and somehow manages to change focus completely in the middle and yet still hold together as an artistic statement.
But he's far from the only talent on the song. The track is a veritable all-star fest — not for nothing did Killer Mike call it a "hip-hop fantasy." On the music side, there are contributions from legendary producers No ID and Three 6 Mafia's DJ Paul, hip-hop's favorite singer/songwriter James Blake, and TWhy. Singer Eryn Allen Kane adds her gorgeous vocals. And Future, who lest we forget, began his career as a "second generation" member of the Dungeon Family collective that included OutKast and Mike, adds his patented boastful vulnerability.
Then there's Mike himself. He needed to bring a stellar performance in order not to be buried by all his very special guests, and he more than pulls it off. "I am Thelonius Monk in a donk," he rhymes, and the combination of the innovative jazz legend and the classic car with big rims perfectly describes not only him, but the entire mood he sets with this song.
The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.
The Recording Academy and GRAMMY.com do not endorse any particular artist, submission or nominee over another. The results of the GRAMMY Awards, including winners and nominees, are solely dependent on the Recording Academy's Voting Membership.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
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.
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."
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.
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."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Essential Hip-Hop Releases From The 2010s: Ye, Cardi B, Kendrick Lamar & More
The 2010s saw an expanded media landscape that broadened the sound and impact of hip-hop at large. In continued celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, read on for 10 crucial songs and albums that defined the decade.
Few genres have evolved as remarkably as hip-hop over the past five decades, and the eerily recent, yet, distant 2010s saw the genre at its most progressive. Legendary acts and fresh-faced stars pushed rap’s cultural and musical bounds, opening a pathway for a new class of artists to emerge, and for overlooked regions to gain their deserved recognition.
With the expansion of hip-hop’s mediasphere, artists that would’ve been confined by their locale crossed the invisible barriers of rap music to establish themselves as mainstream success. Canada-born stars PartyNextDoor, The Weeknd and Drake took over rap the same way the Brits took over rock music in the 1960s, and it was made possible by the boundless nature (and unprecedented sonic access) of today’s rap fan.
The emergence of SoundCloud elevated lesser-known talents including Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi Vert, 21 Savage, the late Juice Wrld to superstardom at a rapid pace. The era also marked a sonic turn in the industry, which saw artists merge their styles with those of other regions. That’s why artists like Asap Rocky adopted elements of Houston’s chopped-and-screwed sound in his early discography, despite his Harlem origins.
Legacy acts like Jay-Z, Kanye West, Eminem, and Nicki Minaj continued their reign as rap heavyweights, with record sales and award wins showcasing their influence. The period also saw the emergence of hip-hop’s three horsemen – Drake, J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar – who carved their legacies with chart-topping hits and groundbreaking albums throughout the 2010s. Their contributions, as well as those from Future, Big Sean, Travis Scott, and Chance the Rapper, set the stage for the decade.
Read on for 10 of the most consequential releases of the 2010s.
Ye - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
Just a year removed from interrupting Taylor Swift on stage during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, Kanye West, now known as Ye, produced arguably the best rap album of the decade, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
It was a career turn that’s more familiar to rap fans in recent years, but the Chicago rapper snapped back with a glossy, epic-level album that was a culmination of his best work to that point — or maybe ever. From "Dark Fantasy" to "So Appalled" and "Gorgeous," West was at the peak of his lyrical powers, with the rapper-producer exchanging sharp-tongued lyrics with wordsmiths like Pusha T, CyHi The Prynce and Raekwon.
The album also set the stage for one of the best collaborations of the year, with West, Rihanna and Kid Cudi merging their creative powers to create the wondrously rhythmic, GRAMMY-winning hit, "All of The Lights. And Nicki Minaj fans still reference the star’s verse on "Monster," which saw the Jamaica Queens native rise above rap titans Jay-Z and Rick Ross on the smash-mouth track.
Wiz Khalifa -"Black and Yellow" (2010)
After making his name in the mixtape circuit with classic projects Kush & Orange Juice and Flight School, Wiz Khalifa’s mainstream breakthrough came in the form of 2010’s "Black and Yellow." The hit song bolstered the Pittsburgh rapper’s profile in time for his debut studio album, Rolling Papers, and put his hometown and Taylor Gang crew on the hip-hop map.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers making it to the Super Bowl in 2011, the Stargate-produced hit became the team’s unofficial anthem and spawned other remixes in the same vein. "Black & Yellow (G-Mix)" featuring Snoop Dogg, Juicy J, and T-Pain, Brooklyn rapper Fabolous honored the New York Yankees with "White and Navy" and Lil Wayne paid homage to the Green Bay Packers with "Green and Yellow."
The success of "Black and Yellow" opened the doors for Khalifa and his stable of Taylor Gang talent to flourish, namely artists like Ty Dolla $ign, Chevy Woods, and Three 6 Mafia legend Juicy J. The song also placed a brighter spotlight on Rostrum Records and recent signee Mac Miller, who was months removed from releasing his acclaimed K.I.D.S. mixtape and would later become a star before his unexpected death in 2018.
Chief Keef - "I Don’t Like" (2012)
The city of Chicago was set ablaze with the release of Chief Keef’s "I Don’t Like." The Young Chop-produced track popularized the city’s drill sound, which established a new influx of talent bred from the Windy City and a subgenre later adapted by UK and New York rappers like Fivio Foreign and the late Pop Smoke.
The impact of the street hit led to its inclusion on the G.O.O.D. Music compilation project, Cruel Summer, featuring artists Pusha T, Kanye West, Big Sean, and Jadakiss. "I Don’t Like" was later placed on Keef’s debut release, Finally Rich, helping further catapult the Chicago artist to mainstream notoriety. The song is still credited as the launching pad for the drill movement, with Keef viewed as the forefather of the subgenre as a whole.
Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid, M.A.A.D City (2012)
After the release of Lamar’s independent album Section.80, his second turn took more of a mainstream approach while chronicling his teenage years in the gang and crime-ridden streets of Compton. He enlisted artists like Drake for the flowy, Janet Jackson-sampling hit, "Poetic Justice," and drew in legends like Dr. Dre for "Compton" and Jay-Z for "Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe - Remix."
The multi-platinum project was produced by Dj Dahi, Sounwave, Hit-Boy, Scoop DeVille, Just Blaze, and others, who delivered atmospheric and tight-bass beats for Lamar’s narrative-driven concept album to flourish. Good Kid, M.A.A.D City earned Lamar four GRAMMY nominations at the 2014 GRAMMY Awards, including Album Of The Year. And while he didn’t take a gramophone home during that night, his major label made him the face of West Coast rap for years to come.
Future and Drake - What a Time to be Alive (2015)
After cranking out moderate hits like "Tony Montana" and "Never Satisfied," Drake and Future linked up for an Avengers-level collaboration, which culminated into 2015’s What a Time to be Alive.
The project came together after Drake met with Future in Atlanta for six days. Their first recording was "Digital Dash," and from there, the two artists merged their respective sounds together for a hyper-trap mixtape filled with hits like "Jumpman" and "Big Rings." On the production side, What a Time to be Alive was largely handled by executive producer Metro Boomin, who produced or co-produced eight of the project’s 11 songs, alongside fellow beatmakers Noah "40" Shebib, Allen Ritter, Southside, Boi-1da, and others.
The 2015 release also foreshadowed Future and Drake’s later collaborations. Future enlisted artists like fellow Atlanta rapper Young Thug for Super Slimey and Lil Uzi Vert for Pluto x Baby Pluto, and Drake linked up with 21 Savage for 2022’s Her Loss.
Rae Sremmurd - "Black Beatles" (2016)
After scoring hits like "No Flex Zone" and "No Type," brothers Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi literally had the world in suspension with the 2016 hit "Black Beatles" featuring Gucci Mane. The "SremmLife 2" single sparked the viral mannequin challenge, which saw social media users stand frozen in time as a camera filmed their surroundings with their song playing in the background.
Internet trends aside, the song was a massive hit that landed the group and Gucci Mane their first No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100. The Mike Will-produced track also pushed additional sales of the duo’s second album, which went from selling 30,000 equivalent units in the first week to eclipsing one million sales by November 2017.
Jay-Z - 4:44 (2017)
With a resume as stacked as Jay-Z’s, his claim as the greatest MC of all time was viable long before the release of 4:44. But the late-career release did more than just add to his illustrious discography; it was one of the most complete and transparent bodies of work Hova has ever produced.
On tracks like "Kill Jay-Z," the Brooklyn rapper stripped his ego-fueled moniker to give listeners a snapshot of his upbringing and past failures as Shawn Carter the man. He takes a step back to reflect on his mother’s sexuality on "Smile," and the challenges he faced in his marriage to Beyoncé on the title track.
While many viewed 4:44 as a response to Bey's Lemonade album, the project also touched on the importance of shared success on "Legacy" and the push for generational wealth on "The Story of O.J." 4:44 garnered three nominations at the 60th GRAMMY Awards, including Song Of The Year and Album Of The Year.
Migos - "Bad and Boujee" (2016)
During the 2017 Golden Globe Awards, rapper and Emmy-winning actor Donald Glover had a confession: Migos’ "Bad and Boujee" was the "best song ever." By then, the 2016 single was already a popular viral hit, with memes surrounding the lyrics "rain drop, drop top" bubbling up online. But Glover’s shoutout helped the G Koop and Metro Boomin-produced hit to reach the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100, a first for the Georgia-born rap group and featured artist Lil Uzi Vert.
"Bad and Boujee" established the Migos as the hottest rap group of the era, and spearheaded each member’s solo projects and business ventures. The multi-platinum single was even nominated for Best Rap Performance at the 2018 GRAMMY Award.
Drake - "God’s Plan" (2018)
With countless across the 2010s, it’s hard to choose which Drake record made the biggest splash during the era, but 2018’s "God’s Plan" has a case when it comes to global reach. Produced by Cardo, Young Exclusive, Boi-1da, and long-time collaborator Noah "40" Shebib, the GRAMMY-winning single topped the charts in 14 countries while posting record-setting streaming numbers.
Though the pop-trap hit was met with mixed reviews upon its release, "God’s Plan" shattered Apple Music and Spotify first-day streaming numbers with 14 million and 4.3 million, the most of any song that year on both platforms. By the first week, the song climbed to 82.4 million total streams.
"God’s Plan" was the lead single for Drake’s EP Scary Hours and fifth studio album Scorpion, and notched the Toronto artist Best Rap Song at the 2019 GRAMMYs. The song’s music video, which showed the rapper giving out a million dollars to people in Florida, also made waves online, amassing countless social media memes and over 1.5 billion views on YouTube as of July 2023.
Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy (2018)
The story of Cardi B, who rose from reality TV star to GRAMMY-winning artist, proved there could be more than one Queen ruling over the rap game. And her groundbreaking debut, Invasion of Privacy, inspired a new legion of women artists with dreams of occupying their own respective thrones.
With street anthems like "Bodak Yellow," "Bartier Cardi," and the reggaeton-inspired "I Like It" featuring J Balvin and Bad Bunny, Cardi showcased her knack for catchy hooks, sharp lyrics, and the colorful personality found beneath the brash, aggressive flow. Producers DJ Mustard, Allen Ritter, Benny Blanco, Boi-1da, and others elevated the project to album of the year consideration.
Along with winning Rap Album Of The Year at the 2019 GRAMMYs, Invasion of Privacy took the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 upon its release, making Cardi only the fifth female rapper to reach the top of the charts at the time. Even in the years after its release, the album continues to make history for the "WAP" artist, who became the first woman to have all of her album’s songs reach platinum status when Invasion of Privacy reached the milestone in 2022, according to Billboard.
Photo: Rachel Kupfer
A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.
It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.
Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.
Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.
In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.
Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.
There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.
Say She She
Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.
While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."
Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.
Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.
Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.
Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.
L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.
During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.
Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.
Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.