Here’s All The Performers And Songs Featured At “A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop”
Even after a flight and an hours-long photo shoot, Coi Leray exudes brightness and warmth as she discusses her monumental year. She carries a vibrant energy that matches her music — all of which is reminiscent of hip-hop’s beginnings and bright future.
Leray brought that vitality to “A GRAMMY to 50 Years of Hip Hop,” where she held her own among genre legends with a dynamic performance of her smash hit, “Players.” Exactly one month prior to the Dec. 10 event, Leray added another milestone to her booming career: her first GRAMMY nominations.
“One of the biggest things and accomplishments for me as a artist is for people to know me and admire my versatility,” Coi told the Recording Academy. “To be nominated for two of my voices — my melodic, my rap, my singing — it’s a dream come true. I wouldn’t want it no other way.”
Her versatility expands outside of her music, too. From her signature braided hairstyle to launching her own beauty and haircare products, the New Jersey-raised rapper is also building a name for herself in the fashion and beauty industries. What’s more, Leray has entered the philanthropic space as well, with plans to launch her mental-health-focused Camp Courage World Foundation later this year.
Even just a few years into her career, Leray is steadfast in leaving a multi-faceted legacy for herself — one that takes inspiration from icons like Beyoncé and J.Lo, but feels uniquely hers. And while she sees herself in every business venture, the rapper vows for one thing to remain true: she’ll always be having fun.
Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, Leray sat down with GRAMMY.com to discuss what she learned in 2023 — and how her breakthrough year was the perfect setup for a long career.
Congratulations on a wonderful year — from receiving your first GRAMMY nominations for “Players” and “Baby Don’t Hurt Me” to opening up for Beyoncé at the Renaissance World Tour in Los Angeles. How would you describe 2023 for you?
This year was the icing on the cake to what my future entails. You know with “Players” being nonstop on the radio, getting nominated to all these big award shows, performing on Beyoncé’s stage, and getting a written letter from Beyoncé.
She told me that she’s been watching me grow. It shows how hard I have been working. Most importantly, it shows them what to look forward to in the future. I feel like I’m one of those artists that is going to be here for a very, very long time.
As you described, “Players” has maintained a chart-topping position since its release. The single has a sweeter meaning to it because you are paying homage to the rappers, such as The Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, who have come before you. The group has even publicly thanked you for re-introducing them to theyounger generation.
I wanted to ask about your decision to pay homage to them, because we exist in an era where a majority of songs have samples, but few artists go out of their way to pay respect to the pioneering artists.
I feel like it is my job to educate the youth as much as possible.
I’ll be 27 in May. As I get older, I remember when I was 16, 13, 10, 18, 21. Everything that you hear now is inspired by so many great artists, such as Busta Rhymes and The Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five; those icons in hip-hop made a huge statement. What’s derived from Busta’s creativity, his flows, his music videos and everything — a lot of kids have to understand the music they hear today and the videos they see are inspired by him and that’s where it came from.
I remember the moment where I sat down and listened to Sade. She has one of the most beautiful tones in the music industry, and one of my biggest inspirations. When I go to the studio, I try to master my tone, my melodies, and my voice. Sade helped me grow, and [I] realize how big she is to hip-hop, the industry, and music in general.
All the icons study music. The way in which you spoke about developing your melodies and voice speaks to that, and shows your dedication to the craft. Another icon that you have spoken of in high regard and worked with isPharrell Williams.
He’s not only an icon in music, but fashion as well. You sat front row at his debut collection for Louis Vuittion and have become a regular attendee for other notable luxury fashion houses. Are you carving out your own path as an entertainer who has one foot in music and the other in fashion?
I have always been into fashion. I have been building my brand. To me, it’s bigger than being an artist. It helps me build my brand.
I’ve been building my relationship with YSL. When I landed my Fendi by Marc Jacobs campaign, I was on the frontpage of Fendi’s website, alongside Kendall Jenner. I have done Fashion weeks and been dressed by amazing designers, like Jeremy Scott at Moschino, Alexander Wang, AREA, Diesel, and more.
As I continue to elevate and and my music continues to grow, “TWINNEM” ended up on the charts, the success of “Players” and to land with Pharrell, then sit front row at Louis Vuitton; it just shows how much I have been progressing.
It’s also a reminder that through all the hate and negativity that I am going through, even my personal tribulations, it’s those moments that make me realize, “Yo! You are a star!” and this is happening in real life. Whether it’s next week, next month, you’re elevating.
The weekend where I sat front row at Louis Vuitton, I was in the studio with Pharrell. We made four records. I learned so much in my 24 hours with him. I built the most amazing relationship. Pharrell is a mastermind not only when it comes to not only fashion, but when it comes to music.
2024 GRAMMYs: Meet The Nominees
In previous interviews, you referred to yourself as a “walking brand.” As of late, you have garnered partnerships with brands such as Yves Saint Laurent, Tommy Hilfiger, Ray-Ban, and more. In your interview with Angie Martinez, you mentioned the possibility of a haircare line. I would like to hear more about the business components of your brand and how you are building an empire, adjacent to the music industry?
I have always had braids since I was a kid. When I did my first song, “Huddy,” and throughout the beginning of my career, I always wore braids. I always had my baby hairs out.
It was important to me when I signed my deal to make sure that I’m good in the long run. So I sat down and thought about, what is going to help me be a better person?
Create longevity. Create an asset.
As much as I did my baby hairs, I ended up inventing a baby hair brush. I’m just getting my first mold. It’s been a process because I want this brush to be perfect, and it’s crazy because once it’s complete, I want to go add something else. It’s a learning process, and it feels so good to be able to financially invest into myself, grow my brand, continue to learn, have errors, make mistakes at this age and in my career.
I got my first top 10, but I never got a top five. I’m aiming bigger and everything is on God’s timing. With my branding, my music and my YouTube series, “Cooking with Coi Leray,” my skincare products, and my nail line products that’s coming, it’s all going to come in perfect timing because everything’s on God’s timing.
It brings me joy to hear a young woman artist, especially a Black woman, discuss their plans on building their legacy and ensuring longevity for the duration of their career. I saw this in your decision to have Trendsetter Studios, your creative agency, direct the music video for “Players.” Could you walk me through the decision making process to start your agency?
I started Trendsetter Studios because I have always been into content. I’ve always been the creator behind everything I do. They say that I’m big on TikTok and a lot of these platforms, which I am, and I take pride in it because I’m good at what I do.
I’m great at making content. I’m great in front of the camera. I love the camera. When I signed my deal, I invested in a lot of equipment because I knew this is something. When I want to do a video, I want to be able to just grab the camera whenever I want to. Be able to create my own thing.
There’s so many music videos up that Trendsetter Studios produced. I’m very grateful for my team. We’re still learning. We’re still growing.
It’s still in development. The goal and the key is longevity, having access and being able to build, do what you want, when you want, and how you want it.
**When you look at the projects you have worked on in 2023, such as “Self-Love” onSpiderman: Across The Spider-Versesoundtrack and your sophomore album,Coi. What are some lessons that you’ve learned from those projects that you’re going to apply in 2024?**
I learned to have fun. This [past] year, I kind of got wrapped up in it. It’s hard to not get wrapped up in the political stuff or the numbers or the fans. I don’t pay attention to the negative comments and stuff like that. But, it was at a point where I was paying attention to what someone else wanted versus myself.
I realized, in 2024, I’m only catering to what I want to do. I’m going to live in my truth. I’m going to keep growing as a young lady, as a young woman. Do what I want to do, and keep making great music, and just have fun, not get too wrapped up in the other stuff.
I want to have fun. Life is about having fun, and I’m at an age where I need to have fun. In 2024, we’re having fun, and I feel like everybody’s gonna feel that in my music, in my videos, in my vlogs, and whatever it is I’m doing, they’re gonna feel that energy, and I’m gonna make sure of that, because that’s the goal.
It seems to be a trend that icons release self-titled albums. 2023 was the 10-year anniversary of Beyoncé’s self-titled album. When you look back atCoi,an album that will always be synonymous with you, where do you place that album in your legacy as an artist?
It’s gonna be here forever. It’s gonna be one of those records where people are gonna go back and they’re going to be like “Yo, what the hell?!”and I know that because it’s such an amazing body of work.
I write through experience, so as I go through new experiences, as I learn new things in the studio or work with more amazing creatives — creatives in all aspects, whether they’re producers, engineers, songwriters, videographers, directors, creative directors, labels. As I’m working with all those people. I’m learning and every single time I just end up scoring better.
My next body of work is always my best body of work, but that doesn’t mean take away the greatness from that work. It just means that I’ve been elevating in every single way. Coiis one of those projects where I elevated it, it has amazing music just like Trendsetter.
The more I create and the bigger I get, the more people will go back, listen, and really appreciate the body of work for what it is.
You have not only achieved success domestically, but internationally with high placements on the Global and K-Pop charts, as well as participating in Paris and Milan fashion weeks. You have crossed over to being a well-known performer across the world. You’re a girl from Jersey who has received global recognition. How does that feel for you?
Recognition is dope. When you go over to places like Australia and Paris, they treat you like a major star. The love over there is immaculate. I get really inspired overseas. There’s so many great things.
For example, Paris has so many great music video directors. Their music videos are insane. I had to go out there to really understand that.
It made me want to be the voice that when I come to America, “I’m like, I want to use more videographers so people can see how amazing they are too.” It’s a blessing to be able to travel.
You mentioned a desire to work with music video directors in Paris and abroad. You have already worked with international talents such as David Guetta andTOMORROW X TOGETHER. It seems you are pivoting yourself as an entertainer who uses music to bridge the gap between these cultures.
Well, David Guetta is an incredible artist.
He is a mastermind when it comes to the studio, and I want to continue to work with David. We have an incredible relationship, and amazing chemistry in the studio. He’s one of the first DJs to bring hip-hop and EDM together. That’s another life experience for me that I’m going to remember forever.
You know, being a young Black queen in the music industry and being able to have so much versatility, it allows me to collaborate with so many great artists. David Guetta, he’s a mastermind. That’s another way to educate the young kids on David Guetta too. I know he’s already a major, but they don’t know the history.
Some people might not know the history, and I feel like it’s important. David Guetta getting nominated with me — I’m getting nominated with my rap song and the pop electronic recording record. It’s just a dream come true, I’m telling you.
**In your music video for “Wasted” with Taylor Hill fromBlue Moon, you showed a side of you that is different from your previous works. The video displayed a tender and vulnerable side of you. Can we expect to see more of that from you in 2024?**
I can admit that I haven’t done my best at showing that side. I was under my rock a little bit, but I promised to myself that in 2024 I am going to show more of my process, bring people into my world, my fans, and I think I owe it to my fans 1000%. I think that they want to know Coi Leray outside of Instagram, The Shade Room, social media, and blogs.
I want them to also understand who I am as a woman, as a person. Music is important, but relationships are important. Just as much to me, and I admire that.
Icons not onlyinspire us through music, but the way they invest in their community. In 2023, you organized a Thanksgiving Giveback in your hometown. What led you to start doing philanthropy efforts? I think people will always want to root for the girl who made it big and paid it forward.
That’s why I started my Camp Courage World Foundation. I’m super excited to launch that at the top of 2024.
It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I finally thought of an amazing name for it and I’m excited. We’re focusing on mental health because I feel like that’s something that I’ve dealt with my entire life, my childhood, growing up and now, and there’s so many things that I do that I’m pretty sure that these girls would want to know and learn.
For example, just reading books and waking up every day, praying, finding my spirituality and sticking through it, staying consistent, going to church, even if they’re not physical, online every Sunday, speaking to my pastors, my life coach, getting therapists, whatever it is that’s going to make me better, that doesn’t have me relate to anything that can self harm myself mentally, physically, financially, emotionally.
I’m excited for that launch because that’s also going to be the next step in a big part of my career that I feel is one of the most important things.
Having major records is cute. That’s fire. Everybody wants a number one record, but with that number one record, you want to be able to give back and inspire because, at that point, what are you doing it for?
Since your debut, conversations about your body, your image, and your contributions to hip-hop have been a point of contention in the cultural zeitgeist. It seems you have decided to take control of the narrative in the media and the press. Whether it is through the development of your brands or the creation of your talent agency, do you feel as if you are on a path of reclamation?
I’m taking control of it. I should be able to tell it. It’s my life.
I was sitting down talking to my people. I had told them. I said, “Yo. 2024. The future is so bright that the only thing that can stop me is me.”
A lot of people don’t know what I go through outside of this stuff. I go through a lot, you know what I mean? But going through what I went through, it taught me a lot about myself.
I realized this year was all about self-awareness, and it prepped me for 2024. Like I said, I’m the only one that can get in my way.
It’s about just staying focused, staying level-headed, staying consistent. And staying prayed up.