Sidney Madden | KERA News

Sidney Madden

Even in the best of times, many look to live music as a crucial resource — a place to turn for comfort, community and relief from anxiety — and can scarcely imagine their lives without it. For the past few months, the coronavirus pandemic has closed down venues around the country, and it's hard to picture when gathering in nightclubs or amphitheaters will be deemed safe again.

Earlier this week, Drake's latest single "Toosie Slide" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making the Canadian rapper the first male artist — and second artist ever — in Billboard history to have three singles reach No. 1 upon release. But unlike the rapper's past No. 1 debuts, "God's Plan" and "Nice For What," this new chart-topper is a result of Drizzy's ability to harness social media in a new way.

Death in hip-hop can feel so commonplace that sometimes, we're desensitized to it. A trending topic for the day, a bump in streaming numbers, some kind words about the artist's music and then, we move on. But in the case of Nipsey Hussle, his impact since his 2019 death feels different.

Brooklyn-hailing rapper Pop Smoke, who was born Bashar Barakah Jackson, died Wednesday morning, according to his record label. The rising act was killed during a Los Angeles home invasion on Feb. 19, 2020. He was 20 years old.

Pop Smoke was a rising start in the New York drill scene because his intensity made him an outlier. Everything about his demeanor and delivery stood out — his tongue-curling ad-lib, a sometimes disorienting flow and the type of gravel-gargling tone that stops music listeners in their tracks.

A Los Angeles jury has ruled that Katy Perry's 2013 hit "Dark Horse" featuring Juicy J infringed on the 2008 rap song "Joyful Noise" by Christian rapper Flame featuring Lecrae and John Reilly. In a unanimous decision handed down on July 29, the jurors decided that the beat of Perry's smash hit improperly copied the beat of the Christian rap song, creating a perfect storm of copyright infringement.

Houston rapper Bushwick Bill, a founding member of the pioneering rap crew Geto Boys, died on Sunday evening in Colorado, his publicist, Dawn P., confirmed with NPR. A cause was not given pending a medical examination; the rapper was diagnosed earlier this year with pancreatic cancer. He was 52 years old.

The first time I saw Raveena live, the room at Washington, D.C.'s Songbyrd Music House was packed. Chatter from college-aged kids about gender politics and Instagram updates filled the venue before she got on stage, but for a Thursday night in the middle of summer, there weren't many drinks clinking. "The venues always tell me they never make money off the bar at my shows," the artist laughed backstage that night. "It's just a bunch of nice brown kids."

The precision. The energy. The limitless swag.

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.


In 1998, songwriter Kandi Burruss — on hiatus from her R&B group, Xscape — took a drive around Atlanta with a girlfriend, looking for inspiration. In the car, Burruss was playing tracks she'd gotten from a fellow songwriter, Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, a few days earlier.

The music of Dianna Lopez feels like a secret you just can't keep to yourself. Her ability to blend ingredients of rock, avant-pop and R&B has made her a standout among Soundcloud's many bedroom-born hidden gems. And in 2019, she's ready to take things to the next level.

The latest release from the Rockland County, N.Y. singer, "Predictable," is a soft and fittingly pithy track about anticipating your partner's every move and deciding whether or not to change the routine.

After years in proverbial hip-hop purgatory, Lil Wayne has finally released his long-awaited album Tha Carter V, just after his 36th birthday.

CV, the fifth installment of Wayne's chart-topping, Grammy-winning series that started in 2004, nearly became a pop culture fable about the perils of music industry politics, following years of legal battles with his Cash Money Records boss and musical father figure, Birdman.

The Cardi B effect:

A branding power rooted in specific authenticity, created and permeated by rapper Cardi B. Behaviors associated with the Cardi B Effect include blunt honesty, rapping, laughing, mild to moderate twerking, tongue-curling, teeth-kissing, chart-topping and regular degular Bronx girl antics.

In a year when the nominees were more eclectic and adventurous, the safe bets prevailed at the 60th Grammy Awards.