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YMMW

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Known for crafting hit for a huge range of artists from Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and more. While creating hits for others, Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony also make up the group Louis York. Since creating the duo group in 2015, the two have released their EP trilogy Masterpiece Theater Act I, Act II, and Act III. Back in October Louis York unleashed their full-length LP The American Griots. A few weeks back we got a chance to speak to hitmakers, Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony as they spoke about their new album and more. Check out the interview below.

YMMW: Right now, in music, it feels like a lot of artists especially new artists are afraid to make a new sound and try something different for Louis York’s debut project American Griots you guys were not afraid to step outside the box. Tell us about the process when making this album and the story Louis York wanted to for the debut project?

Louis York: The reason we joined forces to become Louis York was to operate without fear. Too much is done to please critics rather than move the people. We wanted to add to the solution, not the problem. We approached our debut album, American Griots, with the intention of getting all the music we hear in our heads out into the world. That meant beautiful melodies, poetry, chord changes, horn arrangements, live strings, undeniable hooks, soulful grooves. We are making the music we craved and couldn’t find. It’s light music.

YMMW: As successful songwriters and writing for a lot of artists, how does Louis York create the fresh sound that we heard on American Griots without sounding like anything we heard on the radio?

Louis York: We are fans of music, FIRST. Writing for some of the biggest artists in the world was like getting a master’s degree in music creation. We learned from the very best how to create memorable music that also makes you feel something real. We also are students of all kinds of music so it was our goal with our own album to create something that the world is missing.

YMMW: You both have written and produced many hits for a lot of huge stars, do you both feel that standards are set higher or there is more pressure for songwriters and producers who step out from behind the scene to becoming the artist? 

Louis York: There is definitely a lot of pressure for us to be great but that pressure doesn’t come from outside opinions. As the masterminds behind some well-known songs, it would be ridiculous if we didn’t bring the heat for our own artistry. That’s why we are our biggest critics. We are not interested in repeating trends or being cookie-cutter artists so we work extra hard to be excellent. People know of us for amazing music & storytelling, it’s our job to keep raising the bar. I think we are doing that.

YMMW: I saw you both make a cameo on Love and Hip Hop Hollywood talking to K.Michelle about her country music. Will you both be working with K.Michelle on her country project?  

Louis York: We love K. Michelle and have known her for years. We’ve been talking about her country roots for years so we’re glad the world got to see that side of all of us on Love & Hip-Hop. We’ll absolutely be getting in the studio with her to make that dream a reality…K doing country has the potential to be massive.

YMMW: Speaking of country music, we all seen Lil Nas X break barriers in country music, but we haven’t seen any black women take over country music like that yet, do you guys think black women can break into country music? 

Louis York: A black woman can and WILL break into country. Nashville is diversifying every day. It’s taken a long time and it ain’t easy but it will happen. We are at the frontlines of that effort. We live in Franklin, TN and moved our company Weirdo Workshop here to be a part of that change.

YMMW: Now that American Griots is out what else can we see coming from Louis York? Can fans expect a tour?  

Louis York: American Griots is still only our debut album. We will definitely be touring this music, and sharing our stories. We also have many new projects mapped out in our heads so there is always new art coming! This is the beginning of the journey.

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2018 has been a rollercoaster of a year but I can honestly say we have been blessed with some of the most groundbreaking music in a while, seeing underground talent rising to the surface and delivering some music that has touched our core and made us relate. Here are YMMW top 10 albums of 2018.

1. Ella Mai – Ella Mai: I`ve been watching her grind for years now and to finally see her explode the way she did this year, was simply amazing as she is a great addition to the R&B scene and her musical approach is very transparent and allows people relate to her sound and not feel like it`s some manufactured type of shit that the industry spits out. Her self-title featured 16 tracks, it could`ve done without the Chris Brown collaboration though but overall the album saw her in her elements as her songwriting is stellar and hearing her and H.E.R on a track (Gut Feeling) together was everything as their vocals blended so beautifully and they managed to capture the rawness of the subject at hand. The album was a great introduction to such a talented artist who`s gonna hopefully build on this project for her albums in the future and keep on showcasing the truth between heartache and love.

2. H.E.R.’s -I Used to Know Her: R&B songstress H.E.R. delivered two stunning projects called “I Used To Know Her Prt 1 & Prt 2” which followed up her 2017 ‘H.E.R. Vol. 1 & 2’ that put her on the map but these projects pushed her all the way out there and saw her fan base growing and shaping her sound by exploring different elements and ways of showcasing layers to her artistry from her sharp yet direct songwriting skills to her soothing and sultry vocals and also displaying her rapping skills.

On this album she takes on depression and drug abuse and the ups and downs of love, especially on “Against Me” which is hands down my favorite tracks as she talks about being in a toxic relationship, where the guy keeps on hurting her emotionally and she stays with him as she doesn`t see that she is worthy of more than what he is giving her, she gives me Lauryn Hill vibes: She also expressed a similar feeling on is also “I’m not okay”, which expresses that she’s holding onto a relationship that is not really working, that hit me to the core. She is such a talented artist that is able to reach deep down inside you and reveal your truth and have you sit in it, till you deal with it and move on and heal.

3.Todrick Hall – Forbidden Hall’s 2016 album Straight Outta Oz was simply amazing than he went on and top it with his album “FORBIDDEN” which was beautifully and creatively crafted and accompanied it with music videos for each song that came together to create a world that takes us back to the 1940’s and 1950’s and addresses topics such as racism, sexuality and turns the tables on white privilege by making them lower class – it might make some people uncomfortable but serves a much needed messages and makes people look at their lives and make some adjustments that allows them to free themselves from limiting thoughts. The album might some heavy moments but it also features some colorful and fun tracks “T.H.U.G. (Trade)”, “B”, “Dem Beats”, “Doll Hair”, “Play”, “Forever” and the title track “Forbidden” is simply outstanding, serving a message about standing in your truth and standing by your love even when people try to tear you down.

4. Janelle Monáe – “Dirty Computer”: “Dirty Computer” was nothing more than a beautiful masterpiece of an album that saw her draw from her idols Prince, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, and James Brown. It`s her most groundbreaking and strongest musical offering since her underrated debut album “The ArchAndroid”, on this project she has truly come full circle as artist and as a black woman in this world, using her art to address so many topics that many people still view as taboo but she doesn`t care, it`s all about giving the voiceless a voice and reflect a beautiful that has its ups and downs but remain strong and pushes forward.


5. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy: Cardi B proved many people wrong when she dropped her album “Invasion of Privacy” which was a solid offering from start to finish and featured so many layers to it and I love the fact she wanted to give the new generation something that holds so much weight to it and also showcased her roots so beautifully. Opening it with a cold track called “Get Up 10” that sets you up for a good ride as it was so raw and showed that she isn’t playing at all, she means business. She built on the track and throughout the album kept providing some quality tunes that showcased her growth and her confidence, what a great way to kick off her musical career.


6. Chole X Halle – The Kids Are Alright: Chole and Halle proved that they are more than just two girls who were signed to Beyoncé. After joining the cast of Freeform’s Grown-ish the ladies showed off their acting chops and with all the stars aligned Chole x Halle. went full force with their debut LP. With the lead single which is also the album’s title track, Chole and Halle set the pace of what we could expect from their debut album. Chole x Halle both executive produced and wrote majority of their album showing off their versatility, their on a trap-inspired songs like “Hi-Lo”, “Everywhere”, and the 90’s throwback feel song “Happy Without Me”, and their age-defying song Gown which served as the theme song for Grown-ish, Chole x Halle showed they have a lot to offer in the years to come with their music and I can’t wait to see what the future has to offer for them.


7. Toni Braxton – Sex and Cigarettes: It has been a full 8 years since Toni Braxton released a solo album, and 2018 the legendary singer made us wait no more. Toni first broke the news as she was on set of her new video Deadwood in September of 17. Then in March of 2018 Toni blessed us with her long-awaited album Sex and Cigarettes. Making this her first album to be issued with a Parental Advisory warning, Toni continued to prove why she is still a legend, with songs such as “FOH”, “Long as I Live”, and “Sex & Cigarettes”, Toni did not disappoint on this LP which even earned her three GRAMMY nominations Best R&B Performance, Best R&B Song, and for Best R&B Album.

8. Christina Aguilera – Liberation: As a Christina Aguilera fan I can honestly say I did not 100 % her last two albums but I always rooted for Ms. Aguilera. When Christina announced that she was releasing a new album this year I was excited but just prayed that she did not just put a bunch of songs together like I felt she did with Flouts, when Accelerate was put out I thought it was nice something different to get used to but knowing Christina her singles never reflect her album in a whole. When Liberation finally came out in June and I heard the project in full I was really happy with the final project. Though I wish Christina would have promoted the album more and really shined light on her songs such as “Deserve,” “Unless It’s with You,” which were two of the albums stand out cuts. Liberation has a lot of great content had Christina pushed this album more and really planned the singles right, the album would have gotten its proper justice. Even though Christina didn’t really push this LP as she should have it was still an enjoyable album and I can’t wait to hear what she has in store for 2019.

9. Mariah Carey – Caution: Mariah has become that artist that never has to make new music ever again if she decided to but I love that she continues to be inspired and show off her creativity. On her 15th studio album Caution gave us what we loved about her growing up as well as giving us some trends of today blending the two and creating this critical acclaim project. Mariah kicked off the project with her buzz track GTFO and then following up with the official single “With You.” The album definitely has its bops such as “A No No”, “The Distance”, and the album’s title track “Caution.” With this album Mariah continues to show why she is still an Icon after all these years.

10. Nao – Saturn: Nao is definitely a hidden gem in the industry Nao’s voice is a breath of fresh air, so when the news hit that she would be releasing her sophomore album Saturn I knew this project was going to be amazing. Nao kicked off the album with her single Another Life time, which gave fans that feeling we all felt when we heard “Bad Blood”. With Saturn Nao gave us both sides of her personality with dance tracks such as ‘If You Ever”, “Drive and Disconnect”, and Love Supreme” or giving us a smooth ballad showcasing her tone with songs like “Another Lifetime”, “Make It Out Alive”, and “Orbit.”