Tag: UK Funky

Word on the Street: February 2017

Word on the Street: February 2017

Better late than never, here’s the monthly round up of all things “urban”.

February picked up where January left off. This time, in place of Wiley, the spotlight was hogged by another grime heavyweight: Stormzy. For the past couple of weeks, everywhere you’ve looked, there he was. On stage at the Brits with Ed Sheeran, finally dropping his long-awaited debut album, and hitting the DIY PR trail harder than anyone else, with numerous surprise pop-up performances and TV appearances.

The album in question is “Gang Signs & Prayer”, and boy is it good – packed full of grime bangers, interspersed with on trend slow jams, the wait was totally worth it. I’m not the biggest fan of these love songs, but with grime albums they certainly help to break up what would otherwise be an all too aggressive affair. The only problem being that they are all too formulaic these days, whether about significant others, mothers or God.

Putting my struggles with Stormzy singing to one side, there are more than enough highlights to get my attention. “Cold” is grime at its purest. “Bad Boys” lowers the energy levels and packs a serious chorus from one of last month’s big tips, J Hus. On “Mr Skeng” the MC calls out all of those that previously doubted him. His smash hit freestyle “Shut Up” features towards the end of the album, and even though it’s still a massive tune, its inclusion stinks of additional tracks to score higher in the new chart format – an issue that was covered excellently last year by Fact Magazine.

By now you’ll have heard “Big For Your Boots”: Sir Spyro continues his unbelievable purple patch with a beat so energetic and raw that you can’t help but shuffle wherever you are. Stormzy doesn’t hold back on the vocal, and there are bars in here that will be hailed for years to come. The video is the perfect accompaniment, directed by filmmaker Daps, and starring some of the most talented creative women around right now – Maya Jama in the chicken shop makes me weak at the knees!

With the month he’s had, Stormzy will be viewed as a masterclass in do it yourself PR for a long time.

Elsewhere in grime, there wasn’t much action, with the exception of a pair of strong singles.

Grim Sickers led the way with his Mike Skinner approved single, “Kane”. Featuring JME on the remix, all month this one has left me wanting to end every sentence with the same word.

The aforementioned Sir Spyro came good again with the lead track from his forthcoming EP with North London MC Capo Lee. “Stop Talk” features a beat made almost entirely from mobile phone samples, as Capo Lee tells anyone and everyone to shut up.

Staying this side of the pond, a handful of promising releases finally saw the light of day. Last month, I mentioned how much I was anticipating the new album from Devlin. “The Devil In” unfortunately didn’t live up to my expectations. For me it was the shortage of 140 bpm that did it. Devlin’s flow has always been the perfect match for a grime beat, and here it was just too rap heavy for my tastes.

Not to say that UK rap isn’t to my liking. Hot on the heels of his 2016 hit “Trapper Of The Year”, North West London’s Nines released “One Foot Out”. At 49 minutes, and 15 tracks, it’s a blistering statement of intent that sets a new standard for rap in the UK. It’s racking up streaming numbers alarmingly quickly, so make sure you’re not left behind on this one!

Having first heard his vocal talents on Sbtrkt’s 2011 self-titled debut album, Sampha’s “Process” has been a long time coming. Neo-soul is certainly the music industry’s flavour of the month, what with Rag’n’Bone Man’s album riding high as well, but Sampha does it with a difference. He’s appeared on tracks with Drake, Kanye, Frank Ocean and Solange, but it’s nice to finally see him take centre stage, and the high praise he’s receiving for “Process” is well-deserved.

Last month was fairly quiet on the American front (with the exception of the outstanding “Culture” by Migos – you can read my review here), so it was nice to see a flurry of activity in February.

The most active artist was easily Future. Mid-way through February, the Atlanta native released his 5th studio album, the self-titled “FUTURE”. A week later, he surprise released his 6th, “HNDRXX”. Both albums rate highly, but it’s the second of the two that really delivered – Complex went as far as suggesting that the album might turn out to be his masterpiece. One thing’s for sure: Future has further cemented his credentials as a hit-maker. Check out the album’s lead single “Selfish”, featuring Rihanna, below.

Another rapper to have a strong month was Big Sean. Backed with some serious guest vocals – Jeremih, Migos, Eminem, The Dream – “I Decided” is a concept album revolving around the theme of rebirth, exec produced by Kanye West. It might not hit home as well as his previous releases, but there’s a deeper, more introspective feel to the album that adds weight.”Bounce Back” and “Moves” in particular are worthy of your time.

Stepping away from hip hop, there were a few other releases on the other side of the pond that certainly struck a chord with me, the first of which came from The Internet and Odd Future’s Syd. The DJ/producer/singer’s first album sees her leaving the beat-making to others, while she steps up to the microphone solo. It’s got a real 90’s R&B feel to it – a sound I’m always down with, being an Aaliyah superfan. “Fin” might be a step in a different direction, but it feels well-thought out, and might just usher in a new superstar in the genre.

Away from the mainstream, THEY. are a self-proclaimed Grunge&B duo from LA. Stating their influences as Nirvana, Taking Back Sunday and Babyface, and having toured in support of Bryson Tiller, it’s certainly a fresh take on R&B. There’s a hint of The Weeknd’s early mixtapes (and possibly even boybands like Backstreet Boys?), and the group clearly aren’t afraid to forge their own path. I would expect “Nü Religion: Hyena” might just get enough people to take notice, that they’re able to move to the next level.

Speaking of those that are blazing their own trail, February brought the return of Thundercat from a 4 year break. The Grammy-winning, Kendrick Lamar collaborator revealed his latest, “Drunk”. The usual mix of all styles possible combine to great effect, and the result is an album that is serious, fun, groovy and melodic all at once.

In the world of club-friendly music, LA’s Kingdom stamped his mark on a UK-influenced sound that is growing nicely on the other side of the pond. Taking influences from UK funky and garage, and in particular the label Night Slugs (Kingdom’s own Fade To Mind label is an affiliate), we’re treated to a blend of electronica and R&B that will surely see him being called upon for productions for bigger names – indeed, Kingdom has already delivered some of his best work for Kelela and Dawn Richard.

Before I leave you, I should mention one upcoming release that almost has me wetting myself with excitement. On their own, Royal-T, DJ Q and Flava D are heavyweights of the current UK garage/bassline scene. Put them together, and the results are spectacular. Their debut album as the supergroup TQD is available for pre-order, prior to its release on 17th March – click play below and listen to “Vibsing Ting” right now! The night before its release, the trio are hosting an album launch party at XOYO, joined by the excellent Swindle and Skilliam – get tickets here, and find me somewhere on the dancefloor, with my eyes closed and my arms in the air.

Finally, if you have a spare two hours, go and listen to My Nu Leng’s Essential Mix before it disappears in just over a week. They embody everything I want to be as a DJ, and in terms of styles cover everything I love. I assure you you won’t be disappointed!

As always, if you discover something you love, or want to tell me what I’ve missed (or that I’m wrong!), then get in touch via astralpenguinsmusic@gmail.com. Again, most of the tracks mentioned above can be found in the Spotify playlist below. See you all in a month!

Word on the Street: January 2017

Word on the Street: January 2017

In the first in a series of monthly posts, our resident DJ, George, gives us a round-up of January’s offerings from the urban side of music culture. Gunfingers and dancing shoes at the ready!

2017 is off to a great start. It’s always pleasing to say that I’m struggling with the amount of music to consume at any given time, and it certainly feels that way right now. Given how little music is usually released in the run up to Christmas, January always feels like a blessing, but this year in particular seems to be setting a high standard already.

Of course, there’s no finer way to set the bar high than with the return to form of a legend. After a few years in the commercial wilderness – I read somewhere that he was trying to make more money to offer a better quality of life to his daughters, so fair play – Eskiboy is well and truly back in the grime fold, with the release of the aptly-titled “Godfather”, his eleventh (eleventh!!!) studio album. Having been pushed back multiple times, with Wiley himself threatening to cancel its release altogether and stating it will be his last, it’s no surprise that it’s an absolute joy to listen to. It’s the perfect length at 17 tracks, and just under an hour, and is littered with features from some of the biggest names in the scene (JME, Newham Generals, Skepta, P Money).

But it’s solo track “Back With A Banger” on which the King of Grime really shines. I can’t think of anything better than Wiley going hard for 3 minutes over a flawless Preditah beat, and no lyrics are more fitting for heralding his return than when he announces “anybody wanna know what I’m doing right now, go tell ‘em that I’m back with a banger”. Elsewhere, there are highlights in “On This”, featuring his long-time prodigies Ice Kid, Chip and Little D, and a killer link-up with Devlin on “Bring Them All/Holy Grime”, which you can watch below. Following that, I strongly recommend you take an hour out of your day to immerse yourself in grime perfection.

Speaking of Devlin, the Dagenham native’s comeback continued with the release of his latest single, “Blow Your Mind”, complete with a chorus from Maverick Sabre. I’m slightly biased, hailing from nearby Essex myself, but, like Wiley, he’s been gone too long, and I for one am excited for him to unleash his new album, “The Devil In”, later this year.

Elsewhere in grime, President T snuck in at the end of 2016 with the release of “T On The Wing”. As with “Godfather” there are numerous collaborations with other contemporaries from the scene, but again it’s a solo track that provides the highlight, and closes the album – “Ending Careers”. The Meridian Crew member, and Boy Better Know affiliate, lets loose over Danny Weed’s classic 2004 instrumental “Salt Beef”.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a Lethal Bizzle track that I actually enjoyed, so imagine my delight when I heard him accompanied by Giggs and Flowdan over a classical/choral influenced rhythm produced by Heavytrackerz. Hopefully “Round Here” sparks another return to form in 2017.

Also produced by Heavytrackerz this month is “Rain Drop”, the latest single from French grime trio Perfect Hand Crew. In the interest of honesty, I feel obliged to divulge that I personally know PHC, but that takes nothing away from their ability, especially given that they’re making music in something other than their native tongue. In fact, the memory of having watched Tasty Took freestyle in English at an early hours afterparty in Montpellier after many drinks still blows my mind to this day. Check out the track and it’s amazing video below.

Having already confessed to one personal conflict of interest, I should perhaps start this recommendation with another disclaimer: I’m a Birmingham City season ticket holder, and am therefore a fan of this video having been shot in the car park at St. Andrew’s. Don’t let that put you off though. Give Jaykae’s “No” a go – it’s been co-signed by Logan Sama no less!

Finally, while listening to Sian Anderson on 1Xtra this month, I was introduced to 17 year old South Londoner, Dis, by way of her take on Beyoncé and Sean Paul’s “Baby Boy”. I’m not completely convinced by her lyrics and flow, preferring the production (possibly influenced by Lolingo’s grime re-imagining of Amerie’s “One Thing”?), but at such a young age she should be considered one to watch.

Moving away from grime (but only just), Coyote Records this month released the second album from American producer Letta. His take on R&G (rhythm and grime to the uninitiated – check out this excellent 25 track introduction to the fascinating sub-genre here), influenced by his own battles with homelessness and addiction, continues on the excellent “Redemption”. The album has an ethereal, futuristic feel – I like to think that Rick Deckard would pour himself a dry smokey (worms included), and listen to this at home, after a long day of tracking replicants.

In a similar vein, comes the debut EP from Klasey Jones, one of the most promising producers in the UK’s wave scene. Unsurprisingly, given that he is pushing the scene more than anyone else, “Foreign Buyers Club” is released on Plastician’s Terrorhythm label. I’m intrigued to see where this sound will go, particularly as it seems to have emerged almost solely from Soundcloud producers.

On the dancier side of the scene, South London producer Jynx (who was on the buttons for one of my favourite remixes of 2016) put out four tracks of stunning quality on the “Saffron City” EP. There are so many influences I can hear that it would be almost impossible to list them all, but in general you could take the best of R&B, UK funky/garage, Burial-style dubstep, and even 90s house, and you might get close. “Saffron City” and “Calm Mind” are particularly good.

Having mentioned UK funky, that brings me on nicely to two serious contenders for my favourite tune of 2017 (yes, I know it’s only January!). The astounding thing about these tunes is that they are both released on the same label. Roska seems to be consistently finding the best new talent to showcase on his Roska Kicks And Snares imprint, and with Murder He Wrote he is continuing this trend. For most of 2016, and to anyone who would listen, I waxed lyrical about how Murder He Wrote was destined for greatness. His output has improved exponentially with each release, and it’s with “Watch The Tempo” that he seems to have outdone himself again – a serious, bass-heavy, funky roller complete with hip-hop breakdown.

The second fine release on RKS in January comes from Roska himself, this time collaborating with bassline guru Champion. “Flame Grilled” combines the best elements of UK funky/garage and late 2000s bassline. Should you have the (mis-)fortune to catch me DJing somewhere this year, you’ll be sure to hear both of these.

Dave doesn’t sound like the most inspiring name for an up-and-coming English rapper to have chosen, but don’t let this fool you when it comes to the potential for being the biggest name in UK rap and R&B. Having already had his single “Wanna Know” remixed by Drake last year, he continues his quest to become the UK’s equivalent to Toronto’s finest with new track “Samantha”, alongside fellow rising star J Hus. Get ready for these two to take over in 2017.

You may have noticed that there is a glaring lack of anything from the other side of the pond in this round up (mainly because all the big releases only went live yesterday – see below). To tide you over until next month, when hopefully there’ll be more Stateside sounds for me to cover, here’s Missy Elliott’s latest, bonkers-as-always video for “I’m Better”.

Before signing off, we should cover any other business. There are always too many incredible club nights to be able to attend them all, but two in particular that I’m hoping to make it to in the coming weeks are Boxed’s 4th birthday at Phonox in Brixton on 3rd March, and Kode9 doing a one time only history of Hyperdub set at Archspace on 24th February. If you’re attending either, maybe just shout George really loud, and you can tell me how awful and long-winded this post was.

Club culture in general is one of my passions, so I’m always keeping an eye out for any documentaries on this topic. At only 26 minutes long, Annie Mac’s Who Killed The Night? isn’t given enough time to really establish what is going on with nightclub closures across the UK, but is worth watching nonetheless before it disappears from the iPlayer.

Since the Viceland TV channel launched in the UK, I’ve hardly watched anything else – you should check out Abandoned in particular, which satisfied my strange fascination with derelict buildings and ghost towns. It’s Big Night Out that I want to draw your attention to though. Clive Martin, journalist and Head of Brand Development at ASOS, converts his excellent Big Night Out column for Vice into a documentary series, exploring the weird and wonderful in nightlife experiences across the continent. If I were you I’d watch it just to see how awkward he seems in certain situations, and for his attempt to not puke in front of Carl Cox.

Finally, in they-only-came-out-yesterday-so-I-haven’t-had-time-to-listen-to-them-properly-yet news, there were releases for Drake collaborator Gabriel Garzón-Montano, America’s Got Talent finalist turned legit R&B talent Kehlani, and, most significantly, Atlanta trap trio Migos (this one is already on constant rotation, so check out “T-Shirt”, and the huge hit “Bad And Boujee”). “New Gen” also looks like a very promising compilation showcasing the next wave of grime, R&B and spoken word talent. You can expect all of these to either be reviewed in the next week or so, or feature in next month’s round up.

If you’ve read this far, thank you for putting up with my waffling. I know this was a long read, but there’s genuinely so much to cover in one month, across multiple genres. We’ll see if I can trim it a bit next time!

If you discover something you love, or want to tell me what I’ve missed (or that I’m wrong!), then get in touch via astralpenguinsmusic@gmail.com. Most of the tracks mentioned above can be found in the Spotify playlist below. See you all in a month!