Mallory Yu

There are two sides to the Cuban artist Erik Iglesias Rodríguez, who performs as Cimafunk. "Cima" is an homage to the cimarrón, a word that refers to Cubans of African descent who escaped enslavement. And "funk," he says, "because you got all the African roots that came to the United States and transformed gospel [and] the blues to get funk."

At the heart of Esperanza Spalding's new album, Songwrights Apothecary Lab (S.A.L.), is a question: "What do you need a song for?" In pursuit of answers, Spalding, a Grammy-winning jazz singer and bassist, assembled a team of more than just other musicians; she created a laboratory of sorts, gathering neuroscientists, psychologists, ethnomusicologists and more. "We are like shipwrights," Spalding says in an interview with NPR's Ailsa Chang. "We build things.

Every year since 2016, the comedian and screenwriter Demi Adejuyigbe has made videos of himself dancing to the Earth, Wind and Fire song "September" — the enduring dance hit which opens with the question: "Do you remember / the 21st night of September?"

"I guess I'm a lot more confident... "

When Lil Nas X first dropped "Old Town Road" at the end of 2018, the country-rap banger broke the internet. In the process of wrangling viral fame, Lil Nas X's trajectory sparked debate over the racial boundaries of genre. While some might have thought this was just a teenager's 15 minutes of fame, three years and two Grammys later, Lil Nas X is rewriting the rules of unlikely stardom again.

When indie folk star José González arrived at the time to create his latest album, Local Valley, he reached for – what else – local sounds: "I took an evening, set up the stereo mic and recorded an hour of just bird songs," González says in an interview with NPR's Ari shaprio. Aside from his costars, the singer-songwriter recorded the record in the same mode, at his home studio outside of Gothenburg, Sweden, where he lives near the coast in a forest of birch and pine.

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