Photo: Christian San Jose
SiR Is 'Chasing Summer' And, With A Little Help From Kendrick Lamar & Others, Making His Dreams Reality
"It feels different, it feels evolved and it feels like a great direction. And I'm really proud of the work to say the least," the Inglewood singer/producer says of his vibey new album
You may have already jammed out to SiR's big 2019 summer mood single, "Hair Down," featuring the one and only Kendrick Lamar. If so, you already have a good starting place for understanding who the smooth R&B singer/producer, born Sir Darryl Farris, from Inglewood is. The vibey track is driven by SiR's warm, rich vocals over a slow-bubbling trap beat, elevated even further into the golden summer sunset by Lamar's verse. It's confident but laid-back—two words which also describe the artist himself well—a true slow-burn of a fire track.
"Hair Down" is the first track and the lead single to SiR's third album, Chasing Summer, which he dropped during Labor Day Weekend, on Aug. 30. It is his second LP released since he was signed to heavy-hitting Los Angeles label Top Dawg Entertainment. As he explains, it sets the tone for the rest of the album and also marks a major point of growth in his musical career and self-confidence.
"This time I was more direct about what I wanted, and I think that's huge. Your intentions when you go into things have to be put in the forefront if it's important. So this time around when I went into sessions, I was very vocal about exactly what I wanted, and the sessions went a lot better when I did that," he recently told the Recording Academy over the phone.
You recently dropped Chasing Summer, which is just such a perfect mood as summer comes to an end. What has the experience of this release felt like for you?
Man, it's one of a kind. Being the type musician I am, I'm very involved with each release, and this one feels different than the last two. Everybody around me was locked in, not just me. All the musicians and all of my team, my management had the common goals set almost a year ago, and just were building on this idea. So, it feels different, it feels evolved and it feels like a great direction. And I'm really proud of the work to say the least.
That's amazing, and I'm sure that's a really just great feeling to sort of be marinating in right now.
Yeah. It's awesome. It's definitely new territory for me. I'm just trying to keep up with myself now, which is fun.
"It's a very honest album, and I think that's a big reason why people gravitate towards it because I didn't really hold back this time around. I kind of made sure I was as honest as I could be and I think that's shining through for sure."
I love that. Can you speak to what your main vision for this album was?
The vision for the album is, it was all based off of my life on the road and all my experiences that I had accumulated over the last three or four years. With seeing my peers and just dealing with personal relationships, business relationships and trying to balance home and the road, and just my evolution as a human. I kind of put a lot of it into wax. It's a very honest album, and I think that's a big reason why people gravitate towards it because I didn't really hold back this time around. I kind of made sure I was as honest as I could be and I think that's shining through for sure.
I feel like it really does. I wanted to talk about the producers on the album. You worked with a handful of different people including Kal Banx and Sounwave from TDE as well as Boi-1da and a few others. How do you feel that working with these different creative minds helped challenge you and shape the trajectory of the album?
I'm going to answer this question, but I have a very specific thing about me that I really like. I work with people that want to work with me, so I don't chase beats; there's no rhyme or scheme. I didn't select certain people. I just put my head down and kept writing songs until we felt like we had a body of work. And then, what I do with most of my production is I'll get players to come in and add actual instrumentation to a good beat so that it has more life to it. I'm hands-on with all my mixes and masters. With all of the production, I was blessed to have really talented musicians around to help just elevate the sound, and I think that helps so much, man.
Working with cats like Boi-1da was an honor, of course, but I wouldn't hold him in higher regard than I would a Kal Banx, who damn near had six records on the album that he helped me produce and work on. So, I feel like everybody added their own sauce to it and it ended up being way bigger than I expected. But as far as like who produced what, I think that's not as important as the overall body of work, and we all knew that. With Kal, he wasn't worried when I told him I got a new base plate on the recipe. He didn't ask any questions, he just knew it was going to be saucy. You know what I mean?
I think, like I said, we all had a common goal. Once I laid out the plan and the vision for everybody, they were on board. So, we went into the every session with a specific goal in mind and we executed properly and I think it's going to pay off for all of us in the long run. I'm so excited for Kal. I'm excited to share this moment with him and see the response to his hard work, and it's all a blessing, really and truly.
It really seems like it was everything you would hope for in the studio, that everything is moving forward and flowing together, even with all the different people.
Yeah. I learned a lot from November and just how I kind of let a lot of people in the process in certain points where I didn't really necessarily mean to. This time I was more direct about what I wanted, and I think that's huge. Your intentions when you go into things have to be put in the forefront if it's important.
So this time around when I went into sessions, I was very vocal about exactly what I wanted, and the sessions went a lot better when I did that, and I think that helped give people an idea of what they should be doing when they come around. If you're a producer, I might not need you to make a whole beat, but I might need you to make these drums, or I might need you to play keys. Just be prepared to translate what I need, I'm not coming to you to get what you need. I produce myself, so I think this time around I was able to really fine-tune things the way I like, and it shows, man. This is my baby for sure. I feel like this is a very special project.
The album opens with "Hair Down," featuring Kendrick Lamar, which you also released as the lead single. Can you give a little bit of the backstory on that song and video and what it was like working with him?
That was probably the first song I wrote for the album that we were probably going use as a single. We usually don't try to shoot for singles, you know what I mean? When we're building a project, we'll make sure that the songs can all stand on their own two legs. As soon as I did that one, it just felt like what I wanted the album to look like, and to me it was the perfect starting point. It was the perfect launch point for what we were trying to accomplish, and I didn't get the [Lamar] verse until two months ago or something like that. I wrote that song probably a year ago while we were on the road at [TDE's 2018] Championship Tour.
That's not something you ask for. It was something that we talked about, but that's not something that you ask for. It's like the Jill Scott thing, I didn't really ask for that. You got to let them make that decision. I think with working with artists like Kendrick, Jill Scott and Lil Wayne, it's a blessing and I think I do everything I can to just make myself someone that people want to work with. I think I do a good job of standing on my own two feet, and that's something that I had to embrace over the last two years.
Just working with your idols is always awkward. It's weird. I met [Childish] Gambino at the BET awards. I wish I could take that back because it was so awkward, you know what I mean? And I still go through the everyday life stuff of I'm human and if I see somebody that I'm not used to seeing, it's going to be weird. This year, I had to really step outside of that and become SiR, and really accept that. I think it shined through when I sat and talked to people about the project, they were more open to it because I was more confident in myself, and that really helped a lot, just giving me that confidence. [Lamar's] conversations are more important to me than that verse ever will be. I'm appreciative of the verse for sure, but I can really say that's my mentor. This dude really takes care of his team and really cares about us, man. So, it's definitely a blessing to have him on deck.
And what would you say the biggest thing you learned from the collaborators on this project?
Spread love. Because I feel like most of them, they didn't have to do what they did. Miss Jill, she's getting so much love on her acting career, as she should be. She really doesn't need to feature on anything. All of these artists, they got their own things. People are looking for them and checking for them.
When I get on, if I'm ever in a position to bless somebody, and I feel like they are working hard and they've got their thing together, I definitely would want to be what they are to me. I'd want to be a blessing and give back to the community. They see that I'm a part of the same community, I have the same common goal with music. It's not me trying to get on or be a flashy type. It's not that. I really care about the music. So, I think they saw that and they wanted to reciprocate the same kind of love I'm trying to get off it.
That's all it's really about, is spreading love and giving back to what you want to see thrive and flourish. And I think they really see something in what we got going, and I was just lucky. I really feel like it's the right place at the right time, but I don't want to make it that simple. But I feel like they really are just spreading love, man, and they blessed me. I'm still in shock. I can't really process it. It's all new territory for me. It's lovely though. I don't take it for granted.
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How would you describe the L.A. music community now? From that explanation, it sounds very supportive and nurturing, but I'm interested in your perspective, whether it's just like that with TDE or just in your experience with who you've worked with.
L.A. is a weird place. It's very divided, with the people that are actually from L.A. to the people that come out here and claim L.A. The music industry's a weird place in general. I'm from L.A., so I definitely abide by the L.A. rules before I abide by the music industry rules. But when it comes to the music scene, there's a small community. What I'm learning is the further along I go in my career, the community gets smaller and smaller, and that's a great thing. You find people that are like-minded, and you got to let some friends go sometimes.
But for the most part, the goal is to find common ground that you can really build on. And I feel like I've found my community of people, from Mind Design to Kiefer to D.K. the Punisher to Kal Banx to all of my musician friends, The Catalyst, my band. My brothers, and just all of the musicians that I've been working with for the last 10 years, I still work with the same cats. L.A. is small, it's big, but at the time it's small, and I really want to keep it that way. I'd appreciate it if it stayed that way.
What does that summer mood look and sound like to you?
Well, summer mood has that sunset tint to it. It's like, to me, this album is best listened to riding down Malibu about six o'clock sunset. That's the vibe. I'm a Cali kid through and through, and I hope it translates through with the music. I think we hit it on the ball. If you want a glimpse at what summer's supposed to be, just take a listen to the album, close your eyes, and it should do the trick.
Stepping back, who are your biggest influences?
Oh man, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway. These are people that my mother listened to when I was growing up. I grew up in the church, so I love Fred Hammond and Noel Jones. I don't know if you know who Noel Jones is, he's a preacher from L.A., his voice is so crazy. My mom sang background for Chaka Khan back in the day, and Michael Jackson. So, I grew up with an ear to R&B for sure, from the '60s, '70s, '80s. Of course I have hip-hop influences, but my spectrum is wide. We could have a 30 minute conversation about all the music I listen to, I promise you.
Lately, I've been listening to a lot of The Beatles. "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" has been on repeat for a couple of weeks, then Innervisions [Wonder's 1973 album]. I go back and forth between [Wonder's] Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life. Then, my real guilty pleasure is John Mayer, I'm a huge fan.
I love it.
I think with music, and this is my advice to young people, it's like careers almost, you won't know what you want until you taste a few things. I think Gary Gee says that. You got to taste things to know what you want to be. I feel like music is like that too. You can't just listen to country music because you're from the South. You've got to listen to something else just to try it. You don't know, you might like classical music. If you never listen, you will never know.
I did a lot of that when I was younger and I found my vibes for sure. But I listened to some stuff that people probably wouldn't expect. But I think that helps to shape me as a musician in general. I definitely don't shy away from exploring and trying to find different vibes that I really like. One of the most fun parts about music to me, is exploring and finding new things that you never would expect you to enjoy, you know? So, yeah, my spectrum is wide, it's a rainbow for sure.
Growing up in a musical family, how do you feel like that impacted your journey to becoming an artist?
I can't really explain it because it's weird for me to be the artist in my family. I still wake up and kind of laugh because I never expected this. When I was younger, I didn't want to do music. When I was 14, my mom would make us sing in church every Sunday, and I got sick of it. That's when I kind of decided I didn't want to do music. I went on about my life, at about 19, 20 started working dumba jobs and that turned into me wanting to find something that I was passionate about, and turns out it music was it all along. I had to step away to kind of find it for myself.
But I started really getting serious about music when I was 22, and then I ended up going to school, graduated in 2011 from film school, and just never looked back from there. I think that was what I needed was to really find it for myself, because my brothers' all sing or write songs, and my mother is still active in the industry, and they always said it was what we needed to be doing. I just had to see it for myself and I think that made me a better musician. My life experiences helped shape how I write songs. I appreciate my time away from music, but also I'm glad I found my way back because I don't know what I'd be if I wasn't a musician. I'd probably be—let's not even talk about that.
I'm blessed. My family is amazing. My brother is an amazing singer/songwriter. My older brother Daniel, he's an amazing rapper and he's the writer, and we're all supportive of each other. I know that I probably wouldn't be where I am today without the support of my family and them pushing me to be a better writer and a better musician.
You come back to where you're supposed to be at some point. You touched on it a little when you talked about your influences, but what advice do you have for younger people that have a passion for music but aren't really sure where to start to pursue music professionally?
Don't be afraid to be wack. Don't be afraid to fall on your a. You got to start somewhere. But it's just like anything else in life, and I could preach this to the ends of the earth. It doesn't matter what you decide to do or when you decide to do it, but it's about staying dedicated to it and really working at what you want. If you want something then put it in the universe. Write it on a piece of paper, say it every day when you wake up and just don't worry about when it's going to happen. Just keep working.
I think that's the best thing I ever did for myself. I put my head down, I shut the f* up and I worked for five years on music, and didn't try to release anything, didn't try to do anything. I got to the point where I was so ready to go that I had three projects worth of music ready to go, and we started with Seven Sundays and from there worked our way into being with TDE and all that.
I really developed my craft first and made sure I was confident in what I wanted to hear. So, I think for anybody that wants it, just don't be afraid to fail, and keep working at it. It's not easy, none of this is. But I feel like if you want something, you can just really work at it and it'll come. You just got to be willing to f*ing eat dirt and mud for a little bit. Eventually, hard work pays off, no matter what you do. If you want to sell ice cream, sell ice cream every day. Get up, get your cones right, make sure your freezer's at the right temperature, make sure your music's playing and hit the block and get on that ice cream.
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10 College Courses Dedicated To Pop Stars And Music: Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny & Hip-Hop
In honor of Music in Our Schools Month, check out nine college-level music courses that dissect punk and EDM, global hip-hop culture and the discographies and careers of superstar acts like the Beatles and Harry Styles.
There’s never been a better time to be a music-loving college student.
Beginning in the mid to late aughts, an increasing number of academic institutions have begun offering courses dedicated to major music acts. In the late aughts, rap maverick Jay-Z made headlines after becoming the subject of a Georgetown University course taught by Michael Eric Dyson, a sociologist and best-selling author of Jay-Z: Made in America. In the Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z, students analyzed Hova's life, socio-cultural significance and body of work.
It's easy to see why students would be attracted to these courses — which fill up quickly and are often one-time-only offerings. The intertwining of celebrity and sociology present such fertile grounds to explore, and often make for buzzy social media posts that can be a boon to enrollment numbers. For instance, Beyhivers attending the University of Texas at San Antonio were offered the opportunity to study the Black feminism foundations of Beyoncé's Lemonade in 2016. Meanwhile, Rutgers offered a course dedicated to dissecting the spiritual themes and imagery in Bruce Springsteen's catalog.
Luckily for students clamoring to get a seat in these highly sought-after courses, institutions across the country are constantly launching new seminars and classes about famous pop stars and beloved musical genres. From Bad Bunny to Harry Styles, the following list of popular music courses features a little something for every college-going music fan.
Bad Bunny's Impact On Media
From his chart-topping hits to his advocacy work, Bad Bunny has made waves on and off stage since rising to fame in 2016. Now graduate students at San Diego State University can explore the global superstar's cultural impact in an upcoming 2023 course.
"He speaks out about Puerto Rico; he speaks out about the Uvalde shooting victims and uses his platform to raise money and help them," said Dr. Nate Rodriguez, SDSU Associate Professor of Digital Media Studies. "How does he speak out against transphobia? Support the LGBTQ community? How does all of that happen? So yes, it’s very much relevant to journalism and media studies and cultural studies. It’s all of that mixed into one."
A Deep Dive Into Taylor Swift's Lyrics
Analyzing Taylor Swift's lyrics is a favorite pastime among Swifties, so it's fitting that her work and its feminist themes have been the focus of a string of university courses over the years.
In spring 2022, the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University launched an offering focused on the "Anti-Hero" singer's evolution as an entrepreneur, race and female adolescence. The waitlisted course — the first-ever for the institution — drew loads of media attention and Swift received an honorary degree from NYU in 2022.
In spring 2023, honors students at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas can analyze the 12-time GRAMMY winner's music and career in a seminar titled Culture and Society- Taylor Swift.
Kendrick Lamar's Storytelling & The Power Of Hip-Hop
Since dropping good kid, m.A.A.d. City in 2012, Kendrick Lamar has inspired a slew of academics to develop classes and seminars around his lyrical content and storytelling, including an English class that juxtaposed his work with that of James Baldwin and James Joyce.
More recently, Concordia University announced that the 16-time GRAMMY winner will be the focus of The Power of Hip Hop, It’s Bigger Than Us, a course examining the lyrical themes of Lamar’s works, such as loyalty, fatherhood, class and racial injustice.
"No artist speaks to this ethos louder and more intricately than King Kunta, the prince of Compton, Kendrick Lamar, 10 years after good kid, m.A.A.d. City dropped," said Yassin "Narcy" Alsalman, the Montreal hip-hop artist and Concordia Professor who developed the class which launches in winter 2023. “He showed us it was okay to work on yourself in front of the world and find yourself internally, that family always comes first, that community and collective missions are central to growth and that sometimes, you have to break free."
EDM Production, Techniques, and Applications
If you dream of hearing your own EDM tracks played at a massive music festival à la Marshmello, Steve Aoki and Skrillex, this all-in-one course at Boston's Berklee College of Music has you covered. Learn about the cultural origins of the various EDM styles — like techno, trance, drum and bass and more — and the techniques that artists use to achieve these sounds.
In between thought-provoking cultural seminars, students will receive lessons on how to operate the technologies necessary to create their own EDM masterpieces, including synths, digital audio workstations (DAW) and samplers.
Harry Styles And The Cult Of Celebrity
While many celebrity-focused courses center around sociology, the Harry’s House singer/songwriter has inspired his own digital history course at Texas State University in San Marcos: Harry Styles and the Cult of Celebrity: Identity, the Internet and European Pop Culture.
Developed by Dr. Louie Dean Valencia during lockdown, the class will cover Styles’ music along with topics like gender, sexual identity and class — but the singer-songwriter’s personal life is off limits. Stylers who are lucky enough to grab a spot in this first-ever university course dedicated to their fave can expect to revisit One Direction’s catalog for homework.
"I’ve always wanted to teach a history class that is both fun, but also covers a period that students have lived through and relate to," Dr. Valencia wrote in a Twitter post. "By studying the art, activism, consumerism and fandom around Harry Styles, I think we’ll be able to get to some very relevant contemporary issues. I think it’s so important for young people to see what is important to them reflected in their curriculum."
Global Hip Hop Culture(s): Hip Hop, Race, and Social Justice from South Central to South Africa
Since its inception, hip-hop has left a lasting mark on the world, influencing language, fashion, storytelling and beyond. At the University of California Los Angeles, students can learn about how the art form has shaped young minds as they analyze the various hip-hop scenes worldwide.
As part of a mission to establish the university as a leading center for hip-hop studies, UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies launched a hip-hop initiative featuring an artist-in-residence program, digital archives, and a series of postdoctoral fellowships. Chuck D, the founder of the barrier-breaking hip-hop group Public Enemy, was selected as the first artist-in-residence.
"As we celebrate 50 years of hip-hop music and cultural history, the rigorous study of the culture offers us a wealth of intellectual insight into the massive social and political impact of Black music, Black history and Black people on global culture — from language, dance, visual art and fashion to electoral politics, political activism and more," said associate director H. Samy Alim, who is leading the initiative.
The Music Of The Beatles
With their catchy two-minute pop hits, artsy record covers, headline-making fashions and groundbreaking use of studio tech, the Fab Five are among the most influential acts in music history. It’s no surprise, then, that they are the subjects of courses in a number of colleges and universities.
Boston’s Berklee College of Music offers The Music of Beatles, which digs into the group’s body of work as well as the music they penned for other acts. Alternatively, if you’re more interested in their post-breakup works, The Solo Careers of the Beatles dives into those efforts. Meanwhile, the University of Southern California takes a look at their music, careers and impact in The Beatles: Their Music and Their Times.
Symbolic Sisters: Amy Winehouse and Erykah Badu
Whether you want to learn about craft, management, building a career, or marketing your work, the Clive Davis Institute at NYU offers an impressive curriculum for musicians and artists. With seminars focusing on the works of Prince, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, and J. Dilla, a unique duo stands out: Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse.
Framing the pair as "symbolic sisters," this two-credit seminar explores and compares how each songstress fused different genres and styles to forge a magnetic sound of their own. Winehouse rose to prominence for her retro spin on the sounds of Motown and Phil Spector and rebellious styling. A decade before "Back to Black" singer hit the mainstream, Badu — who is recognized as one of Winehouse's influences — rose to stardom thanks to her seamless blend of jazz, R&B, and hip-hop and captivating urban-bohemian style, creating a template for singers like SZA and Ari Lennox.
Selena: Music, Media and the Mexican American Experience
From ascending to the top of the male-dominated Tejano genre to helping introduce Latin music to the mainstream, Selena Quintanilla's impact continues to be felt decades after her untimely death. Artists including Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Victoria "La Mala" Ortiz, Becky G and Beyoncé cite the GRAMMY-winning "Queen of Tejano" as an influence.
Throughout the years, her legacy and cultural impact have been the focus of dozens of college courses. In 2023, Duke University continues this tradition with Selena: Music, Media and the Mexican American Experience. The course will explore the life, career and cultural impact of the beloved Tejano singer.
The Art of Punk: Sound, Aesthetics and Performance
Since emerging in the 1970s, punk rock has been viewed as a divisive, politically charged music genre. Its unique visual style — which can include leather jackets, tattoos, chunky boots and colorful hair — was absorbed into the mainstream in the '90s, where it continues to thrive (to the chagrin of hardcore punks everywhere). Over the decades, dozens of subgenres have cropped up and taken the spotlight — including riot grrrl and pop-punk — but very few have left the impact of the classic punk sound from the '70s and its anti-establishment themes.
If you're interested in learning more about the genre that inspired bands like Nirvana, check out Stanford University's The Art of Punk seminar, which explores the genre's visual and sonic origins, as well as its evolution and connections to race, class, and gender.
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The Nicki Minaj Essentials: 15 Singles To Showcase Her Rap and Pop Versatility
Celebrating Nicki Minaj's new record label and her first single of 2023, "Red Ruby Da Sleeze," take a listen to 15 songs that highlight her talent as an MC and singer.
Nicki Minaj is making some serious moves right now. Within the same week, the 10-time GRAMMY nominee released her first single of the year, "Red Ruby Da Sleeze," and announced that she has started her own record label — which has already signed several artists, including Rico Danna, a rapper from her hometown neighborhood of South Jamaica in Queens.
This multi-hyphenate star is clearly stepping on the gas for 2023. But as her Barbz know, Minaj has been hustling for more than 15 years, and it's still paying off: Just last year, the rapper landed her third No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Super Freaky Girl" — her first unaccompanied chart-topper.
As the latest Nicki chapter begins, get familiar with the essential songs in her discography that brought her to this point. Starting with the standout track from her very first mixtape, GRAMMY.com presents a roadmap to understanding the music of Nicki Minaj.
"Can't Stop, Won't Stop" (2007)
Minaj collaborated with Lil Wayne — an early mentor — on her first mixtape, Playtime Is Over. It's the first hint of the musical chemistry between the two, as they trade rhymes over the instrumental of "Can't Stop, Won't Stop" by Young Gunz.
"Now, it's not hard to find me/ Top behind me/ You be Harry Potter, and I'll be Hermione," Minaj rapped to Tunechi on the track, foreshadowing how big they'd become together in the years to come.
"Itty Bitty Piggy" (2009)
The breakout song from her third mixtape Beam Me Up Scotty, Minaj declares that she's "the baddest in the game" on "Itty Bitty Piggy."
"It's me — I win, you lose!" she taunts on the track. Elsewhere, Minaj also shows off her confidence by offering to sign her fans' boobs and inviting other female rappers to pick her fruit out and to be her personal shoppers.
"Up Out My Face (Remix)" (2010)
Mariah Carey recruited Minaj for this sassy duet that serves as an early warning shot that she was ready for her pop music close-up. She distinguishes herself by rapping about cheaters and scrubs in American and English accents.
"My Chick Bad" (2010)
Minaj's sports and horror icon-laden verse on Ludacris' "My Chick Bad" shows how she was morphing into an outsized pop culture character of her own.
"Running down the court, I'm dunkin' on 'em, Lisa Leslie," she rapped, namechecking a WNBA star. On the track, she also compares herself to Friday the 13th movie killer Jason Vorhees and Freddy Kreuger from Nightmare on Elm Street.
"Moment 4 Life" (2010)
"Moment 4 Life," which features a guest verse from Drake, is the song that catapulted her from the early fame of appearing on songs from other artists to becoming recognized as a solo artist in her own right. The sixth collaboration between the two friends is also the most acclaimed of their work together, as the song was nominated for Best Rap Performance at the 54th GRAMMYs.
"In this very moment, I'm king," she proclaimed on the song.
"Roman's Revenge" (2010)
A week after dropping jaws with her guest verse as her alter ego "Roman Zolanski" on Kanye West's "Monster" (which also features Jay-Z, Rick Ross and Bon Iver), Minaj released her own full-length song called "Roman's Revenge." It's an electric duet featuring Eminem that finds her spitting lyrical fire like "a dungeon dragon."
"Super Bass" (2011)
Minaj's first solo top five hit — landing at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 — solidified her pop star status with its catchy, sung chorus. The endearingly bouncy love song has earned a rare Diamond certification for sales of more than 10 million in the U.S. — her only single to achieve the feat to date.
Though Minaj had flirted with EDM-style tracks alongside David Guetta in 2011, her own club track "Starships" has the most soaring energy. Produced by RedOne, the song showcases Minaj's versatility with singing and rapping for an international audience.
A playful interpolation of Sir Mix-A-Lot's 1992 booty-popping hit "Baby Got Back," "Anaconda" is one of many examples of Minaj's sampling prowess. On the fun, uptempo track, she celebrates the pleasures of "missing no meals" and shouts out bodies that have extra to grab. The cheeky tune nabbed Minaj her first GRAMMY nomination for Best Rap Song in 2015.
"Bang Bang" (2014)
An infectious hit that earned Minaj her sole nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, "Bang Bang" positioned Minaj as a pop star alongside Jessie J and Ariana Grande. As she raps on the song, she brings "Nicki full throttle" with her verse, with dextrous rhyming as well as vocals that keep up with the powerful pipes of her collaborators.
"Truffle Butter" (2015)
Arguably the highlight of Minaj's collaborations with Drake and Lil Wayne, "Truffle Butter" finds the three rappers flowing over a slowed-down and pleasingly off-kilter dance beat, which was sampled from Maya Jane Coles' 2011 house music stunner, "What They Say." "Truffle Butter" earned Minaj one of her three GRAMMY nominations in 2016, and her second for Best Rap Performance.
In this boom-bap-style track, Minaj takes on the role of Chun-Li, the woman in the Street Fighter video game series, spitting her verses over a horn riff that propels the listener into an action adventure. Though the character is not an antagonistic player in the game, Minaj crafts Chun-Li as a villain, spitting, "They need rappers like me/ So they can get on their f—ing keyboards and make me/ The bad guy, Chun-Li."
Recognizing Minaj's global appeal, Colombian reggaeton artist Karol G reached out to collaborate on "Tusa." The bilingual song brought some significant firsts for Minaj: it was No. 1 on the Hot Latin Songs chart in the United States, topped pop charts all over South America and was nominated for both Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year at the Latin GRAMMYs in 2020.
"In her verse, she says: 'It's me and Karol G, and we let the rats talk.' I died, I revived, I died and revived again until I understood Nicki Minaj had said my name in her verse," Karol G excitedly told Billboard.
"Do We Have a Problem" (2022)
Minaj's versatility as an MC shines on her recent collaboration with Lil Baby, which is accompanied by a mini movie where she plays a sexy and fearsome double agent. Her lyrical fierceness is distinct from her pop songs, and is a welcome return to her earliest approach to rapping — with her voice taking multiple tempo twists and turns along the way.
"Red Ruby Da Sleeze" (2023)
Minaj's Trinidadian roots shine through as she weaves patois into her rhymes on "Red Ruby Da Sleeze." The beat and vocals are sampled from Lumidee's song "Never Leave You (Uh Oh)," As her first release of 2023, "Red Ruby Da Sleeze" helps Minaj make a strong statement that she's still at the top of her game — and has the staying power of a true queen.
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Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
The 2023 GRAMMYs Effect: Bad Bunny, Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo & More See Major Sales And Streams Boost After Record-Breaking Show
Take a look at the impressive gains that 2023 GRAMMYs winners and performers made in Spotify streams and album/song sales, from Beyoncé to Harry Styles.
The 2023 GRAMMYs weren't just historic, they were iconic — and the numbers show it.
The telecast itself saw a 30% increase in viewership, with more than 12.4 million viewers tuning into the Feb. 5 ceremony, the best ratings since 2020 per Nielsen data. In turn, several of the night's winners and performers saw major spikes in sales and streams.
Album Of The Year winner Harry Styles returned to the top 10 of the all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart, as Harry's House — which also took home the GRAMMY for Best Pop Vocal Album — earned 38,000 equivalent album units in the U.S., a 51% gain. His previous two albums, 2019's Fine Line and his 2017 self-titled debut also made gains, the former up 15% and the latter up 11%.
Kendrick Lamar and Adele also enjoyed increases in sales and streams on several albums. Lamar — who won three GRAMMYs this year, including Best Rap Album for Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers — had a 20% gain for his fifth LP, as well as a 26% gain for 2015's To Pimp a Butterfly, 11% for 2017's DAMN., and 6% for 2012's good kid, m.A.A.d city.
Adele's 30 had a 25% increase in equivalent album units, while her 2015 album 25 went up 14% and 2011 release 21 went up 10%. (30's lead single, "Easy On Me," earned Adele her fifth GRAMMY for Best Pop Solo Performance — a record in the category.)
After Beyoncé made GRAMMY history at the 2023 ceremony with her 32nd win, her Best Dance/Electronic Music Album-winning RENAISSANCE made a huge jump. The album earned 37,000 equivalent album units, up 109%, helping Bey move from No. 24 to No. 11 on the Billboard 200.
Rising jazz star Samara Joy also had a monumental night, scoring the coveted GRAMMY for Best New Artist. As a result, her 2022 album, Linger Awhile, made its debut on the Billboard 200, with an equivalent album units gain of 319% and a 5,800% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S. The project also hit No. 1 on the Jazz Albums, Traditional Jazz Albums and Heatseekers Albums charts for the first time, as well as the top 10 of the Top Album Sales and Top Current Album Sales charts.
Blues great Bonnie Raitt's win for Song Of The Year (for her 2022 track "Just Like That") served as one of the night's biggest surprises, but also served as a catalyst for some serious streams and sales success. The song spiked from about 10,000 daily on-demand streams in the U.S. on Feb. 3 to 697,000 the day after the GRAMMYs (Feb. 6) — a gain of around 6,700% — according to Luminate. The song's sales were even better, gaining more than 10,000% on Feb. 6; the rest of Raitt's discography also climbed 161%, from 333,000 on-demand U.S. streams on Feb. 3 to 869,000 on Feb. 6.
Most of the 2023 GRAMMYs performers also celebrated sales and streams increases post-telecast. Show opener Bad Bunny saw gains on his GRAMMY-winning albumUn Verano Sin Ti (up 16%), as well as his 2020 albums YHLQMDLG (up 11%) and El Ultimo Tour del Mundo (up 8%). One of the songs Bad Bunny performed, Un Verano Sin Ti single "Despues de la Playa," also saw a 100% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S. in the hour following the telecast.
Lizzo delivered a soaring medley of her Record Of The Year-winning smash "About Damn Time" and the title track from her AOTY-nominated LP Special, the latter of which saw a 260% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S. after the show. Special also moved 11,000 equivalent album units, up 52%.
Steve Lacy won his first GRAMMY in the Premiere Ceremony, Best Progressive R&B Album for his album Gemini Rights. He also took the GRAMMYs stage for a sultry rendition of his hit "Bad Habit," all helping Lacy see a 16% increase in equivalent album units for Gemini Rights.
Sam Smith and Kim Petras also celebrated a historic win at the 2023 GRAMMYs, taking home Best Pop Duo/Group performance for their viral hit "Unholy" — marking the first win in the category by a trans woman. That moment, combined with the pair's risqué performance, helped the song see an almost 80% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S.
The heartfelt In Memoriam segment catalyzed stream increases, the biggest coming from Quavo's "Without U," which he sang in tribute to his late Migos bandmate and nephew Takeoff; the song jumped 890% in U.S. streams following the show. Fleetwood Mac's "Songbird," which Mick Fleetwood, Bonnie Raitt, and Sheryl Crow sang in honor of late Fleetwood Mac member Christine McVie, experienced an almost 100% increase in U.S. streams.
In other U.S. Spotify stream gains for performers, Harry Styles' "As It Was," saw a more than 75% increase; Brandi Carlile's "Broken Horses" saw a more than 2,700% increase; DJ Khaled's star-studded "God Did" (featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and John Legend) saw a more than 650% increase; Mary J. Blige's "Good Morning Gorgeous" saw a more than 390% increase.
Streaming numbers are from DKC News, a PR representative of Spotify.
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Photo: Courtesy of Eric Bellinger
ReImagined: Eric Bellinger Defies "Gravity" With A Silky Rendition Of John Mayer's Hit Single
R&B singer Eric Bellinger reconstructs John Mayer's hit single "Gravity" into a soothing R&B track — and delivers a mind-bending performance that brings the song's title to life.
It's no secret that the blues have heavily influenced John Mayer's discography. The guitarist's venture into the genre traces back to his GRAMMY-winning 2006 studio album, Continuum, especially on the track "Gravity" — and now, Eric Bellinger is giving the bluesy single an R&B twist.
In this episode of ReImagined, the singer/songwriter transforms the Continuum single into a warm, velvety R&B track. Bellinger constructs the arrangement on his own, pairing his sultry vocals with a cajón drum box, keyboard and bass guitar.
Adding an eye-catching appeal to the performance, Bellinger adds a literal interpretation of the track's lyrics — "Gravity is working against me" — as he paces around the ceiling of an upside-down house.
Outside of his original music, Bellinger has had a prolific career posting covers on YouTube, including his popular re-envisionings of Drake's "Fake Love" and Rae Sremmurd's "Black Beatles." The R&B singer also has an impressive list of songwriting credits, including his work on Chris Brown's F.A.M.E., which earned Bellinger his first GRAMMY Award for Best R&B Album in 2012.
Press play on the video above to watch Eric Bellinger's rendition of "Gravity," and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of ReImagined.
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