No More Henny in L.A.: One Man's Journey to the Center of the Grammy Awards

We sent our staff writer to his very first awards show, and here's what happened. The 2016 Grammys Award took place in Los Angeles with live performances & more

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Complex Original

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The Grammy Awards were an important event in my house growing up. I didn't grow up around many musicians, and I don't have any in my family, but either way, music was and still is a big part of my life. Michael Jackson, James Brown, and Hector Lavoe were my family’s favorite artists to play while cleaning the house when I was a kid, and they're also three of the greatest musicians to ever record music. Whenever the Grammys were on, we would sit around the TV and take in the live performances. Never in a million years did I think that I would one day sit in the audience and watch them live.

But two weeks ago, the good people at Intel invited me to the 2016 Grammy Awards to take in Lady Gaga's David Bowie tribute, which was powered by their technology. I was in Los Angeles for 48 hours. And while I was never really into Lady Gaga’s music, her set was one of the most creative live sets I've ever seen. But, let's be real, the highlight of my stay was watching Fetty Wap shine in front of a star-studded audience. On Sunday night, I attended Clive Davis' Pre Grammy Gala where I ran into Fetty and his team. Both of us are from Paterson, N.J., and I've interviewed and covered him a ton since "Trap Queen" took off two years ago. Seeing him perform at Clive's party didn’t seem real, but it was, and it was something I never expected to see, let alone live. 

Over the weekend, there was a lot of talk surrounding Kanye West's new album, The Life of Pablo, and Kendrick Lamar's 11 Grammy nominations. Some of my best conversations were about 'Ye and Kendrick's cultural impact and the Academy seemingly getting the rap categories right this year. With Pablo dropping the night before my flight, the anticipation of Kendrick possibly winning Album of the Year, seeing Fetty, Gaga, and so many others perform, the weekend was surreal. But I kept a running diary of everything that went down over those two days, to give you No More Henny in L.A.: One Man's Journey to the Center of the Grammy Awards.

Sunday, Feb. 14

11:25a.m. I’ve been listening to The Life of Pablo all night and day because I had to rank all of the guest features on 'Ye's new album. I gave him a pass for ruining my life these last couple of days in the name of fire content because the album is so good. I cried on the flight when “Ultralight Beam” came on. Shouts to Kirk Franklin for getting me in tune with my spiritual side just in time for this magical Grammy trip I’m about to embark on.

3 p.m. After I check into the hotel, I blast Pablo and take a power nap because the Clive Davis party in a few hours is finna be lit.

6:40 p.m. After getting dressed and sending my mom a selfie, I almost eat a taco due to starvation as I waited for my Uber, but I had to act like a pro. I couldn’t get any green sauce on the tuxedo.

This is the Selfie I Sent My Mother

7:02 p.m. I pulled up to the Clive Davis function at the Beverly Hilton in a tux with some funky Polo socks. The red carpet was madness, and this party is already surreal.

7:19 p.m. They tried to give me some Ciroc, and I damn near cursed them out. I only drink dark liquor, so I ordered an Old Fashioned because I was feeling like trash-human-fly-guy Don Draper. I’m just trying to keep the savage at bay.

7:33 p.m. I’m still not sure what to expect. I’m new to all of this. There are so many random celebrities here. One thing is for sure—there are no In-N-Outs in the vicinity. As I’m dealing with this disappointing revelation, I run into Dave Grohl, Monty, and Fetty Wap.

7:47 p.m. If Fetty and Monty are here, Nitt Da Gritt can’t be too far behind. As I kick it with him, Ty Dolla $ign daps us up, and we hang for a little bit. Meanwhile Russell Wilson, Ciara, and Faith Evans are talking behind us. What the fuck is going on? What am I doing here?

8:00 p.m. The bar is closed. I repeat, the bar is closed. Mayday, mayday. As I try not to be depressed about this bar situation, fucking Chris Jericho and Alice Cooper are having a conversation about God knows what. Again, what is this place? This party is the most lit, weirdest thing I’ve ever been to. There are also a lot of plastic people here.

8:06 p.m. I ran into Ty Dolla $ign again and shamelessly slurped him for his Kanye contributions. He was fucking with me, though, and we toasted to real ones being in the same building as iconic stars. I almost asked him to do "Wolves" with me.

8:10 p.m. My fellow Latino brother gave me a napkin so I wouldn't get the rental dirty. I had to salute him. I was eating lettuce and couscous, I think. I’m not cultured enough to know what the hell I was consuming.

8:21 p.m. I tipped over my glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, and it splashed a little on the butter and created puddles in the middle of some of the smaller plates. Holla! Turn up! I’m not even drunk yet. There was way too much shit going on this table. There was a shorty from Entertainment Weekly sitting next me. She shrugged off my mishap and continued to eat her iceberg lettuce with no dressing. I had to respect her gangster because this was her fifth time attending this legendary party. You have to respect your vets, kids. She put me on game in terms of what to expect for the rest of the night.

Proof of the Spilled Wine

8:30 p.m. Not sure what's happening. People refuse to sit for dinner. There’s some guys pleading with everyone to go to their assigned tables. Meanwhile, I'm drinking red wine tryna get lit and trashing a plate of half a chicken with gravy and steamed vegetables. As I’m filling my belly, I notice Sly Stallone (we’re friends), R&B God Rodney Jerkins, and Gene Simmons.

8:53 p.m. A.J. Calloway of 106 & Park fame, and now at ExtraTV, sits down at our table and is trying very hard to get the attention of a server for some grub. All he gets is dessert, though. I felt bad for him. He had such a look of disappointment. I asked him why he tried to talk to Jigga right before Super Bowl halftime this year. The table got a good laugh off that. He replied, “Why not?” I toasted my glass of wine towards him in a show of respect.

9:15 p.m. The Associated Press’ music editor Mesfin Fekadu sits next to me, and we kick it about Kanye’s new album as we people watch. Meanwhile, the voice keeps saying to take seats because the program is about to start. What kind of people sit down during a live show? This party is like a dream. I’m in this bitch with mad celebs—old and new.

9:20 p.m. During the waiting time, I notice that I drank half a bottle of red wine and didn't get any on my tux. My editor would be proud.

9:30 p.m. Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow finally got people to shut up and get in their seats. The performances are finally about to start.

9:45 p.m. Clive Davis is going on and giving his Kay Slay roll call. He shouts out all of his friends that are in attendance—people like Ringo Starr, Quincy Jones, Sly, Chris Rock, and some R.I.P honors, too. L.A. lock in! San Quentin, lock in! Alcatraz, lock in!

9:55 p.m. Beck and the living members of Nirvana are the first up and perform a David Bowie tribute. So weird sitting down and watching a rock performance. I wanna turn the fuck up because they're killing it.

10:06 p.m. Clive is treating this like a fraternity party and shouting out his homies at every chance he gets. He puts us on game and mentions Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel is dating Miranda Kerr. I need a billion dollars, man.

10:10 p.m. Melissa Etheridge comes on to perform a tribute to Eagles band member Glenn Frey and does her thing, but where’s Fetty? He told me he was going to perform. This has been a dope experience so far, but I wish I showed up around 9 p.m. or so.

10:15 p.m. Clive shouts out Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton, which makes me sick. How did he get her?

10:25 p.m. Fetty is on stage, and I am crying. I still remember that summer day when I first heard “Trap Queen” in a Paterson, N.J., barbershop. I tried to keep my composure as I finished the bottle of wine. Fetty came a long way and is performing at the 40th anniversary of Clive Davis’ Pre Grammy Gala. Insane.

Fetty Wap performing "Trap Queen"

10:39 p.m. Barry Manilow is a G. The kid is on tour, fresh outta emergency oral surgery and tore the place down, I swear to you. He did his piano man thing and tore the roof off the joint.

Barry Being an Inspiration.

11:00 p.m. Carly Simon came on so that was my cue to dip. My L.A. trip wasn't really going to start until I got up with my former co-worker and friend Reggie a.k.a. Ralph. He's the captain of Henny Airlines, for those that don't know. I get to his spot, we kick it about my night, and I head back to the hotel around 1 a.m. for some much needed rest because tomorrow is a big day.

Grammy Day

10:00 a.m. I decide to take a mile walk to the much-hyped Eggslut. At this point, I'm running on fumes and realize how accurate Grand Theft Auto V is. Los Angeles is really like San Andreas. So many things going on at once: random '80s music and Spanish tunes blaring out of store fronts, weirdo bums talking to themselves—L.A. might be more nuts than NYC. I regret not staying to see Earth, Wind, and Fire at the Clive Davis party. Funk will always bring people to their feet, even celebs who aren't easily impressed.

10:20 a.m. I pull up to Eggslut, and the line is so fucking ridiculous, I wanna die. I'm just praying to God that these breakfast sandwiches are worth it.

11:15 a.m. I finally sit down to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I ordered a bacon, egg, and cheese, and a Slut which consists of chives, gray salt, mashed potatoes, and a poached egg with a toasted baguette on the side. I'm still not sure it was worth the wait. I make better breakfast sandwiches back in Jersey. Ask around.

12:10 p.m. I get back to the Ace Hotel to get ready. I have to meet the Intel people in the lobby around 1:30 p.m. No time for a quick nap. It's almost game time.

2:00 p.m. I hop in a Benz bus that's waiting for us, and I'm sweatling like a mug. I'm in a dark gray tux with a black Sean John shirt in 90-degree weather. As soon as I sit down, I check Twitter and find out Jay Electronica dropped a 50 Cent and Kendrick diss record. What is going in the world today? This man has some nerve, I swear. Out of all days to try to bring down Kendrick, you chose today when he's nominated for 11 Grammys? I don't get it. I fought the urge not to play the SoundCloud link on my phone. I had the feeling Elect was going to be dissing white people. 

Staff Writer

2:40 p.m. We're in a lounge area behind the red carpet. All you hear are fans and photographers going crazy over celebrities. They're serving finger food and beverages, but no booze. What is this?

4:30 p.m. The last couple hours were pretty uneventful. I head to my seat and get ready to watch the Grammys live for the first time in my life. I'm feeling anxious to get the night started. If Kendrick wins Album of the Year, I may smack everyone in attendance.

5:00 p.m. Dave Grohl sets things off with a brass band as everyone settles in and then our wrist bands light up for Taylor Swift's performance. I'm lowkey hoping she comes for Kanye's neck because he has it coming for his "Famous" bars about her. Oh God, now she dropped glitter on John Legend and them. I would be so tight. Here's a live look of my reaction to the glitter dropping down from the Staples Center rafters.

Me Reacting to Taylor's Glitter Bomb

5:06 p.m. Uncle L comes out to "I'm Bad" but his monologue is corny. They should've hired Jamie Foxx or somebody like that. During this time, I hear Kendrick has already won four of them thangs and D'Angelo took home the best R&B album. I wish they would've televised them. We get no respect, still.

5:10 p.m. Cube and O'Shea Jr. come out to present Best Rap Album. Kendrick has this in the bag. KENDRICK. Now all we need is that Album of the Year, baby!

5:12 p.m. Von Miller and Anquan Boldin look confused as hell introducing Sam Hunt and Carrie Underwood. Hold up! SAM HUNT HAS BARS! I have to check some of his music out, shit.

5:24 p.m. The Weeknd won a Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album. The album was aight, to be honest. Good performance, though. He swears he's Mike Jackson sometimes. It annoys me a little. It's crazy seeing this all go down behind the scenes between commercial breaks. The stage is always filled with people switching sets and what not. They're the ones that make this kitty purr. 

5:31 p.m. Andra Day and Ellie Goulding come through with a power ballad in what looks like an MMA octagon from my vantage point. I'm rocking with this performance.

5:39 p.m. Here comes the Best Country Album presentation. I'm rooting for my guy Sam Hunt, but Chris Stapleton won for Traveler. Chris don't have more bars than Sam Hunt, B. No way.

5:46 p.m. This Lionel Ritchie tribute is lit, oh my God! "Easy Like Sunday Morning" with John Legend on the piano. Demi Lovato can sing her ass off, Luke Bryan, Meghan Trainor, and Tyrese all showed out, respectively, too. John the Legend providing piano lessons for each song; he's such a talented brother. I see Lionel in the crowd with a mic in hand. You already know he's finna set shit off the real playa way. And he does with an "All Night Long" performance for the ages.

6:02 p.m.  Little Big Town is on stage with a Stonehenge type set up, or at least that's what it looks like from where I'm sitting. The string section is getting it. 

6:07 p.m. Are Stevie Wonder and them beatboxing for Maurice White? Am I watching the BET Awards? This is so great. O.K., they're presenting the Song of the Year, and it goes to Ed Sheeran for "Thinking Out Loud." I've been sleeping on him, and if Stevie fucks with him, I have to wake up out of respect. Why is Tay-Tay acting like she won? She's annoying, B.

6:13 p.m. The legendary Eagles crew is onstage now performing "Take It Easy." If I were watching on TV, I would've changed the channel. I saw them live before, and white people love the shit out of them. Not my cup of tea, though. RIP Glenn Frey.

6:23 p.m. Anna Kendrick intros a Tori Kelly and James Bay acoustic white people duet. Tori is smoking, but they're putting me to sleep. Where is Cornrow Kenny?

6:28 p.m. They cut to Stephen Colbert on Broadway for a Hamilton performance. This is a unique way to present Alexander Hamilton's story. It's the hardest ticket in town and has a cast filled with people of color. They're going to stop frontin' on us one of these centuries.

6:34 p.m. Rihanna canceled because she saw me in a tux, and it made her nervous. It happens.

6:40 p.m. Finally KENDRICK'S PERFORMANCE. I AM BESIDE MYSELF. Shouts to Don Cheadle. Wait! He's doing "Blacker the Berry" in a prison suit and chains? Oh boy. I could feel the heat of the fire as he performs "Alright." I was wondering what that was backstage. He is in the zone. We don't deserve him.

My View of Kendrick's Performance

6:46 p.m. Seth MacFarlane comes out to present the Musical Theater Album. Why is this televised? Hamilton won, though, so that's cool.

6:54 p.m. Miguel comes out and does Michael Jackson's "She's Out of My Life." There's a lot of black and brown love in the house tonight. I just watched the Showtime doc the other day, too. I need Miguel to scissor kick a shorty for old times sake. That would make things interesting.

6:56 p.m. Here come the Best Rock Performance, and I just learned Elle King's father is Deuce Bigalow. That news fucked my head up. And the Alabama Shakes win. Their album is so dope. I think they're going to win Album of the Year.

6:58 p.m. Bruno Barz a.k.a. Bruno Mars introduces Adele. She's in center stage poppin'. She can sing so effortlessly. People on Twitter aren't feeling her performance, but it sounded good to me.

7:10 p.m.Big Bang Theory's Kaley Cuoco brings out Biebervelli. The kid looks like he might go on a coke binge at any minute. Man, is this fool playing a guitar? He just slammed it like a rock star. What is his deal? Look at Skrillex going hammer on the electric guitar and Diplo on the keys, and a big ass drum. Not bad for a couple DJs. Bieber does the same dance moves over and over again.

7:17 p.m. Sam Smith comes out looking like a taller Mac Miller to present Best New Artist, and Meagan Trainor wins. Whatever, I do not care.

7:24 p.m. Ed Sheeran brings out Lady Gaga for her highly anticipated David Bowie tribute. I've been in touch with the Intel people about this performance, so I'm really looking forward to what they have in store. Intel's Jaime Le is keeping me posted on all the happenings of what's happening onstage. Gaga is controlling the hologram displays with the big rings on her fingers. Those hologram monsters are creepy as hell. I'm so glad I'm not high because I would be tripping balls right now. That keyboard that's moving around is powered by Intel, too. This is so incredible. I need a link to this performance. I can't really take it all in from where I'm sitting. We're stage right and have a funky view for most of the performances. Gaga tore the house down. Technology is lit.

View this video on YouTube

7:38 p.m. Gaga is going to be hard to top, but I'm here for Chris Stapleton and Gary Clarke Jr. honoring B.B. King. Gary is going off, and there's so much extraordinary guitar play.

7:46 p.m. LL is introducing future Album of the Year recipients Alabama Shakes for a performance. Brittany Howard is so talented, man. I don't wanna fight anymore either, ma. I'm sorry.

7:54 p.m. David Grohl is talking about Motorhead's Lemmy now. Lemmy is a rock god, my G. I'm looking forward to this Hollywood Vampires performance. I wish we had a better view. Joe Perry and Alice Cooper have turned Johnny Depp into a rock star. Stay weird, L.A. That was loud as hell, but I'm falling asleep because my contacts are drying up. Alice Cooper is old as shit, and I'm washed up. This "Ace of Spades" cover is waking me up. It's lit again.

8:04 p.m. This Joey Alexander kid is going offffff on the piano. I'm up now.

8:07 p.m. The In Memoriam part of these awards shows are always depressing. It's so easy to forget who we lost over the course of the past year. Music has been through a rough patch these last few months, though.

8:19 p.m. Alright, this why we're here. Earth, Wind, and Fire are presenting Album of the Year. Who's going to win? I want Kendrick to win, of course, but I have a feeling the Alabama Shakes are going to take it home. Drum roll, please. Taylor FUCKING Swift ruined my goddamn trip! Holy shit. She has two of these already? Come on with this bubble gum bullshit. I hate the Grammys so much for this. FOHHHHHHHHHH.

8:22 p.m. QUEEN BEYONCE is looking angelic as she presents Record of the Year. I'm over Taylor Swift. And of course, Bruno Barz wins for "Uptown Funk." That song refuses to go away. Shouts to Grammy award winner Trinidad James. The universe is a mysterious place.

8:30 p.m. Now here comes Pitbull. Dale! This performance is surprisingly lit. Travis Barker, Joe Perry, Robin Thicke, and Mr. Worldwide is a zany cast of characters. Pitbull is really rapping too, LOL. That's it, show's over, now we're headed to the afterparty.

2016 Grammy Awards Celebration

9:00 p.m. We make a quick pit stop in a suite. The leftovers are cold, but they have Maker's Mark and some bubbly. "Ultralight Beam" plays in my head as I pour my whiskey.

9:15 p.m. I meet some Intel people. They're getting into sports and trying to tap into the millennial market. This is a smart move on their part. I'm looking forward to what they have planned.

9:40 p.m. We're in the Benz buses again on our way to the Mondrian for the afterparty. We're talking about the performances and the complications of being a Kanye West fan.

10:15 p.m. This Pandora afterparty is kind of crazy. There are a shit ton of people here. If Pandora can make money why can't SoundCloud? We need to fix this. They should let people donate like Wikipedia.

10:23 p.m. I make a beeline for the bar. I’m amazed I was able to get through most of the night sober. Bulleit Bourbon and ginger ale for the rest of the night.

10:37 p.m. Made some small talk with people I don’t know. I hate small talk. I want to try some In-N-Out. That’s all I can think about right now. The steak and potatoes in the suite held me down, but I need to get liquored up so I can try some In-N-Out. It’s only a mile or so away. I can finesse an Uber to make a pitstop there. This ain’t my first rodeo.

10:50 p.m. The spot is getting packed, and I still haven’t run into anybody I know. I have to get back to the hotel to start piecing this together and write some blurbs. I missed deadline, and my editors are on my ass.

11:30 p.m. The best conversations I’ve had these last couple days in L.A. have revolved around Kanye and Kendrick. I called an Uber to take me back to my hotel, but first I had to finesse some In-N-Out. Most of the time Uber drivers are annoying when they refuse to shut up. This wasn’t the case with my guy Willie. He’s a big, happy dude that didn’t hesitate when I asked if he could make a pit stop on the way home. We talked Grammys and Kanye on the way to grab some burgers, and after I told him about Kendrick’s performance, he lit up like a Christmas tree.

11:40 p.m. When we pulled up to In-N-Out, the drive-thru was wrapped around the parking lot, so Willie suggested I go inside because he’s a real one. I copped both of us a Double-Double, and I bought an extra cheeseburger on the side of the ride. I needed to see what all the fuss was about.

11:55 p.m. When I came back to the car, Willie was going nuts as he watched Kendrick’s Grammy performance on his phone. I told him to run it back and we sat in the parking lot until it was finished.

12:25 a.m. We pull up to the Ace Hotel in downtown L.A., and I remember I have weed in my room but no lighter. My main man Willie comes through once again for the kid and gives me his white Bic. Willie is a top five Uber driver, dead or alive.

12:32 a.m. Full disclosure here, In-N-Out is overrated like a motherfucker. That burger joint can’t hold Shake Shack’s jockstrap. The taco stand next door would’ve been better.

Tacos Mexico Stand

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