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Gallant Talks Touring With John Legend And His Hopes For His Musical Future

"There aren't too many American artists like him, he's a role model," Gallant on John Legend.

After exploding onto the R&B scene in 2016 with the release of his debut album Ology, Chris Gallant, who uses his last name as his stage moniker, has shown no signs of slowing down.

The Maryland native has been accompanying crooner John Legend on the singer’s Darkness & Light Tour since its inception in May, as the show’s opening act. Gallant, who received a Grammy nomination for Ology, sparked Legend’s interest after performing at a SXSW showcase he hosted earlier in 2016.

“Obviously, he's a figure you can look up to in a very specific way,” he tells VIBE over-the-phone ahead of the duo’s last few shows. They'll be playing in NYC at Madison Square Garden on June 27 and 28. “There aren't too many American artists like him, he's a role model. We seemed like we were on the same page when we first met.”

Gallant says his famous tour mate is a “laid-back” and “polite dude,” whose calm and cool demeanor made him all the more likeable.

“There's so many different stereotypes and expectations that come attached to having a certain amount of notoriety, especially in the field that he's in,” he says of the multi-award winner. “It’s really refreshing to see someone who's like me.”

As for a future collaboration? Gallant shows interest in working with Legend on some tracks of their own. Fans of both singers enjoyed the two-some’s recent performance of Legend’s song “Overload” for Gallant’s video series “In The Room.”

“We did [“Overload”] in L.A., we recorded it, and we just had a really great chemistry,” he explains of the chill-inducing cover. “I was really honored to get the opportunity to go out with him on tour. It’s been fun so far, and hopefully I'll be able to do more stuff with him in the future.”

Traveling the country with one of the biggest names in music did not seem like something Gallant ever dreamed of doing so early in the game. After moving to California after completing his undergraduate degree at NYU, the 25-year-old says he spent a lot of time “sleeping on the floor” while trying to find a way to pursue his musical dreams. Although it was a challenge, it was one he was up for.

“Emotionally and mentally, I was pretty open, and I was definitely ready and receptive to a change of scenery by moving to L.A.,” he explains. While on tour, he enjoyed getting to interact with fans, especially since he did not experience many shows in a tour-like setting growing up.

“I was just honored by how receptive everyone was,” Gallant says of meeting a bevy of music lovers from the U.S. on Legend’s tour. He’ll also travel to Japan and South Korea in July to treat fans to his velvety vocals. “It's weird meeting people who know basically everything that you've broadcasted about yourself, to the point where it's almost like meeting people who could have been your best friends in other dimensions. If I was to sum it up in a word, I would say the whole experience is surreal.”

Fans of the “Weight In Gold” singer’s effortless falsetto have been anxious to know if he has any new tracks on the way. While he’s been making sure to max-and-relax while on the road with Mr. Legend, Gallant assures that he is excited to get back to work after the tour is finished.

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“It seems a little redundant to be on tour and then be working on new stuff,” he says. A self-proclaimed “homebody,” Gallant says to keep “balance” during the tour, he spent his time exploring the cities he’s visiting and watching cartoons (he’s a big fan of Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe).

“I started working on some stuff at the beginning of the year,” he says of the sound he’s going for with his new musical material. “So far, everything is different [from the vibe of Ology], but it's coming from a very similar sentiment. My values are the same, but there's a lot of different backdrops to everything.”

He also discussed that he is open to working with people outside of the R&B genre after the positive response to the reworked version of his track “Bourbon,” featuring Chicago MC Saba and producer Lophiile.

“[Saba’s] Bucket List Project album was my favorite album of 2016,” he gushed about the rapper and his contributions to the song. “I listened to that album many many times over. For some reason, it spoke to me in a way nothing else was really doing at the time.”

In terms of the journey he’s taken since starting his career, Gallant is humbly surprised, yet thankful. As someone who claims he’s cared a bit too much about what people thought when he first started out, he realized it’s easier to start living for himself. In doing so, the results have been rewarding.

“Everything that matters a lot to you, you don't have to put energy into thinking about it or preserving it or feeding it. That's all natural,” he exclaims. “It's when you really start thinking hard about it, that you start doing things that don't even make sense, and that don't really feed you or serve you. That's when it starts to get a little bit convoluted."

"I think that keeping it simple and doing music for myself helped out and helped me appreciate what I was doing that much more," he continues. "I just really focused on getting myself right. Easier said than done, but I'm a lot closer than I was, pretty much, ever.”

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These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

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10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

While fans received a large dose of music from our favorite artists and celebrated some of the most iconic album anniversaries, there are a few names that stood out as the culture pushers, sh*t starters, and all-around most significant artists of the year.

For your enjoyment, VIBE compiled a list of the top 10 most important hip-hop artists of 2018 based on a series of qualifications: 1) public actions - good, bad, and ugly; 2) music releases; 3) philanthropic/humanitarian work; and 4) trending moments.

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NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

“I just grew up singing and doing musical theater, and reading a lot of books, and playing piano way too much in my room by myself,” she says, pushing her big, curly brown hair out of her face. Her expressive green eyes widen as she grins. “It was my thing. Nobody in my family does music, just me.”

After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

As we’ve observed in headlines recently, mental health and being honest about life’s trickier situations can help someone going through the same thing, and Lede hopes her music provides encouragement to those who are struggling. As for how she’s learning to push through her mental health roadblocks, she meditates, runs, and is an advocate for therapy, especially in Trump’s America, where harrowing news reports dominate the cycle.

Another hallmark of Kiana Lede’s personality is her bleeding heart for others. She cites women of color, sexual assault victims and the homeless youth specifically as individuals she feels most responsible to help, since she is personally connected to all three. While she’s aiming to create a project that helps homeless youth specifically, she’s working hard this holiday season to ensure that they have a place to stay “at least for the night” after horrific wildfires displaced many individuals in California.

“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

What Kiana Lede is most excited about, of course, is making music. She hopes to work on a new EP and then release an album after that. The ultimate goal is to fully realize the dreams in her personal and professional life, and she assures she’s just getting started.

“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

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