The rap stars Kendrick Lamar and Drake lead the list of nominees for the 2019 Grammy Awards announced Friday, but right behind them is a crop of young and less heralded artists, notably women, after years of friction about diversity, including a major dust-up over gender representation after the last ceremony.
The Instagram star turned rapper Cardi B, the folk singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, the left-of-center country singer Kacey Musgraves, and the R&B artists H.E.R. and Janelle Monáe are among the women who will compete for album of the year against some of hip-hop’s biggest names. Lamar received eight nominations — including his fourth for album of the year — for his role as executive producer of the soundtrack to Marvel’s “Black Panther,” and Drake was nominated seven times in connection with his blockbuster double album “Scorpion” and guest appearances. Rounding out the category is “Beerbongs & Bentleys” by the 23-year-old rapper and singer Post Malone.
But each of the big four general field categories — record of the year, song of the year, album of the year and best new artist — is dominated by women, including six out of eight acts up for best new artist: Chloe x Halle, H.E.R., Dua Lipa, Margo Price, Bebe Rexha and Jorja Smith. (The others are the country singer Luke Combs and the retro-rock band Greta Van Fleet.)
Neil Portnow, the president and chief executive of the Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammys, said in a statement that “reflection, re-evaluation and implementation” were the “driving forces” behind recent changes to the show’s processes, and therefore its nominations. Portnow, who will step down in 2019, drew ire from prominent women in music, some of whom called for his resignation, after the 60th annual Grammy ceremony in January, when he told reporters backstage that women in music needed to “step up” if they wanted recognition in the industry.
Amid the backdrop of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements against harassment and professional inequality, only one woman, Alessia Cara, won a major award in one of the televised categories this year and Lorde, the only female nominee for album of the year, was not offered a solo performance slot. A report published before the show found that of the 899 people nominated in the last six Grammy Awards, just 9 percent were women. (Portnow later said he regretted his wording, and that his comments had been taken out of context.)
A MONONYM IS possessed of a certain celebrity: Prince, Madonna, Iman. No surname needed, thank you very much. Just a couple of syllables and the whole of the mononym’s grandeur flashes across our consciousness.
Solange. Two mellifluous syllables and her face springs to mind: the fierce, open gaze, those striking full eyebrows. Solange the singer, songwriter, choreographer, visual and performing artist, with four, soon to be five, albums to her name. Solange the 2017 Grammy winner: Best R&B Performance, “Cranes in the Sky.” Solange, who earlier that year performed for President Obama and the first lady at their final White House party. Solange, whose acclaimed 2016 album, “A Seat at the Table” yoked artistry to activism with its piercing inquiry into race and identity in America, with lyrics such as, “You got the right to be mad / But when you carry it alone, you find it only getting in the way.” Solange the culture maker, whose performance art, digital work and sculpture have been exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, the Menil Collection in Houston, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Tate Modern in London. Solange, named the Harvard Foundation Artist of the Year in 2018.
Though the conflict between Drake and Pusha-T has been wrapped up, one popular conversation birthed from the feud is the existence of rules (if any) in rap beef. Drake’s appearance on HBO’s The Shop spawned a debate across hip-hop, as he stated that certain lines shouldn’t be crossed in rap. Rappers and music industry individuals attempted to argue on both sides, though no general consensus was established.
While still on promo for their Beloved project, Dave East and Styles P (who both recently gave their opinion on the topic) stopped by radio veteran/media personality Funkmaster Flex‘s show on Hot 97. At the end of the video above, around the 6:09 mark, Flex took the time to go on an explicative filled rant addressing the issue of those who seek to establish guidelines in lyrical warfare.
Flex, in his usual candid, unabashed fashion, made his stance unequivocally clear.
“If you get your feelings hurt, fuck you, it don’t really matter,” he began. “If you don’t write your own shit, you ain’t qualified to give motherfucking rules on the fucking game, you fucking bozo.”
The sentiment Flex expressed echoes that of an earlier statement made by Styles regarding the Drake/Pusha T incident. Styles told Hot 97 “you can’t expect in any type of warfare, any type, not just rap, ain’t no rules.”
This isn’t the first time Flex has addressed Drake, as his disdain with the Canadian superstar has always been about the actions taken by Drake that are contrarian to the hip-hop purist (i.e. the infamous Quentin Miller reference tracks).
There’s a special ambiance that permeates the air whenever Lil Wayne drops a Carter project. It’s a remarkable occasion seeing that none of the projects hold a classic album distinction in the traditional sense.
But that’s because Lil Wayne doesn’t adhere to any traditional rap guidelines. His place in Hip Hop’s pantheon can be difficult to outline in words but it’s without question he was a trendsetter for paving the genre’s entry in viable mainstream acceptance. With his penchant for taking studio mastered melodies and completely adopting them with his own zany flow, his relentless flooding of the mixtape circuit found him planted in the eardrums of millions at a different entry point. And the industry official Carter albums would live on to be a place where his multitude of fans could convene on the same accord.
And despite being seven years, 30 days and an infinite amount of trend changes since the release of the last Carter drop date, the kicker this time around is the music is simply just good.
Like all of its previous installments, Tha Carter V is a mile-long, bloated package of unpredictable zest that’s light on introspection (not to discredit Momma Carter’s impromptu interludes over the course of its 87 minutes). Yet its allurement lies in the fact that “Mixtape Weezy” and “Carter Wayne” are able to co-exist with ease.
There’s the Swizz Beatz-boosted “Uproar,” which employs the same Moog Machine sample popularized by G-Dep and Diddy at the top of the decade that gives the album a DatPiff feel intertwined with soul-drenched records like “Demon,” a quasi-Gospel cut that actually gives Wayne maturity stripes.
Even with his elder statesman status, it isn’t hard to hear Wayne’s influence has transcended a couple of generations. Travis Scott cooly incorporates Astroworld inside Weezyana on the “Let It Fly” rager, Kendrick Lamar showcases he’s a rap martian descendant on the long-awaited pairing “Mona Lisa” (ditto for XXXTENTACION, who sheds light on what could have been with his haunting performance on “Don’t Cry”) and even daughter Reginae Carter impresses with her chorus on the reflective “Famous.”
You probably already know that listening to music no longer requires trips to a music store, or purchasing individual songs or albums from iTunes to download to your computer. Today’s best music streaming services have millions of songs in their catalogs, offer personalized playlists, and feature exclusive internet radio shows and podcasts. But which should you pick and pay a subscription fee for?
A good streaming music service has a straightforward user interface that makes it easy to organize a library of thousands of songs or playlists across the web, Android, and iOS apps, and in some cases, a desktop Mac or Windows app. However, while most music streaming services have these features, most of them aren’t free, and nearly all services require paid plans that grant you access to a full on-demand library of music and other features.
While testing these music streaming services, I considered factors like audio quality options, social integration, and built-in lyrics. It’s also absolutely necessary that your streaming app plays nice with more than one personal device. These are all important points when considering which music service to pick and ultimately, make for a better listening experience.
Spotify is the best streaming music service for a variety of reasons, but there’s one in particular that stands out. It has the most consistent iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows experience. It’s far from perfect, of course, but features rolled out to the iOS version follow on Android not too soon after. Competing music services sometimes have issues with certain platforms, like the clunky Android version of Apple Music or the Windows app for Tidal that sometimes won’t load.
Other than having a unified app experience, Spotify has a large catalog of music (35+ million songs), the best playlist recommendations, useful, yet non-intrusive social features, and a variety of plans (including student discounts) that make it great for most music listeners with a smartphone and some headphones.
It’s also one of the streaming services (alongside Amazon Music and Apple Music) that supports offline listening for both mobile and desktop, which is useful when you’re doing work and don’t want to eat up bandwidth or using your device on a plane without internet. Spotify is also supported by most smart speakers and smart devices, so it’s almost universally available on all platforms.
However, Spotify isn’t without shortcomings. There’s no hi-fi option, the app can misbehave when you have a poor cell connection, and uploading purchased songs to your desktop Spotify library is a convoluted process. Still, Spotify’s mobile and desktop experiences are fast and easy to understand. Spotify’s pricing also set the precedent for other music streaming apps. It has a compelling free option on desktop, a $4.99 option for students (US only), the standard $9.99 premium option that lets you download and stream on all your personal devices, and finally, a $14.99 family plan (for six users total).
A GREAT ALTERNATIVE: APPLE MUSIC
Apple Music has a lot going for it that’s pegged on exclusivity. Beats 1 is home to many top-tier artists that use their respective radio shows to demo and tease new music and collaborations. If you’re a fan of certain popular artists, you might find that the first chance you’ll have to hear their new music is on Apple Music, not Spotify or Tidal. Sound quality is usually better than Spotify’s, thanks to Apple Music using a 256kbps AAC bitrate, compared to the max 320kbps Ogg Vorbis bitrate used by Spotify.
Banking on this sense of access and being “in the know,” Apple Music tops this off with artist’s music videos, adding a visual treat you can enjoy without having to go to another app. However for comparison, Tidal, YouTube Music, and Spotify are the other streaming services that offer music videos built into the app. Of those, only Spotify has short vertical videos for a few of its popular songs; Apple Music does not.
Apple Music also has a digital locker feature that subscribers can take advantage of, to the tune of 100,000 songs. Although, you should be hard-pressed not to find your purchased music in Apple Music’s library of over 50 million songs. You can also save these songs for offline listening on iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and the Apple Watch.
The iOS, Android, and desktop apps are my least favorite user music streaming interfaces. The abundant use of hot pink accents and white backgrounds everywhere isn’t the most comfortable to view at night. On Android, the Apple Music app feels even more out of place and occasionally had problems staying open on my Pixel 2 XL. Using Apple Music on a desktop requires you to use iTunes, an app that’s slow, cumbersome, confusing, and long overdue for a redesign. Apple Music has definitely not been blessed with the most beautiful interfaces the designers at Cupertino have released.
Apple Music’s pricing is similar to Spotify and other services: $9.99 monthly or $14.99 for a family plan (up to six users), with student discounts varying by country.
If you’re an audiophile — someone who is enthusiastic about hi-fi reproduction — and want to use a streaming service, there are some good alternatives.
For those that have audio hardware capable of taking advantage of lossless hi-fi, then Tidal or Deezer’s $20 lossless plans might be good options. Tidal has a $9.99 on-demand plan as well, but it doesn’t get you the higher sound quality.
On the flip side, casual listeners who want a more radio-style streaming service can opt for the $5 radio-only, no ads version of Pandora; it also includes on-demand streaming, but it’s less mature than its competitors in terms of playlist recommendations and library management.
But what if you have thousands of songs you’ve already purchased the old-fashioned way? If you want the benefits of uploading your music to the cloud and a music streaming service to back that up — that is more consistent on Android and the web — then Google Play Music is the perfect option. However, next year Google is merging YouTube Music with Play Music into a new service with a music uploading feature, so it might be worth waiting.