THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS HAVE SEEN PRODUCERS ROUND THE WORLD BLURRING THE LINES BETWEEN HIP HOP, JAZZ, HOUSE AND BEATS (WHATEVER THAT MEANS) AND FLINGING OUT JOYOUS, MIND-BENDING NEW MUSIC LIKE GODS CHUCKING STARS ACROSS THE SKY. THIS COLUMN TRAWLS THE INTERNET TO TRY AND MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL. HERE IS THE LATEST NEWS FROM NEPTUNE.
So, this month I’m starting with a few picks from American artists that show a nation looking outwards. With the potential presidency of Trump – a man with a roaring bewigged bollock for a face – looking increasingly feasible, I thought it’d be good to remember that not all of our friends from across the Atlantic are belligerent bullshit merchants who despise furreners. Especially as we’ve got more than enough of those chumps on our own shores.
Wes Period ft KeithCharles Spacebar– German Leather
I’ve always been kinda sus about just how much impact the grime revival has had Stateside. I get the feeling that we get gassed over here if we see so much as a couple of hundred yanks attend a Skepta show, forgetting that most of America still think UK music can be entirely summed up by a) One Direction, b) the whinging moan of Adele, c) the Benny Hill tune.
So it’s always pleasing to see that there are at least a few American artists who are aware of the recent sounds of London Town – and this new cut from producer/ rapper/ singer Wes Period and Awful Records’ KeithCharles Spacebar does exactly that. They’ve gone and lifted the chorus of German Whip direct, chucking it over a spacey LA head nodder with all sorts of trunk shaking bass going on. In come verses about a girl who’s got a shit motor and no money, but doesn’t care- pretty much the polar opposite of Meridian Dan’s original. It works on whatever level; it’s both a heavy tune and a witty flip. Good work all round. Wes has got an album forthcoming, keep an eye on his Soundcloud for tasters.
Tunji Age – Prince of July
Philly based rapper Tunji Age has been picking up some high praise comparisons, mostly to Kid Cudi, and a College Dropout era Kanye. The Kanye comparisons were kinda inevitable when journalists got hold of the fact that the 19 year old Age was majoring in communications at West Chester College whilst recording his breakout mixtape The Love Project. His track Day to Day from that tape, a curious, addictive mix of trap and deep house, turned heads, then gathered momentum when Makonnen jumped on a remix. Without being annoying about it, it’s just the kind of thing you’d expect a college rapper to put out –a mix of ruminative lyrics and a willingness to jump on different tempos and rhythms. Now Tunji has returned with a new tape, Prince of July, and he’s clearly willing to keep an international perspective in his search for inspiration. This is most successfully shown on the Pounds, a party banger that draws on Tunji’s Nigerian heritage, with Fela inspired horns, bars spoken in pidgin, and a chorus that chants ‘Pounds, Naira, Dollar’. There’s even a cheeky reference to ‘looking for the peng things in the UK’. It deserves to be a club hit over here, and may prove to be another step on the path of the slow dissemination of the afrobeats scene into American hip hop.
Jeremih – Late Nights: Europe
Apparently recorded as he toured the continent, Jeremih’s latest mixtape is a homage to Europe- or at the least, a homage to Jeremih shagging his way around Europe. In fact, even though the songs by-and-large start with place names (Paris, London, Oslo, Belgium etc) there’s not much to really link any of these titles to the tracks themselves. Bad news for anyone hoping for a future RnB version of Trip Advisor, great news for anyone who just wants Jeremih to get on with what he does best; emoting about banging. Like a crazed nationalist, I skipped straight to London, and enjoyed what I heard; a smooth RnB/ Bashment fusion that sounds like it’s gonna work the club. It features a couple of guest spots- Krept & Konan pop up, which is no real surprise as their major label signing has made them pretty much the go-to for any US artists looking for some UK bars. They’re a bit meh on this tbh. More interestingly, Stefflon Don, London’s rising female Bashment MC, gets to drop some husky lyrics and gives the track it’s hook. I get the feeling this is just the start for her, expect to hear plenty more over coming months.
So, yeah, this mixtape is well worth your hard drive bytes- it’s standard high level fare from Jeremih. Obviously it’s completely filthy throughout, but what’s life if not for the living. Someone needs to tell him that Dubai and Lebanon are most definitely not in Europe though. 2/10 for geographical accuracy bro.
ABRA –Princess EP
So Abra has kind of signed with True Panther in the States and Matador in the UK, whilst also staying on Awful Records. I’m not sure quite how this works out, except to note that her new EP is getting a vinyl release, which can only be a good thing. She was in London performing last week, and I missed her playing AGAIN. Ffs. Still, listening to the EP makes up for it – the most immediate track is Crybaby an uptempo 80s house/boogie/soul jam that cements what I’m starting to think of as the ‘Abra sound’ – big, echoing drums, reverb heavy vocals, and multi layered vocals building to an all-enveloping swirl. Tommy Genesis shows up on the track Big Boi, and her bratty flow over Abra’s bass slapping 80s beats turns out to be more interesting than a whole lot of the more trappy fare she normally shows up on. Elsewhere, Pull Up has oriental, slightly Nintendo-ish melodies playing over globules of bass, and Thinking of U opens with choral acapella vocals before dropping into rude stabs of soul bass. Either may be on their way to being my favourite.
As with everything Abra has put out, this EP is effortlessly cool and quite unlike anyone else out there. If you’re not into her yet, stop pissing about. Listen to Princess.
10th Letter – Escape From the ATL
How am I not gonna love this as a concept? Jazz/electronica producer 10th Letter has reimagined John Carpenter’s Escape From New York soundtrack as a modern day IDM epic, a futurist fusion of Carpenter’s brooding synths with the kind of scattergun rhythmic explosions 10th Letter excels in. Opener Neo Atlanta 3085 tells all you need to know about the project– built from huge moody synth pads swelling into neon skyscrapers of sound, it towers over head, awesome, terrifying. I genuinely need someone to make a film for 10th Letter to soundtrack; cinematic does not come close to describing this production. As with fellow ATLien Ethereal, he’s clearly spent enough time listening to fractured jungle beats, and you hear so many collapsing amens on the record that at times it’s like listening to Ray Keith play on a sketchily tuned pirate. There’s a host of Venetian Snares, Luke Vibert and Aphex fans out there who need to get to know 10th Letter, here’s your starting point.
Lil Silva - Caught Up
And finally - a last minute deadline buster. I just realised that Lil Silva's uploaded a new video to his track Caught Up. It's features fairly clear nods to slavery (chains and nooses feature throughout) and an violent, body-exploding avenging afro-futurist alien. It's dope. The song is dope. Watch.