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14 New Female Hip-Hop Artists To Know In 2023: Lil Simz, Ice Spice, Babyxsosa & More
Women are pioneering the future of hip-hop, and their styles have never been more pronounced. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, listen to 14 rising female artists that you should keep an eye on in 2023 and beyond.
Hip-hop has long been a male-dominated space, despite the success and indisputable influence of female generational talents. From the jump, women have overcome gatekeepers and expectations, beginning with MC Sha-Rock, then via Salt-N-Pepa, Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, and more recently with Gangsta Boo, Nicki Minaj, City Girls and Noname have overcome gatekeepers and expectations. Contemporary acts such as GloRilla are continuing their efforts and reaching a demographic that had never been excessively marketed to in hip-hop: women who want to hear rap music from women.
Rap is slowly becoming a more inclusive space — with an audience that’s finally willing to carve out a space for diversity and sex-positivity for all genders — and open to a myriad of subgenres, with female rappers leading the pack. In 2021 did Cardi B became the first female rapper to acquire a diamond-certified single. Any club in America that doesn’t play Meg Thee Stallion should be considered a rarity. Ice Spice is the first female drill rapper to break into mainstream culture.
The stage has been set for a new generation of artists, largely thanks to the genderless, wide reach of social media platforms. Today, misconceptions which hide the grit of Gangsta Boo, the explicit sensuality of Lil’ Kim, and the lyrical and political expertise of Noname are beginning to dissolve. The glass ceiling has broken, giving into an exponential increase in the number of female artists: ramblers, trash talkers, storytellers and sexually-charged drill rappers.
Women are pioneering the future of hip-hop, and their styles have never been more pronounced. GRAMMY.com offers a list of 14 rising female artists that you should keep an eye on in 2023 and beyond.
Odds are, you’ve heard "Pound Town." If you haven’t, lie low for the next few minutes as the St. Louis rapper spares no detail from her sexual exploits.
Much like Lil’ Kim, Sexyy Red is not only sex-positive, but infamous: "My coochie pink, my booty hole brown, I just left Pound Town," she declares. Sexyy Red also encourages empowerment, uplifting women’s self-worth. On "Hellcat SRTs," she proclaims to her fellow compatriots: "Bad bitches, we like fast cars. We like n—s that sell drugs with fast cars."
In all seriousness, Sexyy Red is audacious, confident, and the next hottest rapper to come out of St. Louis. Keep your eyes peeled and listen to Hood Hottest Princess from earlier this year whenever you need to hype yourself up.
Ex-SURF GANG member Babyxsosa was one of the first viral rappers to breakout on TikTok during the pandemic, but her story goes much further than the bright tones and oddly-sporadic drums of "Everywhereigo." Her dainty, autotuned voice and lush soundscapes make her the Internet’s iteration of a soul singer. She’s warm and intimate, using simple lyrics in order to croon through feelings of desire and despair.
At heart, however, Babyxsosa is underground hip-hop’s Billie Eillish crossed with PinkPantheress. Beats mutate to the sound of her voice. Where her singles of the past four years have ranged from cacophonous, leady synthesizers to elevator music dapped with 808s, her recent EP, Bling Bling, is demonstrative of eery, melodic versatility, laying muted-verses to club beats, using range of different experimental digicore instrumentals to challenge herself as both a vocalist and songwriter.
Hook can’t be likened to any one sound in hip-hop. Some of her beats beep like 8-bit minigames, others are made of single oscillating synthesizer chords; generally, her production has a heartbeat that fades in and out and loops, giving each song its own life, and agitation thereafter.
The Riverside, California-raised rapper seethes in her verses, rambling out of frustration and joy and disappointment and confusion and anger and disgust and sadness and every emotion in-between. Still, Hook and her avant-garde approach to rap is erratic and hilarious and lyrically distinct in every way.
Armani Caesar is the first and only female rapper on Griselda Records, which has featured Boldy James, Mach-Hommy, Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher and more. Like the latter three, Armani Caesar hails from Buffalo, N.Y. delivering gritty, tooth-and-nail stories of the streets, but with a bit more rhythm than a dusty ’45 record.
She incorporates pop rhythms and seeks more towards the disco-era and modern technology for a cadence that’s just a hair shy more uptempo than soul. Armani Caeser’s rhythm is infectious, but her lyrics are venomous. Look at the cover art to her single, "Diana," cover art, she’s Lil’ Kim had she hustled in Buffalo.
Though Little Simz is not necessarily a rising artist, her success has been exponential since the release of 2021’s Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. The UK grime-turned-amorphous rapper of equal parts technically flawless and lyrically awe-inspiring. Over garden party-esque orchestral swells she can deliver a poem penned to her own empowerment, but she can also rap a 16-bar verse with a live band almost breathlessly.
She’s punchy and energetic, sentimental and adamantly altruistic. A fire burns in Little Simz, and the spark is fanned with each beat of the drum.
Where hip-hop has begun to transition towards two extremes — heavy metal on one side and drumless beats on the other — Amaarae presents a hidden alternative. The Ghanaian vocalist ushers in a new conception of hip-hop, bringing an Afro pop influence that's reminiscent of Doja Cat’s debut album, Hot Pink.
Amaarae produces her own work, blending traditional Ghanaian instrumentation and polyrhythms with a digitally-created drum circle. As the music claps into double time, Amaarae’s voice speeds up and down, wavering between rapping and singing. She does it all, and after the viral success of "SAD GIRLZ LUV MONEY" and its remix with Kali Uchis, Amaarae dropped a new EP in July, Fountain Baby, scoring the scorching heat of the summer.
Creating an electronic collage of house, club, drum n bass, afro beats, and live drum breaks, Tkay Maidza exceeds the term "multi hyphenate." Whether she’s collaborating with JPEGMAFIA or Flume, Tkay creates dystopian worlds in her soundscapes, cut with screeching basslines and glitching snares. Her music is neo-R&B as she deems fit, soulfully calling on Kari Faux for over articulation on "Don’t Call Again;" it’s rage rap on the industrial track, "Grasshopper;" it’s even a derivative of EDM in her latest single, coyly titled, "Silent Assassin."
Flo Milli is the young, happy-go-lucky artist within this new crop of talent. Her voice is an alto and her lyrics are just conceited enough to radiate excellence while delivering some of hip-hop’s most clever remixes for Gen Z listeners.
Whether she’s rapping to Ethereal’s beat on Playboi Carti’s "Beef" or to Too $hort’s "Blow the Whistle," Flo's enfranchising rhymes drive confidence and sexual prowess into her listeners. On "Roaring 20s," she playfully takes on the role of Daisy from The Great Gatsby, fascinated by ragtime-inspired production and men who would give up anything to spend a few minutes with her. That’s the magic of Flo Milli: she’s animated, fluidly jumping to whatever style and aesthetic she deems worthy of her exhibition.
In her many lives, CLIP has graduated from NYU, had a flourishing career in journalism, and ended up in Los Angeles amongst the next generation of Soundcloud artists. Her music is a melting pot of these cultures and influences. On her recent PERCEPTION EP, she includes drum n bass-inspired beats on songs like "Happy;" her breakout single, "SAD B!TCH," border on cloud rap with their ethereal mixing; her recent single, "sunset blvd" incorporates the croons of emo rap. CLIP has already become a rising star without releasing a single full-length project.
Her voice is soft and melodic like Babyxsosa and her production matches the mild psychedelia of Hook’s use of filter. CLIP incorporates the downtempo eeriness of Houston chopped-and -screw tapes, drowning out her own braggadocio through internet-coded soundscapes.
Hailing from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, TiaCorine has the swagger of a Gangsta Boo, coloring her lyrics with braggadocio and slick, staccato phrasing. Her instrumentation is wavy and pompous, featuring warped 808s and the glossy sparkle of xylophones and high-pitched synths.
TiaCorine stands out for the way she meshes her Southern cadence with disjointed, bubblegum beats, drum machine hi-hats and Jersey club-style kicks. She’s erratic yet sweet; she’s cutesy like pluggNB yet arrogant like JT and Yung Miami.
Compared to Hook or CLIP or Babyxsosa, Vayda would be their prodigal child of the forthcoming generation of digital media consumers, aiming for an even more stimulating derivative of industrial hip-hop: hyperrap. Vayda creates starkly genreless hip-hop, jumping from Jersey club to sample-based beats to trap hi-hats for short, digestible tracks typically landing at under 90 seconds. Her music is uptempo and comes in waves of focused attention, etched with sporadic bass drum kicks similar to Evilgiane’s in SURF GANG and Cash Cobain’s hyper focused, sample drill 808 patterns.
Vayda isn’t concerned with regionalism and having a sound attributable to any one place. Her beats sparkle and shimmer, they dash like bodies towards the DJ at a club, and Vayda is at the forefront, leading the new school.
Akin to the Southern, tongue-twisting legend Young Thug, Doechii’s vocal inflections twist and contort, wringing out sonically and lyrically emotive verses. For the Tampa-born artist's stuffy intonation squirms in your ear on tracks such as "Stressed," and genuinely evoke the emotion.
Alongside labelmates Isaiah Rashad and SZA at TDE, Doechii stretches her syllables for zig-zagging hooks against everything from double-time drums on "Crazy" to dancehall on "Persuasive."
Bktherula is hip-hop’s response to grunge and punk rock. Her aesthetic varies from neon colored braids to skull tees, each in a slightly different shade of black. The Atlanta rapper references punk's yearning screams and whispers in her own groaned melodies on songs such as "Tweakin’ Together" and "FOREVER, PT. 2 (JEZEBEL)."
On tracks such as "TAN," however, that Bktherula’s music matches the aggression of punk, using warbling synthesizers and arcade-sounding, drive-heavy snare. Bktherula flexes, showcasing not only technique but preemptively taunting anyone with the audacity to diss her.
Last but certainly not least is America’s most talked about drill rapper since Pop Smoke (RIP). Arriving from the Bronx, Ice Spice became popular after coining the term "munch," referring to selfless, sexually-pleasing men. Her sex appeal, her gospel of female empowerment and her creative free-spirit enabled by SpongeBob SquarePants samples and Zedd flips, puts Ice Spice as the queen of virality in 2023.
How is she wielding her superstardom? With now-refined drill beats, melodic collaborations with UK-sensation PinkPantheress, and working with some of the most influential women in hip-hop from New York — including her idol-turned-peer, Nicki Minaj.
Photo: Andersen Ross Photography Inc
The 10 Most Controversial Samples In Hip-Hop History
The use of samples has influenced artists and DJs for decades. It's also been fodder for lawsuits and ire — read on for 10 of the biggest sampling controversies in hip-hop, from 2 Live Crew and the "Amen Brother" break, to Young Nudy.
Hip-hop would not exist without sampling. Over its 50 years of existence, rappers, producers, and DJs have taken old music and made it new again, remixing and reinterpreting the creativity of previous generations and folding it into the culture of today.
But not everyone is flattered when a rapper samples their song. The history of hip-hop is rife with legal battles over unauthorized samples — from the genre’s early wild west days to the modern era. Some of these controversies have had lasting implications for the entire industry.
Below, we take a look at some of the most controversial samples in hip-hop.
Sugarhill Gang – "Rapper’s Delight" (1979)
Before "Rapper’s Delight," hip-hop was predominantly a live art form. Rappers rarely recorded and preferred to perform for a live audience, improvising freestyle raps over funk and soul records spun by DJs. The use of samplers and drum machines was not yet widespread. Nevertheless, Sylvia Robinson, a singer and studio owner who wanted to take advantage of the trend. She assembled rap group the Sugarhill Gang and invited some studio musicians to record a sound-alike version of the instrumental from Chic’s "Good Times" for them to rap over.
The song hadn’t even reached the charts yet — though it would become the first hip-hop song to breach the Billboard Top 40 — before Nile Rodgers of Chic heard an early version at a club in Manhattan. Ironically, several members of the Sugarhill Gang as well as Fab Five Freddy had joined the band onstage at a show weeks earlier to freestyle during "Good Times." Rogers didn’t take kindly to the song being knocked off, and he and Chic bassist Bernard Edwards immediately threatened legal action, with a settlement leading to them being credited as co-writers.
The song broke hip-hop into the mainstream, but it also set the stage for many similar cases of producers asking for forgiveness rather than permission and facing the consequences.
Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force - "Planet Rock" (1982)
Another example of "sampling without sampling," "Planet Rock" wasn’t a straight re-recording of an earlier song like "Rapper’s Delight." After witnessing the popularity of songs by Kraftwerk in New York’s nightclubs, producer Arthur Baker and DJ Afrika Bambaataa decided to fuse the German group’s electronic music with hip-hop.
"Planet Rock" fuses the beat from "Numbers" with the melody from "Trans-Europe Express," with Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force rapping above, but Baker recreated both with his own instruments. They never asked permission from Kraftwerk, however, and when the band reached out to Tommy Boy Records, the label decided to give them a dollar for every copy sold, raising prices to recoup the cost.
The song birthed a genre, electro, and influenced everything from Detroit techno to Miami bass. Years later, Kraftwerk sued another musician over unauthorized sampling, a case that went all the way to Germany’s highest court in 2016.
The "Amen" Break (recorded 1969)
When Washington, D.C.-based soul band the Winstons recorded "Amen, Brother," they couldn’t have predicted the seven-second drum break played by Gregory Coleman would go on to become one of the most iconic, oft-replicated sounds in music.
And yet that’s exactly what happened: After being included in drum break compilations such as Ultimate Breaks and Beats designed for DJs to loop and sample, the "Amen Break" made its way into iconic hip-hop songs from N.W.A. ("Straight Outta Compton"), Mantronix ("King of the Beats,"), 2 Live Crew ("Feel Alright Y’all"), and eventually even the "Futurama" theme song. But the break really exploded in the UK, where British dance music producers, who needed faster tracks for the exploding rave movement, sped the break up. They chopped it until "Amen Brother" was barely recognizable, with other famous breaks like "Funky Drummer" and "Think" getting similar treatment.
Jungle, and its splinter genres drum and bass, and breakcore, resulted, and the breakbeat revolution it unleashed now influences modern pop acts such as PinkPantheress and NewJeans. According to WhoSampled, "Amen, Brother" has been sampled in 6,174 songs, which may be a low estimate.
As the saying goes, however, revolution eats its children. Gregory Coleman, the Winstons drummer who originated the break, never saw a cent of royalties from any of it. He was homeless at the time of his death in 2006, and according to Winstons bandleader Richard Lewis Spencer he had no idea the break had made such an impact. Spencer himself has run hot and cold on the break’s impact, sometimes calling its use plagiarism, but he at least was able to make some money from it: As the last living member of the Winstons, he received $37,000 from a 2015 GoFundMe campaign aimed at repaying some of the lost royalties before he died in 2020.
Biz Markie - "Alone Again" (1991)
In the late '70s and throughout the 1980s, hip-hop flourished creatively as a result of creative sampling. Producers such as Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad created records filled with dozens of samples — a collage-like approach that would influence artists like DJ Shadow and the Avalanches. And yet in 1991, a lawsuit over an uncleared sample threatened to snuff out the entire art form.
Biz Markie, famous for comedic songs such as "Just A Friend," had been dragged into federal court along with Warner Bros. Records for using a portion of "Alone Again (Naturally)," a nearly-forgotten pop song from the ‘70s by Gilbert O’Sullivan. The case was a disaster for Markie and for creativity in general. The court ruled that because the label had reached out to the sample copyright holders, who withheld permission to use the song, and then released it anyway, they were guilty of blatant and willful copyright infringement.
The defense’s argument that unauthorized sampling was widespread in the music industry was rebuffed by Judge Kevin Duffy. In his ruling — which opens by quoting the biblical commandment "Thou Shalt Not Steal" — Duffy wrote that: "The defendants...would have this court believe that stealing is rampant in the music business and, for that reason, their conduct here should be excused."
Markie was ordered to pay $250,000 in damages and referred to (but never charged by) a criminal court on grounds of theft, reeking of racist paternalism. Yet the primary upshot of the decision — that any unapproved sample constitutes copyright infringement — was even more damaging, creating a chilling effect across hip-hop that prevented artists from making full use of the practice’s creative potential. Warner Bros. took the song off Markie’s album, and the rapper famously titled his next record All Samples Cleared!
2 Live Crew - "Pretty Woman" (1989)
Is Luther Campbell, the don dada of Miami bass maestros 2 Live Crew, smarter than the entire Warner Bros. legal team that bungled the "Alone Again" case? Judging by the fact that he managed to drag an uncleared sample case from a much more famous artist than Gilbert O’Sullivan all the way to the Supreme Court — and win — the answer is yes.
Like Biz Markie, 2 Live Crew had asked permission to use a sample – in this case "Oh! Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison – and was rejected. Perhaps this came as a result of their less-than-family-friendly reputation, as the group had been in and out of the headlines fighting obscenity charges over best-selling album As Nasty As They Wanna Be. Nevertheless, they released the song anyway, and when Orbison’s label eventually sued, Campbell came up with a clever defense: fair use.
Campbell declared the 2 Live Crew song, "Pretty Woman," was a parody of Orbison’s original, and therefore the sample constituted a legal fair use. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which reversed an earlier appeals court ruling that said the song couldn’t have been a fair use because of its commercial nature. They also agreed with the initial federal district court ruling that said the 2 Live Crew song was not similar enough to Orbison’s to constitute wholesale infringement.
Jay-Z feat. UGK - "Big Pimpin" (2000)
Hov ended up regretting some of the sexist lyrics on this collab with Houston’s Bun B and Pimp C, but the reason he and Timbaland ended up in court over "Big Pimpin" was a contentious sample. The producer had already forked over $100,000 to sample "Khosara Khosara" by Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdi, but this wasn’t enough for Osama Ahmed Fahmy, Hamdi’s nephew.
Citing the Egyptian legal concept of "moral rights," Fahmy claimed in a 2005 lawsuit that the song was unlicensed because Jay-Z and Timbaland had failed to ask permission from Hamdi’s heirs. The suit was left in legal limbo for years before a California judge finally let Fahmy proceed, by which point Linkin Park had also been pulled in due to a mashup of "Big Pimpin" with their single "Papercut." During his testimony four years later, Jay-Z declared he had been unaware that there was even a sample in the song, saying "Timbaland presented me with a track. I didn’t even think about there being a sample."
The case was finally settled in 2018 when an appeals court upheld the original summary judgment in favor of Jay-Z, by which point the song was nearly 20 years old.
Kanye West - "Blood On The Leaves" (2013)
Quite a few of the samples used on Yeezus, Kanye’s incendiary, famously-rushed 2013 album, ended up being unauthorized. West fielded lawsuits from Hungarian prog rock band Omega (sampled on "New Slaves") and the Ponderosa Twins Plus One (sampled on "Bound 2") for using their music without permission. But it was "Blood on the Leaves" which attracted the most attention for its brazen (and fully authorized) appropriation of Nina Simone’s cover of "Strange Fruit," originally made famous by Billie Holiday.
That a famous anti-lynching anthem was used by a mega-famous rapper to decry the materialism and excess rife within hip-hop might have ruffled a few feathers — some conservative critics even argued it was an anti-abortion song — but the song received almost universal praise.
Robin Thicke ft. T.I. and Pharrell - "Blurred Lines" (2013)
True, "Blurred Lines" is not exactly a hip-hop track, but it does feature two rappers, and while not exactly a sample, Robin Thicke and Pharrell’s much-too-liberal "borrowing" of Marvin Gaye’s "Got to Give it Up" changed the music industry irreparably. Certainly, the song was hugely controversial, opening up a pre-#MeToo discourse over its objectification of women and glorification of rape culture that ultimately led to bans. But it was the similarities to Gaye’s song, flaunted by Willams and Thicke in the press, as well as a preemptive legal action against the Marvin Gaye estate, that had a more lasting, damaging impact.
Williams had argued in his initial complaint against the Gaye family that their claim was not based on specific musical elements, but on the face value similarity of the two songs. However, a jury ruled unanimously in favor of the family. The case essentially rewrote the legal precedents of musical copyright law overnight, broadening the scope by which a song might be considered infringement. Thanks to the "Blurred Lines" suit, a musician may live in fear of legal predation simply because their new song sounds vaguely similar to one from 30 or 40 years ago.
Meanwhile, massive investments are being made into older music, partially to make up for this creative chilling effect.
Juice WRLD - "Lucid Dreams" (2017)
There’s nothing particularly incendiary about the plaintive guitar sample from Sting’s "Shape of My Heart" that forms the backbone of Juice WRLD’s emo rap hit. When producer Nick Mira revealed that Sting had taken 85 percent of the rights for the song, however, it became a demonstration of how sampling has become a way for established artists to exploit newer talent.
It also attracted a lawsuit from pop-punk band Yellowcard, who cited similarities to their track "Holly Wood Died." Juice WRLD himself downplayed the situation, saying "There’s always more money to be made." The suit was later dropped after the 21-year-old rapper’s tragic early death in December 2019.
Young Nudy feat. Playboi Carti - "Pissy Pamper" (aka "Kid Cudi") (2019)
One of the most successful unreleased songs in recent memory is also a cautionary tale for keeping leaks under control. The song originally entitled "Pissy Pamper" was a Pi’erre Bourne-produced track originally meant for Sli’merre, his collaborative mixtape with Young Nudy.
With its prominent use of a loop from "Tasogare" by Japanese singer Mai Yamane (best known to anime fans for "Cowboy Bebop" ending theme), the track regretfully never made the record due to sample clearance issue. But somehow, a leaked file made its way onto Spotify, where its killer component, an evocative "baby voice" verse from Playboi Carti at the peak of pre-Whole Lotta Red hysteria.
The rest is history: internet memes, reuploads with Nudy’s parts removed, and so on. Thanks to social media, the song is a generational touchstone that shouldn’t legally exist.
5 Essential Hip-Hop Releases From The 2020s: Drake, Lil Baby, Ice Spice, 21 Savage & More
The 2020s swapped record sales for big personalities and artists with a penchant for virality. Read on for five crucial songs and albums that defined the decade.
It’s only been three years into the new decade, but a new era of hip-hop artists have already made their mark on the ever-evolving genre.
In the 2020s, social media platforms like TikTok have played a growing role in the trajectory of an artist's career. Social media has given artists like Finesse2tymes, Coi Leray, Baby Keem, Ice Spice, and others their first sign of momentum, and they have all ascended to stardom by following the same formula.
The decade has also proven to be a golden age for female rap stars, with emerging talents like Latto, Megan Thee Stallion, Sexyy Red, GloRilla, and others adding to the femme-powered charge. Male artists including Lil Durk, Fivio Foreign, Lil Baby, and others have become the leading voices of their respective cities.
Meanwhile, now-veteran MC Drake remains one of the genre's biggest names and most consistent hit-makers. Rap supernovas J. Cole, Tyler, the Creator, and Kendrick Lamar have continued to flex their culture-shifting powers in the '20s, while the legacies of late artists Nipsey Hussle, Pop Smoke, DMX, PnB Rock, Takeoff, and others have been immortalized by musical dedications, video tributes, and posthumous projects supported by those that cherished their contributions.
Sounds and styles of other regions continue to meld with those of domestic hip-hop artists. Among the biggest cross-genre trends, afrobeat, reggaeton, and afro-swing hits like Travis Scott and Rosalia’s "TKN," J Hus and Drake’s collab "Who Told You," and Chris Brown and WizKid’s "Call Me Every Day" showcase hip-hop’s musical expansion. While the 2010s pointed to the boundless nature of rap music, the genre is as socially diverse as ever in the 2020s.
From new flows, collabs, and incredible beats, hip-hop will undoubtedly continue to evolve over the next six and a half years. Read on for five releases that have defined the 2020s thus far.
Lil Baby - My Turn (2020)
Lil Baby has blossomed into one of the leading figures in Atlanta rap. He built up momentum with mixtapes Too Hard, Street Gospel, and his collaborative project with Gunna, Drip Harder. But Baby’s full ascension came with the delivery of My Turn, a culmination of his biggest street anthems and most conceptualized hits.
The 20-track project was filled with the year’s biggest trap records, which featured fellow rap stars Lil Uzi Vert, Moneybagg Yo, Future, Young Thug, Rylo Rodriguez, Lil Wayne, and 4 Pockets Full signee 42 Dugg. The album drew an all-star ensemble of beat makers too, with super-producer Hit-Boy, Murda Beatz, Tay Keith, Quay Global, Twysted Genius, and others lending a hand in the production.
My Turn earned Lil Baby his first No.1 album and topped the charts in 10 countries. And along with major sales, the single "Bigger Picture" was nominated for two GRAMMY Awards in 2021 and introduced the world to the Quality Control Music rapper on a global scale.
Tyler, the Creator - Call Me If You Get Lost (2021)
Tyler, the Creator took a sonic pivot on Flower Boy and 2019’s Igor, which earned the "See You Again" artist a broader audience and new hardware for his trophy collection. The two albums were deeply transient, personal bodies of work that showed Tyler’s artistry in ways previously unseen.
He embraced a more alternative sound that was led by harmony-driven romantic tales, punk-ish "f–you" records, and occasional flashes of the Tyler of old. But 2021’s Call Me If You Get Lost ( (hosted by legendary music executive DJ Drama) was the full return of Tyler, the MC. Although it had been years since the California-based artist showcased his lyrical prowess on a full-length project, his skills never faltered.
Tyler regained his distinct delivery from 2013’s Wolf and his older works. He flaunted his riches on the braggadocio-fueled "Runitup" and "Lemonhead," explored romanticism on "Wusyaname," and addressed his rise from unknown artist to international fixture on "Massa."
The sound of the project was largely crafted by Tyler himself with other contributions from producers Jay Versace, Madlib, and Jamie xx. The finished product was praised by critics and notched Tyler his second award for Best Rap Album at the 2022 GRAMMYs. And nearly two years after the album’s release, Tyler released a deluxe version of the album that featured eight additional songs with appearances from artists A$AP Rocky, YG, and Vince Staples.
Kendrick Lamar - Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers (2022)
Before Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, it had been five years since fans heard a full-length project from Kendrick Lamar. The Compton rapper took his time with the release of his fifth studio, which was a particularly sentimental one for the "DNA." artist. Not only did it mark his first project under his new creative collective PGLang, but it also closed the book on his time at Top Dawg Entertainment.
With major changes brewing, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers was a masterful reflective body of work that mirrored Lamar’s journey in therapy. Themes surrounding alcoholism, grief, celebrity worship, infidelity and childhood trauma are sprinkled throughout the album. The conscious undertones were overlaid with richly-crafted beats by long-time collaborators DJ Dahi, J. Lbs, DJ Dahi, Sounwave, and Bekon, with additional contributions from Boi-1da, the Alchemist, and others.
The album was led by three singles, "N95," "Die Hard," and "Silent Hill" featuring Kodak Black, which helped the album shoot to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the "Alright" artist’s fourth chart-topping project and went on to earn him Best Rap Album at the 65th GRAMMY Awards and re-established his dominance in the genre.
Drake and 21 Savage - Her Loss (2022)
When one of the South’s biggest stars links up with rap’s most consistent hitmaker, it’s bound to shake up the genre. And after collaborating on songs like "Sneakin," "Issa," Mr. Right Now" and others, that’s exactly what Drake and 21 Savage’s Her Loss managed to do.
The collab came at a good time for 21 Savage, who was two years removed from Savage Mode II, and for Drake, who had just released the critically mixed dance album, Honestly, Nevermind. The 16-track album was riddled with street hits like "BackOutsideBoyz," "Rich Flex" and "Treacherous Twins."
For all the album’s peaks, controversy loomed over the project immediately after its release. On the song "Circo Loco," many fans claimed Drake dissed fellow rap star Megan Thee Stallion on the song with the lyrics, "This bitch lie 'bout gettin' shots but she still a stallion / She don't even get the joke, but she still smilin'." The story was picked up by several publications, and fan theories circulated for weeks following the album’s release.
Still, the album topped Billboard 200 with more than 400,000 album-equivalent units, replacing Taylor Swift’s Midnights from the top spot. All tracks debuted on the Billboard Hot 100, with eight of them landing in the top 10.
Ice Spice and Nicki Minaj - "Princess Diana" (2023)
Ice Spice’s "Munch (Feelin’ U)" had fans gravitating to the curly-haired Bronx native, who struck gold with the viral hit that left a new generation of men questioning whether they’re called strictly for pleasure or genuine affection. The sudden stardom opened doors for the "Bikini Bottom" MC.
After landing on magazine covers and appearing at the illustrious Met Gala, she collaborated with her idol Nicki Minaj on the hit "Princess Diana." The song was the second track on Spice’s debut EP, Like..?, but the addition of Minaj boosted her twerk-obsessed, oats-loving brand to new heights.
With the success of "Princess Diana," the two artists collaborated again on the Barbie movie soundtrack song "Barber World (with Aqua)." The collabs only added to her series of Internet smashes, a list that includes records like "Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2" and "In Ha Mood." She still has a long way to go for her success to be proven substantial, but Spice has already established herself as the hottest commodity in the 2020s.
Photo: Johnny Nunez/WireImage
Founding Father DJ Kool Herc & First Lady Cindy Campbell Celebrate Hip-Hop’s 50th Anniversary
In an interview with GRAMMY.com hip-hop pioneers DJ Kool Herc and Cindy Campbell discuss the culture's origins in their apartment rec room and the myriad ways their Jamaican heritage influenced hip-hop.
On Aug. 11, 1973, high school student Cindy Campbell threw a party in the recreation room of her family’s Bronx apartment building to earn money for new back-to-school clothes. Cindy hand wrote invitations on index cards and charged a modest admission fee (25 cents for ladies, 50 cents for "fellas"); she asked her 18-year-old brother Clive to play the music.
Clive, better known as DJ Kool Herc, set up his turntables, mixer, amplifiers and towering speaker boxes, which blared a mix of funk and soul records. Herc’s pal, Bronx native Coke La Rock, intermittently shouted out friends and quick rhymes over the records’ instrumental breaks to hype up the crowd. While the large turnout of their peers ensured Cindy would start the school year donning the latest fashions, the siblings had done something infinitely more important, Cindy and Herc sparked a movement.
The precise origin of any musical genre is rarely traceable to a single event. But Cindy and Herc’s party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, held 50 years ago, is widely recognized as laying the foundation upon which hip-hop was built.
"From my back-to-school party where my brother Herc played, his influence with the music, the songs, the beats that he chose, he knew he had something special there. He dominated the 1970s and created this thing that we call hip-hop," Cindy Campbell told GRAMMY.com in a recent phone interview, with Herc later joining the conversation.
But the term hip-hop, which encompasses the movement’s four elements — emceeing or rapping, breakdancing, graffiti and turntabling — wouldn’t come into usage until several years after the back-to-school party took place.
Cindy says one of the most meaningful events in elevating hip-hop’s profile early on was the 1984 film Beat Street, which Harry Belafonte executive produced. "At one point, people didn’t know where hip-hop was going, it flew below the radar, but Harry did the movie because he knew something special was going on; it took hip-hop to another level and the music went international," she reflects.
Decades later, hip-hop is celebrating multiple milestones and Herc will get his flowers.
On Nov. 3, DJ Kool Herc will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a ceremony held at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
"I’d say it’s about damn time, but I ain’t mad at them because Willie Nelson is being inducted this year and he’s 90!" quips Herc. The Rock Hall identifies Herc, 67, as one of the founders of hip-hop, but Herc offers a clarification: "I am the founding father of hip-hop," he asserts, "because no one else was doing this when I started."
A former graffiti artist whose tag was CLYDE (from his friends’ mispronunciation of Clive) AS KOOL (taken from a cigarette ad), Clive Campbell earned the nickname Hercules in high school for his imposing, brawny stature and excellence in sports. But it was Herc’s background as a dancer that led to his groundbreaking technique as a DJ.
Behind the turntables, Herc paid close attention to the dancers at his parties and their responses to his musical selections; he noticed they were most excited by the song’s instrumental breaks. Building upon that observation, Herc utilized dual copies of the same record on two turntables, switching between them with a mixer and prolonging a song’s short percussive interval into an extended, hypnotic rhythmic loop. He called his distinctive approach the merry-go-round and it would influence other pioneering Bronx hip-hop DJs including Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa.
"I had two copies of the same record and I went for the yolk, the butter. I found the beats, the break and I played that on all of the records," Herc recalls. "I didn’t have headphones at the time, but I could see the breaks on the record’s grooves and just went back and forth. Once the dancers heard that, all they wanted to hear were the breaks. "Other DJs had records," offers Herc, "but I had a style that they didn’t have, Herc’s style, the merry-go-round."
Hip-Hop: Born From A Eclectic Soundscape
Like his father who was an avid record collector, Herc listened to an eclectic range of music: Prince Buster and the Skatalites’ classic Jamaican ska singles, Jim Reeves’ iconic country laments, soul nuggets and Top 40 hits. "Back in the day I listened to WWRL AM and [New York City radio legends] Frankie Crocker on WBLS FM and Cousin Brucie on WABC AM; I listened to Boz Scaggs, Three Dog Night, the Rolling Stones’ 'Sympathy for the Devil,'" Herc shared.
Herc chose records according to their breaks, irrespective of genre, which he wove into an exhilarating soundscape that became hip-hop’s aural underpinning. "I came up on all of that music, no racism," explains Herc. "If you’re Chinese, Black, white, you are alright, we all bleed red, because Jamaica’s motto is 'Out Of Many One People.'"
Clive and Cindy Campbell were born and raised in Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston; from an early age, they were exposed to the island’s sound system culture — a significant entertainment platform in Jamaica’s economically depressed communities. Sound systems (mobile discos) first appeared in Kingston in the late 1940s and proliferated throughout the 1950s and 1960s, initially playing American R&B records. However, the sound systems’ need for exclusive music accelerated Jamaica’s nascent recording industry, which led to the subsequent birth of ska, rocksteady, reggae and dancehall.
Each sound employed a selector, who played the records, and an emcee or "deejay" in Jamaican parlance, who would rhyme or "toast" over the records’ instrumental segments. Early toasters such as Count Matchuki followed by King Stitt melded their Jamaican dialect with mimicking the radio jocks they heard on stations based in the southern U.S. that were beamed into the island.
Clive and Cindy observed the most popular sound men of the era including Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd (Downbeat the Ruler), Duke Reid (Trojan) and most influential to Herc, George Edwards a.k.a. King George of King Edwards sound, as they set up their respective equipment in the afternoon ahead of the evenings’ dances. "King George, that’s how my ear developed, from listening to him," says Herc.
The dances attracted huge crowds and generated income not just for the sound systems and the sessions’ promoters but for food and drink vendors, even tailors and dressmakers because many patrons purchased new clothes to look their best.
"My father was very musically inclined, he had the latest music, went to parties and one of his good friends, Mr. Jim, was Coxsone Dodd’s brother," Cindy says. "We were too young to participate but our parents and family members talked about the experience. The dances were held outside so we saw how Jamaican people put on and promoted their dances, and what needed to be done to have a successful party. Those things had a tremendous influence on how we did our parties in the Bronx."
The Campbells migrated to the Bronx NY during the 1960s, their relocation led by Clive and Cindy’s mother, Nettie, as she pursued a nursing degree. Clive arrived in the Bronx in 1967. With the help of his father, Herc set up his own sound system, The Herculoids, its powerful, rumbling sonic replicating what he heard in his Kingston youth with one significant difference. "A lot of Jamaicans emphasize the bass to shake your waist. I like bass, but I like to break down the system because you have highs, you have mid-range and the bass, so I broke it down."
Herc spun primarily funk and soul, as well as the occasional rock record. "I played music, some for the old, some for the young. I call it grown folks’ style," Herc explains. "If I can dance to it, I am going to play it."
His merry-go-round technique transformed the breaks on an assortment of singles from the the Incredible Bongo Band’s "Apache" to Dennis Coffee’s "Scorpio," James Brown’s "Give It Up Turn It Loose," to Dr. John’s "Right Place, Wrong Time" into extended, hypnotic percussive jams. Herc’s father told him to soak the labels off of his records to protect their identity from rival DJs, a practice utilized by Kingston’s sound system selectors to trump their opponents at sound clashes.
By the end of 1973, the recreation room couldn’t accommodate the size of the crowds attending Herc’s parties, so he and Coke La Rock moved their sessions to parks and clubs throughout the Bronx. Coke La Rock’s quick shout outs grew into rhymes that morphed into lyrics, including "hotel, motel, you don’t tell, we won’t tell," which was interpolated by the Sugar Hill Gang’s Big Bank Hank in rap’s first hit record, "Rapper’s Delight." The influential template La Rock established is a mid-1970s American transplantation of Jamaican deejays’ practice of talking over records.
Respect For The Culture's Jamaican Roots
Some longstanding hip-hop fans, bloggers and even historians have minimized the Jamaican sound system as the bedrock for the culture’s development. Even in Jamaica, where hip-hop is widely listened to, many are unaware of the movement’s ancestry. "We realize that Jamaicans have never really grasped what hip-hop has done, as related to us coming from the island of Jamaica," says Cindy.
Possibly the only hip-hop 50 event exploring the complexities of the sound system/hip-hop connection is Faawud: Jamaican Sound System Culture’s Official Hip-Hop 50th Celebration, to be held at a later date. Faawud will include a turntablist competition, a friendly battle between a rap emcee and a Jamaican toaster and an exhibition of audio components and paraphernalia from early days of hip-hop and reggae, with DJs King Addies, Revolution Sound and DJ Myte playing classic tracks, representing both genres.
A panel exploring hip-hop’s sound system roots will include Herc, Grandmaster Kaz (emcee/leader of the pioneering hip-hop group Cold Crush Brothers) who attended Cindy and Herc’s fabled back to school jam, and Danny Dread, the venerable, tenured selector with King Addies, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary. Danny and Herc will each play 15-minute sets and at midnight on Aug. 11, Herc will usher in hip-hop’s official birthday.
Cindy Campbell, Kool Herc and Coke LaRock will receive awards, as will their Jamaican counterparts Danny Dread and veteran toaster Big Youth, one of the first deejays to have hit records, beginning in the early 1970s.
"Jamaican and Caribbean artists have had an incredible impact on the birth and growth of hip-hop and their influence has been overlooked for too long," comments James Cuthbert, President of Rock The Bells, one of Faawud’s presenting partners. "In this 50th year of hip-hop, if we are going to honor the culture and the icons that created it, we have to do it right."
In 2021, a Congressional Resolution officially declared 1520 Sedgwick Avenue the birthplace of hip-hop, which followed a battle against landlords who wanted to shutter the historic dwelling. Endeavoring to save the building, Herc and Cindy worked with New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who marveled at their accomplishments as immigrants to New York City.
"Senator Schumer said, 'my God, this is an immigrant story,'" Cindy says. "Hip-hop was born in America, but it’s a fantastic immigrant story. People don’t realize that two immigrants from Jamaica did this. Why? Because we flew below the radar. We didn’t sue anybody or jump on a bandwagon saying we did this or that. We didn’t have to; the 50 years speak for themselves."
Photo: Jason Koerner/Getty Images
7 Blazing Sets From Rolling Loud Miami 2023: Travis Scott, Sexyy Red, Rae Sremmurd & More
Known for raucous mosh pits and viral-worthy moments, Rolling Loud Miami featured over 100 artists over the course of three days. Watch seven of the most energetic, unforgettable performances from Rolling Loud Miami 2023.
Friday’s afternoon downpour wasn’t enough to sizzle the energy (or heat) on the first day of Rolling Loud Miami.
For its last stop of the year, Rolling Loud returned to the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens for its 8th annual flagship Miami edition. With over 100 artists billed to perform throughout the three-day festival, thousands of fans braved the scorching temperatures to experience some of hip-hop’s biggest acts, including Playboi Carti, Ice Spice, City Girls, Latto, Lil Uzi Vert, Offset, and ASAP Rocky. This year was also the first time Rolling Loud recruited Latin artists to perform. Reggaetonero Anuel AA and dembow artist El Alfa graced the main stage on Friday and Saturday, respectively, to perform their biggest songs in front of a massive throng of fans.
Known for raucous mosh pits and viral-worthy moments, Rolling Loud wouldn’t be complete without mayhem and spectacle. Aside from delayed set times on the main Gopuff Stage and Travis Scott starting his performance almost an hour late, notable performances included Offset bringing out Cardi B to perform her verse on "Motorsport," Travis Scott announcing the release date for his new album, Utopia and accompanying movie Circus Maximus, and ASAP Rocky seemingly dissing Scott while performing a new song from his upcoming album, Don’t Be Dumb.
Drama and chaos aside, artists blazed the stages all weekend with energetic, unforgettable performances. Here are our seven standout sets from Rolling Loud Miami.
Fousheé Captivated Fans With Electric Rage
Clad in a white fur coat and white hair, Fousheé electrified the Culture Kings Stage with heavy metal screams and dizzying twirls. The New Jersey singer/songwriter and guitarist went viral back in 2020 when the vocals for her song "Deep End" were used by rapper Sleepy Hallow on one of his viral songs. Since then, she’s carved out a space for her alternative-pop and rock sound.
As the sun faded into the sky, Fousheé lit up the crowd performing songs from her softCore album like "simmer down" and "scream my name." Flanked by two guitarists, her captivatingly bold vocals incited energy among the throng of fans lined around her stage.
She helmed her performance with the grit and charisma of those who came before her like Tina Turner. Fousheé declared: "Black women started this rock s— and we’re taking it back."
Sexyy Red Stirred Controversy And Dominated The Stage
The St. Louis rapper made her Rolling Loud debut on Friday, donning her signature red hair and a glittery red outfit. Sexyy Red left fans stunned as she strutted on to the Sprite Stage, leading two ski-masked men on leashes. Just months prior, she was involved in controversy for appearing to be walked like a dog by NLE Choppa in his "Slut Me Out (Remix) video.
Sexxy Red set the first day ablaze, performing her most viral hit songs, "Female Gucci Mane," "Pound Town," and "SkeeYee" from her recent album, Hood Hottest Princess. She also brought out rapper Sukihana to perform their raunchy twerk anthem, "Born By the River."
For her first Rolling Loud set, Sexxy Red’s penchant for bold and brazen lyricism and stunts proved she’s unapologetic and here to stay.
Rae Sremmurd’s Turned The Sprite Stage Into A Party
Fresh off the release of their new album, Sremm 4 Life, Rae Sremmurd was one of the best performances of Friday night. The dynamic duo turned the Sprite Stage into a party as they performed back-to-back bangers like "No Flex Zone," "Come Get Her," "Swang," "This Could Be Us" and "Powerglide." The hitmakers reminded fans of their staying power with their mainstage-worthy energy.
Donning a Dior bodysuit, Swae Lee jumped into a sea of fans on his surfboard while Slim Jxmmi, dressed in all white, jumped on to the barricade at the front of the stage to greet the audience. They kept the crowd ignited as they went back and forth between their most iconic hits and new songs. They slowed things down just for a bit on "Sativa," a mesmerizing, trippy hit with Jhené Aiko.
The pair held it down on the other side of the festival just as headliner Playboi Carti was gearing up to start his set. But fans didn't seem rushed to head to the main stage. Rae Sremmurd kept a sweltering crowd snaking along the edges of their stage, ready to party throughout the night.
Travis Scott Surprised Fans With Dates For New Album, Movie
Travis Scott’s delayed headliner set on Saturday night didn’t deter fans from inciting full-on chaos. His set started with a movie trailer teasing the release of his long-awaited album Utopia and its accompanying movie Circus Maximus.
The enigmatic rapper appeared on stage surrounded by smoking volcanic terrain and fire shooting from the stage. Unbearable temperatures didn’t rival the heat Scott brought as he performed hits from his acclaimed 2018 ASTROWORLD album, "HIGHEST IN THE ROOM," "BUTTERFLY EFFECT," and "STARGAZING."
Throughout the rest of his set, Scott emanated an otherworldy presence rapping "Praise God," (a Baby Keem assisted single from Ye’s Donda) and one of his most popular songs, "goosebumps." As fireworks shot into the air around him, Scott ended his set telling fans what they just witnessed was his last ASTROWORLD set and revealing the July 28 release date for his new album and accompanying movie.
The hour-long performance officially wrapped Scott's ASTROWORLD-themed era, which was both the catalyst for launching Travis Scott into hip-hop superstardom and subject of controversy when a fatal crowd crush at his 2021 annual ASTROWORLD festival resulted in 10 fatalities.
He invited fans to the Utopia Livestream show at the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, saying "meet me at the pyramids if you can," before disappearing into the night as quickly as he emerged.
Luh Tyler Brought Clever Bars And Charisma To The Culture King Stage
Luh Tyler went viral last year for his steady flow on "Law & Order" — a remix of the theme song from the crime drama of the same name — and in April his debut album, My Vision, peaked at No.2 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart. The 17-year-old Tallahassee, Floria native performed on the Culture King stage alongside unexpected guest performers DDG, Danny Tower, DD Osama, and even his own grandmother.
He rapped some of his most memorable lyrics from the Tiktok viral song "Florida Water" with Danny Towers, DJ Scheme, and Ski Mask the Slump God and closed out his set to "Law & Order." Recently named one of XXL’s 2023 Freshman, Luh Tyler’s confidence and charm on stage made this newcomer’s set one of the most exciting to witness.
Coi Leray Danced The Night Away
With a few years and a new album, Coi, under her belt, Coi Leray has proved to fans and naysayers that she’s more than a one-hit wonder. She confidently helmed her stage with short black hair and scantily clad in a glittery leather two piece. Flanked by dancers dressed in all black, she performed popular Tiktok viral hits, "TWINNEM," "Players," and "No More Parties."
Coi Leray danced the night away to a set mixed with new songs from Coi, bringing the energy to new heights with her nostalgic "Pump Up the Jam'' sampled song "Make My Day" and the hype track "Run It Up." She promoted self-love with her Metro Boomin-produced single "Self Love" from the Spider Man: Across the Spiderverse soundtrack before ending the set the girl empowerment anthem "Players."
Coi Leray’s fun performance was not just a standout but also encompassed the rise of women in rap. Other notable women rappers throughout the weekend were Latto, GloRilla, City Girls and Lola Brooke.
Danny Towers Embodied Rolling Loud’s Miami Roots
Danny Towers has been a Florida staple since his rise in South Florida’s SoundCloud era alongside the late XXXTentacion and Juice WRLD, Ski Mask the Slump God, and DJ Scheme. His set embodied Rolling Loud’s roots with songs like "Chunky Monkey," and the viral Ski Mask the Slump God, DJ Scheme, and Lil Yachty hit "How You Feel? (Freestyle)."
He ended his set on the Culture Kings stage with "Florida Water," a DJ Scheme-produced TikTok viral Florida anthem with Luh Tyler and Ski Mask the Slump God. The closing song was fitting for the last day of Rolling Loud. While fans from all over the country moshed and yelled the lyrics to the song, Danny Towers reminded everyone the city and the culture that was the catalyst for the biggest hip-hop festival in the world.