It feels like surprise release drops have been the talk of major labels town ever since Beyoncé’s self-titled tornado tore through social media, towards that increasingly rare thing – actual album sales. Even though Beyoncé is hardly the first artist to have gone down that route (though she may have been the first to successfully keep such a massive secret), she did bring it to the forefront of the conversation in a world where CD sales are down whilst streaming and vinyl revenues are bubbling up. Perhaps it’s not so fair to suggest other artists are outright jacking her style; D’Angelo was prompted by the racist reality of America whereas Cash Money intervened with Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. On the flipside, the way young audiences engage with the music industry has changed; album cycles and press campaigns no longer trickle through channels, they shout, and shout, and shout. It can be fatiguing, to say the least. Atlanta’s Father, founder of Awful Records, feels the same way: “If I see it, I want it now,” he tells FACT TV at SXSW, “Why are you advertising this shit to me for like, two months? I don’t wanna see your cover!” Naturally, Who’s Gonna Get F***** First? was revealed pretty much out of nowhere, and we’ve had it on rotation since.
“Awful in this bitch, can’t beat us, can’t join us.” Awful Records feel more like family than collective – the type of family that pass down secret recipes to potent elixirs like Who’s Gonna Get F***** First? The key ingredient? Keeping it all in the family, of course. By and large, the album’s produced by Father, and most of the vocals come from the Awful crew. Typically minimal, bassy beats bear a framework to build on, from “Highway 101’”s paranoid xylophone rattles to the dank riffs on “Suicide Party”. Then there’s KCSB’s warped R’n’B underbelly on “Slow Dance (Interlude)” and the weighty low-end blasts of well, every other track. There’s enough variation to make sure things are always fresh enough to vibe with.
Still, most of the character comes through by way of Father’s incorrigibly sly storytelling raps and knack for hooks. You can almost hear him grinning and laughing as he drops Dragonball Z references before, “Everybody in the club gettin’ shot / Everybody gon’ twirl then drop,” as the track’s titled. It’s later followed by, “God damn, he was hit up in his chest / Wet t-shirt, he don’t want a contest / Ran off with his fuckin’ countess / Got her counting all my money, fuck my damn accountant.” Another irresistible hook comes in the form of, “Started out PG, but now it’s BET Uncut / Started you and me, but now it’s you and me and her.” The track also sees one of the record’s best crew features take centre-stage, as Richposlim enters with, “Wowser, it’s the Bowser of the hood Koopa Troop / Make a bitch ride the dick like a fucking hula-hoop / She ain’t got no panties on, on the dance flo’ / I say she’s sexually liberated, you call her ass a ho.” “Gurl” stands apart from the rest of the record, rolling in with a more upbeat instrumental than the rest as Abra – usually a singer – spits a monologue on “Gossip Folks”-style girl hate.
Keeping things all in the family can be hard to do, but there’s nothing like it (Vin Diesel will back us up here). Father shows that it’s an ingredient worth putting in the effort for on Who’s Gonna Get F***** First?, putting a twist on more easily obtainable flavours such as sex, drugs and violence, parties and attitude. When you have the freedom to pay your bills, play your shows, put out whatever you want to put out whenever you feel like it – the kind of autonomy that comes from a crew being on the same page – there’s less time waiting and more time to have fun pushing things forward. And the fact is, we don’t think we’d have anywhere near as much fun listening to Who’s Gonna Get F***** First? if Father didn’t sound like he had so much fun making it.
Father’s new album Who’s Gonna Get F***** First? is out now on Awful Records.
When The Large first contacted Mixpak asking if she could contribute to their blog, who’d have known that years later she’d become label manager and have a hand in Popcaan’s Where We Come From, possibly one of the best records of 2014. Once one-third of the Style & Swagger radio show (which, after a brief stint on Reel Rebels Radio, settled in on the NTS schedule), The Large is also behind the Shimmy Shimmy blog and its sister zine, No Ice Cream Sound, which ran four issues deep. Her flair for connecting the dots between club music from disparate regions shines through on her Truancy Volume, which seamlessly blends tracks from Jamaica, Latin America, Angola, New Jersey and beyond. This is perhaps testament to how at home she is in in the diverse musical hubs of London and, more recently, New York City. A perfect companion piece to last year’s brilliant “2 On Mix“, The Large’s Truancy Volume brings the heat in more ways than one. This enduringly warm mix will incubate you from the stubborn vestiges of winter and act as a lasting soundtrack to your springtime.
Popcaan – Where We Come From (Mixpak)
When you were just starting out you were juggling the Shimmy Shimmy blog, the Style & Swagger radio show, the No Ice Cream Sound zine, as well as the parties to promote and fund the zine! Can you describe the difficulties, if any, in trying to establish yourself as a dancehall DJ and promoter within the London scene? “I didn’t really set out with any goal other than to have fun, throw parties with friends and make the stuff I wanted to make. It was never my job, just a ton of side hustles that I really cared for. There are different scenes within dancehall in London, and I was bridging different worlds in some ways. I wasn’t one of those people who started DJing when I was 5 years old; I started off kind of late. I was lucky that Gabriel from The Heatwave gave me a spot at his monthly party pretty early on (this was when I was still DJing with vinyl all the time). It took a second but just by promoting, doing the rounds, getting a piece in Time Out and the backing of NTS Radio, (or we when I was with S&S, shout out Karen & Siobhan) that I managed to DJ with some legendary people like Rodigan and Saxon Sound. I got to play at Carnival a few times which was a lot of fun as well! DJing dancehall in London is really very fun overall.”
Do you feel like years spent curating Style & Swagger and maintaining the Shimmy Shimmy blog has informed your approach to DJing? “Those things were an extension of looking for music non-stop and a way of sharing that with other people so, yeah, they definitely play into each other. My set depends on where I’m playing; I play in a lot of different places and to different types of crowds. Radio is a whole different thing and much less constrained than a club environment in terms of jumping between BPMs and playing less dance-oriented music.” Does your Truancy Volume resemble a set you’d play in the club, on air, or something else entirely? “Listening back, it’s actually a pretty ‘human’ mix – it’s got all these different things in it, from joy to dark aggression to raw sexuality to euphoria. I think there’s a lot of emphasis on dancing, and that’s very representative of my club sets. This is the most New York sounding thing I’ve made, it’s properly seeped in now!”
What were the motivations behind your recent move to New York; how are you enjoying it over there and how does the scene compare to London’s? “I moved to New York to work for Mixpak full-time. I’d been in London for about 8 years prior to that and I grew up in Bristol. It was difficult in many ways, especially because I deeply love London, but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity. New York is an amazing place to be and working for Mixpak is great. I think overall there are less people in New York who are interested in underground club music, and less people who are familiar with clubbing in the same way as they are in London. But New York has got all these other things that London doesn’t have, like an insane taste for rap, Jersey Club, Vogue, and all this dope Latin music. There are a lot of dancehall artists who can’t make it to the UK, but sometimes you’ll see Sean Paul in the club or Assassin performing here, which is a lot rarer in London. Oh and not to forget roof parties! You can actually have outdoor parties here. I don’t notice the differences too much on a daily level, but I recently saw Logan Sama DJing here with Skepta, Stormzy and Novelist performing and it was pretty interesting to watch. People didn’t really get it, but then an A$AP track would come on and people would go wild.”
How did you come to be involved with Mixpak? “I got involved a while ago now, when Mixpak was still running a blog and blogging was a different thing. Dre had put out his record with Sizzla and maybe the first Kartel one, I forget. He had a few people writing cool stuff (Nguzunguzu did their first interview there, for example), and I just reached out and said I wanted to write about dancehall. There was hardly anywhere to do that; there were, and still are, only a few places (like Eddie Stats’ column in The Fader) sharing insights on that kind of music instead of just MP3s. I started editing the Mixpak blog and managing a few other writers and then it just evolved – I got more involved as Dre started taking on more projects. It just grew from there until we decided to do things very seriously a couple of years ago.” What does your role as label manager involve? “My job is all-encompassing: I do general strategy for the label, as well as artist development and creative direction on certain things (like Popcaan’s album). Sometimes I’m commenting on song structure or finding a vocalist for a release or making merch, and sometimes I’m sorting contracts or doing press or planning parties.”
From the looks of yours and Dre Skull’s timelines, you were in Jamaica recently on Mixpak business. Tell us about the trip! “Yeah we were in Kingston and it was really incredible – we were in the studio with Spice, QQ, Beenie Man and Popcaan. Dre was presenting an award at the YVAs as well which was wild. I wrote a lil bit about that (and some photos are up) here.”
Dancehall isn’t really an album-oriented genre, with artists generally participating via riddims and singles. However the Mixpak albums from Popcaan and Vybz Kartel offered glimpses of what shape a full-length dancehall project could take. Mixpak has since had studio sessions with artists like QQ, Spice and Beenie Man – from talking to them have you noticed Where We Come From to have had any sort of knock-on effect in the industry? “I don’t know about that really! There have been good dancehall albums in the past and I’m sure they will continue, it’s just an industry that isn’t set up too well for it. I think it can be hard for dancehall artists to take time out of a rolling stream of riddims and singles to focus on a big project and to hold yourself back for a more traditional album rollout.”
Your Truancy Volume covers a lot of ground geographically and sonically, blending seemingly disparate genres like dancehall, kizomba, dembow and Jersey club. Your sets and mixes are similarly nomadic – what’s the common thread between the tracks you play that draws you to them? “They’re all tracks I love for some reason or other. When you peg the tracks to their genres I guess it seems nomadic and that I’m drawing all these theoretically disparate elements together, but as a DJ I see a lot of similarities in the music. The backbone of this is definitely dancehall – for instance dancehall is integral to dembow and dembow is integral to bubbling, and I think dancehall is also integral to so much UK club music as well. It’s not really something conscious per se, but I suppose that’s the path I’m on – weaving dancehall’s influences through different club musics. Club music is certainly a thread here too, as is the way the underground interacts with pop music. It’s heavily bass-driven, vibesy music from all over – that’s what I love and what I want to share with people. I would hope that you could lose yourself or find yourself to these tracks. At the start there are some tracks from young NY producers – like Immortal Instruments who makes Flex tunes, which are super dancehall-inspired and made for dancers (kinda like the first track too which is a Litefeet track). Some of these are also tracks from friends and/or people I’m working with.”
What’s in the pipeline for the rest of 2015? “We just opened up a new studio which is super exciting; now we have a lot of people passing through and I think it’s gonna mean a lot of positive things happening this year. We’re also on the cusp of starting a new and kinda different radio show. We have more releases from Murlo, Palmistry, Dre Skull, and others that I can’t mention this second. On the personal DJ front I’m just looking to visit new places, so I’m hoping I can get out to some other parts of the USA to play parties. Plus I’ve got some other new things that I’m working on – it’s gonna be fun!”
What tracks are doing it for you right now that didn’t make the Truancy Volume, and what’s your prediction for the track that is gonna dominate throughout carnival season? “There are a lot! I’m really feeling this track by Dexta Daps called “7 Eleven“, it’s a slow jam and burning up in Jamaica – I expect that will keep growing for a while and probably into carnival season. Same for his collab track with Tifa (“Jealous Ova“) – that’s a big tune, as is I Octane & Gaza Slim’s “Cyan Do It“. Busy Signal’s new track “Text Message” dropped while I was making this mix but that’s a fire track. I’m sure “Way Up, Stay Up” will still be doing the rounds as well. Right now is the time when the songs that are gonna rule the summer are dropping, so keep watching I guess! I’d be super happy if this summer was all about Kranium, Popcaan, Kabaka Pyramid, Protoje and Dexta Daps.”
The Ice – Strike Flightning
Busy Signal – Tamara (Swing Ting Smooth Mix)
Future Fambo – Bloodclaute Song
Immortal Instruments – Forgot Riddim
Mimi – Rude Gal
Ayo – Dj Paparazzi & Dj Zolalopez
I Don’t Wanna Bubble Up (Durkin Remix)
Rambow – Take Yuh Gal
Gage – Throat
Arems & Kemo Truffle Butter Rasklaat Dancehall Flip
I Octane – Ride & Wine
Popcaan – Number One Freak
Popcaan – Rup Rup
Vybz Kartel – Ignite The World
Serani – Boss (Yuh Fi Ride)
Demarco – Puppy Tail
Kilbourne – El Teke Teke (Ynfynyt Scroll Remix)
El Alfa – El Mananero
Vybz Kartel – My Rainbow
Lechuga Zafiro – Amatista Riddim
Rambow – Sucia
Dj Choko ft The Dutch Grim – Latin Brutality (Bubbling Remix)
Paleman – Beelzedub (Famous Eno remix)
Dj Tameil – Rude Boy Giddy Up
CZ – Moon Beam
Smutlee – Cosa Nostra Remix
???? — ????
Murlo & Gemma Dunleavy – Deep Breath 4×4 VIP
Ice Underlord – Sevyn Streeter Sex on the Roof Meltdown (The Large ghosts live rub feat. Tiffany & Erykah)
Words by Sophie Kindreich, 07 April 2015. 1 comment
While it’s unfortunate that we’ve had to wait four months for a new release from the Vancouver label ASL Singles Club, its founders Project Pablo and Heartbeat(s) made sure the wait was worth it. The label’s outstanding new EP resembles the quality to which we’ve held it since its inaugural single, but assembled with a rawer attitude. Perpetuating the quasi-less-is-more sonic ideology subscribed to by many marginal dance labels today, the self-titled debut from the Brooklyn-residing Infamous Boogieman (whose career as a producer is contrarily fledgling) marks the ninth release from ASL.
Not in any way out of the ordinary, the components that comprise Boogieman’s sound you can more often than not count on one hand, a stringy guitar solo emerging in the faint distance of “Revenge Tactics” is an exception not only here to Boogieman’s formula but probably to the majority of other producers’ you’ve listened to this week. Amid the modern funk context summoned for the opener—a sagging bass line, padded backdrops of pastel tones and deconstructing drums—the guitar is directionless but leads prominently. Emulating Dam-Funk with a broad stroke, he pulls “Tactics” off without a hitch. “Syetème” ensues, deep and lightly swung, the track on here most topically comparable to the more centered material of Boogieman’s new label mates. What materializes in the second half of the EP is the Brooklynite’s seeming propensity for the sort of “daydream” aesthetic promulgated by the cadre of producers releasing on cassette-focused outlets. Skimpily sheathed in an awing ambience and embellished with left-field sounds, a stumble of rounded kicks and deep toms allows the listener imagine the physical figure of “No Shoes” to be in a perpetual summersault—things get especially groovy when a syncopated trot-like percussion is introduced following a break midway through the six minuter. Sensibilities for mesmerism and groove get parlayed into “Boys Club”. Employing a scant melody, brittle hi hats and washes of fuzzy noise emanating from the depths of mix, the track is a final exhibition of how Boogieman is able to find common ground between form and function, from slung machine funk riders to worn techno. Your chair will constantly be swiveling through these four, but what you feel upstairs will depend on what type of scene exists through your window.
The Boogieman EP is out now; purchase here.
Words by Michael Scala, 06 April 2015. Leave a comment
The NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award is given to the player who has been the most important over the course of the season, while not being part of the starting lineup. They usually move to another team to be the main piece, “a smartass pawn/James Harden”, and can then potentially compete for MVP. During an interview in October, shortly after his 2-Chainz featured single, Que says after great deliberation that he feels he hasn’t made it, before he concisely settles it with ‘Made what?’.
The 6th Man is Que’s third mixtape post “OG Bobby Johnson”, following the 2014 Who Is Que EP which was released on Atlantic. He sets the tone of the mixtape early, his voice strained through a megaphone-like filter which he continues to utilise intermittently throughout. The intro track also has a simple 8 bar loop that never fails to momentarily halt me from typing; as to only mime the melody a couple inches over the trackpad. ‘First time picked up a mic was in 2011, when I got kicked outta school hoopin‘’. He hasn’t been around for long, relatively speaking, and plays around with a few different flows from the animated, OZ conjured “Games” to a Gucci drawl on the closer “Type of Party”. However, it’s the DJ Mustard clone “Emotions” that ends up being the standout track. ‘Playin’ with my money is like playin’ with my emotions, I just want them dollar signs money bag emoji’ is perfect, and Que may have wanted to save it for the inevitable LP, if not for his proven record in hook writing. He continues this on The 6th Man, and it’s this skill that fills us with promise for the upcoming year, perhaps in the hope of more varied features. It’s clear Que is here to move past his earlier hits as soon as possible, even if social media is doing him no favours.
Que’s The Sixth Man Mixtape is out now on DatPiff.
Irish label Major Problems are only on their fourth release, but they’ve already shown a breadth of ideas and a willingness to flirt with a range of styles across the house and techno spectrum. Following two releases from the Levon Vincent-approved Terriers and the shadowy Compassion Crew, the label eases gradually into 2015 with a 12″ from Seattle-based Simic. The mood is expansive, as each track captures a thrilling, fast-paced groove, while maintaining a dream-like atmosphere — a delicate balance, yet rendered exquisitely. That mood is particularly evident in “Dust”, which we have the privilege of sharing with you here exclusively, ahead of its release on April 6.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 26 March 2015. Leave a comment