Today (February 15) marks the date of the 2016 Grammy Awards. The 58th installation of music’s most prestigious award show comes at an incredibly exciting time in the music community as we await some of the most anticipated releases of the year and reflect on those that have just been released. This year’s nomination list is jam packed with talented artists, producers, directors and others alike who look forward to their chance to take the stage and shine.
But why do we so often only shine the light on those who headline the night? At a time when ghost-writers soak up headlines in front of producers and credited co-writers, the time has come to showcase some of music’s most talented individuals whose faces we may or may not see on Monday night yet played a crucial role in creating award winning works of art.
Producer on Kehlani’s “You Should Be Here”
Best Urban Contemporary Album
With a relationship that started in a New York recording studio, Florida-native Jahaan Sweet and Oakland R&B star Kehlani have created magic together over the last year and a half. In an interview with rnbass.com, Sweet said that he first played Kehlani the beat for “Get Away” while at school at Juilliard, the rest is history.
From “Cloud 19” to “You Should Be Here” to singles like “Tore Up,” Sweet’s work spans over a multitude of feelings and sounds. Providing Kehlani with a range of emotions and sounds from jazz influence on “Down For You” to menacing staccato on “Jealous” to provide the optimal shit-talking platform, Sweet’s work is the foundation for the Grammy nominated project.
In front of a sold-out crowd in Minneapolis just a few weeks ago, Kehlani stopped her incredible performance to talk to the crowd. Speaking on being nominated for a Grammy she went on to praise Sweet and his crucial contribution to the project. Asking how many people in the audience were artists, she urged each and every one of them to thank and appreciate those that produce for them. If this doesn’t speak volumes to what an important role Jahaan Sweet plays in Kehlani’s magical journey to the top then I don’t know what does.
Artist on Kanye West’s “All Day”
Best Rap Song & Best Rap Performance
While many people were first put onto Allan Kingdom during last year’s Brit Awards, the 22 year-old Minnesota artist has been creating since the age of 17. Pushing his sound to the next level after linking up with Kanye West and Kid Cudi affiliate Plain Pat, Kingdom released “Future Memoirs” in 2014. Shortly “Future Memoirs” dropped, Kingdom spoke with us about his relationship with the infamous manager and producer. “He’s [Plain Pat] seen a lot of people come up and he’s seen a lot of people fall” said Kingdom in September of 2014. “He just knows the patterns and the game, it’s cool to learn from him.” This relationship eventually lead to Kingdom’s introduction to Kanye West in 2015.
Surprising the world when he danced across the stage at the O2 arena in London, Kingdom’s contribution to “All Day” adds a unique flare to the hard hitting track. Since the release of the Grammy nominated single Kingdom has released a flurry of singles, videos and features. His most recent project, “Northern Lights,” was released on January 6th, Kingdom’s 22nd birthday.
Artist on Dr. Dre’s “Compton”
Best Rap Album
California native Anderson .Paak has a thing for working on albums named after cities in his home state. First releasing his solo album “Venice” in 2014, Paak has gone on to work on Dr. Dre’s “Compton” in 2015 as well as release another solo effort titled “Malibu” which dropped just a few weeks ago. Telling Sway that his name appears on “Compton” 6 times, Paak joked that his hands were on more like 8 of the 16 tracks.
Appearing on tracks alongside Eminem, Jill Scott, Ice Cube, Kendrick Lamar, and of course Dr. Dre, Paak’s influence rings true on “Compton” as you can hear his raspy crooning shape the sound of each individual line he delivers. First being introduced to Dre through a studio session in which the Aftermath general played Paak’s “Suede” three times in a row at full volume, his talent truly caught the attention of the infamous producer. Recently announcing that he had signed to Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment, we’re sure this Grammy nomination is just the first of many for Anderson .Paak.
Director of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright”
Best Music Video
“This kid is edgy man” said Lil Wayne in 2011 during an interview with Sway for MTV News. A compliment that is just the tip of the iceberg when speaking on the vast resume of Colin Tilley. Working with the likes of Drake, Chris Brown, Justin Bieber and more, Tilley has built one of the most solid resume’s in the directing business. Continuing on with Sway in 2011, Lil Wayne admitted that he was incredibly envious that he was in a video (Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now”) that was so damn good but not his own.
Fast forward nearly 5 years and the California native his still looking to push boundaries. Taking home the Best Hip Hop Video at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards for his work on Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” Tilley once again has the hip hop community at the palm of his hands. Watching Kendrick and the TDE crew’s car being carried by police officers is something that no one expected, just one small detail from Tilley’s incredible work on “Alright.” From floating through the streets of LA to standing atop a traffic light, Tilley held nothing back earning him and Kendrick Lamar the nod for Best Music Video.
Artist on “Empire: Season 1”
Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media
Blossoming into one of the most watched show’s on TV, Empire’s cast, along with Timbaland is up for a Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media. Crowded with exceptional talent that includes Mary J Blige, Estelle, Jennifer Hudson and Juicy J, Smollet captured the attention of many on “Empire: Season 1.” From performing “Good Enough” on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to coming through Sway in the Morning, Smollet’s powerful voice is setting him apart from the crowd.
While the show and its music has come under fire from publications such as Rolling Stone for it’s purely commercial aim, one things is certain, Jussie Smollett has emerged as a star. With Timbaland at the forefront of music for “Empire” with his role as executive producer, his mentorship skills seem to also be on full display as Smollett continues to improve vocally.