You’ll be hear­ing from H.E.R.

First-time nom­i­nee ex­ults in R&B’s re­turn to time­less sounds and the surge of women in key cat­e­gories.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Ger­rick D. Kennedy ger­[email protected]­ Twit­ter: @Ger­rick­Kennedy

H.E.R. was in a bit of a panic when her man­ager texted with an ur­gent re­quest.

The ris­ing R&B sen­sa­tion is on the road and bat­tling a nasty cold that just won’t go away — a pit­fall of singing to sold-out crowds in the dead of win­ter — when her phone buzzed at the crack of dawn. An emer­gency meet­ing had been called for the team at their ho­tel Fri­day morn­ing.

“He said we might have to can­cel this tour be­cause I’ve been a lit­tle sick. That’s the last thing I wanted to hear, so I was an­tic­i­pat­ing this hor­ri­ble news,” the 21-yearold re­called.

Ac­tu­ally, it was all a ruse to get H.E.R. (real name: Gabi Wil­son) and the crew to­gether to an­nounce that the singer-song­writer had scored five Grammy nom­i­na­tions. Among her nods were new artist as well as the night’s big­gest prize, al­bum of the year, for her self-ti­tled com­pi­la­tion that fused her de­but EPs with new records.

“Ev­ery­one was go­ing crazy and cry­ing; it was un­real,” she said over the phone shortly af­ter nom­i­na­tions were un­veiled this morn­ing — the sounds of rev­el­ing com­ing in clear over the line.

H.E.R.’s first Grammy nom­i­na­tions are the re­sult of the young star’s me­te­oric rise over the past year and a half as the brood­ing, slow-drip­ping soul she be­gan re­leas­ing anony­mously in 2016 caught fire on stream­ing plat­forms and so­lid­i­fied her sta­tus as one of the most ex­cit­ing R&B voices to ar­rive in re­cent years.

Her records have been streamed over 1 bil­lion times, she’s got fans in Janet Jack­son and Ri­hanna, is in the mid­dle of her sec­ond head­lin­ing tour and is part of a seis­mic shift that has pushed the genre out of the shad­ows of hiphop. Last year you made the de­ci­sion not to sub­mit your­self to the Gram­mys, which your fans didn’t quite un­der­stand.

It just didn’t feel like the right tim­ing. I hadn’t had an of­fi­cial pro­ject out. I didn’t have the BET Awards per­for­mance or many per­for­mances where peo­ple could see my artistry as a whole. They only had a lit­tle bit of mu­sic. So I wanted to wait. I thought I needed to prove my­self more. This year, I didn’t feel su­per de­serv­ing, but I’ve had so much suc­cess in the past two years. My sold-out tours. Win­ning at the Soul Train Awards [for al­bum/mix­tape of the year]. I thought, “Let’s sub­mit and see what hap­pens,” and we de­cided to go for it.

You’re up for al­bum of the year and new artist. Both cat­e­gories are dom­i­nated by women, which is amaz­ing, but even more mas­sive is the fact that you’re not the sole R&B artist com­pet­ing in ei­ther race.

It re­ally is more em­pow­er­ing than any­thing.

Af­ter all of the con­tro­versy from last year’s awards and feel­ing like women didn’t get any recognition, this year it’s like we took it back. We took our power back.

Peo­ple are be­ing rec­og­nized for their artistry — and not the hits they have. There was no choice but to pay mind to what’s hap­pen­ing, and that feels re­ally good to be a part of.

Be­ing a Grammy-nom­i­nated artist can be ca­reer chang­ing on its own. What do you hope your nom­i­na­tions sig­nify for R&B mov­ing for­ward?

Wow, I don’t know. I think R&B is in a good place right now. It’s more hon­est. Peo­ple are singing on their records now. I hope this mo­ment R&B is hav­ing will pave the way for real singers — es­pe­cially black singers do­ing soul mu­sic.

We are at a time when peo­ple are mak­ing time­less mu­sic again, the way our le­gends did. We’ve lost our greats like Aretha [Franklin] and Prince, but what they left was mu­sic that will al­ways be rel­e­vant. That’s what it needs to be about.

R&B is that genre that will never leave. It will never die. It’s rhythm and blues, sim­ply put. I think artists need to have that men­tal­ity of longevity. I know I want to make time­less mu­sic, that’s what I’m try­ing to do.

It’s not about what’s hot to­day — it’s about mu­sic that will af­fect my kids and my kids’ kids. For me, that’s the big­ger pic­ture, and that’s what I’m fo­cused on with what I do.

And the nom­i­na­tions this year re­flect that it’s about the big­ger pic­ture and mu­sic that makes peo­ple feel some­thing.

How are you go­ing to cel­e­brate?

Well, first, I’m on my way to the doc­tor to try to get bet­ter be­fore my next shows.

Maybe I’ll go out to din­ner with my team. Or maybe I’ll just chill to­day.

But first, I’m thank­ing God.

Richard Shotwell Invision / AP

H.E.R. (real name: Gabi Wil­son) stole the show at this year’s BET Awards. The R&B per­former is up for five Gram­mys, in­clud­ing new artist and al­bum of the year.

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