Tuesday , October 16 2018

Alabama Shakes to rock Grammys – Hip-hop finds spotlight with Lamar

French-Moroccan singer Hindi Zahra speaks after receiving the best world music album award during the 31st Victoires de la Musique, the annual French music awards ceremony, on Feb 12, at the Zenith concert hall in Paris. (AFP)
French-Moroccan singer Hindi Zahra speaks after receiving the best world music album award during the 31st Victoires de la Musique, the annual French music awards ceremony, on Feb 12, at the Zenith concert hall in Paris. (AFP)

LOS ANGELES, Feb 13, (Agencies): Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes remembers being a nervous, fresh-faced, first-time nominee at the Grammys back in 2013.

“It was all (like), ‘Well, what’s going to happen. What? Ahhh, it was really stressful. What is this? What do I do? Go here, go there; Staples Center. What?” Howard recalled in an interview Friday.

She, and her band, are back at the Grammys three years later, competing for four honors, including album of the year for their sophomore effort, “Sound & Color”.

And they mean business.

“Now, it’s like, I’m used to this and this is going to be cool. I’m going to be less stressed out. In the commercial breaks, I’ll get to talk to more people. I’m not afraid to say hello and things like that,” she said. “I’m going to use this as a huge opportunity to try to meet all my heroes.”


The show, airing live on Monday in Los Angeles, will include performances from Adele, Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, Rihanna and more. Lady Gaga will pay tribute to Davie Bowie, while members of the Eagles, along with Jackson Browne, will remember the band’s founding member Glenn Frey.

Alabama Shakes will also perform at the Staples Center, and the band was busy Friday rehearsing “Don’t Wanna Fight”, which is nominated for best rock song and rock performance. “Sound & Color”, which debuted at No. 1 last year, is also up for best alternative music album.

“I’m proud of the guys,” Howard said of her bandmates. “We all worked really hard on this and put all of our love and creativity into it and it’s nice to get recognized. To be nominated is actually a huge honor; I know it sounds cliché, but it is when you think about who’s voting for you.”

Her competition in the rock category includes more women than men — a rarity for the genre at the Grammys. Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine, singer Elle King and the band Wolf Alice — led by Ellie Rowsell — also earned nominations.

“All the women are out here working just as hard as the guys and proving this is our world, too. We got this,” Howard said. “I’m proud of all the ladies getting nominated and maybe seeing some awards.”

If ever you’ve laid eyes on Jidenna — the nattily dressed singer and emcee behind the Grammy-nominated anthem “Classic Man” — then certainly you remember him: He’s straight out of a time machine with his fiery red hair, slicked into a dapper 1930s style, slim suits and a gold watch chain dangling from his pocket.

His look is as distinct as his background. Born in Wisconsin to a “white hippie” mom and Nigerian father, Jidenna has also spent time in Boston, Los Angeles and New York. But he grew up in his father’s Nigeria, the place where he first started turning heads as a young man.

It’s something Jidenna’s mom reminded him of during a recent trip to South Africa, where he kept bumping into fans who recognized him. “My mom, she was saying (to my friends), ‘It was kind of like this for Jidenna as a kid — and it wasn’t because he was a celebrity. It was just because he looked different from everybody in his neighborhood,’” Jidenna said. “‘Whether it was in Nigeria, whether it was in America. If he was in a predominantly white neighborhood, or predominantly black neighborhood, he would just stand out.’”

Jidenna continues to stand out, and not just because of his unique style. There is also his head-turning and head-nod-inducing music: “Classic Man,” which features Roman GianArthur, is nominated for best rap/sung collaboration at Monday’s Grammy Awards.

“Regardless of whether we win or not, that nod is a nod that inspires you to keep doing what you’re doing,” Jidenna said.

The platinum song, which samples Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and has a remix co-starring Kendrick Lamar, peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart; it reached No. 22 on the Hot 100. It was released last year on “The Eephus”, an EP from by Janelle Monae and her Wondaland Arts Society crew, which includes Jidenna.

The singer says he’s busy working on his full-length debut album with input from Monae.

Rapper Kendrick Lamar heads into Monday’s Grammy awards with a leading 11 nominations and the chance to make history if he wins album and song of the year, categories that have traditionally shunned hip-hop artists.

In the 58-year history of the Grammy awards, only two hip-hop albums have ever won the music industry’s top prize for album of the year; Lauryn Hill’s “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” in 1999 and Outkast’s “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” in 2004. No rap song has won song of the year.

But while the odds are historically stacked against him, Lamar’s “Butterfly” album was both a commercial and critical success. “Butterfly”, which sold around 5 million copies in the United States last year, topped Rolling Stone’s best albums of 2015. The magazine called it “a sprawling epic that’s both the year’s most bumptious party music and its most gripping therapy session.”

In “Butterfly”, 28-year-old Lamar from Compton, California, the home of hip-hop pioneers NWA, fused poetry with jazz, blues and funk in songs that mix social issues with homages to black artists like Miles Davis and Tupac Shakur.

Lamar’s anthemic “Alright”, about the obstacles that face black youths in America, is nominated for four Grammys including song of the year.

“Kendrick Lamar is stepping up to be an important voice in a very essential way,” said Brian Hiatt at Rolling Stone. “It would be a very exciting thing if Kendrick actually won album of the year.”

Lamar faces stiff competition from Taylor Swift’s “1989”, country artist Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller”, R&B breakout The Weeknd’s “Beauty Behind the Madness” and blues-rock group Alabama Shakes’ “Sound & Color”.

The Grammy awards, decided by members of the Recording Academy rather than the public, have often shunned popular performers in favor of lesser-known musicians regarded as more artistic.

Last year, indie-rocker Beck was the surprise album of the year winner, prompting rapper Kanye West to declare afterward that Beyonce had a better album.

“The Recording Academy nominates music that they feel is the best music released in the eligibility period over the past year, so it’s not based on what’s the most-streamed or who’s the most-liked on (social media),” said Keith Caulfield, co-director of Billboard Charts.

The eligibility period for this year’s Grammys runs between Oct 1, 2014 and Sept 30, 2015, which disqualified Adele’s multimillion selling November release “25”. Adele, however, is scheduled to perform on Monday.

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