BILLBOARD COVER: ZEDD IS EDM’S ANTI-BRO

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Want a true testament to the delightfulness of my subject this time around? Here’s the list of folks who went on the record to say nice things about Zedd: Kesha, Jared Leto, Liam Payne of One Direction, Hailee Steinfeld, Dillon Francis, Interscope CEO John Janick, songwriter/artist Julia Michaels, and DJ-producer Porter Robinson. As for the story, this one takes me into the Hollywood Hills home of the dance/pop genius not only for poker night (excerpted: his brother took me for $40), but for a hang sesh in which he plays piano, reveals his plans for Jeff Buckley’s legacy, and shows off a $13,000 side table that fills his living room with rainbows on sunny days. Also, as the headline suggests, there are the myriad ways in which he is not a basic bro.

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PASTE COVER: GRIZZLY BEAR’S GOLDEN (STATE) REPUBLIC

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Did you know that Grizzly Bear moved to California, signed to a major label, and maybe kinda sorta unofficially broke up between their last album, 2012’s Shields, and their latest Painted Ruins, due in August? I didn’t either until I sat down with these indie rock titans for one-on-one convos at the various hip coffeehouses of Los Angeles’ east side. A lot of other stuff happened too: Chris Taylor staged at Noma, Ed Droste stumped for Bernie Sanders, Chris Bear got back to jazz, and Daniel Rossen disappeared way way Upstate. This is the story of how breaking up with Brooklyn, and each other, lured one of the millennium’s best bands out of hibernation. Not for nothing, we met up mid-April, making these their first interviews as a band since the Shields era.

Billboard Cover: When Fifth Harmony Become Four

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Barely a year after the Billboard cover feature in which Fifth Harmony broke down in tears over their brutal working conditions (for which we sought the salve of froyo), I reconvene with the girl group’s four remaining members to bake cookies and hash out the gory details behind their new better-than-ever status, which involves a lot of real talk about fixing their terrible contracts and moving forward in the wake of original member Camila Cabello’s exit. This is a special one not only because it’s our second cover together, but because I also profiled Cabello at the start of her solo career, plus wrote the mag’s first non-cover feature on 5H. So … they’re my beat now. Cameos from hitmakers Poo Bear and Dreamlab, fiery lawyer Dina LaPolt, Ginger Spice herself (hence the Spice Girls “2 Become 1” gag above), and, yes, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Fun fact: In addition to now finally owning the “Fifth Harmony” copyright (what this means is explained in the article), the ladies also own copyrights for Fourth Harmony and H4RMONY.

Billboard Cover: DJ Khaled Is the One!

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Another one! This time it’s a story on the uplifting oddity of DJ Khaled, in which I interview him in his mansion, we go on a snack run in a golf cart, and he signs for an Escalade while talking to me, without breaking eye contact. It wouldn’t be a DJ Khaled production without features galore, so you’ll find supporting quotes from Tony Robbins, Justin Bieber, Arianna Huffington, and Rick Ross, among others. I’d write more, but I gotta go double my home pillow inventory.

Billboard Cover: Niall Horan Goes Desperado

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Niall Horan is, well, normal. He likes golf, stays friends with his exes, and takes advice from his elders. Of course, for someone with his profile, that means he caddies for Rory McIlroy, kicks it with Selena Gomez on the regular, and calls Don Henley “dad” during their bimonthly chats about life and music. Still, normal. I met him several times over the past six months and every time found him to be exactly the type of dude you want to share a pint with. He even invited me into his house for a home-cooked meal. Anyhow, if you’re a One Direction fan who’s always wanted to know more about the cute Irish kid in the crew, or if you never cared about 1D but are looking for a worthy new man crush in your life, I’ve got you covered. With cameos from Sean Mendes, Don Was, Justin-Bieber-by-proxy, and, yes, the Eagles mastermind Don Henley.

Further reading: My 2016 profile of Horan’s ex-bandmate Zayn Malik.
Fun fact: They both talk about pooping.

Complex Profile: Cash, the Man Behind the Weeknd

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Be calm: I know the Kiss Land creatures are (green) red pandas — some things are too tedious to explain mid-article. Others, like the fact that a man owns a full set of Encyclopedia Britannicas in 2017, the Wiki Age, are just tedious enough. There’s a lot of minutiae in the piece, so here are the broad strokes: Cash was born in Tehran during a very bad time; his family left for Canada; he was a young hustler with a heart of gold; he met the Weeknd; he drove cars (etc.) for the Weeknd; he now co-manages the Weeknd and their greater label/brand/lifestyle XO; he lives in a mansion (four blocks from my little L.A. apartment) with an entire wall of golden champagne bottles.

Billboard Cover: Migos Splash Out in the Mainstream

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Migos took me to the show, the afterparty, and the hotel lobby, though not in that order and certainly without the connotations R. Kelly implied when he sang about such marathon misadventuring. I digress. The short of it is: I spent Grammys day/night not at the awards show, but running around with Atlanta’s hottest, most meme-able rap trio. We went to the cluuub. We went to a swank party at the storied Chateau Marmont. I sat on an ottoman in a hotel room while Quavo (leftmost above) got an $800 pair of track pants measured for alteration. There were many blunts, a couple boxes of jewels, and at least one white cup full of orange syrup. And while I interviewed Jermaine Dupri (bucket list, considering Kriss Kross was the first cassette I owned), there were unexpected in-story cameos from Chance the Rapper, Chris Brown, the Game, and Big Sean. Our nine hours together were equal parts bad and boujee. Mission accomplished.

Billboard Cover: Camila Cabello Is Miss Movin’ On

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Really proud of how this came out. I met Camila Cabello about the time I started writing with Billboard, late 2014, and was immediately impressed (duh) by both her and her Fifth Harmony bandmates. Then last year I got to write the 5H Billboard cover, which found them on top of the world professionally, but in a heavy shared personal space with much of the enthusiasm and warmth I first saw in them clearly absent. Now, Camila has her spark back, even if her old friends want nothing to do with her, as she plunges headlong into a solo career that seems destined to take off. The supporting cast in this story includes Cabello’s mom Sinu, the ever-adorable Shawn Mendes, producers Pop Wansel and Frank Dukes and Epic Records CEO L.A. Reid. Also, this marks the debut of the magazine’s gorgeous new online features format. Erm, dive in!

Billboard Cover: Musical.ly’s Teenage Revolution

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I’ll level with you. I interviewed 14 people about this Musical.ly app—an international cast of adults (China, Germany, Russia, America), four tween/teen idols, a couple venture capitalists, representatives from three major labels, and my first Billboard cover subject Jason Derulo—and I’m still all “kids these days” about it, plus would have a hard time explaining in fewer than 3,000 words what Musical.ly is and why it has the music and tech industries scrambling for answers. But they are, and the answers are in this story about a lip-synch app turned revolution.

Billboard Cover: The Chainsmokers’ Brotacular Rise

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Someone get National Lampoon on the line—it’s time to reboot Animal House with a fraternity full of tech-savvy DJs. I want points on the deal, not just for the concept, but for this pitch-in-cover-story-form for the movie’s leading men: Drew Taggart (left) and Alex Pall (right) of the Chainsmokers, a pair of (mostly) lovable self-described “frat bro dudes” who are dominating music right now. Their song with Halsey, “Closer,” is breaking chart records, but who are these guys and where did they come from? The answer to that question may reveal a new artist archetype. Read on to learn more, and also to see what Steve Aoki has to say about it.