2016 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival - Weekend 2 - Day 2

Meet BADBADNOTGOOD, The Jazz Quartet Creating Toronto's New Musical Wave

And now for a new view of the 6. 

There are a lot of artists and musicians holding down Canada, the most unassuming territory to chart Billboards with hip-hop and modern tasting rhythm and blues sound-bytes in recent years. You've got Drake and his OVO Sound roster—the biggest statement to come out of the region since the Canadian Tuxedo—that ranges from trapped out rap bars to ambient crooning. Then, there's The Weeknd's oxycodone-laced lullabies dominating the pop lane.

But there's a new roster of Torontonians that are breaking through the underground to the mainstream, proving that the self-proclaimed 6 God's view may reach worldwide, but isn't the only one factor that's making people move to the unexpected sounds of North America's sovereign state. Enter BADBADNOTGOOD (Matt Tavares on keys, Chester Hansen on bass, Alex Sowinski on drums, and Leland Whitty on saxophone), a cool quartet of twenty-something's with a deep-seated appreciation for the rhythmic distortion of jazz and the grittiness of hip-hop. Creating an experimental sound of their own, the group has surpassed their native border, landing into the ears of Odd Future cohorts Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt, plus many more.

VIBE chatted with the guys at Coachella about their jazz beginnings and hip-hop influences, creating an album with legendary Wu-Tang lyricist Ghostface Killah, and Toronto's burgeoning music scene.

VIBE: How did you guys come together as a band?
Alex: We met at Humber College, it's a jazz program in Toronto. We were just goofing around the hallways, talking about jazz and hip-hop and stuff that we were into, that not a lot of people you could have those conversations with. Then, we were like let's just start jamming. We came up with these random ideas to play rap covers and started posting them online. It all really started as an idea of like, "Oh, maybe this is something we can continue doing not as a joke."

Why rap covers in particular? 
Matt: I think mostly just because we all love jazz, obviously, enough to go to school and to practice eight hours a day to learn it all on our instruments. But a lot of the jazz standard repertoire is stale. I mean, I don't want to say that as a blanket statement, because there's a lot of amazing standards, but we didn't really connect with them. We didn't grow up with that music. These songs were in the 1920s, you know? We all grew up with rap music and hip-hop and punk music, and we just thought to play that instead.

So, what was the first rap album that sparked your interest?
Matt: It was probably Wu-Tang. My brother is 10 years older than me, and he's a huge fan of them. He put me onto them and it was amazing.
Chester: I also have an older brother and he got me Get Rich Or Die Tryin' when I was like, eleven or twelve, and that opened the floodgates. Then, I went out and bought Dr. Dre's 2001, and from there, it was kind of my introduction.
Alex: I definitely got on the rap vibe late, because I had an older sister who didn't really listen to a lot of rap. And then, I just started learning the drums and musicianship. I got into The Roots and A Tribe Called Quest, and all the classic '90s albums, and then slowly later on, 2000's kind of stuff.
Leland: My older brother showed me A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory, and that was some of the first stuff I got into.

That's interesting because you guys hit the scene with a jazzy rendition of Gucci Mane's "Lemonade."
Matt: We were jamming standards ironically, but we were playing a song that was in the same key as "Lemonade." We just noticed it and it kind of just happened. We were like "that sounds cool! Let's try that with other songs."

Has Gucci Mane ever reached out to you guys?
Matt: That would be amazing, but no! One time, Waka Flocka's friend called Waka during our set and held up his cell phone to show him because we were covering "Hard In The Paint." But we never met anyone from that camp. That'd be amazing though. Have we talked to anyone, Alex?
Alex: We had Freddie Gibbs and he has a feature with Gucci on "Shadow of a Doubt." But, yeah, I wish.

Tell me about the Toronto music scene. The mainstream world is familiar with big acts like Drake and The Weeknd leading the pack, but there seems to be this bubbling underground scene too that's starting to get shine. 
Chester: The whole Toronto scene has changed so much in the last five to eight years—basically, the Drake era. It put everyone's eyes on the city and then gradually became bigger and bigger. I feel like it got more young musicians in the city excited about doing their thing. It's like, "Well, finally people are paying attention to Canada," especially in the hip-hop and producing world. There's such a huge range of talent there and a lot of amazing singers that are killing it. It's awesome.
Matt: What's happening for Toronto is kind of what happened in Atlanta in like, 2006. You know what I mean? Onward, all eyes were on that sound—Lex Luger and the more modern day dudes like Metro Boomin and Sonny Digital. Now, I feel all that spotlight is sick, because Atlanta has such a definable sound, and that took 10 years to grow. I think Toronto is just starting to get its own sound, so it's kind of like the next city in a way.
Alex: Even similar, there's so many studios opening up and a lot of MC's going in and really recording a lot, in a similar Atlanta sort of style. You know? You see a front-runner like Future who has created his own style and putting his city on. It's a good way to just stay motivated and creative.

Speaking of collaborations and keeping the creativity churning, you guys linked up with Ghostface Killah for Sour Soul last year. How did that come about, because he's particular about who he works with.
Leland: The connection came from Toronto. We share a studio with a guy named Frank Dukes, he's a producer, and he was on the road with Ghostface for a while and produced some things for him. Dukes had an idea of just trying to get a live band to produce a record with a rapper. The project initially started without knowing if Ghostface would actually be the guy, and then it did. It was like a three year process that I wasn't really a part of until later on. It went on to be amazing, and we've done a bunch of shows with him now.

Basically he's not just the OG to y'all now. He's the homie, too. 
Chester: Yeah [laughs]. At the end of the show, he'll ask me, "Oh, are your arms okay?" making sure we stretch. He's really an incredibly nice man. I can't believe we have that level of respect as artists like him. It's pretty f**king cool.

What was the recording process like? Was Ghostface just like "come up with something and let's listen to it?"
Matt: Yeah, that basically was the process. I mean, I can't speak for every person in the world, but it seems like from my perspective, a lot of modern rap music is made where you kind of finish something instrumentally, you send it to the rapper, they do their thing, you send it back. Not everyone's in the room at the same time. So it's very freeing for us because we can 100 percent do our thing, send it to Ghost, and he can 100 percent do his thing. Then we can meet in the middle. So, in that sense, we could do whatever we wanted. So much, that if he sent us something back, and we heard our instrumental underneath it, we could be like "this would be cool if we actually change the instrumental," and cut it around his vocals.

Coachella '16

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Earlier you talked about the next wave of Toronto kind of having its own sound. What would you describe Toronto's sound as, and what would you describe your own sound as?
Matt: It's hard to pin down the Toronto sound. I guess it's pretty ambient, like with a lot of melodic sing/rapping happening on top, which is a big facet. You know, a lot of slower BPM, like triplets. It's kind of hard to use musical terms to describe anything.
Alex: I feel like the Toronto sound kind of pertains more to MC's and producers right know, but I would say, like what Matt was saying, the sound is still emerging so much. There's so many different singers and songwriters coming out and making music that it's kind of changing almost. It's almost kind of stuck here with certain things, but outside the box in terms of R&B singers and stuff like Daniel Caesar and Charlotte Day Wilson and stuff, and River Tiber, really emerging and exploring a bit more, rather than just the hip hop realm and the MC kind of thing.
Matt: I was gonna say what's cool with the Toronto is that it's moving toward being like Atlanta and Houston, cities that have their iconic sound. I know Toronto isn't there yet in the sense, but you kind of know it's from that city when you hear it. I think that's starting to happen with Toronto. Like, oh, here's something on SoundCloud or whatever, a new song will drop, and you'll be like "that kind of sounds like it's got that Toronto vibe," which is cool.

At the end of the day, what do you guys want the listeners to take away from your music?
Matt: Hopefully it surges a positive stream of energy. Especially when I listen to jazz, it's an incredible visceral thing where you get really excited and you get all this energy. If people got a bit of that, that's cool If not, that's cool too. It's really all about positivity.

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J Stone Talks Touring, Nipsey Hussle, New Music And More

It was all good just two weeks ago. On Thursday (March 12), I headed downtown to meet with West Coast rapper J Stone, who was set to make a comeback performance at the legendary SOB’s. Little did we know, COVID-19 was on the cusp of shutting the entire country down, let alone the city that never sleeps. Earlier that day, New York City Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his decision to ban gatherings of 500 people or more.

I enter the doors of the popular music venue a little after 6 pm and see J Stone on stage for soundcheck. Twenty minutes later, he greets me with a hug and we head downstairs to the green room. He asks me if I want anything to drink and I reply, “Vodka with a splash of cranberry, please.” He kindly comes back with drinks in hand and our interview begins.

I curiously ask him if the Coronavirus has affected his #LoyaltyOverRoyalty Tour and he immediately responds, “Not until today. It’s starting to affect me today. They’re telling me only a certain amount of people can come into buildings.

"They already canceled one of my L.A. meet-and-greets," he adds. "Yeah, it’s serious.” We continued our conversation talking about The Marathon Continues (TMC) and Puma collaboration, Nipsey Hussle, new music and much more.

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Afro Nation

Women Of Afro Nation On Evolving Dancehall and Afro-Pop Connections

Last summer, thousands of music lovers of African descent gathered on the sands of Portimao, Portugal, waved their beloved countries’ flags and witnessed performances from the best in afro-pop, reggae, and hip-hop at Afro Nation, the premier traveling beach festival unifying music of the African diaspora. This was a euphoric scene for acts who had never performed for a large Black festival crowd, Afro Nation co-founder and U.K. music industry veteran Obi Asika tells VIBE. Nigerian promoter Adesegun Adeosun Jr., aka SMADE, and business partner Asika saw a need for a space to celebrate African music in Europe and created a globetrotting festival as the answer. Most of the featured acts have been from Nigeria, where the music industry is rapidly growing, the U.K., and Jamaica. As the festival evolves, Afro Nation will feature more artists of African descent from Europe, Central Africa, Latin America, and more.

“I want this event to be reflective of all African people,” Afro Nation co-founder and U.K. music industry veteran Obi Asika tells VIBE. “I also want it to pay homage to the countries that the events are in,” he adds. Afro Nation is expanding to reach fans of the diaspora in more regions. In December 2019, the festival was held in Accra, Ghana. In March, Afro Nation was scheduled for San Juan, Puerto Rico, but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The four-day line-up would have featured 30 artists representing afro-pop, dancehall, soca, and hip-hop. Afro Nation still has festivals scheduled in Portimao, Portugal, in July, and Baja California, Mexico, in September. There are plans for at least one more location in the future, Osika says.

Afro Nation’s platform thus far reflects a global moment in which musicians across the African diaspora are blending sounds in new ways that are changing popular music. Connections between Afro-pop and Jamaican dancehall are especially evolving according to artists on Afro Nation’s line-ups, such as Jamaican dancehall artist Shenseesa, South African rapper Sho Madjozi, and Nigerian pop artist Teni the Entertainer. “Afro Nation is major for the continent, the culture, and the commonality that we share no matter how far we have all drifted into different parts of the world,” Teni, who performed at previous Afro Nation events, wrote in an email.

For Women’s History Month, VIBE spoke to the three sensations about their latest music, why Afro Nation is a game-changing platform, the evolving musical connections between Jamaican and African artists, and their women inspirations in music.

SHENSEEA

Shenseea, a versatile singjay, deejay, rapper, and singer, grew up in Jamaica’s capital city Kingston. The 23-year-old broke out as dancehall’s most promising star in 2016 with the flirty “Loodi” featuring Vybez Kartel. Since then, she has released a steady stream of energetic records, showering each riddim with conviction and lyrics of self-reliance that speak to women and girls like “Shen Yeng Anthem,” “Trending Gyal” and “Blessed.” Shenseea is inspired by fellow Jamaican dancehall artist Spice, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna, who she calls “a complete boss.”

Thus far, Shenseea has collaborated with dancehall veterans like Sean Paul, and internationally with Trinidadian soca star Nailah Blackman and American rappers Swae Lee and Tyga. American hip-hop and Jamaican dancehall artists are common cross-cultural link-ups. But now Shenseea says there are more musical connections between popular Jamaican dancehall artists and African-based artists too. “I feel like it has been going on, but more so between the reggae artists,” she says. “Now it's evolving more between dancehall artists and African artists.”

Here is a quick history. Popular music in the Americas, including Jamaica’s biggest musical export reggae, is rooted in West African music. Reggae has several influences including Jamaican folk music mento and American R&B, and its predecessors ska and rocksteady. During the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, enslaved West Africans brought their rhythms to Jamaica and subsequent generations reimagined the sounds that circled back to Africa. Late reggae legend Bob Marley, a Pan-Africanist, and The Wailers toured the continent in the late 1970s and early 1980s. During this era, artists like Ivorian musician Alpha Blondy created a marriage of their traditional sounds and stories of home with the socially-conscious riddims birthing African reggae.

As technology digitized music production, dancehall music evolved out of reggae and dub music and  defined a younger generation in Jamaica. It would also inspire African artists, too. In the 2000s and 2010s, dancehall influenced “Afro-dancehall” artists Shatta Wale and AK Songstress of Ghana, and Patoranking and Wizkid of Nigeria. Ghanaian hiplife’s soft synths and dancehall’s percussion are said to have influenced the popular Nigerian sound “pon pon,” in 2017, according to OkayAfrica. DaVido’s inescapable “If,” is the most commercially successful “pon pon” track. Mr Eazi’s “Banku” style also borrows from Nigerian and Ghanaian pop and dancehall. With this has come more collaborations across the genres. Like Jamaican dancehall hitmaker Popcaan enlisting DaVido for “Dun Rich” in 2018, and Burna Boy collaborating with Serani and Jeremih on “Secret” in 2019.

The marriage between these sounds is impacting how Black fans experience music worldwide, which is especially pushed by second and third generations of people who migrated from Africa and the Caribbean to the Americas and Europe. In major cities, you’ll find Afro-Caribbean parties, where DJs play music across the diaspora. Afro Nation takes it to the next level by bringing these artists together on a bill.

The innovation of this sound is a diaspora-wide project. In the mid-to-late 2010s, UK, British artists J Hus and Afro B popularized the fusion of Afro-pop, dancehall, American and British hip-hop, and R&B music, in new genres known as “afro bashment” or “afroswing.” In 2019, Jamaican-American DJ Walshy Fire’s 2019 Abeng brought together afro-pop, with soca, and dancehall artists. Shenseea has some diaspora link-ups on the horizon. She already worked with Shatta Wale, the African dancehall king, on “The Way I Move” in 2018. Recently, she recorded an unreleased track with Mr Eazi and is in talks to work with Patoranking and Davido, she tells Vibe.

TENI THE ENTERTAINER

Teni is also tuned into these evolving connections between the Caribbean and Africa. “You can hear it in the drums and melodies,” the 27-year-old singer and songwriter says. “We love to have fun and dance and that extends into our music.” In 2019, the New York Times dubbed Teni a member of the new guard of Nigerian musicians. In October, she released her Billionaire EP which showcases her afrobeat fusion. The title was inspired by her time in Los Angeles. "I saw all these great cars and I just imagined a world where we can all afford things we like no matter the price," she says. On the Pheelz-produced afrobeat, she croons her wealthy ambitions. On the earnest “Complain” she singraps over JaySynths' afroswing beat.

Teni’s entertainment career began with her comedic viral videos. Her breakout hit was the 2017 “Fargin,” which spoke out about the harms of rape culture. Teni admires African music legends Brenda Fassi, Angelique Kidjo, and Mariam Makeba. Them "using the power of their music to influence governments and shape economies is beyond incredible,” she says.

In the future, Teni wants to experiment with more Caribbean artists. “I have gotten into the studio with Kranium and I'd like to still do a lot [more] with him,” she said of the Jamaican singjay who fuses dancehall and R&B. “I'd love to do something with Koffee. Her music is amazing,” she added.

SHO MADJOZI

Koffee, a Jamaican reggae artist who won over the world with “Toast” last year, and is the first woman to win a Grammy for best reggae album, is on South African rapper Sho Madjozi’s wishlist too. For generations, South African artists like Lucky Dube and NC Dread have embraced reggae and dancehall. The 27-year-old wants to contribute to this tradition by recording with Koffee and rising reggae singer Lila Ike. "The song would be about the fact that our joy does not come from having no problems,” she wrote via email. “It comes despite going through tough things.” Bringing her pain to the studio has proven to be viable for Madjozi.

On her biggest hit, the viral “John Cena,” named after her favorite WWE wrestler, she raps over a hard-hitting gqom beat, the popular South African electronic dance music, about heartbreak. On her 2018 debut album Limpopo Champions League, which is dedicated to the northern province she hails from in South Africa, you can hear more of her sonic influences which include the high-energy gqom on "Wakanda Forever," trap on “Wa Penga Na?” and R&B samples on “Going Down.”

Although Sho Madjozi and fellow artists are fusing the diaspora sounds in their music, she sees the Afro Nation platform as a necessary space for people of African descent to share these cultures in person. In these moments, “we notice how strong we really are" and "how powerful this gift of culture is,” she says. Hip-hop queen Lauryn Hill is her icon and inspired her to stand firm in her truth. Madjozi’s realness shapes her assertive lyrics and her vibrant style. She performs in “xibelani” skirts to pay homage to her Tsonga heritage, a group of people native to Mozambique and South Africa. She adorns her hair with her signature colorful Fulani braids. “My whole statement is to be free,” she says. “I hope it shows Black girls everywhere to not be shy or small. This world is ours as much as anyone else’s.”

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Courtesy of Universal Music Latin Entertainment

Karol G On The Magic Of "Tusa," Working With Nicki Minaj And New Album

Karol G's devoted intentions have kept her ahead of the history books.

As Women's History Month comes to a close, the reggaeton titan solidified her position just weeks prior on Internation Women's Day as Spotify included her in their list of the Top 10 Most-Streamed Female Artists. Others included were Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande in addition to iconic women of color like Nicki Minaj. But Karol's presence on the list proves just how she's been able to bridge the gap between Latin and pop music as the only woman on the list who primarily performs in Spanish.

It's something Karol, born Carolina Giraldo Navarro, has done since coming up in the male-dominated reggaeton scene. While plenty of her hits over the years have earned a coveted spot in the hearts of millions, it was her recent recording with Nicki Minaj that reminded everyone of her power.

"I grew up listening to her and we were sitting at the table across from each other," Karol says of "Tusa" and its insanely popular video that has 669 million views and counting on YouTube. "That was an iconic moment for me."

The song's title is Colombian slang for heartache after a breakup. On the regal reggaeton bop, Karol has Minaj rapping in Spanish as they promise to one another to eliminate those feels on the dance floor. The Tusa-terminators made history in late 2019 with the release as the song is the first collaboration by women to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart.

On the all-genre Hot 100 chart, "Tusa" impressively peaked at No. 42. Amid the coronavirus outbreak, self-quarantines in Panama were recently singing the song together from their balconies.

¿Cómo lleva el #ToqueDeQueda Panamá? Pues que más que con @karolg y #Tusa #COVIDー19 #PTY #QuedateEnCasa pic.twitter.com/jSNsEeaoUW

— errol (@erscr) March 23, 2020

For Karol, success like this has been over a decade in the making since signing her first contract in 2006 under her G stage name. At that time, reggaeton music was reigning over the globe thanks to Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina" setting the movement ablaze in 2004.

The música urbana genre was very much a man's world with a few women who were able to rise to the level of Yankee like Ivy Queen, someone Karol cites as an influence. "With the urbano music I wanted to do, there were not a lot of women," she says. "I love urbano rhythms. They've always fascinated me."

In the early steps of her career, Karol took advantage of the art of collaboration with Nicky Jam on 2013's "Amour de Dos," Ozuna on "Hello" in 2016 and a budding rapper by the name of Bad Bunny on 2017's "Ahora Me Llama." Her method was mindful and direct as she gained new fans in every pocket of reggaeton's wide-ranging cloth.

"They had a big audience and following," she says. "The way I got my opportunity as an artist and was able to be heard more was, in part, thanks to them." Later that year, Karol's debut album Unstoppable landed at No. 2 on the Top Latin Albums chart.

As she became the feature queen in her own right, Karol dropped "Mi Cama" in 2018 which led to her winning the gramophone for Best New Artist at the Latin Grammy Awards that year. "I love to sing in reggaeton, but it's not the only thing I do," she says about her diverse palette. The spirited 2019 release of Ocean showcased the vastness of her artistry with urbano, reggae, and pop influences.

With "Tusa" previewing her third album, VIBE VIVA spoke with Karol about her musical journey so far and what's coming next.

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VIBE: On physical copies of Unstoppable, there's the #GirlPower stamp. What inspired you to include it? 

Karol G: I have that tattooed on one of my arms as well because for me, it was a frustration that people in the media were telling me, "You're a woman. You don't have anything to do here. You can't enter here." There are women that can achieve things around the world. That's where my motivation comes from: to show that we, and myself as a woman, can do it. That was important for me to put on the album to show my support for this movement.

"Mi Cama" became one of your biggest hits without a featured artist. What's the story behind that song?

I loved that song because it has the attitude that I feel right now. It's a song about a woman talking to her ex-boyfriend who left her for someone else. It has the attitude to keep going, to keep dancing, or perrear (a twerk-like dance associated with reggaeton). In Mexico, I was in a press conference and a female reporter said, "I don't respect how you as a woman are singing about your bed making noise. You have to think about the children." I said, "This isn't music for children." It's a song that's exaggerated. I'm not swearing on it. I always tell that story at my shows and people love it.

How did you feel to win the Latin Grammy for Best New Artist?

That's one of the top five moments in my career. I dreamed of that moment since I was a little girl. When I was nominated, that was huge. I didn't think I was going to win. When I won, my mind went blank. I took my dad on stage with me because he's been supporting me since the beginning. After winning the grammy, my mindset has been what else I can do in my career that's even bigger.

You have recorded a lot of music with your fiancé Puerto Rican rapper Anuel AA. How do you like working with him?

We're a super team. We complement each other well. We understand each other well because we've enjoyed many great moments together. We've gotten to travel together. We did a tour together. It's a beautiful thing. We keep each other focused and motivated with our feet on the ground.

What do you think about the reaction and all the memes around "Tusa"?

I felt in my heart the song would be successful, but I never thought that it would be a global hit. It opened doors for me in markets where I've never had songs hit before. It's charting in countries that don't speak Spanish like France, Italy, and Sweden. Seeing all the memes from the people has been muy brutal (Puerto Rican slang for "beyond awesome"). It's been incredible to see so many men connecting with it. To see all the people dancing and singing to it has been a surprise. I hope my next single will be like that, but for now, it's nice to enjoy what's happening with "Tusa."

Speaking of men, many gay men been bumping "Tusa" too. I was wondering if you had a message for your fans in the LGBTQ+ community.

I love having part of my following from that community. I love people who can go out into the world and be fearless. I'm very proud of that because the world really lacks people like that: people with personality, attitude, and a strong will. That's something I admire very much from that community. They have a beautiful energy.

What are your plans for the rest of this year?

I'm happy because I'm working on a lot of music. I've gotten great invitations to work on projects with other artists. Right now I'm collaborating with artists in the Latin and Anglo markets. There are songs that are coming out very soon. It's a year for expanding and globalizing my name. We have a tour in Latin America and one in Europe again. We're going to end the second semester of the tour in the US with the release of my next album.

What do you see for the future of women in reggaeton music?

There's things I hope to evolve a little more, but I feel like we knocked over the door. That we've come through and people are hearing us. People are coming to our concerts. Artists are inviting us to their shows. We're here. I try to stick up for myself more as a human being. We're all talented in our own ways. I feel like women are demonstrating that. It's an era where women are taking chances and going for bigger things.

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