Photo: Dean Chalkley
Ska Greats The Selecter Talk 40th Anniversary & Why Greta Thunberg Is "The Most Together Person On The Planet"
Two founding members of the pioneering U.K. two-tone/ska group, Pauline Black and Gaps Hendrickson, speak to the Recording Academy about their celebratory tour, hopes for the future, the music that inspires them and more
This year, pioneering U.K. two-tone/ska group The Selecter celebrate 40 years as a band and 40 years of two-tone (they helped found the second-wave ska movement in the '70s). They came together, rather serendipitously, in Coventry, England in 1979, the same year that conservative posterchild Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister.
The two-toners responded to the increasingly unsettled social climate through their socially charged music, with groups made up of a racially diverse—and in the case of The Selecter, gender diverse—membership. The frenetic, upbeat sound they created blended Jamaican-born ska with punk and new wave sounds and aesthetic. In 1980, not long after The Selecter was formed, they released their powerful debut album, Too Much Pressure. Every line of the title track begins with the words "too much pressure," echoing the climate of the time.
Fast forward to Oct. 6, 2017, not long after the 45th President of the United States took office and Britain first voted in favor of Brexit, 37 years after their debut, The Selecter released their 15th studio album, Daylight. The album's messages responding to the current state of affairs don't feel all that different from their debut, with coy references to hashtags.
"My mind is full, my heart is empty. / It's hard to live in a world of plenty. / The more I see, the less I feel. / You sell me dreams, but they're not real," frontwoman Pauline Black sings on "Frontline," the opening track of Daylight. "Nobody's, nobody's hashtag / ever the mighty shall fall / nobody's, nobody's hashtag / nobody's hashtag at all!"
As anyone following the news will realize, yesterday's revolutionary music continues to resonate today. But, as founding Selecter members Black and Arthur "Gaps" Hendrickson reassure us, things have changed for the better since their debut—and will inevitably keep improving.
"You've got to remember that we're celebrating our 40th anniversary. 50 years ago, I believe, black people in this country were celebrating the birth of civil rights," Black recently told us. "That's within my lifetime, only 10 years more than when we first started and we came over here. From that point of view, things definitely have changed. They might be taking a retrogressive step at the moment, but you can definitely say that things have changed."
The Recording Academy recently sat down with Black and Hendrickson hours before they joined their bandmates for a high-energy show at the Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, Calif., during the U.S. leg of their anniversary tour. Read on to hear from them about their hopes for the future, what music and artists most inspire them, how the band originally came together and more.
What does 40 years of The Selecter mean to you?
Pauline Black: 40 years of The Selecter actually means that, my goodness, we've lasted this long, we've made some music that actually resonates with people still, around the world, after 40 years. I don't think that's any mean feat in that way. And it's still a work in progress. All bands are a work in progress, aren't they? You just celebrate these decades as they roll around, but this is a fairly special one because you really don't know, at the ages that we're at, whether you're actually going to see the 50th.
Gaps Hendrickson: And we'd tour places and, people said they were 15, they were too young to come to a concert and they're glad to see us. That's all encouraging news and it gives us a lot of scope to advance.
It is definitely a feat. And you're about to wrap up the 40th Anniversary Tour. What has stood out to you the most about your experiences on this tour?
Black: In America—well, we started off in Mexico. Mexico City, which was a really, really, really brilliant gig, wasn't it?
Hendrickson: Yeah, very good.
Black: It was at Sala and that was just amazing. It seems kind of weird for us because I think after the U.K., America and Germany, Mexico is our next best-selling place for records, but we haven't been there that much. We've only done festivals, so to actually go there and do gigs was quite radical really, wasn't it?
Hendrickson: Yeah, especially Mexico City. Every song got really loud applause.
Black: And they knew the words and everything, which you're not really expecting. Also, we got to look around the whole place, which is rather fabulous. We went to the Leon Trotsky Museum, that was cool. And then we went around some Aztec temples. And we did a few touristy things, which we'd never done before. Then we flew to New York and we were there on September 11, which of course was a bit of an auspicious day.
Hendrickson: That was the next best one, wasn't it?
Black: Yeah. We didn't feel as though we could let that anniversary pass of what happened in New York. We invited some of the firefighters, the first responders, via the union of the fire brigade union in London. They responded to that and we had a whole load of officials come down and the guys came down all dressed in their best dress uniform and stuff. We had them on the stage at the end for our encore when we do "Madness," because that's what it must have been like on that day. So yeah, that was a thoroughly satisfying visit there and it was a really great show too, at the Gramercy Theatre.
What have been your favorite songs this go-round to play live?
Hendrickson: At the moment, I wouldn't say I've got a favorite song.
You don't have to pick just one.
Hendrickson: Well, okay then. I do like singing "See Them A Come." I think that's one of my favorites to sing on stage. But to listen to, I would pick a song of our latest album, which is called Daylight, [the title track] is my favorite track. I would sit down and call my friends and say, "Hey, listen to this," because I think that's a great song.
Black: For me, when we were putting the set list together for this particular tour, we wanted to do a broad spectrum of songs that encompass basically 40 years, so we went back and looked at our second album, Celebrate the Bullet, and resurrected a great song that Gaps sings called "Facing Situations," which seemed really apt for the political-social time that we're living through at the moment. Everybody's having to face situations and figure out what we're going to do, be it climate change or be it what on earth is going on with our governments as they all lurch towards the right and stuff like that.
So yeah, that was a favorite for me and we also resurrected another song, "The Whisper," which is our fifth single. We thought, well, a lot of people in America probably never heard that or didn't get to hear it. I think a lot of people in America came to The Selecter maybe in 1981, when they put out a compilation album here called Selected Selecter Selections. That's a bit of a mouthful. They took cuts off the first and the second album so some got missed off.
People here didn't actually go out and buy the Celebrate The Bullet album, they bought that instead, so there's a lot of things that they didn't get to hear necessarily. And I love doing "Celebrate The Bullet," if nothing else, to spite the N.R.A. and their policies.
You guys mentioned Daylight; on that album you tackled the issues of today, which somehow unfortunately really don't feel that different than what you were talking about on the first albums.
Hendrickson: Indeed, yeah.
It's kind of crazy. What do you think is the biggest societal change that needs to happen now?
Black: Well, the biggest societal change would be what your generation decide to do. That's going to be the biggest thing. I hope you make less of a mess of the planet than we did, or at least our generation did. I'm not particularly proud of our generation at all. I think that we created all kinds of chaos on the planet and now we're denying that it's actually even happening.
I think the one thing that would give myself and Gaps hope—Gaps has a 12-year-old daughter—is what that generation can do. Greta Thunberg is a showing the way, isn't she? She's a teen and seems to be the most together person on the planet, I would say, at the moment in terms of what the future of this planet actually needs and what we should be doing. All hope has to be in young people.
Hendrickson: I wouldn't like to see these children struggle the way that I struggled against racism and prejudice. I have to admit, it's somewhat easier for them because they can go out and do what they want to want to do, more or less. And there's not as many obstacles or doors shut in your face now, so that's good. I've seen, for them, a little progress that way. I hope it continues, very slowly, but I'm sure it will one day.
Black: You've got to remember that we're celebrating our 40th anniversary. 50 years ago, I believe, black people in this country were celebrating the birth of civil rights, certainly the civil rights movement was going on. Now, 50 years isn't that long. That's within my lifetime, only 10 years more than when we first started and we came over here. From that point of view, things definitely have changed. They might be taking a retrogressive step at the moment, but you can definitely say that things have changed.
But I think it's like everything. It's very easy to say, "Goodness me, things that were happening in 1979, when we were first around, are the same as what's happening now." People say that history repeats itself, but I don't think it does, but it does rhyme every now and again. Currently, it's rhyming quite significantly with what was going on in 1979, both in this country and in the U.K., where we come from.
I like that.
Black: I didn't say that, Mark Twain said it.
How do we keep moving forward so that in the future, it's good for everyone?
Black: Oh, we don't have to worry about that because nature would change anyway. Whether we're here or not, we're all part of that. That's always going to change. It's how we respond to it and what we learned from it that's the significant thing. The human animal doesn't seem to learn very much or very quickly sometimes. I think maybe we need to speed the process up and maybe your generation can speed up the learning process.
Well, what is your biggest hope for the near future, in say, five years?
Black: The future's in every moment, isn't it? Within the next five years, I would definitely like to see some actual progress towards getting rid of fossil fuels and all of those kinds of things because they're the biggest culprits at the moment. Plus all those farting cows that are doing their thing all over the world. Whether I particularly want to end up eating crushed beetles or whatever is going to be our protein source, I don't know, but I'm game for anything. It's better than frying on a planet, and that's not going to be such a great thing either, is it, when everywhere is a desert. So that would be my biggest hope, that we wake up to that.
Hendrickson: I agree. Walking down here just about half an hour ago, you smell all of the [vehicle] fumes. I'm sure I won't be around when all vehicles go electric, but I think it will be a wonderful thing to not smell fumes like that.
You two are pioneers in music, fashion and more. What does it mean to you to have led the way for others? And what do you hope to see in the next generation of artists?
Black: That's a continually evolving thing. We're just a small part of it really. Ska music doesn't even have its own genre on iTunes or any of those kinds of things. It's lumped into reggae and things. I don't really see it like that. Rock music is ubiquitous and all that it is four on the floor. It's just the on-beat. All we are is four on the off-beat, really. Why people can't be more imaginative with that in the same way as what we've tried to do and be, I don't really know.
I see there are still people, including young people, who are interested in music as a form. Us older people, we continually try and make new music and stuff like that, and people like The Specials have had great success in the U.K. with a new album. So yeah, I think that ska music is in the best shape really that it's been in for a long time.
Hendrickson: Pauline and I sing with Jools Holland, who's a very reputable musician in the U.K., and we go to places that we probably wouldn't play with The Selecter. When we go out as The Selecter, we get people saying, "We saw you [with Holland] and we thought we'll come along and see what your band is like because we really love your music and had never heard it before" As I said before, it's always lovely encouraging new sorts to be there. It's a privilege after 40 years, may it long continue.
"It's a privilege after 40 years. May it long continue." – Gaps Hendrickson
And for you Pauline, there was a recent Vogue feature on your style.
Black: Oh, that was last year. I don't know about that, it just came out of the complete blue.
I think you could say that whether or not you were realizing at the time, you made your mark in fashion.
Black: The whole of the fashion of all the subcultures that coalesced around the two-tone movement, was people wearing black, white checkers, that kind of thing. Monochrome aesthetic, a mod aesthetic as well, not to mention hats. I really like your beret.
So, it's the style and it's as valid as any other style that I can think of, and the fact that Vogue woke up and saw it as a kind of a style, I don't know. It began with Duro Olowu, who is a fashion designer. He's a Nigerian-British fashion designer. His wife Thelma Golden runs the Studio Museum in Harlem, they're both artistic people. He decided that I was going to be his muse last year, which was complete news to me.
I saw some of his clothes and they were very colorful, some Nigerian colors. He made me an outfit, which is absolutely lovely. I can't actually say that I might ever wear it on stage in the kind of style that I do, but it's a beautiful outfit and I'm dying to wear it at some point in time. But he decided that what he was doing had some resonance with Rude Boys and Rude Girls and who was I to argue? I wasn't going to argue. He's a very lovely man too. So that's how that came about. Whether Anna Wintour had anything to do with it, I didn't know.
Amazing! I'd love to hear a little bit of the backstory of how you guys came together as a group.
Black: Well, that's long. You start, I'll finish.
Hendrickson: The original members of The Selecter are Charley Anderson, Desmond Brown, Charley "H" Bembridge and Compton Amanor. We had a band called Hardtop 22, which was basically a reggae band. In Coventry, we used to have this club called Mr. George's and every Monday night, Coventry Automatics, who later became The Specials, and Hardtop 22 used to play. At the end of the night, they'd probably give us a pint of lager or something. We knew each other, living in Coventry, and The Specials made good and they thought they'll bring us along and basically that's how it started. This is where Pauline picks up the story.
Black: Well, at the same time, there was a white guy in Coventry called Neol Davies, who knew Jerry Dammers from The Specials. He had recorded a track, which initially he called "Kingston Affair," in the shed of the producer, who would go on to produce some of our records later, Roger Lomas. When The Specials put out "Gangsters," they didn't have a B side, they ran out of money to record one. Jerry rang up Neol Davies and said, "You know that track that you've had lying around for two years, do you want to put that on the B side of our single? We'll call it The Specials versus The Selecter." Which is all a very Jamaican kind of way of doing a single. And that's what they did.
I don't know whether they thought that it was going to be a hit or not, but anyway, it started climbing the charts. Initially a lot of people thought that The Selecter was just the B side by The Specials. They didn't know that it was a band in its own right, but at that time there was only one member, Neil Davies. At the same time, I was trying to put a band together with people that included Desmond Brown, who was also in Hardtop 22, Charles Bembridge and also Silverton Hutchinson, who was the original drummer for The Specials. Are you keeping up? [Laughs.] Trying to pick the sense out of the nonsense.
Anyway, we were rehearsing somewhere in the deepest, darkest Coventry, and who should turn up but Lynval Golding from The Specials. He had a little listen and said, "I think you should come along and meet a friend of mine," which was Neol Davies. Somebody had to be sent out to get Gaps because he didn't feel like coming over that night. And all the people who ended up there all went on to be in The Selecter, which is kind of weird, really.
When you guys were younger, did you imagine that you would be in music?
Black: No, I thought I was going to be a biochemist.
Hendrickson: I've always had two ambitions in my life. One was to be a pop star and the other one was to be a lazy bastard. [Grins.] I'm still working on the being a lazy bastard bit.
There's always time. When you were growing up, who were your musical idols? Who were the people you were always listening to?
Black: Billy Idol? You've kept that out of your hat.
Hendrickson: Growing up, on Sunday mornings, my parents would put on Prince Buster, the Skatalites and things like that on. Obviously, you know that music was invented, more or less, where I was born, which is in the Western Indies. It just resonated with me and here I am. I couldn't believe it when I met some of the stars because I always used to go up to buy the records, Desmond Dekker and artists like that. That was my greatest influence.
Black: I started playing music in folk clubs, not because I liked folk music, but because if you wanted to play guitar and sing at the same time, and that was one of the very few places you do it in the '70s. I was listening to people like Joan Armatrading, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, those kinds of people.
Hendrickson: And Carole King.
Black: Carole King, yeah, those kind of things. I always had a love of Tamla Motown [the U.K. affiliate of Motown Records]. And Aretha Franklin, obviously. Not that I have any wish to sound like Aretha Franklin, or could, but I greatly admired her tenacity and the way that she carried herself. Harking back further than that, Billie Holiday. Her choices of music, things like "Strange Fruit," and living through the times that she lived through in this country, when she had to use the back doors of the places she was performing and touring in the South. I read all those stories and lapped those up. Anyone who's on the margins of society or has something to say about that, those kinds of people who are ostracized from mainstream society or the status quo, I'm interested in.
And are there any newer artists, or artists that are newer to you, who you're really excited about?
Black: Yeah, I constantly keep an eye on what's around. I'm always interested in new female artists. This young girl Billie Eilish, I think she's absolutely fabulous at the moment. She seems to have come from nowhere and whoa, sprung fully formed. She's only about 17.
And similarly, there's an artist called Christine and the Queens and I greatly admire what she's doing. Just the sheer feet of her athleticism and dancing and the music that she makes. And coming from France and speaking in both English in French, that's no mean feat either. That's the sort of things that I would search out.
Hendrickson: Yeah, having grown up, as I said, in the West Indies, we listened to calypso and other rhythm, like merengue, which comes from the Dutch West Indies. That's pretty good. I love all that sort of thing. Artists come and go and you see them spring up today, then tomorrow you don't hear of them. Wait until they've established themselves and then I will listen to their music.
Black: Well, yeah, that is true about artists, but I also think that in terms of music now, it's so hard for new artists, particularly young artists, to make any mark anymore. You need enormous backing from record companies and stuff like that. It has got so much easier to make music because you can make music on your phone now. You don't need big studios, but you still have the same problem, how to market your music if you don't have any money, and invariably, artists don't tend to have the kind of money that other pursuits have. That's the difficult thing, so unless they've got real backing from record companies, it's as hard to break through now as it ever was.
If you could go back 40 years and give your younger self then a piece of advice, or a message, what would it be?
Hendrickson: Me, I don't think I would change anything much, especially leading up to the formation of The Selecter. Financially, when you look back at that, that's where I would probably start changing, but hey.
Black: I don't think I'd change anything really. I probably would tell my younger self enjoy it more. Because when you're young, you're always worrying, "What do people think of this? What do people think of me?" And you're unsure about all kinds things, of how you look, stuff like that. And then you look back at photos of yourself and you think, "Wow, what was I moaning about?"
But I wouldn't change anything because it's been a great learning curve and I've got to share it with Gaps. I kind of live for the moments on stage. That's the coolest part of the whole thing to me, when you just get those nights when everything you do resonates with an audience and they're giving you back as much energy as you were putting out. When that happens, it's just a great feeling and I can't think of anything better to do than this.
"I kind of live for the moments on stage. That's the coolest part of the whole thing to me, when you just get those nights when everything you do resonates with an audience and they're giving you back as much energy as you were putting out." – Pauline Black
What is the legacy you hope to leave behind with your music?
Hendrickson: For my children, and other black children, to go out there and seize the moment and have a happy life. And hopefully I would've shown my children that and hopefully they'll take it from there. Nothing stopped dad from being the boy he wanted to be, so I would like to leave that legacy with them.
Black: I don't really think about legacies in that way. I think about changing people's perceptions. Every time that we step on stage, being people of color, we're not the usual way of being. A lot of the people that are into ska music, particularly over here, are white people, and that comes with its own way of looking at both this music and the issues that they deal with. I think in some ways it's quite shocking for audiences to look at us and the way we come at them. And the things that we try and impart to them through the music, both joyfully or politically or socially. It's not the usual norm.
I'd like to see that legacy carried on by other young black people that are coming up, that might take what myself and Gaps have done and further that. I think there's plenty to explore there. To a certain extent over here, a lot of young people got into ska music back in the '90s but it was all very much about just having a good time, having beer. There's nothing wrong with that, but I feel that the music's a lot deeper than that. I would like to see that legacy to be left and furthered.
8th Annual MusiCares MAP Fund Benefit
Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.
By Jamie Harvey
I love a genre in which some of its most celebrated music was created in drug-addled states. How do we persevere in such a toxic environment? The answer for many is MusiCares [www.musicares.org]. On May 31 the 8th Annual MusiCares MAP Fund benefit concert was held at Club Nokia in Los Angeles in an effort to raise money for a great cause: musicians helping musicians grasp a hold on sobriety, and save them from the dark depths of addiction.
The night's honorees — Alice In Chains vocalist/guitarist Jerry Cantrell and certified interventionist and Sony/ATV Music Publishing Senior Consultant Neil Lasher — were in the company of many saved musicians. On the red carpet prior to the event, I spoke with some of the attendees about their best piece of advice and music that comforts them.
Inside Club Nokia, the night began with Moby spinning beats as everyone settled in. Fittingly, the night also marked the launch of the DJ AM Memorial Fund in honor of the late Adam "DJ AM" Goldstein.
TV personality Steve-O of "Jackass" was the evening's host and, though now sober, he proved over and over again that he is still just as funny and crazy. "You know you have a problem when your interventionist is Johnny Knoxville," he said.
The music began with Duff McKagan, who served as musical director for the evening, and his band Loaded. They kicked off their set by playing the music to Alice In Chains' "Heaven Beside You" while McKagan read a poem. So heartfelt that it gave us chills, it set a somber tone, but soon was followed by the celebration of the Johnny Thunders cover "You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory," which bled into a portion of Guns N' Roses' "Patience."
When Heart's Ann and Nancy Wilson joined Loaded onstage, I watched as Cantrell sat at the edge of his chair, bobbing his head in rapt attention as they performed. "Dead Flowers" by the Rolling Stones and "Curtains" by Elton John.
During Lasher's acceptance speech after being presented with MusiCares' From the Heart Award, he finished with this offer: "If you're ever in the New York area … I'll even bring a [12-step] meeting to a soundcheck if you need me to."
Billy Idol performed next — a set I was really looking forward to since it had been a long time since I'd last seen the British pop/punk icon and his band. They brought some upbeat rockers to the night with "Dancing With Myself," "White Wedding" and the anthemic "Rebel Yell." I could hardly stay in my seat.
Singer/songwriter Mark Lanegan (Queens Of The Stone Age, Screaming Trees) performed a short but powerful two-song set and pierced the crowd with his gravely baritone voice as "Carry Home" and "Creeping Coastline Of Lights" reached deep into our souls.
After a video tribute to Cantrell from Metallica's James Hetfield, Alice In Chains drummer Sean Kinney presented Cantrell with the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award (or, as Alice In Chains bassist Mike Inez jokingly referred to it, the "Junkie of the Year Award"). Kinney could have a second career in stand-up comedy — every time I hear him speak he's absolutely hilarious. Accepting his award, Cantrell spoke of being sober for nine years. "I try to do what I can to not get high today," he said. "We really miss [deceased Alice In Chains members] Layne [Staley] and Mike [Starr]."
As I listened to Cantrell's speech and the Alice In Chains set that followed, I found it surreal to be present at such an important and intimate event with so many of my generation's musicians. Alice In Chains are a huge part of my life's soundtrack. Their songs have been there through extreme highs and lows for me, and I've watched the band nearly die, only to be resurrected.
The Alice In Chains acoustic living room set featured career-spanning favorites, including "Nutshell," "Your Decision," a surprise drum and bass interlude featuring the Commodores' "Brick House," and "Got Me Wrong" followed by "Would?" I've lost many of my favorite rock stars to drugs, but here were some of the survivors. And that's more rock and roll than anything.
Duff McKagan's Loaded
"Heaven Beside You" (Alice In Chains cover)
"You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory" (Johnny Thunders cover)
"Patience" (Guns N' Roses cover)
Duff McKagan's Loaded with Heart
"Dead Flowers" (the Rolling Stones cover)
"Curtains" (Elton John cover)
"Dancing With Myself"
Mark Lanegan with Loaded
"Creeping Coastline Of Light"
Alice In Chains
"Got Me Wrong"
(Jamie Harvey splits her time between California and Texas, and is the rock community blogger for GRAMMY.com. She has been to more than 500 shows since 2007. You can follow her musical adventures and concert recaps at www.hardrockchick.com.)
Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors
Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it
Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.
McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award.
The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.
"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."
With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.
Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.
Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards
Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category
The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.
Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville
Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.
Championships – Meek Mill
In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.
i am > i was – 21 Savage
Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.
IGOR – Tyler, The Creator
The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.
The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae
Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.
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Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour
El Mal Querer Tour, named after the Spanish pop star's latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances
Rosalía is set to perform at some of the most popular music festivals around the globe, including Primavera Sound in Spain, Lollapalooza (Argentina and Chile) and Coachella, but the Spanish pop star isn't stopping there when she gets to the States. Now, she has announced her first solo North American Tour with a string of dates that will bring her to select cities in the U.S. and Canada.
El Mal Querer Tour, named after her latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances. Then she'll play San Francisco on April 22, New York on April 30 and close out in Toronto on May 2.
"I’m so happy to announce my first solo North American tour dates," the singer tweeted.
Rosalía won Best Alternative Song and Best Fusion/ Urban Interpretation at the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards in November and has been praised for bringing flamenco to the limelight with her hip-hop and pop beats. During her acceptance speech she gave a special shout-out to female artists who came before her, including Lauryn Hill and Bjork.
Rosalía has been getting some love herself lately, most notably from Alicia Keys, who gave the Spanish star a shout-out during an acceptance speech, and Madonna, who featured her on her Spotify International Women's Day Playlist.
Tickets for the tour go on sale March 22. For more tour dates, visit Rosalía's website.