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6 Takeaways From Netflix's "Ladies First: A Story of Women in Hip-Hop"
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6 Takeaways From Netflix's "Ladies First: A Story Of Women In Hip-Hop"

As hip-hop celebrates its golden anniversary, a new Netflix docuseries out Aug. 9 shines a light on the irreplaceable roles Black women have played in creating and evolving the culture.

GRAMMYs/Aug 9, 2023 - 01:13 pm

Despite their many groundbreaking contributions to the culture, women have long been pushed to the periphery of hip-hop. In a new Netflix docuseries, they're getting their long overdue flowers.

Debuting on Aug. 9, "Ladies First: A Story of Women in Hip-Hop" delves into the remarkable contributions and personal histories of the Black women who shaped hip-hop culture. The four-episode series details how these women changed the world while combating misogyny, racism, colorism and beyond. 

Unfolding from the '70s on, each episode features candid interviews with pioneers and trailblazers — including Sha-Rock, Roxanne Shanté, Queen Latifah, Rah Digga, MC Lyte, Yo-Yo and Da Brat — whose unique journeys and pivotal contributions have long been erased from the narrative. Contemporary artists Tierra Whack, Kash Doll, Chika, Saweetie and Latto are also featured, and discuss their influences and the adversities they face as they carve their own paths in the male-dominated industry. 

Alongside key insights and eye-opening context from cultural critics, writers and professors, "Ladies First" also spotlights the culture's most iconic stylists including Misa Hylton, the pioneering fashion designer and stylist behind Lil' Kim's head-turning purple, one-sleeved jumpsuit and accompanying pasty from the '99 VMAs. "I created a blueprint that people followed. That other artists reinterpreted. And fashion brands have also taken a piece," Hylton says in the film.

Even the most devoted hip-hop fans will learn something new. Among the revelations, producer Drew Dixon suggested that Method Man's "All I Need" was too groundbreaking for an album interlude. He pushed for it to be extended into a full-on single, with vocals from Mary J. Blige.

"I was like, 'This has to be a record.' There is nothing in hip-hop articulating Black love and Black male vulnerability and mutual respect for a woman in a romantic context ever. And if it's an interlude, no one's going to hear it," he recalls in "Ladies First."

From the unsung matriarchs who weaved the first stitch in the fabric of the artform to contemporary artists who continue to break new ground, here are six takeaways from the heartfelt homage to the women who continue to shape the sonic and social landscapes of hip-hop.

Sha-Rock Broke Ground On 'SNL' And Beyond

Born and raised in the Bronx, Sha-Rock started out her career as a B-girl in the early '70s before hip-hop even had its name. In 1976, she auditioned to join the Funky Four, an all-male hip-hop quartet that later rebranded as the Funky Four Plus One (she was the plus-one). 

A few years later, Debbie Harry would help facilitate a game-changing moment for the female emcee. The "Call Me" singer was looking for a hip-hop group to showcase on an episode of "Saturday Night Live" and Sha-Rock and her crew were the perfect candidates.  

"She could've went after anybody but she chose the  Funky Four Plus One  more," Sha-Rock explains. "The reason why she did that is because we looked young. We looked innocent. There was a female that was involved. And she wanted the world to see what the Bronx in New York City was doing."

The Funky Four Plus One became the first hip-hop group to perform on broadcast television. But that was only the beginning for Sha-Rock. The first female emcee of hip-hop culture also popularized the now ubiquitous echo chamber effect, which involves repeating a phrase or word for emphasis. DMC of RUN-D.M.C. recalls hearing her use the effect on a record and becoming completely obsessed with the style. 

Without Sylvia Robinson, There'd Be No "Rapper's Delight" 

"Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang is one of the earliest and most influential rap songs, but it may not have existed if not for the vision of Sylvia Robinson. The artist, producer and businesswoman had co-founded Sugar Hill Records with her husband in 1979 and was in search of a rap group to sign to the label.  

She first heard rapper Big Bank Hank rhyming in a pizza parlor, where she soon approached him about recording music. After he introduced her to Wonder Mike and Master Gee, Robinson decided to bring the trio together to form the Sugarhill Gang. She also took on the role of producer, shaping their debut single "Rapper's Delight," the first commercial rap single. She even had the foresight to cast white women in the music video for the iconic track in an effort to  create crossover appeal. 

And her plan worked."Rapper’s Delight" became the first rap single to break the Billboard Hot 100 Top 40. The song's popularity signaled the commercial viability of hip-hop as a genre, paving the way for future rap artists to gain recognition and airplay. Robinson would go on to co-produce more legendary hip-hop tracks, and continue to run various labels. 

Women Have Been Political Players, Both Vilified And Endorsed 

Acts like Public Enemy are lauded for infusing their music with political messages, but female emcees like MC Lyte, Sister Souljah and Queen Latifah have long used their platform to highlight inequality and social issues affecting the Black community.

But they weren't always able to share these views without impunity. In fact, rapper/activist Sister Souljah was used as a political scapegoat because of her remarks following the acquittal of police officers in the 1992 Rodney King incident. Then-presidential hopeful Bill Clinton criticized her comments, going so far as to call her racist, in an attempt to distance himself from the "radical" side of the Democratic Party and appeal to more moderate voters. 

But as the culture grew and became a mainstay on the charts, radio, television and beyond, things began to shift toward the better. In 2014, MC Lyte became the first female artist to perform hip-hop at the White House during the Obama Administration. 

And the ladies of hip-hop continue to use their platforms to start conversations and enact political change. GRAMMY winner Cardi B has made headlines for using her social media platform to discuss politics with fans, and raise awareness of social issues.

They Continue To Face Double Standards

Since the early days of rap when a young Roxanne Shanté was objectified and demeaned in rap diss tracks by her adult male peers, the women of rap have had to contend with a trifecta of terrible: misogyny, hypersexualization and impossible beauty standards. 

"You have one pressure to be commercial and sell. The sexier the better. And an equally competing and loud pressure that that image is irresponsible and that you need to be Michelle Obama," says Kash Doll.

Objectifying women's bodies and promiscuity are common themes in mainstream rap songs from men, but when women rappers turn the tables and own their sexuality, they are vilified by their peers and the public alike. There are countless examples: from Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown in the '90s, to Nicki Minaj, Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B more recently.  

But taking an opposite approach also invites criticism. "As a new rapper in this space, I remember the amount of vitriol that got spit at me and the conversations that I was unwillingly thrown into discussing what I look like," Chika shares in the film. "I remember in the early days of me doing viral videos and rapping and being on social media, some of the comments would be 'Yeah, she's amazing but they'll never be able to market her. She's never gonna make it that far because of her looks.'" 

The Ladies Of Hip-Hop Get Caught Up, Too

Much like their male peers, the ladies of hip-hop have also fallen victim to mass incarceration for drug distribution, tax evasion, assault or simply refusing to snitch. 

"I don't think that Black women rappers escape the really vulnerable position that Black women in America find themselves in," says writer and professor Salamishah Tillet. "There's always a vulnerability due to class, due to race and due to the particular ways in which they're expressing their rage and frustration, internally and externally, that makes them vulnerable to mass incarceration."

And then there's that hip-hop double standard. There's no street cred waiting for these ladies when they get out. As Remy Ma explains, "I had a hard time getting people to not see me as this girl who was convicted and did all this time in jail. The things they would never ever care about from a guy, like he could do a million and one years for whatever his crime was and they wouldn't even care. They'd cheer him on."

Through It All, Sisterhood Remains The Key

Today, the future is brighter than ever for the women of hip-hop who are able to control their narratives in unprecedented ways. Artists are opening up about their sexuality, mental health and motherhood in their lyrics, which was unheard of in mainstream rap of the past. But there is one thing that has never changed: the enduring sisterhood among the ladies of hip-hop. 

Whether it's GloRilla and her Glo-gang, Missy co-siging next-gen talents like Flyana Boss or Rapsody's exhilarating and empowering homage to her peers and heroes at the BET Awards, the women of hip-hop's past and present are pushing back against this narrative that they have to be at odds to be successful. The sprawling and diverse lineup of contemporary women rappers shows that there's room for everyone in the limelight. 

"That's what I like most about this wave right now. We all different shades. We all from different places. We all stand for something different," says Latto. 

Despite concerted efforts by the media, labels and fandoms to divide these talented emcees, they continue to embrace and uplift each other. And when they all hop on a record together, music lovers and the culture reap the benefits — as seen with iconic tracks like "Ladies Night,"  "I Wanna Be Down" featuring MC Lyte, Yo-Yo and Queen Latifah," Saweetie and Doja Cat's "Best Friend" and Meg and Cardi's "WAP."        

Ladies First: 10 Essential Albums By Female Rappers

Khalid
Khalid

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New Music Friday: Listen To New Songs From Khalid, Mariah Carey, NAYEON, And More

From reworked classics to new fresh tunes, take a listen to some of the most exciting tracks that dropped on June 14.

GRAMMYs/Jun 14, 2024 - 03:44 pm

Those pre-summer Fridays just keep rolling on. With each release day, the music community fills our hard drives, playlists and record shelves with more aural goodness.

Granted, to wrangle it all in one place is impossible — but GRAMMY.com can provide a healthy cross-section of what's out there. From here, venture forth into new releases by Luke Combs (Fathers & Sons), Normani (Dopamine), Moneybagg Yo (Speak Now), Jelly Roll ("I Am Not Okay"), and more.

For now, here are nine new songs or albums to explore.

Khalid — "Adore U"

After previously released single "Please Don't Fall in Love With Me," Khalid is back with another luminous ode to romantic disconnection, where he calls for healing amid broken ties.

"Thousand miles apart and you're still in my heart/ Can we take it back?" Khalid pleads in the hook. "I'm waiting at the start/ Fly me to the moon and now I'm seeing stars when we touch."

Khalid hasn't released a full-length album since 2019's Free Spirit. But he's been teasing a new project for a minute: two weeks ago, he shared an Instagram carousel with the caption "5 years later. Here we go again." And the yearning "Adore U" certainly sets the tone for what's to come in Khalid's world.

NAYEON — 'NA'

TWICE's NAYEON is shifting gears towards her highly anticipated solo comeback with the release of NA, a project that spans pop, dance, and more. The follow-up to her debut solo album, 2022's IM NAYEON, NA provides a glimpse into the TWICE member's transition from being daunted by a solo career to finding comfort in the act.

One highlight is the shimmering "Butterflies," which NAYEON described to Rolling Stone as "one of my favorite songs" yet "one of the harder ones to record, actually." Another is the brassy "Magic," which she calls "a very self-confident song." All in all, NA winningly cements NAYEON's identity — irrespective of her main gig.

Mariah Carey — 'Rainbow: 25th Anniversary Extended Edition'

In light of its 25-year anniversary, Mariah Carey revisits her iconic 1999 album, Rainbow, which featured collaborations with fellow household names like Jay-Z, USHER, and Missy Elliott. The new anniversary edition boasts a plethora of remastered and remixed tracks — a treasure trove for Carey acolytes.

One new track is "Rainbow's End," produced by David Morales; Carey described it as "a hopeful ending to an emotional roller-coaster ride." Elsewhere, there's "There For Me," a love letter to her fans that didn't make the album; a new remix of "How Much" by Jermaine Dupri, and some intriguing live recordings and a cappella tracks.

$UICIDEBOY$ — 'New World Depression'

Since at least their debut album, 2018's I Want to Die in New Orleans, rap duo $UICIDEBOY$ have expertly cataloged the bugs beneath the rock of the human experience: addiction, depression, the whole nine yards. New World Depression is a further distillation of their beautifully filthy aesthetic and worldview.

In highlights like "Misery in Waking Hours" and "Transgressions," MCs $crim and Ruby da Cherry's chroniclings of misery are barer than ever: "Hurts too much to give a f— / Demoralized, always lying, telling people I'll be fine," they rap. Who hasn't felt like this, at one point or another?

John Cale — 'POPtical Illusion'

At 82, Velvet Underground violist, multi-instrumentalist and co-founder John Cale is still a tinkerer, a ponderer, an artist in flux rather than stasis. In 2023, when GRAMMY.com asked when he felt he came into his own as an improviser, he immediately replied "Last year."

That interview was centered around that year's solo album, Mercy, another gem in a solo discography full of them. Now, he's already back with a follow-up, POPtical Illusion.

While POPtical Illusion maintains its predecessors' foreboding, topical nature — and then some — tracks like "Laughing in My Sleep" and "Funkball the Brewster" couch these morose topics in a more playful, irreverent aural palette.

Tanner Adell — "Too Easy"

The Twisters soundtrack continues to be a whirlwind of great tunes. The latest dispatch is Tanner Adell's "Too Easy," a country-pop dance floor banger — its video even featuring a performance by dance troupe the PBR Nashville Buckle Bunnies.

"Too Easy" is the fourth song to be released from the Twisters soundtrack, following Tucker Wetmore's "Already Had It," Megan Moroney's "Never Left Me," Bailey Zimmerman's "Hell or High Water," and Luke Combs' "Ain't No Love in Oklahoma." The full album — which features a hoard of country stars, including Lainey Wilson, Thomas Rhett, Tyler Childers and more — will be available on July 19 when the movie hits theaters.

Stonebwoy — "Your Body"

We've clearly caught Ghanian Afropop star Stonebwoy in a jubilant mood. In a teaser for his new song, "Your Body," the singer born Livingstone Satekia undulates on a saturated, red-and-blue backdrop, foreshadowing the sticky summer days we'll spend jamming the tune.

And the full song certainly doesn't disappoint. Interweaving strains of pop, R&B and reggae, with Stonebwoy deftly switching between singing and rapping, "Your Body" will get your body moving.

Toosii — "Where You Been"

Rapper Toosii last teased his upcoming eighth mixtape, JADED, with "Suffice," its lead single released back in November. In the interim, he's been "locked in perfecting a new look a new sound new everything!" as he shared in an Instagram reel. "I just hope you're ready," he added with star and smile emojis.

Said teaser pointed toward a melancholic, weighty ballad, which ended up being the next release from JADED, "Where You Been." Riding a multidimensional, brain-flipping beat, the song is an immersive, thoughtful banger not to be missed.

Victoria Monét — "Power of Two" (from 'The Acolyte')

The latest Star Wars show on Disney+, "The Acolyte," is getting rave reviews — and three-time GRAMMY winner Victoria Monét is now part of its musical universe. She's contributed an original song, "Power of Two," to the end credits of the Lucasfilm series.

Over an ethereal, melancholic beat, the lyrics detail emotions ripe for either terra firma or a galaxy far, far away: "You thought your soul was a necklace/ That you could wear and take off/ That you could rip and break off/ That you could trade in the dark/ But you're mine."

Bring these killer tunes straight into your weekend — and keep checking GRAMMY.com for more brand-new New Music Friday lists!

Victoria Monét's Evolution: How The "On My Mama" Singer Transitioned From Hit Songwriter To Best New Artist Nominee

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GRAMMY Award statue

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GRAMMY Awards Updates For The 2025 GRAMMYs: Here's Everything You Need To Know About GRAMMY Awards Categories Changes & Eligibility Guidelines

Key updates include adjustments to eligibility criteria, Category renaming, and submission guidelines updates for Categories, including the Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical Category.

GRAMMYs/Jun 14, 2024 - 01:53 pm

The Recording Academy, the organization behind the annual GRAMMY Awards, is sharing updates to the annual the GRAMMY Awards process for the 2025 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 67th Annual GRAMMY Awards, which take place Sunday, Feb. 2, live at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.

Key updates include adjustments to eligibility criteria, category renaming, and the introduction of new guidelines for categories including Songwriter Of The Year, Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, and Best Dance/Electronic Music Album among others. These changes, designed to enhance the integrity and inclusivity of the awards, reflect the Academy's commitment to staying current with the evolving music industry.

The 2024 amendments were voted on and passed at the Recording Academy's semiannual Board of Trustees meeting in May. All updates go into effect immediately for the 2025 GRAMMYs.

The Recording Academy accepts proposals for changes to the GRAMMY Awards process from members of the music community year-round. The Awards & Nominations Committee, composed of Academy Voting Members from diverse genres and backgrounds, meets annually to review proposals to update Awards categories, procedures, and eligibility guidelines.

Read more: 2025 GRAMMYs To Take Place Sunday, Feb. 2, Live In Los Angeles; GRAMMY Awards Nominations To Be Announced Friday, Nov. 8, 2024

Eligibility, Criteria & Submission Guidelines Amendments

  • All eligibly-credited Featured Artists with under 50% playtime will now be awarded a Winners' Certificate for all genre album Categories. (Note: Does not apply to Best Musical Theater Album, the General Field or Craft Categories).

  • In the Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical Category, the following submission guidelines were amended, allowing for wider representation of the songwriter community:

    • The minimum submission threshold in which a songwriter is credited as a songwriter or co-writer (not a primary or featured artist, or producer), was reduced from five to four songs.

    • The additional number of songs a songwriter may enter in which they are also credited as a primary or featured artist, or any other supporting role, increased from four to five.

  • The Best Traditional R&B Performance Category criteria was amended to more accurately represent recordings that embody the classic elements of R&B/Soul music, distinguishing them from contemporary interpretations of the genre.

  • The Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album Category criteria was amended to expand the Category by broadening its scope and welcoming more entries from the Musical Theater community. Additionally, album eligibility criteria was updated to require that albums in this Category must contain more than 75% of newly recorded (previously unreleased) performances. 

  • The Best Children's Music Album Category criteria was amended to include a requirement that lyrics and English language translations must be included with entry submissions. Additionally, an intended audience age range for this Category was defined as infant to 12 years old.

GRAMMY Award Category Adjustments:

  • The Best Remixed Recording Category has moved from the Production, Engineering, Composition & Arrangement Field into the Pop & Dance/Electronic Field.

  • The Category formerly known as Best Pop Dance Recording has been renamed Best Dance Pop Recording.

  • The Best Dance/Electronic Music Album Category was renamed to Best Dance/Electronic Album and the Category criteria was amended to establish that albums must be made up of at least 50% Dance/Electronic recordings to qualify.

  • Conjunto music will now be recognized in the Best Regional Roots Music Album Category, rather than the Best Música Mexicana Album (Including Tejano) Category.

  • The Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media Category was amended to include a qualification for released material, specifically new DLC (downloaded content in-game) and Seasonal Expansions. The updated qualification establishes that greater than 50% of the music on an otherwise eligible Video Game Soundtrack or Interactive Media Soundtrack must be derived from new episodes or new programming released during the GRAMMY eligibility year for which it is entered.

Luke Combs
Luke Combs

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Tracing Luke Combs' Journey To 'Fathers & Sons' In 10 Songs, From "Be Careful What You Wish For" To "The Man He Sees In Me"

Country phenom Luke Combs' new album, 'Fathers & Sons,' is a touching tribute to his two boys, and a reflection of his journey as a new father. Here are 10 songs that trace his process of growin' up, gettin' old, and now, watching his sons grow up.

GRAMMYs/Jun 13, 2024 - 07:38 pm

As a country artist of remarkable detail and relatability, Luke Combs has the songwriting muscle to deliver a gut-wrenching punch — and his latest set might be the biggest heart-tugger yet.

On June 14, the country star will release his fifth album, Fathers & Sons, which sees Combs stake his claim on songs about family, devotion and belonging. While those are all themes he's explored throughout his five-album discography, he's never honed them quite like this.

Combs is now a proud papa of two; he and his wife, Nicole, welcomed their first son in 2022 and their second in 2023. Fathers & Sons is a 12-song reflection on his experiences as a dad thus far, as well as the unique bond between parents and children.

The new album's highlights, like the mortality-addressing "In Case I Ain't Around"; the dewy, contemplative "Whoever You Turn Out to Be"; and the meditation on memory "Remember Him That Way," are sure to resonate throughout Combs' sizable fan base and beyond.

It's a natural progression for Combs, who has charted the prizes and pitfalls of growing up since his 2017 debut, This One's for You, whether in hits like his Eric Church collaboration "Does To Me" or deep cuts like "Memories Are Made Of." (He even named Father & Sons' 2022 and 2023 predecessors Growin' Up and Gettin' Old.)

His preternatural knack for a heartfelt story song extends to songs he didn't write, too, as his cover of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" became his biggest hit to date in 2023 and scored him two GRAMMY nominations at the 2024 GRAMMYs.

The familial sentiments of Fathers & Sons have often appeared in Combs' music as well, making his album full of "dad songs" all the more fitting — and continuing his beloved reputation as one of country music's most relatable superstars.

If you're unfamiliar with Combs' back catalog — or just want a refresher — use these 10 songs to trace his evolution from longing for the carefree days of teenhood to fully embracing fatherhood.

"Be Careful What You Wish For" ('This One's for You,' 2017)

Basically Combs' spin on the Beach Boys' "That's Not Me," "Be Careful What You Wish For" reflects on his adolescence — when he had a fire in his belly to hurtle out of his circumstances into the unknown. The result plants seeds for the realizations he passes to his kin on Fathers & Sons.

In the song, an 18-year-old and newly emancipated Combs says sayonara to his "one-horse" town, before realizing the grass ain't always greener. "Sometimes things ain't what you think they're gonna be," Combs sagely warns in the pre-chorus. "What you want ain't always what you need."

"Memories Are Made Of" ('This One's for You,' 2017)

When you look back on your youth, what stuck in your craw most — generic milestones, or fleeting, stolen moments? Chances are, it's the latter, as Combs memorably argues in another This One's for You cut, another dispatch from his youth that resonates with Fathers & Sons.

Therein, he and his ne'er-do-well friends, fresh out of high school, crack open cold ones under a bright blue sky. "Just a couple buds and a good buzz, that's all it was," he sings in the chorus. "But that's what memories are made of." On Fathers & Sons, he seems to recognize his boys will remember the small moments, too — and those are often the ones worth cherishing most.

"Even Though I'm Leaving" ('What You See is What You Get,' 2019)

Many tracks on Combs' second album, What You See is What You Get, showed his maturation as a man and a songwriter, but one served as his introduction to paternal matters: "Even Though I'm Leaving."

The tear-jerker charts the evolution of a father-son relationship, from Dad evacuating a monster under the bed, to seeing his son off to the military, to eventually saying goodbye before his passing.

As the father assures the son in all of those stages, he'll always be there for his boy, even when he isn't physically there. It marked a poignant foreshadowing to Father & Sons' masterful interrogations of mortality and eternal family bonds.

"Dear Today" ('What You See Is What You Get,' 2019)

As What You See is What You Get winds down, the spectre of time still weighs heavily on Combs. "Dear Today" is just that — a letter to Combs' present self, from his future self. (There's a tint of that on "My Old Man Was Right," the penultimate track on Fathers & Sons.)

"You're the only one with a choice in the matter," tomorrow Luke gently, yet firmly, prods. Call your mom, have a drink with your dad, "put that diamond on her hand." What an effective framing device, to capture the crossroads we all face on the cusp of our thirties — another prelude to Combs' advice to his sons on Fathers & Sons.

"Does to Me (feat. Eric Church)" ('What You See Is What You Get,' 2019)

A few years before welcoming his first son, Combs hinted to Rolling Stone that he was ready to settle down. "I'm almost 30 years old now, and I'm not going to be out at the bar every night," he said in 2019. "I just want to grow up a little bit." "Does to Me" is a terrific inventory of what resources, exactly, he possesses in order to carry out that mission.

He's unflinching about the ways he's an ordinary, average guy. After all, the opening line is "I was a third-string dreamer on a second-place team."

But as "Does to Me" lays down, "achievements" have nothing on qualities that really matter, like being a good brother, or romantic partner. Fertile soil for a real man to grow from — and eventually pass on to his own boys.

"Doin' This" ('Growin' Up,' 2022)

In "Doin' This," Combs cements his life mission — regardless of whether it brings him fame and fortune.

He'd still be Luke Combs even if he wasn't Luke Combs, he explains. Whether at the Grand Ole Opry or some watering hole, picking up a guitar and laying waste to a besotted crowd is why he was put on this planet. "I'd still be doin' this if I weren't doin' this": simple, evocative, masterful.

While "Doin' This" isn't necessarily centered around a theme of family, it makes all the sense in the world that his devotion to his boys is in parallel to his devotion of the craft — proof of which is all over Fathers & Sons.

"Used to Wish I Was" ('Growin' Up,' 2022)

You can only be yourself — that's the central message of this equally great Growin' Up cut, where Combs reflects on all the people he could be, and once ached to be.

He could have finished college — or pursued football, hunting or fishing with more chutzpah — but that's not him. This "North Carolina good ol' boy" is what he is — and he's not losing sleep over that pesky fact anymore. By knowing himself, Combs establishes himself as a man of integrity, which is exactly who his sons need as a role model.

"Where the Wild Things Are" ('Gettin' Old,' 2023)

Across his discography, Combs expertly builds out his family dynamics, and that continues on "Where the Wild Things Are." The song concerns a hell-raising brother, who pointed his Indian Scout motorcycle toward Southern California to indulge in earthly pleasures.

After detailing a wild night of brotherly bonding in the Hollywood Hills, the song ends in tragedy, when the "wild as the devil" brother crashes his motorcycle and perishes. "We buried him out in the wind 'neath the West Coast stars," Combs sings, "out where the wild things are."

If any father's lesson is to be taken away from this song: there's a time and a place to enjoy life in all its wildness, without risking calamity. It continues the life lessons Combs touches on again in "Growin' Up and Gettin' Old," and later on Fathers & Sons.

"Growin' Up and Gettin' Old" ('Gettin' Old,' 2023)

Oh, to be in your early thirties — you can't stay out as late, the hangovers hit harder. Overall, your perspective shifts dramatically, and you realize nothing lasts forever.

"I'm still bending rules, but thinkin' 'fore I break 'em/ And I ain't lost a step, I just look before I take 'em," Combs sings on "Growin' Up and Gettin' Old."

As usual, this ever-nimble songwriter nails this pivotal time of life — and takes a hard look in the mirror, taking inventory before undergoing his journey on Fathers & Sons.

"The Man He Sees In Me" ('Fathers & Sons,' 2024)

With Combs still being a very recent father, his sons are at the age where he can do no wrong upon Fathers & Sons' release. Even so, he fears the day that illusion erodes, and lead single "The Man He Sees In Me" details his anxiety over this eventuality.

The song's not fatalistic, though; it's aspirational: "Maybe I'll finally be the man he sees in me" flips into "I hope he's trying to be the man he sees in me."

As Combs wrote in a letter to his boys upon the release of "The Man He Sees In Me," "With this song I want you to know that even though I'm not perfect, I try my hardest every day to be the best version of myself for you both."

He stresses that sentiment throughout Fathers & Sons — an album with a lot of introspective and self-realizing precedent in Combs' increasingly touching discography.

2024 GRAMMYs: Luke Combs & Tracy Chapman Team Up For A Surprise Duet Version Of "Fast Car"

TWICE's Nayeon On Embracing Authenticity For 'NA'
Nayeon

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The ABCDs Of Nayeon: How The TWICE Member Embraced Her Authenticity On ‘NA’

With her second solo release, K-pop idol Im Nayeon is unapologetically confident and boldly experimental. Out June 14, 'NA' contains English and Korean language tracks alongside collaborations with prominent Korean artists.

GRAMMYs/Jun 13, 2024 - 05:20 pm

K-pop idol Im Nayeon is a pioneer with many firsts attached to her name: She was the first to become a member of TWICE, the first from the group to go solo, and was the first-ever K-pop soloist to enter the Billboard Top 10. Now, Nayeon is the first member of TWICE to release a second solo album. 

Nearly two years after her solo debut, Nayeon arrives with a new mini-album, NA —  the title a play on her name and the Korean word for "me." The seven-track record highlights the singer’s unapologetic nature, exploring themes of self-confidence, romance, and tenacity. Nayeon has certainly had to be tenacious in her road to the new EP.

"I don’t know if you can tell, but I really can’t believe that this moment is [finally] happening," Nayeon tells GRAMMY.com. "I really wanted to showcase myself as a confident woman this time around."

NA contains a mix of English and Korean language tracks alongside collaborations with prominent Korean artists. Throughout, the singer tackles pop, R&B, dance and electro-pop with ease. Lead single "ABCD" takes inspiration from 2000s era pop divas, adding hints of hip-hop as Nayeon teaches the A-Zs of love with witty lyrics and a magnetizing rhythm. While Nayeon has previously sung about love with flirtatious undertones, "ABCD" shows the singer's straightforward intentions. 

It seems becoming a superstar was fated for the Seoul native. When she was young, Nayeon caught the attention of agents at JYP Entertainment from a modeling contest — however, given her age, her mother refused to let her sign with an entertainment agency. At 14, Nayeon defied her mom's decision and snuck out of her home to attend JYPE’s 2010 open casting, where she passed the audition and ranked in second place. With her strong ambition to pursue an idol career, Nayeon decided to join JYPE as a trainee that same year.

After three years of training, she was slated to debut as a member of a girl group 6MIX. However, the debut was scrapped afterJYPE was unable to find replacements for members that exited the project. In 2015, Nayeon was chosen from a pool of trainees to enter JYPE’s survival program "Sixteen," and became the first member chosen for nine-piece girl group TWICE. Nayeon is the group's face, as well as its eldest member, lead vocalist, and dancer. 

Nayeon has since become one of the most recognizable members of TWICE, best known for her impressive vocal range and warm essence. Her public image became the epitome of an animated K-pop idol, always exhibiting her youthful personality and sunny disposition to everyone she encounters. Over the course of nine years together in TWICE and hundreds of releases later, Nayeon has proved herself to be the spine of the global girl group. 

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Nayeon introduced herself to the world as a soloist in June 2022 with her debut album IM NAYEON, a high-spirited and feel-good summer EP that showcased her perky identity. The album hit No.1 on Billboard's Top Album Sales chart — the highest-selling album in the week of its release — and debuted No .7 on the Billboard 200. Lead single "POP!" has since turned into a fan-favorite, and remains a singalong anthem at TWICE’s concerts two years later. 

While IM NAYEON built off her easy going nature, NA will leave fans enamored by Nayeon’s artistic awakening and newly matured chapter in her solo career. The album’s trailer and concept photos unveiled Nayeon’s assured, hip and hot appeal — a side she has yet to show as a soloist. 

GRAMMY.com caught up with Nayeon via Zoom to learn more about the creation of NA, and how the past two years have impacted her as a soloist and individual. 

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Is there anything that feels different in terms of releasing NA nearly two years after your solo debut album?

Because my first solo album was the first solo work ever done by a member of TWICE, the pressure was pretty high. There was fear in me, as well, to try something completely new. But since [NA] is my second album as a soloist, I did [my best] to enjoy the ride more this time around. 

I can't say that I'm completely comfortable right now being a solo artist. But compared to [IM NAYEON], I'm much more at ease about it. 

Is there anything new you wanted to showcase this time around in NA?

The performance for the title song "ABCD" is quite different from what I have typically been showing [as TWICE]. So [in that essence], this is what’s new and challenging for [NA].

The performance itself is very powerful, and I wanted to express a bold and cool side of me. Of course, I have shown that side of me [before] during TWICE concerts or performances, but with "ABCD," I want it to be different from [IM NAYEON] specifically, which was just a totally different vibe [in comparison]. 

Does it feel easier to showcase this bolder side of yourself now that you've been a soloist for a few years?

Since I have been working as one of the members of TWICE for so long, I think it feels more meaningful if I show a different side of me through my solo work. So [while] it's new and fun, I can't say that it's easier.

I think it'll be fun for our fans. They receive it really well when we show off a different side of [ourselves]. [Our fans] encourage us a lot so I think it's a great change of pace.

You collaborated with a variety of artists on NA, including American singer/songwriter Sam Kim and K-pop artists Lee Chan-hyuk (AKMU) and Julie (KISS OF LIFE). How was that experience for you?

When I work as [TWICE], there are so many of us that it's really hard to collaborate with other artists. We don't really get that opportunity that often. But when it comes to solo work, it's a really fun and rewarding experience to work with many different artists. 

I haven't really gotten the chance to meet and talk with the artists featured on my album, but it was me who initiated the collaboration process. I specifically asked Lee Chanhyuk, Julie, and Sam Kim to collaborate with me. [That] was a really new experience for me and it just felt great.

I’ve been a huge fan of Lee Chanhyuk for a very long time, so that’s why I specifically asked for him to [help produce] in ["HalliGalli"]. For the song "Magic," we were looking for a female rapper and I had my eye on Julie from KISS OF LIFE. After seeing her perform, I loved [her]! So I very strongly suggested my opinion to have her feature with me on this track. 

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It seems like you’re revealing more of yourself with NA. Would you say that this new album is an extension to IM NAYEON?

Oh, of course! The concept and overall theme is much different from [IM NAYEON]. But since both [albums] focus on me as an artist, I think you can say that some parts are an extension while other parts reveal a different side of me.

Were there any expectations or challenges you faced during the album-making process?

Although "POP!" also featured intense choreography, "ABCD" demands a different kind of expression — prompting me to focus more on the performance aspect. 

Additionally, as this is a solo album, I must exert more energy compared to performing with a group. I have to command the entire stage alone for one song. Consequently, I am somewhat concerned that people may perceive me as exhausted, though I will do my best to prevent that! 

Since the release of IM NAYEON, how have you evolved as a person and an artist?

Many people saw that [IM NAYEON] really suited me and my public image. In [NA], I’m revealing a more confident and new side of me. The performance and concept challenged me to evolve [as an artist] in that aspect. 

I have grown a lot as an individual. I released my first solo debut album, and in TWICE, we just completed a huge scale world tour. Next year marks the 10th anniversary for [TWICE] as well. These past few years have been a period of self reflection with the opportunity for [more] growth. 

I have really come to realize why I chose this profession. That realization became a drive as an artist to keep moving forward and improve [upon] myself. 

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Over the course of your career, are there important lessons or insights you’ve learned?

I think one of the biggest insights I’ve noticed in the past few years is how valuable the members of TWICE are [to me]. There are things that I cannot do alone but am able to do because TWICE are right beside me. I realized that my fears go away when I’m with the TWICE members. I have come to appreciate them even more over the last few years. I realized even more now how important their existence is to me while working as a solo artist. 

It seems as if TWICE are your encouragement and driving force.

Yes, they really are! 

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