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Stormzy Announces Heavy Is The Head 2020 World Tour
The U.K. grime artist has revealed dates and pre-sale info for his massive 55-date 2020 tour
While many of us were recovering from a Thanksgiving carb-fest by shopping "huge deals" online in our stretchiest pants, Stormzy revealed his plans for world domination with his 55-date Heavy Is The Head – The World Tour 2020. The British rap king's big trek runs from Feb. 10 with dates across the globe until Oct. 10 and is in support of his forthcoming sophomore album, Heavy Is The Head, due out Dec. 13.
HEAVY IS THE HEAD - THE WORLD TOUR 2020 #HITH— HEAVY IS THE HEAD (@stormzy) November 29, 2019
Tickets on sale 9am your LOCAL time Friday 6th Dec 2019. Dubai on-sale Wednesday 4th 8am. For early access to tix (ex. Asia & Africa) pre-order ‘Heavy Is The Head' from my official store by 9AM UK Time 3rd Dec https://t.co/CgwCD9hRd6 pic.twitter.com/6TRx1MGxGN
The world tour's first two legs has Stormzy trekking through Europe and Asia in February and March, kicking things off in Brussels on Feb. 10 and closing March out in Seoul on the 29th. The "Vossi Bop" artist will then bring the heat to New Zealand, Australia and North America in May and June, including dates in Oakland, Calif., Los Angeles, Toronto, Brooklyn, N.Y. and Chicago on May 26, May 27, June 2, June 4 and June 9, respectively. The last U.S. date is set for June 13 in Dallas.
After a short tour break, the U.K. grime heavy-hitter will start things up again on Sep. 3 in London, with dates across his native U.K. and Ireland for the rest of the month. Finally, the H.I.T.H. World Tour will wrap up with four dates in Africa, including a stop in Accra, Ghana (his mother hails from Ghana) on Oct. 9 and a final show in Lagos, Nigeria on Oct. 10.
Ahead of the album's forthcoming release, Stormzy has dropped the singles "Vossi Bop," "Crown," "Wiley Flow" and, most recently, "Own It," featuring Burna Boy and Ed Sheeran. He was also featured on Sheeran's "Take Me Back To London," from the currently GRAMMY-nominated, collab-heavy No.6 Collaborations Project.
As noted by Pitchfork, last week, in addition to the tour announcement, the rapper shared a message with his fellow Brits, encouraging them to vote and revealing his support for Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. His stand against conservatism saw a spike in voter registration in the country and a regrettable response from a leading Conservative MP Michael Gove.
This summer, during his headline set at the iconic Glastonbury festival, Stormzy wore a Banksy-designed bulletproof vest emblazoned with the Union Jack flag and stab marks, as a statement on the chaotic state of the union in his home country. While The Guardian and others celebrated the emblematic fashion choice—which was on display in Bansky's "Gross Domestic Product" installation and is featured on the H.I.T.C. album art—Gove found offense in its powerful statement.
Photos: Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images; TiVO; Prince Williams/WireImage; Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images
Here Are The Nominees For Best African Music Performance At The 2024 GRAMMYs
The five nominees for the inaugural Best African Music Performance at the 66th GRAMMY Awards signal the commercial and cultural prowess of the continent’s music.
No matter who takes home the GRAMMY for Best African Music Performance, they’ll be making history in the process. One of three newly-added categories for the 2024 GRAMMYs, the award is a breakthrough for the African music industry, signaling the commercial and cultural prowess of the continent’s music.
"Giving African music its own category would highlight and celebrate the diversity and richness of Africa," Shawn Thwaites, project manager at the Recording Academy, said in a roundtable about the new category. "This is a great step forward!"
African musicians have a long history at the GRAMMYs, from Ali Farka Touré to Wizkid. Artists of any African musical style can gain a nomination, whether they make Ethio-jazz, Ghanaian drill, high life, or kwassa. This year, however, one genre’s stars are shining particularly bright: Nigerian Afrobeats stars Burna Boy, ASAKE, Davido, and Ayra Star all netted nominations.
And yet, this can’t be said to have been a conventional year for Afrobeats. The genre’s best and brightest have embraced the sensual, pulsating sound of amapiano, the South Africa-born house offshoot that has taken clubs from London to Lagos by storm. Three of the five tracks nominated take stylistic cues from amapiano, with ASAKE even namechecking the genre in the title of his nominated track. Meanwhile, South African Tyla’s blend of ama and R&B shows the pervasive nature of piano power across the field.
Learn more about the nominees below, and see who takes the pioneering award during the 2024 GRAMMYs, held on Sunday, Feb. 4.
"Amapiano"- ASAKE & Olamide
There are more established artists in this field, but none feel as momentous as Asake, whose rapid rise to fame feels at times like the Afrobeats equivalent of Beatlemania. Thanks to his deeply charismatic persona and spectacular stage presence, he’s become massively popular with just two albums under his belt. And speaking of spectacle, earlier this year he became the fourth Nigerian artist, behind Wizkid, Davido, and Burna Boy, to sell out London’s O2 Arena, entering on a helicopter.
The key to his appeal lies in his embrace of sounds from all over the continent, especially amapiano. His album Work of Art mixes the popular Afro-house offshoot with Mauritian séga music as well as fújì, an Indigenous Yoruba genre from Nigeria.
"Amapiano" works as both a statement on the title genre’s popularity and a subtle flip on its conventions, rearranging elements such as the iconic log drum and combining them with dynamic rapping from Asake and featured artist Olamide. The song’s hook — "Steadily, steadily, heavily, we are getting lit" — is especially irresistible.
"City Boys" - Burna Boy
There’s not a bigger star in Afrobeats, or even the whole of Africa itself, than Burna Boy. He nabbed two consecutive Best Global Album GRAMMY nods for his albums Twice as Tall and African Giant, and he’s also collaborated with global stars such as Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber.
After earning his first UK No. 1 album this year with the classic hip-hop influenced I Told Them…, featuring appearances from 21 Savage, J. Cole, RZA, and GZA, he’s firmly in his imperial era. It’s hard to get away with releasing a track called "Sittin’ On Top of the World" if you’re not doing just that.
Yet it was "City Boys," that caught the Recording Academy’s attention this year. Produced by MD$ and Ruuben with a sample from Jeremih’s sultry R&B classic "Birthday Sex," the stomping, glamorous track reminiscent of late-’90s Timbaland beats highlights the path of influence from hip-hop to Afrobeats. In the song’s flashy video, Burna Boy rides around the streets of Los Angeles in a yellow Ferrari and matches an iced-out Richard Mille watch with a Wu-Tang Clan durag, paying tribute to hip-hop’s extravagance and braggadocio. The track also topped the UK Afrobeats Singles Chart in September
"UNAVAILABLE" - Davido Featuring Musa Keys
Asake may have risen to fame based on his embrace of Amapiano, but Davido has been boosting the genre for even longer. Back in 2021 he joined forces with amapiano DJ and MC Focalistic on "Champion Sound," giving the style a crucial early foothold into the Afrobeats scene.
"Champion Sound" eventually became the lead single for Davido’s 2023 project Timeless, released after the tragic accidental death of his three-year-old son. It’s a record dominated by the forward momentum of Amapiano beats, and "UNAVAILABLE," the GRAMMY-nominated single from the album, is no exception. A brighter, smoother take on the sound with triumphant choral vocals on the hook, it features confident verses from Davido and collaborator Musa Keys.
Considered one of Afrobeats’ big three along with Burna Boy and Wizkid, Davido first broke onto the scene in 2012. He’s since dueled with the other two artists for records and chart placements, such as Timeless beating Burna Boy’s album Love, Damini as the biggest debut for an album on Spotify Nigeria earlier. The album also gained the most single-day streams for any African album on Apple Music.
"Rush" - Ayra Starr
With an anthemic tone reminiscent of Rihanna’s "Diamonds," Ayra Starr’s track was boosted up the global charts thanks to TikTok virality. Born in French-speaking Benin to Nigerian parents, the 21-year-old moved frequently during childhood, eventually ending up in Lagos to pursue music.
After a brief stint in modeling, she signed to the star-making Mavin Records label in 2020, only their third female act. This nomination is only the latest accolade for her: she’s already earned three Nigerian number one singles, a feature on Wizkid’s track "2 Sugar," and a spot on the soundtrack to Creed III.
"Rush" is all about staying focused and grinding towards success. Starr sings about the cutthroat nature of the working world with determined fierceness: "Me no get the time for the hate and the bad energy / Got my mind on my money." The track may have a distinctive Afrobeats clave rhythm and Nigerian pidgin lyrics, but its glimmering synths recall early 2010s electro-pop from the likes of Robyn or Carly Rae Jepsen.
"Water" - Tyla
The youngest nominee on this list and the lone South African artist, 21-year-old Tyla is already a star in her home country, having been nominated for two South African Music Awards.
With "Water," the lead single from her upcoming debut EP, she also became the first solo musician from South Africa in 55 years to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. Largely driven forward by a popular TikTok challenge, the song debuted at 67 and has peaked at 21 so far.
It’s easy to see the crossover appeal of "Water," which could be mistaken for an American pop song if not for the sweltering Amapiano instrumental underneath. Singing entirely in English, Tyla’s vocal delivery brims with confidence and desire, especially over the chorus — "Make me sweat, make me hotter, make me lose my breath, make me water" — while the song’s sweltering video turns up the heat further.
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.
Westside Gunn On How Virgil Abloh & "Coming To The End" Of His Rap Career Inspired 'And Then You Pray For Me'
A self-proclaimed "super-vet" of the rap world, Westside Gunn knows his time as a rapper is nearing its finale — but first, he wants to "give you a journey" with his new album, 'And Then You Pray For Me.'
When Westside Gunn refers to himself as "the king of the underground," it's not hyperbole. The veteran rapper has spent the last decade-plus providing hip-hop with a streetwise, neo-boom-bap style that echoes heavily in the music of today. And as the founder of independent hip-hop label Griselda (and its related rap collective), Gunn's influence is felt through stars like his brother, Conway the Machine, his cousin, Benny the Butcher, and the enigmatic Mach-Hommy.
But Gunn considers himself more a curator than a musician. He is obsessed with fashion and high art, more prone to mention going to see opera or buying a painting than jumping into a rhyme cipher.
All of Westside Gunn's obsessions come together on his new album And Then You Pray For Me. The rapper is positioning the project as a sequel to his 2020 LP Pray For Paris, which was inspired by Gunn attending a Paris Fashion Week runway show as a guest of the late Virgil Abloh. Abloh was the art director for both albums, which feature figures from iconic artworks laden with Gunn's signature chains; And Then You Pray For Me uses both the Mona Lisa and Caravaggio's The Entombment of Christ.
While the 21-track album features plenty of Gunn's trademark neo-boom-bap sounds, he updates things a bit by including some songs that have a trap music influence. It contains stellar guest turns from old friends like Conway, Benny, Stove God Cooks, Rome Streetz, and Boldy James. But there are also surprising appearances from artists you might not normally associate with Griselda — Jeezy, Rick Ross, Denzel Curry, and Ty Dolla $ign.
Gunn has recently referred to And Then You Pray For Me as his last album, but don't expect him to slow down. He's making movies, planning big moves in the fashion world, and continuing to guide the careers of other artists.
GRAMMY.com caught up with Gunn as he was, naturally, shopping in New York City's SoHo neighborhood ("I'm over here on Mercer [Street], so it's Lanvin, Balenciaga, Marni, Bape — it's all right here," he boasts). We discussed his creative pairing with Abloh, why he's really a curator at heart, and his views on underground rap's evolution over the past decade.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Not to start on a super serious note, but as I was preparing for this conversation, I realized that we just passed the 17-year anniversary of the murder of your cousin, rapper Machine Gun Blak. If he could see you now, and if he could hear the new album, what do you think he might say?
First of all, he'd be all on [the album]. But he'd be super proud, man. Even when he's not here, he's one of my biggest fans, I feel like. His energy is Westside Gunn. Westside Gunn is a perfect example of Machine Gun Blak — just the raw, the grittiness. The grimy part of Westside Gunn, that's Machine Gun Blak. That's his spirit.
But I think he would love this album. It's a great piece of work. It's my favorite that I ever worked on. Out of all my projects ever, this is the most fun I ever had making one.
Does it feel like it's been 17 years since he died?
Nah. It doesn't seem like 17 years, honestly. And it's crazy because I just went to his grave site. I remember [the day he died] like it was yesterday. I vividly remember that day — what was going on, what I was doing, where I was going, everything.
Where were you when you found out?
See, back in those days, that's when we were still in the streets. So I was just about to go make a move. I was talking to him on the phone, and I was like, "I'll hit you when I get over to Atlanta." Because at that time, I was making moves. That's before all of this. It's the things I rap about now. When you hear the lyrics, these are those days.
He called me, and it was a situation. He was talking about it, and I was like, "Sorry to cut you off, but I gotta go handle this. When I get there, I'll hit you back so we can finish talking about it."
At that time I was still catching the Greyhound from Alabama to Atlanta. But it was crazy because I missed the bus, and I never miss the bus. So I was on my way back to the house in Alabama, and my grandma called me.
This era of your career, which this album is a cap to, began in 2012 when you realized you had to step up and be an artist because Conway The Machine had gotten shot and you weren't sure he'd be able to rap anymore. I've always been curious about your state of mind at that moment.
Even then I was still in-the-streets Gunn. We was working so hard, man. I was acting as his manager and investing my bread, my time. I really wanted Conway to be the biggest artist in the world. Unfortunately, when he got shot, it was a devastating blow.
Of course, that's my brother. That's the number one thing. And it was also like, the streets is crazy. I thought, I'm a smart guy. If I just put in my effort, I could really make this happen. At that time, I was really in the streets, and I felt like the [other] rappers weren't. It was like, you're really rapping about us.
It was that kind of mentality — that if I come in this game, can't nobody touch me, because I'm as real as it comes. I just put my hustle skills from the streets into this, and it all worked out.
During the heyday of that era of Griselda, you guys released a flood of projects — dozens and dozens of mixtapes and albums.
It was a flood. It was the craziest flood since No Limit [Records].
What was a typical day like for you when all that was going on, circa the mid-2010s?
Just being at [producer] Daringer's house. Getting high, eating f—in' Franco's pizza, drinking Loganberry, and Daringer cooking the craziest beats you ever heard in your life. The rest is history. Just having fun, man. Everybody had they hustles. Believe it or not, even Daringer was hustling! We from Buffalo, man.
You've always been someone who understood the importance of branding. Even on early Griselda projects, you'd promote GxFR [Griselda by Fashion Rebels, Gunn's clothing line at the time].
Yeah, because that's the thing: Griselda Records comes from Griselda by Fashion Rebels. I had the clothing brand first. I was already doing a clothing line and it was just like, What am I going to name this record company?
I've always been into fashion. I actually do more fashion-related things than hip-hop-related things. I'm a true designer. I've been designing since I was a kid, and that's the thing that I want to get into more.
I've been rhyming since '12. That's over a decade. If we're looking at NBA years, NFL years, I'm already a super-vet. I'm not trying to be one of them dudes that went from averaging 40 a game to now I'm averaging five, looking crazy and old.
I know when to gracefully bow out. And I know I'm coming to the end. I don't want to keep rapping forever about the same things, because in my life I'm maturing. I'm doing other things. I'm collecting art. I'm going to see operas.
But it's not the end right now. Right now, I just want to give people the best music. And I also want to let people in. I've been doing these [YouTube] episodes for this album where I've been letting people into my life for the first time in my career. Everybody has been loving it.
For the first time, people are actually getting to see the inside of Westside Gunn's life. I think that's one of the things that I lacked on, was letting people in. If I would have let people in a long time ago, I'd be way bigger. But everything is about time, and I'm not tripping.
Before I hang up the mic, I still want to kind of give you a journey with the music. This new project, it's a super different vibe. I've never made an album sound like this. It's the perfect art piece that I could have possibly created.
It's just the space I'm in in life. It comes with maturity — traveling the world, kids getting older, things like that. You can hear the music has matured. It's still raw though. That's the thing about me. I'm still gonna give you that Griselda Westside Gunn. That's never gonna change. I'm not going too far out of context.
For this album, you've introduced the alter ego "Super Flygod." What does that name mean?
Listen, man, Super Flygod right now is talking to you with a ponytail. I'm on another level. Super Flygod is what I've always been, but times 10. I'm super bougie. I love five-star meals. I love five-star hotels. I love wearing $10,000 outfits. I love getting massages. I love smelling good. I love just looking good. That's Super Flygod.
It's just a different energy. It's something the game never seen before. I did the unthinkable at least 100 times already. I'm still doing it.
What was it like for you to see Conductor Williams — a producer who has worked with Gunn and Griselda for many years — land a single on a Drake album?
Beautiful. That's what we do it for. He did exactly what he was supposed to do, and that's be on the No. 1 album in the world. He deserves all of that. That's what we're in this game for — to be able to leave a legacy and take care of our babies. So for him to be on the No. 1 album, that's a super blessing.
That's the thing about Conductor — it's just gonna be the beginning. He's on my new album a few times. So he's gonna have a hell of a month. It's the biggest month of his life. Business is booming for Conductor.
You've used the word "curation" a lot over the course of your career, and especially in regards to this album. What does that word mean to Westside Gunn?
First of all, that's my favorite thing to do on an album. Curation from me is me. I can curate for you, I can curate for MC Hammer. It's you, but it's me.
When I curate a project, that's me naming every song, that's me picking every beat, that's me doing the sequence, that's me making the art cover, that's me doing the merch. You see what I'm saying? It's you, but it's me. All you're doing is showing up and rapping. That's all you gotta do.
Virgil Abloh is credited with art directing this album's cover. What did that mean, specifically?
When I went out to Paris [for Paris Fashion Week in 2020], I really wasn't going to make music. I just felt the energy from Virgil having me out there. When I hit him and told him it was done, it was just like, "There's only one person that can do this cover." It had to be him.
Virgil was an icon. So to have Virgil cooking up for you is already legendary. This don't happen to nobody from Buffalo, man. But when he was cooking, he was making me multiple pieces. At first, the idea was, I'm gonna do a trilogy [of Pray albums]. I was gonna have the Mona Lisa be the picture that represents all three of them together. I was thinking [of a] box set, with a Mona Lisa front and three different covers inside.
Once he passed, it changed what I wanted to do with it. But we were already talking about dropping [a second Pray album]. We were already going to re-release the first shirts we did, and I was going to do new ones. But when [his death] happened, I put everything on a standstill and I didn't really know how I wanted to approach it again.
It was like, Damn, should I do the trilogy, or should I just make it a part two? I had different options. At the end of the day, it was just like, I think I'm just going to finish it up. I really want to give the people the work we created together before I throw in the towel. I felt it was only right. That's something that I want the world to always see and remember — what me and him cooked up together.
You say in your new YouTube documentary series that this new album will probably go over people's heads. What aspects of it do you think people might not get initially, or take a few years to catch up to?
The same reason why they're catching up now to the s— that I was doing five years ago, and everybody acts like it's new. I've always been ahead of my time. Always. I probably get copied off of the most in the industry. But you see that I've always gotten respect from everybody: from the Drakes, from the Tylers, the Rockys, Kendricks, Coles, anybody. I'm a one-of-one. It's never been seen before.
The respect I get, it could be on a mainstream level, but then I could still be on an underground level. I can do something with an Estee Nack, but then turn around and do a song with Mary J. Blige. That's who Westside Gunn is. I got songs with everybody you can possibly think of, rhyming-wise or production-wise. All the legends, even our fallen legends. I can't even think of no other emcee that got a record with Sean Price, Prodigy, DMX, and MF DOOM. It's impossible to name another one.
Westside Gunn is so cultured, people don't even understand. That's what I mean about [being] over people's heads. People still don't even get it. They're scratching their head, like, "How is this guy on [Kanye West's] Donda? How is this guy on [Travis Scott's] Utopia?"
There's a big part of underground rap now that can be traced directly to what Roc Marciano began doing in 2010, and what you guys started doing just a few years later. What do you think when you see a lot of your aesthetic from that time in the current underground scene?
The current underground scene, I'm loving it. Because you gotta think — at that time, like you said, it was only really Roc Marci, Action Bronson — a couple heads. That's in the space that we come from. Of course, we still had the J. Coles and Big Seans and all that, but that was another lane. We're in the same neighborhood, two different streets.
But on our street, people on the block was Roc Marci and Action Bronson. Danny Brown, he lived on the block. People like that. When I came on the scene, that's all it was. But I took the bull by the horns. Like I said, I'm a hustler. I was still hustling in the street. I had a hustler mentality, and once I told myself I had to quit cold turkey, I never looked back. I just went extra hard.
With the new heads, I'm proud of them. At the end of the day, I'm happy that I was able to be somebody that they could study. That they could see these vinyl deals or how this merch is played — I'm kind of like the blueprint. I'm not going to say I'm the king of the underground, but I'm the king of the underground.
Even though I'm the king of the underground, I'm still on Donda. I'm still on Utopia. I'm still making all these big songs and these big records. And even yesterday, we put up the Post Malone clip saying if he could work with anybody, it'd be me.
I'm the one that put the most points on the board, in every way possible. But this is also showing the new heads, If I could work hard, I'm gonna be the next Roc Marci, I'm gonna be the next Action Bronson in that space.
What is the possibility of getting the original Griselda trio of you, your brother and your cousin back together for a project?
That's coming in '24. You don't even you got to ask twice. That's already done, my brother.
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.
Photos: Kate Green/Getty Images & Venla Shalin/Redferns
How Skrillex & Fred Again.. Became Dance Music's Favorite Friendship: A Timeline
Before they both play Ill Points in Miami this October, journey back through the highlights of Skrillex and Fred again..'s party-starting bromance.
Few friendships in dance music have burned as brightly as the bromance between Fred Gibson, aka Fred again.., and Sonny Moore, a.k.a. Skrillex. In a few short years, the English phenom and Los Angeles-born bass don have forged a dynamic bond as DJ partners, co-producers, and mutual muses.
Brought together as fellow Ed Sheeran collaborators, their partnership went legit on "Rumble," an instant wobbly-bass classic featuring grime MC Flowdan, which Fred teased in his star-making 2022 Boiler Room set. Mere months after "Rumble" officially dropped that January, they closed Coachella with a historic set alongside their buddy and studio secret weapon Four Tet.
Alongside all the music and viral moments, the friendship has clearly given Skrillex — a producer always looking for his next musical evolution — a new lease on life.
After a pinch-yourself start to the year that also included a sold-out show with Four Tet at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Skrillex and Fred again.. will meet again this October at Ill Points in Miami. While billed separately, there’s no keeping these two apart. With much more expected from this superstar pairing, we’re taking a look back through their friendship so far.
2019: Before his breakthrough as a solo artist, Fred again.. earned his stripes as a producer for U.K. grime acts like Headie One, Stormzy and AJ Tracey, and pop stadium-filler Ed Sheeran. While hailing from different sides of the Atlantic, he and Skrillex were destined to meet some day.
Returning as a producer on Sheeran’s 2019 album, No.6 Collaborations Project, Fred again.. intersected with Skrillex (and producer/engineer Kenny Beats) on "Take Me Back to London," featuring Stormzy. Fusing pop hooks with grime swagger, the song hinted at the crisp basslines and drums to come from future Skrillex/Fred team-ups.
In this period, Fred played Skrillex an early iteration of "Rumble," which he’d been trading back and forth with Flowdan. "The first time I ever met Sonny, I played him the first version we had," Fred recalled in an interview with BBC Radio 1’s Jack Saunders.
Skrillex requested the "stems" (the individual isolated parts of a recording) and made a version that he worried missed the mark. "I didn’t like it," he also told Saunders. "I thought I ruined the song." He and Fred tweaked the elements until it clicked — and their friendship was born.
2021: With COVID-19 keeping artists grounded, Fred again.. released Actual Life (April 14 - December 17 2020), a collection of achingly personal electronic elegies that cemented his signature sound.
He followed it later that year with Actual Life 2 (February 2 - October 15 2021), which explored themes of grief and catharsis through a collage of electronic production, samples and audio clips from the producer’s "actual life." Skrillex, meanwhile, kicked off the year by releasing his collaboration with Four Tet and Starrah, "Butterflies," setting the stage for more transatlantic collaborations.
June 2022: To kick off summer, fast friends Skrillex and Fred again.. rented a house in the idyllic English village of Pangbourne to work on new music. As Skrillex recalled on Instagram, he had an album to finish, while Fred again.. was finalising music for his then-imminent Boiler Room debut. Four Tet agreed to come and hang out for a bit, bringing his toothbrush just in case he was compelled to stay. As Skrillex put it on Instagram, "This moment marked the birth of the Pangbourne House Mafia."
July 2022: When Fred again.. rolled up to his Boiler Room debut in London, no one could’ve predicted the energy to come. Surrounded on all sides by sweaty, screaming admirers, the producer blazed through a hybrid DJ-live set that blended house, U.K. garage, grime, drum & bass, and pop.
He also used the set to preview a few of his collaborations with Skrillex, including "Rumble," which sent fans clamouring for clues online. The Boiler Room session blew up on YouTube (where it now has 22 million views), catapulting Fred again.. and his to-be-released collaborations to a whole new level.
October 2022: While promoting his third album, Actual Life 3 (January 1 - September 9 2022), Fred again.. sat down for an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe at Skrillex’s house in Los Angeles. "We’ve done a home swap at the moment," the producer told Lowe, "so he’s staying at mine in London and I’m at his in L.A." Now, that’s true friendship.
January 2023: After making fans wait, Skrillex and Fred again.. Kicked off the year with a bang and finally released "Rumble" via Skrillex’s OWSLA label. The pair also grabbed Four Tet for a surprise back-to-back-to-back DJ set at London’s Electric Ballroom, which featured a whirlwind of new and unreleased music. What started as a one-off show rolled into three extremely sold-out nights at different venues, with the trio of DJs clearly having the time of their lives.
February 2023: In a career-defining month, Skrillex released his much-anticipated album Quest for Fire, which featured collaborators like Porter Robinson, Missy Elliot, Mr Oizo, Bobby Raps, and — of course — Fred again.. and Four Tet. To celebrate the release, the "Pangbourne House Mafia" casually announced a show at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden, which sold out within three minutes. To warm up, the trio created pandemonium with an impromptu DJ set in Times Square, where they trialled some new edits ahead of the big show.
April 2023: After selling out Madison Square Garden without breaking a sweat, and releasing team-up track, "Baby again.." in March, the unlikely supergroup of Fred, Skrillex and Four Tet went looking for the next high.
As it happened, that opportunity came on the second weekend of Coachella. With Frank Ocean relinquishing his Sunday headlining spot after a divisive weekend performance, the festival left a tantalizing TBA in the final slot. Before long, the cat was out of the bag, and dance music’s new favorite trio were headed to the desert with memeable merch bearing the slogan, OMG TBA.
"I didn’t think I was gonna be back with my brothers like this for a longgggg time," Fred again.. wrote on Instagram. "Until last night. And here we are."
Appearing on a circular stage deep in the crowd, the DJs closed down Coachella with the excitement of three friends who couldn’t quite believe their luck.
June 2023: With the members of the "Pangbourne House Mafia" returning to life as solo artists after Coachella, Fred again.. announced a three-night run at New York’s Forest Hills Stadium in October, followed by Ill Points in Miami, and then eight shows at Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles. With LA being Skrillex’s hometown, the two producers are sure to cook up something new - after, this is one friendship with a lot more to give.