It’s considered human instinct to label everything and everyone, and be able to identify something immediately. Like most things in our life, we try to categorise and label music as well. Most music today is divided into different genres, such as hip-hop, rock, jazz, pop, folk and the list goes on. Despite having so many different divisions and subdivisions of music, numerous musicians manage to defy the conventionalism of music genres, and combine different elements from each genre, and create a new sound wave that speaks to all sorts of different audiences. These musicians include Rico Nasty, Björk, FKA Twigs, Rick Ruben and Grimes, and many more all part of the music industry, all fearless and most importantly, all these musicians have stepped out of a singularly defined music genres, and broke boundaries by combining different types of art and music, rather than add to the gap between different genres of music.
The 22-year old Maryland native sugar trapper Rico Nasty is a perfect example of a rebellious artist that expresses herself through experimentation with music. Rico Nasty has created her own unique genre and style in which she calls, “sugar trap,” which doesn’t only reflect in her music, but also in her style, attitude and mannerism, by being both feminine and a hustler at the same time. Yelling rap lyrics over a punk-hip hop track is what Rico Nasty does best. In an interview, Rico Nasty stated “You don’t have the balls to walk outside looking like this.” Throughout her music, Rico merges audiences with different interests from all over be able to relate and connect to Rico Nasty, because a common theme in a lot of her music is letting all that anger and frustration out, it’s not every day you come across an African American woman merging two genres together and producing something so violently beautiful.
Actress, singer, record producer, composer, and DJ, who other than Björk can pull all these professions off, while at the same time separating herself from the commercialism of the music industry, and creating her own avant-garde, electronic, experimental, classical and pop fusion of music. Throughout her four-decade career, the Icelandic singer started off in a girl band, and later on left for a solo career, and that is when her career sky rocketed. With 15 Grammy award nominations, it’s hard for an artist with such global recognition not to face scrutiny. Many music critics were outraged by the fact that Björk defies categorising her music into one genre, throughout her 30- year music career, Björk decides to explore the relationship between the all different categories of music, becoming as diverse as those who have influenced her, such as; David Bowie and Lene Lovich, but also those who have been influenced by her.
Influenced by Billie Holiday, Marvin Gaye, FKA Twigs composites different genres together with incorporation of her distinctive soprano voice. Twigs- whose nickname comes from how loudly she can crack her bones at the age of 16, said in an interview “I am not restricted by any musical genre. I like to experiment with sounds, generating emotions while putting my voice on certain atmospheres […] I found my own way of playing punk. I like industrial sounds and incorporating everyday life’s sounds like a car alarm.” What is interesting about FKA Twigs is how she rejects all the labels others have given her, especially ones that fall under alternative R&B. When FKA Twigs first released music, she explains how prior to people knowing her background, which is a mixed-race girl from south London, no one labelled her music as R&B, but with her popularity on the rise, her music has become labelled and categorised as R&B. This shows how music industries and individuals in many cases, are labelling artists’ music based of their ethnicity, rather than actually explore the depth and layers of different genres and symphonies of music.
Voted on Time’s 100 most influential people in the world, Rick Ruben is no stranger to the music industry. Co-founding of Def Jam Recordings at only 18 years old with Russell Simmons, Rick Rubin has now become one of the most distinguished producers of all time, and worked with several distinctive record labels during his career. Despite not releasing music of his own, Ruben manages to work with musicians of all different genres and aesthetics, allowing artists to express their individuality and diversity within their work. You name the artist, and Ruben has probably worked with them. Ruben is the producer that manages to work with artists such as Aerosmith, Adele, Kanye West, Eminem, Frank Ocean, Jay-Z, Slayer, and these are just to name a few. Becoming one of the most famous producers of the 21st century, Ruben does not limit his expertise to the genre of music the artists produce, but rather creates a safe space where all artists, of all talents can be creatively constructed by Ruben and the artist. Ruben has produced music for artists that play rock, hip hop, heavy metal country, making him one of the most diverse producers yet.
Galactic anime musical love child pretty much sums up Grimes. The Canadian singer and songwriter has released four albums throughout her career, and I can confidently say not a single song sounds like something you’ve ever heard before. Through layering and looping music, Grimes creates sometimes over 50 layers of different vocal tracks, creating a sweet, otherworldly and surreal composition. A key inspiration of Grimes’ music and aesthetic is Japanese anime, in which she uses as influence to create the album art for all her albums. Grimes’ specific style is usually referred to as synth-pop, which is a combination of electronic music, dream pop, art pop, and hip hop. Luckily, this galactic babe has still more to come for her fans, announcing her upcoming fifth album “Miss_Anthrop0cene”, in which she reveals that this album is “about this demon of the end of the world, this character that’s like the Voldemort of climate change”.
All these musical talents are not the first to ever merge genres together, it has been done by numerous artists over time, such as David Bowie, The Beatles and even Queen, created a path way and made it easier for future musical talents that want to explore beyond a certain genre, and indulge into the world of experimentation of music, by creating a new hybrid genre of its own, which is exactly what Rico Nasty, Björk, FKA Twigs, Rick Ruben and Grimes did.