Interscope Records is certainly back on everyone’s radar after reviving two of hip hop’s most iconic stars—this year’s ten-time GRAMMY nominee, Eminem and his mentor Dr. Dre. While these two are certainly front and center of the revamped label, they’ve got two more artists in the wing, waiting to take the label’s takeover to a whole new level.
In the last thirty days, Skylar Grey has performed on television’s highest-rated show, been featured on three radio hits, participated in a history-making comeback of one of hip hop’s legends and oh—won a GRAMMY for penning Song of the Year, “Love The Way You Lie.” Not bad for a newcomer who appeared overnight. But how new is Skylar Grey? Holly Brook Hafermann, the 25-year-old from Wisconsin is better known (or soon to be) by her stage name, Skylar Grey. She’s caused quite the stir since her haunting GRAMMY performance alongside Dr. Dre and Eminem, where she played the piano and delivered the hook that finally called Dre back to the mic after a ten year hiatus. She’s also making radio rounds on Lupe Fiasco’s second Lasers single, “Words I Never Said”. Millions more were introduces to the piano-playing, raven-haired singer/ songwriter Thursday night, when she hit the American Idol stage alongside Diddy Dirty Money to perform their single, “Coming Home”. While the mysterious voice seems to have popped up over night; Grey has been in the business, under a different name for years. She’s currently signed to Alex Da Kid’s Interscope imprint, Wonderland, and is at work on her debut album—as Skylar.
In 2004, Grey (formerly Brook) was signed to Machine Shop, a label owned by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda. She released her debut album, Like Blood, Like Honey two years later and opened up for rockers like KD Lang, Teddy Geiger and Jamie Cullum among others. She also toured with Duncan Sheik and is featured on their 2009 album, Whisper House. Just last year, she released a seven-track EP, O Dark: Thirty EP produced by Sheik. While there’s been no explanation for the quickie name change, former fans of Holly Brook were sent e-mails in late January, advising them of the change and encouraging them to stay tuned for her new persona, Skylar Grey. Pretty weird, but I’m sure there’s a completely logical explanation for her dark dye-job and assumed alias. If the image overhaul and new home at Interscope did the trick to get her on my radar after seven years in the business, I’m glad she did it. Her stellar songwriting skills have delivered some of my favorite tunes of the year, and her strong, unique voice will likely prove to be a powerhouse worth reckoning with.
Another Interscope rookie is making noise and is poised for a big year. Yelawulf, the quick-rhyming rapper from Alabama, released his first high-impact mixtape Trunk Music 0-60 in November— his highly anticipated follow-up Radioactive is due out this summer on Eminem’s imprint, Shady Records. He first caught our attention when he hit the stage at last year’s BET Awards with friend and mentor, Big Boi. This month he made XXL’s coveted Freshman Class issue, making him the first artist to grace the magazine’s cover two months in a row— he was featured alongside Eminem and the rest of the Shady family last month. Despite the “freshman” title, this isn’t the first go around for Yelawulf either, He was a contestant on Missy Elliot’s short-lived reality competition show, The Road To Stardom in 2005 and was signed to Columbia Records in 2007. Now, he seems to be in the right place, and ready to cash in after years of struggling for stardom, looks like the tatted-up Southerner is ready to shine. While he’s not spilling many details on Radioactive yet, you can catch him on Travis Barker’s “Let’s Go,” along with Lil Jon, Busta Rhymes and Twista and on “2.0 Boys” with Eminem and label mate, Slaughterhouse—the hip hop collective comprised of Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz, Crooked I and Royce Da 5’9″.