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Why You Need to See Prince's 3rdEyeGirl According To A Prince Stan

The first thing you need to know about the ladies of 3rdEyeGirl, Prince’s hard rocking trio of guitarist Donna Grantis, bassist Ida Nielsen and drummer Hannah Ford Welton, is that they are an overtly happy bunch. In this cynical world we live in they would be deemed nauseatingly optimistic; bubbly Disney characters suddenly come to life. And yet, that’s what makes 3rdEyeGirl so refreshing. Their high-spirited vibe is no bullshit. They really are, as the cliché goes, just happy to be here.

It’s just as well. It was Prince, one of music’s most celebrated visionaries, who personally drafted the women to be a part of his stripped-down rock & roll pursuits. The results? The throat grabbing set Plectrum Electrum (released today), an album that finds the Purple One and his girl-power outfit shredding and knocking down some serious leads and analog grooves. The album, which joins Prince’s futuristic funk and pop solo statement Art Official Age, channels everything from Fleetwood Mac (the two-fisted Alice Smith cover “Anotherlove”), Guns-N-Roses (the manic “Marz”) to Prince (the rollicking sing-along “FunkNRoll). VIBE caught up with 3rdEyeGirl to discuss what’s it like jamming with arguably James Brown’s tireless successor as the Hardest Working Man In Show Business; how the tracks on Plectrum Electrum came together; and turning doubtful critics into believers.

VIBE: The stories about early morning jam sessions at Prince’s Paisley Park over the last year or so have become the stuff of legend. Can you describe the moment when 3rdEyeGirl went beyond being a name and became a real band?
Donna Grantis: Well, we each have our own personal stories on how we got together. But actually Ida was the first musician to join.
Ida Nielsen: I got a call in 2010 if I wanted to come and jam with Prince in Minneapolis, which I of course wanted to. I came over here and it was beautiful. We jammed and I got invited to join his band during that time. We went on tour in the fall and then in 2012 one day Hannah showed up.
Hannah Ford Welton: Yaaaay! [Laughs] It was July of 2012 and I had gotten a mysterious email from his manager at the time. She didn’t disclose any information to me other than she worked with a famous musician and that they were wondering if I would be interested in auditioning for an upcoming project they had. As the correspondence continued she told me that it was Prince and that he saw my videos on YouTube and that he wanted me to come jam. I did it of course. But I was thrown off in the beginning because I didn’t believe that anyone could casually receive an email from Prince! But the first day I met Prince and Ida, and the three of us jammed, it was awesome. Just extremely comfortable from the jump. And then Donna came!

So when you came into the mix, did you know that this was going to be a proper band?
Donna: No. We were just playing it by ear, very organic. The four of us was jamming and then the girls got a list of songs to learn and then more songs to learn [laughs]. We were playing six days a week all day and then before we knew it we had a substantial set list. It wasn’t until March 1st of 2013 when we played a couple of songs on the Jimmy Fallon show that Jimmy held up this 3rdEyeGirl painting and he was like, “Ladies and gentlemen, 3rdEyeGirl!” After that show when we got offstage we were like, “Okay, I guess we’re 3rdEyeGirl, “ [Laughs]

Let’s get into the Plectrum Electrum album. There’s a very live feel throughout this project. How crazy was it being in the presence of such a notorious drillmaster like Prince and having to deliver in such a spontaneous manner?
Hannah: It was so much fun. I think all of us sort of came from a background of recording very structured and to a metronome. Typically the drummer will lay a track and then the bass player will come in and lay their track and then the guitarist will lay their stuff. But this recording process was very different and kind of set us off guard. In the beginning when we were learning so many songs we were just recording all of our rehearsals for reference. Before you know it there were tracks that Prince wanted us to lay vocals on and. Lo and behold, here comes the birth of Plectrum Electrum.
Donna: But most of the songs were recorded live in analog like it was a jam. And of course it keeps you on your toes because if one person messes up we all messed up. We all had to be collectively happy with a single take. It required us to step up our game, but it was so exciting to record that way.

There are some songs on Plectrum Electrum that really stand out, particularly “Wow” really soars. “Marz” has some really bold socially conscious lyrics but at the same time it’s pretty raw. And I love the Alice Smith cover “Anotherlove.” Is there one song on this album that you can point to and say, “This is 3rdEyeGirl at our best.”
Ida: I really feel they are all special. These songs are very close to our hearts for different reasons. It’s difficult to be able to pick just one song. They’re all little babies to us [laughs].
Hannah: For me personally I find myself listening to a song like “Wow,” which starts off the record, and at the end of the song I’m going crazy! And the guitar solo at the end is nuts and I’m like, “Man, this song is incredible.” And then you hear a song like “PretzelBodyLogic” and I’m saying to myself, “This song kills and slays…it’s like a freight train!” So as each song goes I’m constantly saying these tracks are incredible. It’s really hard to pick a favorite that stands out.

I mentioned the “Anotherlove” cover of which you took to an entirely different place. Were there any other covers that you guys recorded during the Plectrum Electrum sessions?
Donna: Oh yeah. We recorded a lot of music. It was just part of our day to day. There was a point with Prince where we talked about, “Let’s pick 12 songs that go together really will.” But we definitely recorded a lot more music. In terms of covering songs what I think that is so cool is the way Prince has arranged his older songs for us to play. Live we do a really heavy version of “Let’s Go Crazy.” “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man,” is now in a half-time rock feel. “Something In The Water (Does Not Compute)” now has the most epic guitar solo. And that’s really fun. Because the group is so small and it’s just the four of us, we’re trying to take those songs and make them sound massive within our instrumentation.

Another Prince song that you guys have transformed live is “She’s Always In My Hair.” Ida your bass playing on that song is just nasty. Do you find yourself going to another place when you perform that song live?
Ida: [Laughs] Yeah, I float up to the sky. I love that stuff. I love to stay in pocket with the drums and just play a funky bassline and just keeping it down. I love it.

Now Donna, you have the unenviable task of playing lead guitar with Prince. How intimidating was the prospect of trading off with one of the most respected guitarists of all all-time?
Donna: I was excited. I think feelings of being intimidated are just distraction for the thing that is most important, which is the music. That’s what we are all focused on just delivering the best performances we can and locking in.

Hannah, you handled some lead vocals on Plectrum Electrum on the album. Were you at all apprehensive about being so front-and-center on a Prince related project?
Hannah: Yes and no. Back in the day before the Prince gig, I led my own band and played the drums and did all the lead vocals. So I’m kind of familiar to the extent when it comes to singing and playing and carrying both roles. But to do it with Prince is a really different story [laughs]. It’s a whole other level that I had to step up to. I focused a lot recently on really challenging myself vocally and to get back to singing and playing at the same time because for a while I didn’t. So I was extremely honored and humbled when Prince asked me to sing on these songs because it’s so much fun for me. The songs that Prince writes are just beautiful. He’s incredible at writing for someone else’s voice and sound.

I know you guys have heard the Prince solo project Art Official Age. Between that and Plectrum Electrum a lot of critics are saying that Prince sounds like a man on a mission.
Hannah: I think they are right! [Laughs]

You also seem to be winning some initial doubters over with Plectrum Electrum and your live shows, which have gotten some very positive notice. How do you feel when you read some of the glowing reviews written about your playing on and off this record?
Ida: I think it’s great. But it wouldn’t matter what they say because we already thing that.
Donna: We love playing live. And we are absolutely in love with both of these albums. Both of them being so different…they stand on their own, but then you think about the fact that they are being put out together it’s like a double wammy of knockouts, funky and heart touching music. It’s been really great to see them being so accepted by the fans and the media.

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Music Sermon: The Groundbreaking Sprite and St. Ides Hip-Hop Campaigns

Today, rap music is used to sell everything from electronics to tax filing services to nut butter grinding machines at Whole Foods. We understand that hip-hop culture is essentially the root of everything cool and hip in culture, period, and it’s been commodified and appropriated within an inch of its life. But in the early ‘90s, the genre was far from Madison Avenue-friendly. Aside from the groundbreaking deal between Adidas and RUN DMC, brands didn’t yet see full value and impact of hip-hop…except in the food and beverage industry.

Beverage companies centering campaigns for the urban demo around black music was nothing new; Coca-Cola had ads featuring artists such as New Edition and Anita Baker singing their hearts out for the cola in the ‘80s, and Schlitz Malt Liquor had a legendary – and hilarious - run of spots featuring The Commodores, The Four Tops, Teddy Pendergrass and more through the ‘70s and early ‘80s. However, in the early ‘90s two brands put their entire business on hip-hop’s back, by not only building their brands but spring-boarding the recognition of the music and artists as a marketing and advertising tool: Sprite soda and St. Ides malt liquor.

In the ‘80s, Sprite was languishing behind competitor 7Up when parent company Coca-Cola decided to focus on the youth market, and the quickly growing hip-hop culture was part of the strategy. African-American ad agency Burrell Communications tagged hip-hop acts for a series of spots that began a long-standing marriage between the brand and the culture, starting with Kurtis Blow in 1986. It was one of the first national TV ads to feature a rapper.


In 1990, the brand kicked off the “I Like the Sprite in You” campaign, using rap acts that matched the soft drink’s bubbly energy, starting with Heavy D & the Boyz before partnering with Kid ’n Play the following year. The ads featured the artists clad in lemon-lime fare, rhymin’ about lymon.

HEAVY D - 1990 KID’N PLAY – 1991

With Kris Kross, they turned it up a notch and had us crunk inside the Sprite can. Edgy. Also, this was catchy as hell.


Then in 1994, a young brand manager from Clark Atlanta University named Darryl Cobbin had an idea for a new direction: Gen X was about authenticity and independence of thought, not following the hype. Sprite ditched the pop-friendly crossover acts and identified more “authentic” rap artists – lyricists with street and cultural cred – to rep the brand. “Lymon” was also out of the window, as they moved away from marketing taste and towards marketing attitude. (Cobbin later spearheaded the iconic, yet grammatically questionable, Boost Mobile “Where You At?” campaign.)

Gone were the bright yellow and green sets, because while the new slogan said, “Image is nothing,” it was all about image. Bright and shiny was traded for dark and gritty. Now we were in the studio; a fly on the wall for freestyle sessions. In the first spot of the series with Grand Puba and Large Professor, Puba closes with “First thing’s first, obey your thirst.” It’s legend even within Coca-Cola that Puba ad-libbed the phrase that then became the brand’s tagline that remains to this day.


The “Obey Your Thirst” spots also took us the street corner, the club, and inside the ring when Sprite resurrected the legendary KRS One vs. MC Shan battle.

KRS ONE & MC SHAN - 1996 NAS & AZ – 1997 THE LOST BOYS – 1997

By the late ‘90s Sprite had spent roughly $70M on the “Obey Your Thirst” campaign, tripled sales, and commanded a majority market share of the citrus category (which also included 7Up, Sierra Mist, and Mountain Dew).

Sprite had also succeeded in becoming an official and established part of the culture. They were family. The brand further expanded into urban youth culture through a partnership with the NBA, while continuing to evolve the creative of the rap campaigns.


Near the end of the decade, Sprite explored the overlap between hip-hop culture, comics and martial arts with a series of posse spots based on Voltron (representing all hip-hop regions) and the 5 Deadly Venoms (with all female emcees).


Over the years, Sprite has continued to be one of the most consistent brands in hip-hop. We’ve grown accustomed to spotting the logo everywhere from music festivals and shows to the background of BET’s hip-hop cyphers. They revitalized the “Obey Your Thirst” campaign with Drake in 2010 and paid homage to the greatest lyricists in rap with the “Obey Your Verse” campaign featuring iconic rappers and cans with classic lyrics in 2015.

SPRITE "Obey Your Verse - Cooler" (starring Rakim) from SHOUT IT OUT LOUD MUSIC on Vimeo.

St. Ides’ run with hip-hop doesn’t have the same happy ending as Sprite’s. The brand’s usage of rap petered out in the mid-90s after wide backlash and a series of lawsuits.

For St. Ides, hip-hop was the brand campaign. It’s how they built their business. The brand was introduced in 1987 and their rap campaigns launched in 1988. The malt liquor 40 oz., with significantly higher alcohol content than beer at around a $2 price point, was already a staple in lower-income neighborhoods and hip-hop culture. The “Crooked I” capitalized on that.

Parent company McKenzie River secured Ice Cube as their anchor spokesperson and tapped West Coast producer DJ Pooh to spearhead advertising creative. Pooh lined up a veritable who’s who of additional West Coast rappers over the years, including Geto Boys, Cypress Hill, Warren G, Snoop and Tupac; plus the thorough-est from the East, including Eric B and Rakim, Wu-Tang Clan, Biggie and EPMD.

EPMD & ICE CUBE - 1991 GETO BOYS & ICE CUBE – 1992 ERIC B & RAKIM - 1992

Unlike Sprite’s campaigns which were first jingles and still felt like commercials, even when elevated to trading hot bars for Obey Your Thirst. St. Ides spots, however, looked and felt like straight up music videos with album-worthy production and flow.

ICE CUBE – 1993 MC EIHT – 1994 NOTORIOUS B.I.G. – 1995

Complex even named Wu-Tang’s St. Ides spot “Shaolin Brew” as one of the collective’s 100 best songs! (But at least it’s ranked near the bottom; #97.)


In fact, in 1994, the brand did turn the hottest of the joints into an album, with the St. Ides promotional mixtape dropping at your neighborhood liquor store. It featured full-length songs about getting twisted off the malt liquor from Ice Cube, Wu-Tang Clan, Scarface, MC Eiht, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Nate Dogg.

The Snoop and Nate track is low key a jam, still. Homegirl in the background starting at the 10-second mark is a whole mood.

This blatant marketing of malt liquor directly to black and brown youth wasn’t going to go unchecked indefinitely. It was all irresponsible, even while being genius for the demo. In 1991, the Wall Street Journal listed the St. Ides ad campaign among one of the worst of the year, which probably didn’t matter at the time since WSJ readers weren’t St. Ides’ base.

In 1991, Public Enemy released Apocalypse ’91: The Empire Strikes Back. The album featured “100 Bottle Bags,” a direct criticism against malt liquor companies marketing specifically to urban communities “…but they don’t sell that sh*t in the white neighborhoods.” Shortly after the release, St. Ides found itself in Chuck D’s crosshairs, and he fired the first in a series of big shots against the brand, marking the beginning of the end of their love affair with hip-hop. An 80-second radio spot featuring Cube used a sample of Chuck’s voice without his permission. The ad had already aired over 500 times on rap radio shows when Chuck sued St. Ides parent company McKenzie River for five million dollars (they settled out of court).

Then, St. Ides and McKenzie River fell under legal scrutiny from the New York State Attorney General in 1992 for using verbiage like Cube’s lyric “Get your girl in the mood quicker, make your jimmy thicker…St. Ides.” to suggest the malt liquor increased sexual prowess. Can you imagine the think pieces if that spot ran today?

They were later in hot water with the New York AG’s office again, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco (the ATF) for advertising perceived to the be targeted towards minors, with complaints that it glamorized gang affiliation and promoted sex. After having production completely shut down for a short while and getting hit with heavy fines, St. Ides tried to clean up its act, adding “drink responsibly” messaging into the spots.

By ’96 the run was over. Hip-hop was growing up, getting money and moving towards more sophisticated alcoholic beverage choices. Alizé and Hennessy, anyone?

The relationship between hip-hop and alcohol never ended, of course, but has continued to evolve to match the evolution of the lifestyle. We don’t go to the corner store no more, homie (save a brief return in the early aughts of Four Loko). We’re toasting to the good life with premium brands, some of which are now owned by the artists.

We can look back now with the wizened, woke eyes of maturity and possibly scrutinize our artists selling out at the expense of the community, but for the young and burgeoning hip-hop culture, both the St. Ides campaigns and the Sprite campaigns opened the door for the power and commodification of hip-hop and consumer brands. For better or for worse.

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J.Cole, Teyana Taylor And Other Snubs Of The 2019 Grammy Nominations

It's that time of year again when inner circles and strangers on the Internet debate who's up for a gramophone.

On Friday (Dec. 7), the nominees for 2019's Grammy Awards (Feb. 10) were announced to a span of hot takes, early but informed predictions, and a wall of confusion as to why certain artists were overlooked. While some entertainers excitedly received the good news (Cardi B discovered her nods while leaving a courthouse), others were left scratching their heads.

Here's a look at why those who were snubbed by the Recording Academy deserved to be nominated.

READ MORE: Drake, Kendrick Lamar, And Cardi B Lead 2019 Grammys Nominations


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Anderson .Paak, Tierra Whack And More Praise Female Artists At 2018 Billboard Women In Music

Some of music's biggest stars attended Billboard's annual Women in Music event on Thursday night (Dec. 6).

Pop star Ariana Grande was awarded with the night's highest honor, "Woman Of The Year," while SZA, Janelle Monae, Cyndi Lauper, Hayley Kiyoko, and Kacey Musgraves were awarded with subsequent prestigious honors.

VIBE got a chance to speak to some of the musicians in attendance on the carpet, including hip-hoppers Anderson .Paak and Tierra Whack, the Janelle Monae-cosigned St. Beauty, and Massah David, the co-founder of the creative agency, MVD Inc..

When prompted about some of their favorite bodies of work by female artists this year, a resounding amount of musicians stated Teyana Taylor's K.T.S.E and Tierra Whack's Whack World as some of their personal picks.

The 23-year-old MC and first-time Grammy nominee confirmed with VIBE she's working on "something really special" with fellow Philadelphian and friend Meek Mill. She also stated that while the accolades for her work have been exciting, she's more excited for society to stop gendering dope artists, especially in the hip-hop game.

"I hope that [labeling through gender] ends soon," she said. "I know, technically, rap is a male-dominated industry, but, like, I’m better than all of ‘em! [laughs] It is what it is! I don’t even count gender or color, it’s just whoever’s got it."

What are some members of the music industry looking forward to in 2019? More women in high-profile positions and more chances for women in general.

"Hopefully just having more opportunities for women in different spaces in music, whether it’s radio, behind-the-scenes, engineering, actually making the music," said David. "I’m just hoping we get to see women in more executive roles."

Watch our recap video above.

READ MORE: Janelle Monae Discusses Creative Freedom, Her Relationship With Diddy In New 'Billboard' Interview

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