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Yung Baby Tate On Success, Working With Issa Rae & 'After The Rain Deluxe'

Yung Baby Tate

Photo: LIFEWTR

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Yung Baby Tate On Success, Working With Issa Rae & 'After The Rain Deluxe'

Singer/songwriter Yung Baby Tate caught up with GRAMMY.com about creating with passion, supportive partnerships with Issa Rae and more

GRAMMYs/Jul 7, 2021 - 05:00 pm

Yung Baby Tate is well connected. Not so much in the sense that she has powerful people in high places but more so in that she understands herself, her fans and the significance of being a pop star in today’s culture and society. In her music videos, performances and social media, Yung Baby Tate is here, she is the present, and she is laying the groundwork to be the future of hip-hop, R&B, and pop fusion acts. The GRAMMY-nominated artist is only just beginning. 

Born Tate Sequoya Farris in 1996 to GRAMMY-nominated singer Dionne Farris, the 25-year-old artist may have inherited some of her mother’s abilities, but she’s built her own path to pop stardom using her creative gifts and cultivated talent.

In 2015, she released her debut EP, ROYGBIV, initiating a string of conceptual projects showcasing her songwriting, singing, rapping, and production capabilities. Yung Baby Tate followed her first drop with the holiday-themed YBTXMAS in 2016 and in 2018, she issued BOYS. The albums were stepping stones to her debut full-length LP, Girls, which was released in 2019 and featured artists such as Baby Rose and Atlanta rapper Latto. (The album also featured a short film directed by Christian Cody.) 

In 2019, beyond her success and positive reception,Yung Baby Tate delivered a stand-out entry to Nicki Minaj’s Megatron Challenge. Although the Queen rapper did not name her the official winner, Yung Baby Tate had already established herself as a multi-talented artist that others should pay attention to. 

In 2020, the multifaceted vocalist continued to soar towards stardom. She collaborated with British pop artist Bree Runway on "Damn Daniel," announced a new partnership with Issa Rae’s Raedio, and earned credits for her contributions to the GRAMMY-nominated album Revenge of the Dreamers III.  

She closed the year by dropping After The Rain, a deeply personal EP inspired by the feelings after a breakup featuring fellow Georgia artist 6LACK. Being vulnerable, the rapper says, has helped her earn a fanbase.

"I am pretty much always exposing myself. I think that [vulnerability] is something that fans and listeners want in music because it allows for one to understand that we're all going through the same human experience," the singer shares with GRAMMY. "I really love seeing tweets, where it's like some random scenario and then everyone else is like, 'Well we [are] all just living the same life'...I think for music a lot of times, being vulnerable and kind of exposing yourself is what makes people resonate with it."

Not only is she relatable, Yung Baby Tate is infectious. An After The Rain standout track, "I Am" featuring rising Alabama rapper Flo Milli evolved into an anthem of affirmations and a Tik Tok sensation, earning over 1 million views on YouTube.

Catching up with GRAMMY.com via phone, the "Rainbow Cadillac" singer spoke about her career, representing the LGBTQ+ community, her song featured on the creative campaign for LIFEWTR, and what she hopes to accomplish as a force in the music industry.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

I want to talk a little bit about the LIFEWTR campaign, and the song that you created "GIVE U LIFE."  What was the inspiration behind that song and the creative process?

The inspiration behind the song "GIVE U LIFE" was birthed off of what LIFEWTR, and really, what water is in general. Water is like the main source of life. Everyone needs it to survive. It really does give us life. I also wanted to take that phrase that people often use [like] "Ooh girl! I love what you just did there, you're giving me life," and kind of compared myself to water and to those elements that bring life to the world and into music and art.

The LIFEWTR campaign was done with Issa Rae. You also partner with Rae through Raedio. How is that relationship impactful personally and professionally? 

Personally, this partnership has really allowed me to grow in a lot of different places that [I wouldn't really have if] I were to partner with anyone else or another label. Issa reaches out from time to time, just to say "Oh, I'm proud of you for this [or] you are really amazing on that," which is really cool to have someone who I look up to as not only an actress but also an entrepreneur, a businesswoman, a fellow Earth sign.

It definitely has improved my confidence, personally. But as far as a career, so many doors have been opened in so many different things, not just music, but acting, voiceover work, the  LIFEWTR campaign. It's just been very very helpful, and I'm extremely grateful for it.

I think it makes a difference for me because you are both Black women. How do you think that kind of relationship can be an example for others especially in this type of industry where sometimes we're literally all that we have?

That was actually very important for me when I chose to partner with Raedio. Not only is Issa an extremely powerful, successful Black woman, but there are plenty of Black women and Black men on her staff, and that made me feel comfortable, like I will be seen, heard and understood. One thing I really admire about Issa is when she said "I'm rooting for everybody Black" she really did mean that, and you can see it through the things that she does, the people she empowers, and the people that she employs. It is definitely extremely important to me, and I hope it can be an example of how other people can do the same, not just women, but men as well.

What was your initial reaction to that viral response to "I Am" featuring Flo Milli? 

I was really shocked. It's not like I didn't believe in the song, I believe in every song that I put out, but I definitely wasn't expecting such a huge reaction and such a huge resonance with people, but I was extremely grateful for it. The song really is something that I wrote for myself to manifest, to affirm, to speak life over myself, [and] to give myself life, and the fact that so many people heard it, and said, you know what, I want to listen to this every morning, actually, every day, every time I'm going to work, and every night. It just made me so extremely grateful and proud of the work that I've been able to do. It makes me feel like the work that I have been doing…  means something.

Can you share more on After The Rain Deluxe? 

This is kind of like the before the rain, or during the rain. A lot of these songs are way more moody, way more reflective, because this whole EP was birthed off of a relationship ending and reflecting on the things that led to that or the things that came after. So, for this half of the EP, it is kind of what led to the rain and then the rain happened, and then, after the rain, we're going to be alright again. I'm really excited for fans to hear because I’m diving way deeper into R&B which is a space that I'll be more leaning towards going forward with new music. So, the first half is after the rain, is a little bit of R&B with this half is way more R&B centered and I'm really excited about that and really excited for people to hear it.

Who are some Black music icons, sounds or genres that continue to inspire you to create and how do you hope to impact the overall landscape of Black music through your art and your career,

Black music icons that inspire me are Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, Rihanna, really a large fan of powerful women. I love Brandy, I love SWV...there's so many. I love Pharrell. I love Future, even. So many people inspire me. I'm inspired by so much, which is why my music is very varied. I hope to inspire people in the same way that I believe Nicki Minaj and Missy Elliott have inspired me to think outside of the box. [They] never allow[ed] themselves to be boxed in. 

I think I'm doing a pretty good job of that already. I want to inspire the next generation of people to not care about what people might think of them and to not be afraid to fully express and not be afraid to be the oddball. That's the type of legacy that I wish to leave.

As a member of the LGBTQ plus community, do you feel as though queer Black women in R&B, hip-hop and pop spaces are underrepresented, and how do you think the industry can move forward towards more representation? 

I definitely do feel like we're underrepresented, but I like to think that, that is changing very swiftly. I think for a long time artists have been or were afraid to identify themselves in the public. I know even like freaking Whitney Houston was bisexual and like it was kept under wraps. I think that if it wasn't, it would have inspired so many people to feel like, oh my gosh, this woman that I look up to, and I love she's just like me, instead of saying, I'm wrong for feeling this way or I shouldn't tell anyone. I think we're definitely making a lot of strides and a lot of moves.

I love Lil Nas X and how open and unapologetic he is with his sexuality. Whether he's having sex with the devil or anything else. I'm just really being myself. I think moving forward the [music] industry should be more accepting of that, so that people won't feel like they have to hide or have to keep it under wraps for only a few people. The LGBT community is beautiful, it's vast and it's so diverse, and you honestly never know who [you] might be inspiring [or] who you might be doing some relief to. [They can] be like, "Oh wow, I love Yung Baby Tate, she's bisexual, great." I feel very good about myself now, and I don't feel like questioning or hiding myself. I think moving forward having more representation is always extremely important.

As someone who identifies as bisexual and being a Black girl from the South, how do you think that impacted your creative career?

Creatively, I think I've always been everywhere, it also kind of lingers over into my sexuality, I'm just very free. A free-thinking, free moving [and] free-loving person. I think that really shows in who I am as a person as well, and the things that I do, and the music that I make, the things I say, the people that I surround myself with, it is just a very free, don’t really care, type of vibe. And I've always really known that about myself and embrace that about myself.

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GRAMMY Museum To Celebrate 50 Years Of Hip-Hop With 'Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit' Opening Oct. 7
The GRAMMY Museum's 'Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit' opens Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023

Image courtesy of the GRAMMY Museum

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GRAMMY Museum To Celebrate 50 Years Of Hip-Hop With 'Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit' Opening Oct. 7

The new exhibit honors the 50th anniversary of hip-hop through an expansive and interactive exploration that features artifacts from legendary artists including the Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, LL Cool J, and more.

GRAMMYs/Sep 7, 2023 - 03:11 pm

The GRAMMY Museum is celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop this fall with the newly announced Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit, an immersive, interactive, 5,000-square foot experience celebrating the multifaceted world of hip-hop and the global impact and influence of the genre and culture. Launching Saturday, Oct. 7, and running through Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2024, the exhibit will feature expansive exhibits exploring hip-hop music, dance, graffiti, fashion, business, activism, and history as well as artifacts from hip-hop pioneers like Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, and many more.

Additionally, the exhibit features a one-of-a-kind Sonic Playground, featuring five interactive stations that invite visitors of all ages to partake in DJing, rapping and sampling, all essential elements comprising hip-hop culture. Additional virtual and in-person education and community engagement programs will be announced at a later date.

Exploring the countless ways hip-hop music and culture has dominated popular culture over the last 50 years, Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit was curated by a team of four co-curators who bring a deep knowledge of hip-hop, academic rigor and creativity to the project. They include:

  • Felicia Angeja Viator, associate professor of history, San Francisco State University, author of ‘To Live And Defy In LA: How Gangsta Rap Changed America,’ and one of the first women DJs in the Bay Area hip-hop scene

  • Adam Bradley, Professor of English and founding director of the Laboratory for Race and Popular Culture (the RAP Lab) at UCLA, and co-editor of ‘The Anthology of Rap’

  • Jason King, Dean, USC Thornton School of Music and former chair of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU

  • Dan Charnas, Associate Arts Professor, NYU Clive Davis Institute of Music, and author of ‘Dilla Time: The Life And Afterlife Of The Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm’

The co-curators worked in conjunction with GRAMMY Museum Chief Curator and Vice President of Curatorial Affairs Jasen Emmons as well as a 20-member Advisory Board.

Read More: 50 Artists Who Changed Rap: Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G., Dr. Dre, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem & More

Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit is an educational journey through several key themes:

  • Origins: Discover the roots of hip-hop in the Bronx and New York City, where DJs were the original stars, and graffiti and breakdancing were integral to the culture.

  • Innovation: Explore how hip-hop artists have innovatively used technology, from transforming turntables into musical instruments to pioneering sampling techniques.

  • Sounds of Hip-Hop: Experience the diverse sounds of hip-hop in four themed studios, showcasing the evolution of production, the intersection of hip-hop and car culture, the craft of hip-hop lyrics, and the influence of R&B.

  • Fashion: Dive into the world of hip-hop fashion, featuring iconic clothing, jewelry and style.

  • Regionalism: Discover 14 hip-hop scenes across the United States, showcasing the importance of local and regional contributions.

  • Entrepreneurialism: Learn about the transformation of hip-hop from a back-to-school party in the Bronx to a multi-billion-dollar global industry.

  • Media: Discover the role of media in shaping hip-hop's development, from radio stations to pioneering shows like "Yo! MTV Raps."

  • Community: Explore how hip-hop has brought people together over the last 50 years, with an interactive ‘Hip-Hop America’ playlist featuring 200 songs that trace the genre's evolution.

Highlights from Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit include:

  • The Notorious B.I.G.'s iconic 5001 Flavors custom red leather peacoat he wore in Junior M.A.F.I.A.'s music video "Players Anthem"

  • Kurtis Blow's original handwritten lyrics for his 1980 hit single, "The Breaks," the first gold-certified rap song

  • Black suede fedora hat and Adidas Superstars belonging to Darryl "DMC" McDaniels of Run-D.M.C.

  • Tupac Shakur's handwritten essay "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death," circa 1992

  • Two outfits designed by Dapper Dan, Harlem fashion icon: 1) a half-length black leather jacket worn by Melle Mel (Melvin Glover, b. 1961) in performance at the 1985 GRAMMY Awards; and a black-and-yellow leather bucket hat and jacket worn by New York hip-hop artist Busy Bee (David James Parker)

  • Egyptian Lover's gold Roland 808, the beat-making tool

  • LL Cool J's red Kangol bucket hat 

Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit is a key event taking place as the world is celebrating 50 years of hip-hop this year. The origins of hip-hop can be traced back to Aug. 11, 1973, when DJ Kool Herc DJed a birthday party inside the recreation room of an apartment building located on 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the South Bronx, New York City. This history-making date marks the birth of hip-hop and is the reason why we're celebrating hip-hop's 50th anniversary this year. The 50th anniversary of hip-hop means artists, fans, and the music industry at-large are celebrating the momentous milestone via hip-hop concerts, exhibits, tours, documentaries, podcasts, and more around the globe across 2023.

Visit the GRAMMY Museum website for more information regarding advanced ticket reservations for Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit.

50 Artists Who Changed Rap: Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G., Dr. Dre, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem & More

5 Takeaways From Quavo's New Album 'Rocket Power'
Quavo performs at the BET Awards in June 2023.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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5 Takeaways From Quavo's New Album 'Rocket Power'

Five years after his first solo release, Quavo's 'Rocket Power' explores loss, faith, and memories of the artist's late nephew Takeoff — a poignant tribute that marks a new creative plane for the Georgia-born artist.

GRAMMYs/Aug 18, 2023 - 10:28 pm

Tragedy struck the hip-hop world in November 2022 when Migos star Takeoff was killed during an early morning shootout in Houston. Among the hardest hit by the loss was one-third of the famed trio and his uncle Quavo, who witnessed the shooting and sat by Takeoff's side as he passed outside a nearby bowling alley.

Since Takeoff's death, Quavo has largely stepped away from public view. He first resurfaced with an emotional tribute to his late nephew, "Without You," in January, sporadically releasing four more singles in subsequent months. But on Aug. 18, Quavo delivered his biggest tribute yet: the aptly titled album, Rocket Power, which explores the emotional scars that have formed nearly a year after Takeoff's passing. 

Arriving nearly five years after his debut solo album, 2018's Quavo Huncho, Rocket Power is a welcomed sign of Quavo's artistic maturation. The 32-year-old rapper melds his effortless melodicism and hit-making powers to create a cohesive body of work filled with soul-stirring jams and ear-catching trap bangers. 

To welcome Huncho's newest solo effort, we compiled five early takeaways from the 18-track project Rocket Power

The Album Honors Takeoff's Life From Childhood To The GRAMMY Stage

From the intro "Fueled Up" to the album's closing track, Rocket Power points to the life and legacy of Takeoff, who's featured on songs "Patty Cake" and "Back Where It Begins." On songs like "Hold Me," Quavo details the misery and emotional pain he and others have faced in the months following Takeoff's unexpected death: "I just need you to hold me/ Listen and feel my heart closely." Quavo also points to other instrumental figures in his life, asking them to come to his aid in moments of darkness.

On the title track, "Rocket Power," Quavo acknowledges the gut-wrenching thoughts and vulnerability he's experienced in this time of grief, and the toll it's placed on both him and his family. "Thinking about my nephew while I'm rolling some trees/ Mama said she's crying, and she's crying in her sleep."

While references to Takeoff's passing are sprinkled throughout the project, "Patty Cake" gifts Migos fans a welcomed look back at the two artist's influence and chemistry. And for many, hearing Taekoff's voice on the interlude "Narkedo Speaks" (which is pulled from a Drink Champs interview) reflects the kind of figure he was in rap: "I ain't even have a plan B, I made myself not have a plan B on purpose/Just so I can fulfill my plan A."

Limited Features Magnify Takeoff Tribute

Rocket Power only includes five features, a vast difference from Quavo's debut album, which boasted features on over half of its 19 tracks.

Among the artists featured on the project — which includes Future, Young Thug, Hunxho and BabyDrill — the most significant moments come from the artist the album honors. With Takeoff's presence on "Patty Cake" and "Back Where It Begins," the songs flash to his often understated talents and role as the Migos' lyrical foreman. It also points to how instrumental he was in Quavo's life, as the rapper touches on their past memories growing up in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

With fewer features, Quavo's vision for Rocket Power pierces through more vividly, and the project's more intimate and conceptualized moments reach their apex. While stars like Young Thug and Future elevate tracks like "Focused" and "Back Where It Begins," songs like "11.11" and "Not Done Yet" would lose much of its emotional fuel with another artist's presence.

Rumors Aside, Offset And Quavo's Relationship Appears To Be On The Upswing

It's hard to ignore Offset's absence on Rocket Power. He's not featured nor mentioned throughout much of the album, but "11.11" provided fans with some clarity on the status of their relationship.

Following the 2022 release of Quavo and Takeoff's collaborative album, Only Built For Infinity Links (which was released just weeks before Takeoff's passing), rumors about a falling out between Quavo and Offset emerged. The two first alleviated reports of their feud — including that they fought backstage at the 2023 GRAMMYs —  by reuniting for a performance at the 2023 BET Awards in June.

And nearly two months after their reunion, Quavo further suggests he and Offset are in a better place on "11.11": "5:30 Huncho and Set get up early, and go out and go get that bag together (Set)/ Who the f— gonna put us together, can't nobody put this s— back together/ So stay the f— out of the middle, lil fella/ We always goin' be that/ We fam forever (Migos)."

Quavo Leans Further Into His Faith

Throughout the album, Quavo points to his faith as a source of emotional strength and how it's tethered his family together in the wake of recent tragedy. On "Not Done Yet," the artist raps, "Giving it all I got, don't know what God got for me (God)/ Holding my head up high, I hope y'all really proud of me (High)."

While the "Lost" rapper has never shied away from his faith, Rocket Power is the most Quavo has ever melded it into his music. As much as it's a snapshot of his current mental state, the religious references point to the new creative plane Quavo is currently on.

Quavo Is A Legitimate Solo Star

Following Quavo Huncho, some hip-hop fans questioned Quavo's ability to carry an album as a solo artist. But if there were any doubts, drop them. He's unquestionably a star capable of carrying on his own.

While Quavo is credited for his infectious hooks and street hits, Rocket Power proves he can effectively draw from his life experiences and transfer those emotions to create gut-wrenching records. It also proves he can effectively pair these kinds of records together into a larger conceptual project, and expand his artistry beyond his melodic mastery.

Throughout the album, Quavo firmly commands each of the 18 tracks. He delivers a harmonious (and effective) mix of stadium-level anthems, emotion-fueled sentiments, and hard-hitting trap songs — proving that he'll not only continue the legacy he and Takeoff built together, but continue to evolve creatively on his own.

Hip-Hop Just Rang In 50 Years As A Genre. What Will Its Next 50 Years Look Like?

New Music Friday: Listen To New Songs From Travis Scott, Britney Spears, NewJeans & More
Travis Scott performs at the 2023 Wireless Festival.

Photo: Simone Joyner/Getty Images

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New Music Friday: Listen To New Songs From Travis Scott, Britney Spears, NewJeans & More

July 21 marks a big day of new music releases, including star-studded collaborations like Travis Scott, Bad Bunny and The Weeknd's "K-POP" and a new EP from NewJeans. Hear some of the biggest new songs on GRAMMY.com.

GRAMMYs/Jul 21, 2023 - 08:06 pm

Like so many New Music Fridays before it, July 21 brought a cornucopia of fresh and unique sounds from all over the map.

Want to hear Travis Scott, Bad Bunny and the Weeknd get mellow and psychedelic? Raring to hear the latest dispatch from a One Direction member? Want a taste of A$AP Rocky's long-awaited next album? Is a Britney-shaped chunk missing from your musical life? Want to hear the future of K-pop? 

To these and other questions, this slew of tunes will provide answers. In the below roundup, hurtle into the weekend with wildly divergent sounds from some of music's top acts — many with sizable GRAMMY legacies.

Travis Scott, Bad Bunny, The Weeknd — "K-POP"

A week before nine-time GRAMMY nominee Travis Scott's Utopia livestream event at the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt on July 28 — which will debut his new studio album of the same name — he dropped his sixth collaboration with four-time GRAMMY winner the Weeknd.

"K-POP," the album's lead single, is rounded out by three-time GRAMMY winner Bad Bunny, in his first collab with Scott. This triple-threat track has a stony, smoldering feel, with luxurious production from Boi-1da, among others — and it's elevated by its panoramic, transportive video.

ZAYN — "Love Like This"

The former One Direction member continues his solo legacy with "Love Like This," his first new single since 2021.

Therein, ZAYN extols the virtues of throwing caution to the wind when it comes to infatuation: "Everything is on the line, but I would rather be dead/If it's gonna mean a life that's lived without you, baby," he sings. "I think I gotta take that risk/ 'cause I cannot go back."

In the video, ZAYN putters around on a motorcycle on a gorgeous day. Previously signed to RCA, the singer recently moved to Mercury Records; could "Love Like This" be the ramp-up to a new album? If so, "Love Like This" offers a tantalizing taste of what's to come.

will.i.am, Britney Spears — "MIND YOUR BUSINESS"

After the termination of her conservatorship, GRAMMY winner Britney Spears dipped a toe back into her music career in 2022 with "Hold Me Closer," a duet with Elton John that includes elements of "Tiny Dancer," "The One" and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart."

Now, she's back in earnest with "MIND YOUR BUSINESS," a sassy, pulsing, electronic duet with seven-time GRAMMY winner will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas fame. The track marks the pair's fourth team-up, and first since 2014's "It Should Be Easy" from Spears' Brtiney Jean.

NewJeans — "ETA"

GRAMMY.com called NewJeans one of 10 K-Pop rookie girl groups to watch in 2023, and keeping ears on them has paid off. On July 21, they released their new EP, Get Up, to critical acclaim: NME declared that "​​no one can hold a candle to K-pop's rising wonder girls."

Concurrently with the release of Get Up, they released a joyous, iPhone-shot music video to its effervescent single, "ETA," in which a group of girls find a friend's boyfriend making moves on another lady.

Chris Stapleton — "White Horse"

Chris Stapleton's last album, 2020's Starting Over, helped the country crooner make a clean sweep at the 2022 GRAMMYs. At that ceremony, he won golden gramophones for Best Country Solo Performance ("You Should Probably Leave"), Best Country Song ("Cold") and Best Country Album ("Starting Over").

On Nov. 10, the eight-time GRAMMY winner will release his next LP, Higher. As he revealed the news on July 21, Stapleton also unveiled a majestic rocker of a single, "White Horse." "If you want a cowboy on a white horse/ Ridin' off into the sunset," he sings thunderously, "If that's the kinda love you wanna wait for/ Hold on tight, girl, I ain't there yet."

A$AP Rocky — "RIOT (Rowdy Pipe'n)"

For his latest track, A$AP Rocky dropped a stylish, charming short film for Beats depicting a harried diaper run (a fitting narrative for the new dad, soon to be dad of two, with partner Rihanna). That only contains a minute of the song, though; it's worth luxuriating in the whole thing.

To an uneasy, lumbering beat, Rocky extols a lifestyle to die for ("My wife is erotic/ I'm smokin' exotic/My whip is exotic") as well as his unparalleled connections ("I just call designers up, I free ninety-nine it").

Backed by 13-time GRAMMY winner Pharrell, "RIOT (Rowdy Pipe'n)" is said to be the first single from A$AP Rocky's long-awaited fourth album, Don't Be Dumb; if the quality of the track is any indication, it'll be worth the long haul.

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A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 

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A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea

James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.

Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.

Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.

In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.

Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.

There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.

Say She She

Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.

While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."

Moniquea

Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.

Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.

Shiro Schwarz

Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.

Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.

L'Impératrice

L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.

During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.

Franc Moody

Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.

Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.

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