Central Ohio expat Angel Lopez wins Grammy for work with Kanye

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
Angel Lopez

The first time Angel Lopez spoke to Timbaland on the phone, he was watching the 2015 Grammy Awards at his Galloway apartment, where the songwriter, guitarist and producer would make beats from the makeshift studio inside his laundry closet.

Six years later, Lopez now has his own Grammy.  

Last night, during the Recording Academy’s annual award ceremony, Kanye West’s Jesus Is King won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Album. Lopez, a 31-year-old who grew up in Hilliard and now lives in Los Angeles, has production and writing credits on six Jesus Is King tracks, and he got the good news via a group text with other producers on the album, including Timbaland and Federico “Fede” Vindver.  

According to Lopez, Timbaland texted the group, writing, “Fellas... we got it.” Lopez, who is currently in Miami working with young rapper Jack Harlow, immediately called his wife and couldn’t hold back the tears. “It was a wow moment,” said Lopez today by phone, still overcome with gratitude. “It was an honor to be a part of something that lined up with my faith, my passions and one of the greats who’s left his print on not just music, but culture.” 

As Alive recounted in a 2019 profile, Lopez’s collaboration with Kanye kicked off in Miami in December of 2018, followed by a call from the rapper on New Year’s Day 2019, when he told Lopez, “I want to start a church.” Lopez, along with Fede, Timbaland and others on the production team, spent much of that summer at West’s home and studio in Calabasas, California, working on the album that would become Jesus Is King.  

What stands out most about that summer now, Lopez said, is the way West’s faith infused the recording sessions. Pastors helped to oversee the lyrics. Lopez, West and others held hands and prayed in the studio. Lopez said he could see the change in Kanye. “People would ask me, ‘Is that a façade?’ No, this man found God. There’s something in his heart,” said Lopez, who played guitar on the worship team at Covenant Church in Grove City before moving to Los Angeles in February of 2019. “I see this [Grammy] award as a nudge from God, saying, ‘Stay grounded. I got you.’ … The things I've learned in my relationship with Christ are grace, mercy, inclusion. There’s no hidden agenda.” 

While Lopez has spent much of the pandemic collaborating remotely with artists, he recently came back from the Bahamas, where he was working with Justin Timberlake. “You have to be smart and be wise about which sessions you do in person and which you do remotely,” Lopez said, noting the strict (and welcome) boundaries in Timberlake’s camp, with multiple COVID tests for everyone involved all throughout the process.  

In addition to the recent sessions with Timberlake and Jack Harlow, Lopez has a new publishing deal with Pulse Music Group and other collabs in the works for the remainder of 2021, including a co-write with a childhood friend and contributions to a forthcoming, long-in-the-works Timbaland album. After a Grammy win — not to mention a nomination for his work on Coldplay’s Everyday Life — and collaborations with some of the biggest names in the industry under his belt, Lopez has his sights set on a new goal, which, at this point, doesn’t seem out of reach. 

“My favorite artist is probably Drake. To me, Drake is Mount Rushmore. He's the one,” Lopez said. “I want a Drake placement so bad.”