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.
In about 15 years time, the 2030 equivalent of Awesome Tapes from Africa is going to release a lavish compilation of Joey B’s 2012-2015 catalogue and future hipsters are going to sweat off their 3D cyber facemasks in excitement. You could, of course, save yourself a wait and start listening to him now. I don’t think he’s made a bad track yet – just listen to a handful from the last month and you’ll know I’m right. Marvel at the sleazy flow of Ghana’s greatest horndog, delight in the synthetic Azonto beats he favours drooling over, and mentally note that you never want him within grasping distance of your wife/daughter/mother. If you haven’t heard anything by Joey, start with last year’s Tonga. Once you’ve got that covered, check out some recent tracks. Here he is dropping creepy giggles and trying to talk a girl out of her bra in Wow; dropping creepy giggles and sparring with Itz Tiffany on the electronic pulse of DJ Breezy production Sagaaa; and finally, dropping creepy giggles over the stop start afro-bashment of Sister Deborah’s Kikoliko. Have you noticed a theme yet?
Jacober – The Gray Man
This is the first- and quite possibly last- marimba driven ambient album I’ve found myself advocating for, but life’s all about new experiences. Apparently David Jacober has a day job as a drummer in a Baltimore noise band called Dope Body – those drumming skills are put to use on The Gray Man, an album of marimba patterns buried under tape snow and echoing traps. Recorded on a 4 track at a beach shack belonging to his granddad, this is a really beautiful piece of work, lonely and haunted, yet also quietly optimistic. If you like actual physical things you can buy the album on tape – there’s only 100 out there, and the rate I’m pressing this on people I doubt there’s gonna be many left for much longer.
MoStack – I Do
The best UK street music effortlessly fuses hood banging bass and avant garde innovation – think the syncopated rhythms of Champion or Lil Silva, Wiley’s ice cold, beatless ‘Devil’ mixes, the experiments in bass pressure El-B created in the late 90s, or the collapsing breaks that Remarc used to stuff into his amen murdering jungle. I Do is a perfect example of this. On the surface, MoStack is your typical road rapper. The video for I Do is full of usual themes – Mo is hyped up with his crew, hanging mob-handed round East London estates and top-loading his bars with references to hoes, cash and lyrical prowess. So, yeah, this could be one of a million road rap videos flooding Link Up TV – but the difference is twofold. First, MoStack is a gangly, cheeky wideboy with a flow that’s like his physical presence; full of weird angles, and constantly folding over on itself. Second, the beat is some crazy next level shit that sounds like nothing out there, a mix of classic house synths and offkilter kicks that borrows from grime and trap but owes them nothing. I’m backing this as a future classic, get to love it now.
Kask – Untitled (Ajukaju mix)
The forthcoming Kask 12” this pops up on is some competent house, nice melodies and rough edges, if a little unspectacular. The Ajukaja remix tucked away on the flip is another matter – it’s made of jazzy percussion that teases maximum jerk from a 4/4 rhythm, and comes wriggling with strange analogue effects, bubbles of noise and bleep rising over the looping chords. I’d love to hear some forward looking rapper drop bars over this – someone should give OkMalumKoolkat a ring, he’d be kill it..
Finally, special shout out to Ty Dolla Sign – Guard Down
So, yes this is a major label release, it features Kanye West and – Christ, really - Diddy. It was probably made in a studio that cost a grand a minute , and if they ever make a video for it, the shoot will cost more than buying a house in Peckham. In theory this should just be more money-in-the-bank auto-pilot hip hop, especially considering Ty’s lacklustre recent mixtape, and the fact he hasn’t got the same mandate to innovate that keeps Young Thug so weird. But no! Listen to that beat…! What the hell is going on? Whenever I come close to losing faith in mainstream hip hop I hear a track like this that restores my love in a second – there are hordes of clever fuckers out there trying to make ‘difficult’ music – Ty Dolla Sign has just come and blown them all away in a second. Guard Down is half preacher croon, half beat from tomorrow. The percussions hits in 5 different places at once, but doesn’t feel cluttered. Somehow there’s no feeling of disconnect between Ty’s emotive delivery and the wild rhythmic chops. This is proper soul music, and I can play it a hundred times a day.