The Rise Of Underground House: How Artists Like Fisher & Acraze Have Taken Tech House, Other Electronic Genres From Indie To EDC
From Drake and Billie Eilish to Beyoncé, major pop acts are using house music influences and producers in their hits. This current trend is bringing the sounds of the underground — including tech house — to mainstream audiences.
When Claude VonStroke first heard "Bad Guy," the GRAMMY-winning single by Billie Eilish, his initial thought was, Billie Eilish made a house track. And if anyone knows house tracks, it’s the long-time producer and DJ.
The beat in "Bad Guy" consists of a four-on-the-floor kick drum and offbeat high-hats. The tempo is 135 — which is a bit fast, but still well within the range of house music — and the bassline plays a prominent role. Remove Eilish’s vocals and the trap break at the end, and the song would fit very well in the catalog for VonStroke's label Dirtybird Records.
Over the past 17 years, VonStroke (real name Barclay Crenshaw) has released over 250 house albums, singles and EPs on Dirtybird. Practically all of those releases share the same basic foundation as "Bad Guy," yet Crenshaw’s productions have never reached the elevated status of the Eilish hit.
However, that's not Crenshaw’s goal. He would rather keep house music in grimy, underground clubs and off TikTok; in same the environments where Black and gay people found the freedom to express themselves when they were creating dance music culture decades ago.
But the times are changing: house music is on the way to Eilish’s status.
While house-centric artists like Calvin Harris have reached pop culture heights before, they were unable to carry the entire genre with them. But in this current rise in popularity, house music is not just a pop trend — it’s a community affair, just as it was in the pure underground era. That community is now large enough to raise house music to the mainstream without sacrificing its values, including uniting people on the dancefloor as equals.
Crenshaw arguably helped launch house music into the mainstream in 2017, when Dirtybird released the two debut works from the Australian artist FISHER. A single "Ya Kidding," and the now classic track, "Stop it"(from his EP, Oi Oi) contain groovy yet heavy basslines, affected spoken word hooks, and foghorn-driven drops — elements of a style that is generally referred to as "tech house."
Unlike the disco-tinge of pure house music and subtler styled deep house, the raw, bass-driven sound of tech house has been fueling the appetite of the dance music community — who have only become more ravenous for events post-lockdown. The subgenre cracked the barrier between underground and mainstream, and made 2022's Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas the biggest yet, with 166,000 people attending the festival each day.
Yet Dirtybird's FISHER releases were the first swings of the hammer: "Stop It" went from No. 50 on Beatport's Overall Top 100 chart to the No. 1 position within a week of release. The track then stood in the top two positions until January 2018 and remained on the chart until February 2019. The track’s spoken hook, "Moving up and down, side to side, like a rollercoaster," became the house version of "With my mind on my money and my money on my mind," the infamous hook in Snoop Dogg’s G-funk classic "Gin & Juice."
"Those tracks changed the industry," says Crenshaw over Zoom from his home studio in Los Angeles. "I’m glad to have been able to bring that out to the universe. It’s an A&R thing. We figured out what was going to work on the dance floor for the next three years."
Tech house producers have enjoyed persistent and immense success in the more than five years since FISHER's debut: UK house artist James Hype’s 2022 single "Ferrari" was signed to Universal; tech house ascendant John Summit is running his own label and party series, Off The Grid; Black Book Records boss Chris Lake is sold out multiple nights of curated events at the massive New York venue, Brooklyn Mirage.
These artists are finding success while rejecting the pop music influence that engulfed the EDM boom of the 2010s. In this period, EDM figures like Avicci and Calvin Harris experienced massive popularity for their sensationalized synths and newfound big room sound, quickly signing to major labels and featuring on tracks by major artists such as Rihanna.
However, FISHER proved that underground house music can reach that level of success without pop influence. His 2018 single, "Losing It" — which has no vocal feature and was released on his own label, Catch & Release — was nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 61st GRAMMY Awards. The track also earned platinum certification from the Australian Recording Industry Association and peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart.
"[Tech house] is…doing the kind of numbers that we saw with EDM, but the sensibilities are slightly different. There’s something innately a little bit more underground-leaning than what happened with EDM," says house music producer and DJ Anna Lunoe, who hosts danceXL on Apple Music. "I think what we saw with EDM is that it imploded on itself because it was like 'Oh great. Let’s go completely pop.'"
From her home in Sydney, Australia, Lunoe continues: "You’re seeing guys like Chris Lake that are completely independent. That own all their records. All their masters. [Lake] always talks about how he doesn’t actually release that much music," Lunoe says. "It’s very much an ethos, it's a scene, and it’s a community that he’s really nourished."
That community was 80,000 strong during Chris Lake’s set at EDC Las Vegas 2022. For many of those same fans it’s not about following the latest radio bangers; it’s about being a part of something bigger than themselves. That same spirit has existed since the genesis of house music.
"It’s always been a gathering of family, of people," says DJ Minx, real name Jennifer Witcher, from her hometown of Detroit. "The family that you can create just by playing the music for people."
Witcher has been actively DJing and producing house and techno music in Detroit — one of dance music’s founding cities — since the ‘80s, but she has seen a stark resurgence in her own career in the past "five or six years," as she says, which happens to be right around the time Dirtybird debuted FISHER.
One positive result of that resurgence came at the most recent edition of Movement Electronic Music Festival, held in Detroit over Memorial Day Weekend.
Witcher has played numerous editions of Movement since it launched in 2006 and in 2022 she hosted her own stage for the first time, an experience she simply described as "ridiculous." She also had her first official release on Planet E, the label run by fellow Detroit legend Carl Craig, which just celebrated 30 years.
The house community has supported Witcher as both an artist and a human being, which was fully apparent after she came out as gay in June of 2021.
"When I came out I was so worried. I thought I was going to lose everything. Everybody’s going to be done with me, but things for me kind of quadrupled," Witcher says. "So I think that in order for it to continue to grow the way it is growing we need to keep doing what we’re doing. Stop hiding and be out there and let it be known that we are definitely here."
Artists like Kaleena Zanders are finding great success in house music, showing that women and queer artists are present and driving the tech house scene.
"Even more Black people are starting to get into tech house which is really important. I love that Black people are being returned to their own movement," Zanders tells GRAMMY from Los Angeles. "It’s nice because you have people like Duckwrth doing that. I’m very happy with the place that it’s at right now."
Zanders is another Black, queer, female artist in the dance space. She made a name for herself as a vocal artist singing on numerous house tracks, and now has more than 20 million Spotify streams. As a DJ, Zanders has played sets at major festivals like EDC Las Vegas and Governor’s Ball.
But being a vocalist first and knowing the power of connection vocals have with an audience, Zanders sees the opportunity to ride the house music wave to true pop stardom…just like Billie Eilish.
"I definitely want to be a huge pop star or dance star. Whatever that means. Basically just celebrity vibes," Zanders says.
One pure house artist who is surely on his way to celebrity vibes is Acraze, real name Charlie Dunker. His track, "Do It To It," — which samples the 2006 single of the same name from the R&B group Cherish — is set to be as big as any record from Eilish, without any sort of pop influence.
After being released in August 2021, "Do It To It," hit No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs. At the time of writing, "Do It To It," has over 433 million streams on Spotify, 3.3 million videos on TikTok, and 7 million Shazams. It’s even been in a Pepsi commercial.
With numbers like that, major labels were sure to take notice (Acraze recently signed a deal with Capitol Records). A&Rs could put Dunker in the same position as Calvin Harris, throwing an illustrious pop singer on a feature to guarantee worldwide attention.
But no matter what may happen in the future, producers from the underground era like Crenshaw consider this mainstream success a good thing. "Because some [house music] is seeping into mainstream culture it’s helping everyone. All boats rise with the tide," he says
Beyoncé and Drake are helping to raise the tide as well. Beyoncé’s latest single, "BREAK MY SOUL" borrows from house music in a similar manner to "Bad Guy," and Drake tapped four producers from the house and techno realm on his recently released album, Honestly, Nevermind.
Nine of the tracks on Honestly, Nevermind were produced by Keinemusik bosses &ME and Rampa, the 2022 GRAMMY winner Black Coffee, and Gordo, the recently rebranded house project from the open format electronic artist Carnage. Together these four producers imbue Drake’s voice with various subgenres like piano house and melodic techno.
"Bad Guy," by Billie Eilish was her own take on pop music with house as a foundation. Honestly, Nevermind shows Drake adapting his style to that of the underground — or at least what used to be underground. Soon his millions of fans will be a part of the community surrounding this music, and there’s no telling where the sound will go from there.
Planet E's Carl Craig On Keeping Dance Music Black & Expansive New 'Planet E 30' Album
Photos (L-R, clockwise): GAB Archive/Redferns, Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images, Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
The Evolution Of The Girl Group: How TLC, BLACKPINK, The Shirelles & More Have Elevated Female Expression
From the Supremes to the Spice Girls, take a deep dive into the history of girl groups — and how their songs, performance and vocal power changed pop culture.
For more than eight decades, girl groups have harmonized their way into the collective consciousness, bringing female empowerment to the forefront — and changing culture along the way.
Of course, girl groups have come in many forms: there's the family-friendly Andrew Sisters, the funk rock-infused Labelle, and the R&B-leaning Destiny's Child. As the construct of the girl group has evolved, so has their cultural impact — while acts like the Supremes helped push popular music in a more diverse direction in America, J-Pop and K-Pop groups have helped girl groups be viewed through a global lens in recent years.
What has tied all of these groups together is their infectious and inspirational records, which have encouraged women to express themselves and feel empowered in doing so. Groups like the Spice Girls and the Shangri-Las, for instance, have helped women express all sides of themselves, reminding the world that there is joy and beauty in contrast.
As Women's History Month nears its end, GRAMMY.com celebrates all of the powerful women who have been part of the girl group evolution. (To narrow the field, we characterize a girl group as acts with a minimum of three members and a focus on vocal performance; hence why you won't see bands like the Go-Gos or the Chicks on this list.)
Below, take a look at how girl groups have changed in both construct and impact for nearly 90 years — and counting — and listen to GRAMMY.com's official Girl Groups playlist above.
Though women have no doubt sung together since the beginning of time, the formal concept of the girl group came sometime in the '20s or '30s, with the rise in popularity of tightly harmonizing family acts like the Boswell Sisters and the Hamilton Sisters (the latter of whom would become Three X Sisters). The groups really started to see a rise in popularity around the beginning of WWII — perhaps because the entrance of more women into the workforce opened peoples' minds to the idea of the pop girl group, or perhaps because the soldiers overseas sought comfort and mild excitement via the groups' smooth sounds and attractive looks.
The Andrews Sisters, who officially formed in 1937 as a Boswell Sisters tribute act, would become the most popular of the sister acts, riding tracks like "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,""Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)" and "Beer Barrel Polka (Roll Out The Barrel)" straight to the top of the charts. They're considered one of the most successful girl groups of all time, selling an estimated 80 million records and counting. Other girl groups followed the Andrews' act, including the Dinning Sisters, who released "They Just Chopped Down The Old Apple Tree" as an answer to their rivals' hit.
The Andrews Sisters continued to be popular well into the '50s, inspiring similar close harmony acts like the Chordettes, who found success with tracks like "Mr. Sandman" and "Lollipop," and the Lennon Sisters, who became a mainstay on "The Lawrence Welk Show."
Around the middle of the decade, girl groups started pulling a bit more from the doo-wop movement, with songs like the Bobbettes "Mr Lee" helping pave the way for a wave of all-Black girl groups to come. The Chantels — who had come up together singing in a choir — quickly followed with "Maybe," which solidified the genre's style with a blend of rock, pop, doo-wop that would act as a sonic template for years to come.
In 1961, the Shirelles found quick success with tracks like "Tonight's The Night" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," which became the first girl group cut to go to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. The group would have five more hit singles throughout the decade, and inspired acts like the Marvelettes, whose "Please Mr. Postman" would become the first No. 1 single for Motown Records.
Keen to seize on that success, Motown invested heavily in creating more girl groups, crafting trios and quartets out of various singers that they might have previously eyed for solo work or even passed on signing. That kind of business-minded molding is what yielded Martha and the Vandellas, the Velvelettes, and a little act called the Supremes, who would go on to become the most successful American vocal group of all time, according to CNN. The success of the Motown acts — the majority of whom were all Black — was also a sign of American culture's increasing acceptance of the integration of popular music.
Having seen the success that Motown had in consciously crafting its girl groups, other producers and small, independent labels sought to capture some of that lightning in a bottle for themselves. The Philles label cashed in on the sound of the Crystals and the Ronettes, while Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller signed the Shangri-Las and the Dixie Cups to their Red Bird label. Tracks like the Shangri-Las' "Give Him A Great Big Kiss" offered a surprisingly real perspective on teen girl crushes, while "Leader Of The Pack" helped bring female perspective to a subgenre of songs about macabre teenage tragedies previously dominated by all-male acts like Jan And Dean and Wayne Cochran And The C.C. Riders.
First formed in the '60s as Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, Labelle pushed the genre out of the sock hop and into the nightclub, becoming one of the premiere girl groups of the '70s. Their funky, rock-infused singles were unlike anything girl group aficionados had heard before, and in 1974, the group captured America's heart with "Lady Marmalade," a slightly suggestive song that broke out of the discos and into the collective consciousness. Other acts originally formed in the '60s found similar success, like the Three Degrees, who had a number of hits, including the sunny and soothing "When Will I See You Again."
Sister Sledge also capitalized on the disco boom, crafting lasting hits like "We Are Family" and "He's The Greatest Dancer." The Pointer Sisters went through a rainbow of genres, including R&B (1973's funky "Yes We Can Can") and country (1974's "Fairytale," which won a GRAMMY for Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal in 1975), before finding their biggest success at the beginning of the next decade with tracks like the sultry "Slow Hand" and the more frantic "I'm So Excited."
Girl groups went through a bit of a lull in the '80s, as the culture trended toward hair metal and hip-hop. Some acts still managed to break through, capturing listeners' hearts with dance-friendly cuts imbued with Latin freestyle flair. Full of synths and syncopated percussion, freestyle burst out of clubs and parties in New York and Philadelphia, finding a particular hold amongst Hispanic and Italian-American audiences.
Miami's Exposé was one of the decade's biggest freestyle acts, blending girl group harmonies with synthetic sounds for hits like "Point Of No Return" and "Seasons Change." Two New York groups, Sweet Sensation and The Cover Girls, had freestyle success that bridged the '80s and '90s. Sweet Sensation's "Never Let You Go" tore up the dance charts, and while the Cover Girls' "Show Me" and "Because Of You" weren't quite as popular, they still hold a special place in the hearts of freestyle fans.
Girl groups roared back in a big way in the '90s, thanks in part to the emergency of new jack swing and a renewed interest in R&B's smooth vocal stylings. En Vogue was one of the first groups to go big in the '90s, with debut single "Hold On" first hitting the Billboard charts in 1990. Their biggest tracks came later in the decade, with the powerful "Free Your Mind" and "Giving Him Something He Can Feel" showcasing the quartet's vocal range and character.
Two groups from Atlanta also came to prominence around the same time as En Vogue. First was the street-savvy quartet Xscape, who harnessed the sounds of 1993 with tracks like "Just Kickin' It."
TLC had a more dynamic arc, first bursting into the collective consciousness with the new jack swing-infused "Ooooooohh… On The TLC Tip," which featured three top 10 singles, including "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg." The group's baggy pants and hip-hop aesthetic pushed girl group boundaries, in part because its members actually acknowledged their sexual desires, as well as the need for everyone to have safe sex. Later in the decade, TLC would rise to even higher heights with tracks like "Waterfalls" and the GRAMMY-winning "No Scrubs," the latter of which was actually co-written by two members of Xscape.
Destiny's Child initially emerged from Houston in the late '90s as a quartet, though they'd later lose some members and gain new ones, ending up as a trio. While it was hard to ignore the sheer star power of Beyonce, the threesome did generally function as a group, producing a string of danceable earworms, including "No, No, No," and "Bills, Bills, Bills." By the time they disbanded in 2006, Destiny's Child sold tens of millions of records and earned three GRAMMY Awards (and a total of nine nominations).
Out west, Wilson Phillips' Chyna Phillips, Wendy Wilson and Carnie Wilson were channeling the sounds of their respective parents, who had been members of the Beach Boys and the Mamas & The Papas. Their songs featured vocal harmonies and were largely about emotional longing, pushing back against the dance and funk that ruled much of the radio dial throughout the '90s.
Girl groups were also gaining major traction in the U.K during the '90s, spurred by a boy band boom in the country around the same time. Two groups — All Saints and the Spice Girls — were actually assembled by managers, something that didn't help allay naysayers' concern that much of pop music at the time was wholly manufactured. (Another U.K. mainstay, Ireland's B*Witched, came together organically.)
Regardless, both All Saints and the Spice Girls found commercial success, with the latter becoming absolutely massive not just because of catchy pop romps like "Wannabe," but because of the quintet's singular personas and the strength of their "girl power" messaging. The Spice Girls even starred in their own movie, "Spice World," which came out at the height of Spice-mania in 1997 and drew instant comparisons to the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night."
Girl groups continued to reign in the early part of the 2000s. A number of 2000s girl groups formed on television as part of reality programming, with U.K. sensation Girls Aloud forming on the ITV show "Popstars: The Rivals" and Danity Kane both forming and developing over three seasons of Sean Puffy Combs' "Making The Band." TV acted as a great launching pad for these pop acts, as fans were often emotionally invested in the group's success from watching the show so when a new single dropped, they were quick to get on board.
Girls Aloud and Danity Kane — as well as their peers, like Dream, 3LW, and Blacque — made pop music that was sexy, confident, and larger than life, with expensive-looking music videos to match. The songs also often crossed over from pop to urban radio.
Another of the most successful (and sexiest) girl groups of the 2000s also formed in a fairly roundabout way. The Pussycat Dolls found success with tracks like "Don't Cha" and "Buttons," but the actual origin of the Pussycat Dolls name and brand came almost 15 years earlier when an L.A. based choreographer named Robin Antin launched a burlesque troupe. After her club events and dancers became more and more popular (even posing for Playboy), she was urged by Interscope Records' Jimmy Iovine to attach the name to a pop group.
Antin recruited five singers who could hold a tune and looked the part, including Nicole Scherzinger — who initially got her start in Eden's Crush, another group formed on a TV show, the U.S. iteration of "Popstars" — and the Pussycat Dolls quickly strutted onto radio dials and Billboard charts with their catchy multi-tracked (and often risqué) hits.
Girl groups were also getting huge around the globe in the '00s, with Spain's Las Ketchup producing the insanely catchy pop ditty conveniently named "The Ketchup Song," Sweden's Play crossed over to commercial success in the American market, and the U.K.'s Atomic Kitten formed purely as a songwriting vehicle for Orchestral Maneuvers In the Dark's Andy McCluskey and Stuart Kershaw. Members of the latter would come and go throughout its career, but songs like "Whole Again" (which was also recorded by Play) have stood the test of time.
Though modern K-pop culture had begun in South Korea in the late '90s, it started to really pick up steam in the '00s, with both boy bands and girl groups benefiting from the surging Hallyu or Korean wave. One of those, Wonder Girls, found quick success in the late '00s with genre-spanning tracks like "Tell Me" and "Nobody," thanks in part to the pop act's ability to perform English versions of their songs while on tour with the Jonas Brothers.
Two of the 2010s biggest girl groups also came from televised reality competition shows. Little Mix, a quartet, was formed on the U.K.'s "The X Factor" and came to redefine the girl group era in Britain, selling more than 60 million records and topping the charts with high octane singles like "Cannonball" and "Shout Out To My Ex."
Stateside, Fifth Harmony was birthed on "The X Factor," where all five members had competed individually the season before but failed to advance. But after producers brought them back to compete as a group, Fifth Harmony was born, with viewers picking the name and ultimately helping them take third place in the competition.
The quintet emerged from the show signed to judge Simon Cowell's record label, Syco, and like so many great girl groups before it, embarked on a tour of malls and talk shows before eventually releasing a pop record tinged with both hip-hop and R&B. Fans latched on to songs like "I'm In Love With A Monster" and "Work From Home," the trap-laced monster hit that has garnered billions of hits on YouTube since its release.
The K-pop wave also continued in the 2010s, with groups like Girls Generation and Twice, both of whom broke the mold of a traditional girl group by having eight and nine members, respectively. At the same time, a J-Pop act, AKB48, rose to popularity, with a structure girl groups hadn't seen before — it has 80 members in total, with the group being divided into different "teams" that members are elected into by rabid fans. All three acts were literally and figuratively massive, selling tens of millions of highly produced bubblegum pop LPs and larger than life dance singles.
The success of K-pop girl groups shot to a new level when BLACKPINK entered the scene in 2016, forming after its members joined a girl group academy and underwent what amounts to girl group boot camp. The result is a fine-tuned musical machine that's produced pop hit after pop hit — including "Boombayah" and "DDU DU DDU DU" — as well as music videos that have been viewed billions of times online.
Spurred by the devotion of their fans (known as the BLINKs), BLACKPINK has also managed to rack up an impressive roster of accolades. They were the first Asian act to headline Coachella, the first female K-Pop artists on the cover of Billboard, and have amassed the most subscribers of any musical act on YouTube. But they're not the only female K-Pop act helping girl groups stay alive: Groups like Mamamoo and Red Velvet released hit after hit in the 2010s, and 2NE1 captured hearts everywhere with tracks like "Lonely" and "I Am The Best." In 2012, 2NE1 set out on what many consider to be the first world tour by a K-pop girl group, visiting 11 cities in seven countries.
A British girl group whose members pull from their individual cultures to create a unique, hip-hop influenced sound, Flo was also influenced by artists like Ciara and Amy Winehouse. Though they've only been together for a few years, their unique retro sound became almost instantly popular in the UK, with debut single "Cardboard Box" racking up almost a million views on YouTube within days of its release in early 2022. Other hit singles, like "Immature" and "Summertime" have followed.
Another thoroughly modern girl group, Boys World, was formed after managers found videos of five different women singing online and then contacted them to see if they wanted to team up. They said yes, launched a TikTok account, and moved into a house together in Los Angeles. Their thoroughly online approach to becoming a girl group has captivated audiences, along with their empowering anthems.
The K-Pop wave has continued to surge as well, with BLACKPINK headlining Coachella in 2023 and the quickly rising NewJeans earning the distinction of being the very first female Korean act to play Lollapalooza later this summer. Like so many girl groups before them, both acts continue to break boundaries and impact the culture at large, proving that the genre is as vital as ever.
While they may not be as abundant as in decades past, the girl group movement certainly hasn't shuttered. And with a diverse array of women still captivating audiences around the globe, girl groups will likely continue to spice up your life for years to come.
Listen To GRAMMY.com's Women's History Month 2023 Playlist: Swim In The Divine Feminine With These 40 Songs By Rihanna, SZA, Miley Cyrus, BLACKPINK & More
Photo: Dan MacMedan/WireImage
GRAMMY Rewind: Beyoncé Strives For Accountability And Change After Winning A GRAMMY For 'Lemonade' In 2017
As Beyoncé accepted the GRAMMY for Best Urban Contemporary Album in 2017, she stressed that it's vital to "learn from the past and recognize our tendencies to repeat our mistakes."
At the height of America's tense political climate, Beyoncé's Lemonade brought confidence to Black women nationwide silenced by misogynoir. It was a celebration of unapologetic femininity and southern culture while also taking back the power in relationships stained by infidelity and generational trauma. As Beyoncé explained in her 2017 GRAMMY acceptance speech, the intention of Lemonade was "to give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness, and our history."
In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, we turn back the clock to the evening Beyoncé made her empowering speech after winning Best Urban Contemporary Album at the 59th GRAMMY Awards. Fresh off of her iconic, nine-minute performance of Lemonade's vulnerable deep cuts, "Love Drought" and "Sandcastles," Beyoncé was glowing as she took the stage to accept her golden gramophone.
"Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to beautifully capture the profundity of deep southern culture," Beyoncé proudly praised before acknowledging her husband, kids, and fans.
"It's important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty, so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror... and have no doubt that they're beautiful, intelligent and capable," Beyoncé said. "This is something that I want for every child of every race. And I feel it's vital that we learn from the past and recognize our tendencies to repeat our mistakes."
Press play on the video above to watch the entirety of Beyoncé's thoughtful acceptance speech for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the 2017 GRAMMY Awards, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.
Billy Porter Is Ready To Show Fans His True Musical Side: "You're Not Gonna Want To Stop Listening"
Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for iHeartRadio
The Nicki Minaj Essentials: 15 Singles To Showcase Her Rap and Pop Versatility
Celebrating Nicki Minaj's new record label and her first single of 2023, "Red Ruby Da Sleeze," take a listen to 15 songs that highlight her talent as an MC and singer.
Nicki Minaj is making some serious moves right now. Within the same week, the 10-time GRAMMY nominee released her first single of the year, "Red Ruby Da Sleeze," and announced that she has started her own record label — which has already signed several artists, including Rico Danna, a rapper from her hometown neighborhood of South Jamaica in Queens.
This multi-hyphenate star is clearly stepping on the gas for 2023. But as her Barbz know, Minaj has been hustling for more than 15 years, and it's still paying off: Just last year, the rapper landed her third No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Super Freaky Girl" — her first unaccompanied chart-topper.
As the latest Nicki chapter begins, get familiar with the essential songs in her discography that brought her to this point. Starting with the standout track from her very first mixtape, GRAMMY.com presents a roadmap to understanding the music of Nicki Minaj.
"Can't Stop, Won't Stop" (2007)
Minaj collaborated with Lil Wayne — an early mentor — on her first mixtape, Playtime Is Over. It's the first hint of the musical chemistry between the two, as they trade rhymes over the instrumental of "Can't Stop, Won't Stop" by Young Gunz.
"Now, it's not hard to find me/ Top behind me/ You be Harry Potter, and I'll be Hermione," Minaj rapped to Tunechi on the track, foreshadowing how big they'd become together in the years to come.
"Itty Bitty Piggy" (2009)
The breakout song from her third mixtape Beam Me Up Scotty, Minaj declares that she's "the baddest in the game" on "Itty Bitty Piggy."
"It's me — I win, you lose!" she taunts on the track. Elsewhere, Minaj also shows off her confidence by offering to sign her fans' boobs and inviting other female rappers to pick her fruit out and to be her personal shoppers.
"Up Out My Face (Remix)" (2010)
Mariah Carey recruited Minaj for this sassy duet that serves as an early warning shot that she was ready for her pop music close-up. She distinguishes herself by rapping about cheaters and scrubs in American and English accents.
"My Chick Bad" (2010)
Minaj's sports and horror icon-laden verse on Ludacris' "My Chick Bad" shows how she was morphing into an outsized pop culture character of her own.
"Running down the court, I'm dunkin' on 'em, Lisa Leslie," she rapped, namechecking a WNBA star. On the track, she also compares herself to Friday the 13th movie killer Jason Vorhees and Freddy Kreuger from Nightmare on Elm Street.
"Moment 4 Life" (2010)
"Moment 4 Life," which features a guest verse from Drake, is the song that catapulted her from the early fame of appearing on songs from other artists to becoming recognized as a solo artist in her own right. The sixth collaboration between the two friends is also the most acclaimed of their work together, as the song was nominated for Best Rap Performance at the 54th GRAMMYs.
"In this very moment, I'm king," she proclaimed on the song.
"Roman's Revenge" (2010)
A week after dropping jaws with her guest verse as her alter ego "Roman Zolanski" on Kanye West's "Monster" (which also features Jay-Z, Rick Ross and Bon Iver), Minaj released her own full-length song called "Roman's Revenge." It's an electric duet featuring Eminem that finds her spitting lyrical fire like "a dungeon dragon."
"Super Bass" (2011)
Minaj's first solo top five hit — landing at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 — solidified her pop star status with its catchy, sung chorus. The endearingly bouncy love song has earned a rare Diamond certification for sales of more than 10 million in the U.S. — her only single to achieve the feat to date.
Though Minaj had flirted with EDM-style tracks alongside David Guetta in 2011, her own club track "Starships" has the most soaring energy. Produced by RedOne, the song showcases Minaj's versatility with singing and rapping for an international audience.
A playful interpolation of Sir Mix-A-Lot's 1992 booty-popping hit "Baby Got Back," "Anaconda" is one of many examples of Minaj's sampling prowess. On the fun, uptempo track, she celebrates the pleasures of "missing no meals" and shouts out bodies that have extra to grab. The cheeky tune nabbed Minaj her first GRAMMY nomination for Best Rap Song in 2015.
"Bang Bang" (2014)
An infectious hit that earned Minaj her sole nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, "Bang Bang" positioned Minaj as a pop star alongside Jessie J and Ariana Grande. As she raps on the song, she brings "Nicki full throttle" with her verse, with dextrous rhyming as well as vocals that keep up with the powerful pipes of her collaborators.
"Truffle Butter" (2015)
Arguably the highlight of Minaj's collaborations with Drake and Lil Wayne, "Truffle Butter" finds the three rappers flowing over a slowed-down and pleasingly off-kilter dance beat, which was sampled from Maya Jane Coles' 2011 house music stunner, "What They Say." "Truffle Butter" earned Minaj one of her three GRAMMY nominations in 2016, and her second for Best Rap Performance.
In this boom-bap-style track, Minaj takes on the role of Chun-Li, the woman in the Street Fighter video game series, spitting her verses over a horn riff that propels the listener into an action adventure. Though the character is not an antagonistic player in the game, Minaj crafts Chun-Li as a villain, spitting, "They need rappers like me/ So they can get on their f—ing keyboards and make me/ The bad guy, Chun-Li."
Recognizing Minaj's global appeal, Colombian reggaeton artist Karol G reached out to collaborate on "Tusa." The bilingual song brought some significant firsts for Minaj: it was No. 1 on the Hot Latin Songs chart in the United States, topped pop charts all over South America and was nominated for both Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year at the Latin GRAMMYs in 2020.
"In her verse, she says: 'It's me and Karol G, and we let the rats talk.' I died, I revived, I died and revived again until I understood Nicki Minaj had said my name in her verse," Karol G excitedly told Billboard.
"Do We Have a Problem" (2022)
Minaj's versatility as an MC shines on her recent collaboration with Lil Baby, which is accompanied by a mini movie where she plays a sexy and fearsome double agent. Her lyrical fierceness is distinct from her pop songs, and is a welcome return to her earliest approach to rapping — with her voice taking multiple tempo twists and turns along the way.
"Red Ruby Da Sleeze" (2023)
Minaj's Trinidadian roots shine through as she weaves patois into her rhymes on "Red Ruby Da Sleeze." The beat and vocals are sampled from Lumidee's song "Never Leave You (Uh Oh)," As her first release of 2023, "Red Ruby Da Sleeze" helps Minaj make a strong statement that she's still at the top of her game — and has the staying power of a true queen.
15 Must-Hear New Albums Out This Month: Boygenius, Kali Uchis, Lana Del Rey, Miley Cyrus & More
Photos (L-R, clockwise): Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation, Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella, Adam Bow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ACM, Terry Wyatt/Getty Images
Listen To GRAMMY.com's Women's History Month 2023 Playlist: Swim In The Divine Feminine With These 40 Songs By Rihanna, SZA, Miley Cyrus, BLACKPINK & More
Who run the world? Harness positive energy during Women's History Month with this immersive playlist honoring Beyoncé, Rina Sawayama, Kim Petras, and more female musicians.
In the words of recent GRAMMY winner Lizzo, it's bad b— o'clock. To kick off Women's History Month, GRAMMY.com is celebrating with an extensive playlist spotlighting women's divine musical artistry. Perpetually shaping, reinvigorating, and expanding genres, women's creative passion drives the music industry forward.
This March, get ready to unlock self-love with Miley Cyrus' candid "Flowers," or hit the dancefloor with the rapturous Beyoncé's "I'm That Girl." Whether you're searching for the charisma of Doja Cat's "Woman" or confidence of Rihanna's "B— Better Have My Money," this playlist stuns with diverse songs honoring women's fearlessness and innovation.
Women dominate the music charts throughout the year, but this month, dive into their glorious energy by pressing play on our curated Women's History Month playlist, featuring everyone from Dua Lipa to Missy Elliott to Madonna to Kali Uchis.
Listen below on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora.