Bass : Files #90
Johnny Ilan on the summer's winners and losers.
Summer is a very important time for urban music, particularly in the UK. With the parties in Ayia Napa and the season’s culmination in the Notting Hill Carnival, the biggest tunes of the preceding months have been tried and tested, with the most obvious winners floating to the top. While artists like Tynchy and Dizzee have conquered the mainstream charts, others have fought hard for the title within their own scenes. In funky, the undeniable tune of the summer has been Funky Dee’s blunt ‘Are You Gonna Bang Doe?’
As with a lot of the MC-based funky, this won’t be to everyone’s taste. Some will recognise the quality of the beat, because it’s simply last year’s popular ‘Siegalizer’ by Apple. The lyrics aren’t rocket science as the title might suggest, sort of a put-up-or-shut-up taunt to all of those people (male and female) who flash or accept money but aren’t willing or able to follow it up in the bedroom. It’s no Joy Orbison, but good fun nonetheless. And if you don’t know Joy Orbison – then get to know!
Post-garage at its best: head-nodding beats, poignant synth sweeps and a tight but sparing use of sample. Cooly G is another producer working in this field, but perhaps with more of a nod towards funky at times. She’s definitely a striking figure - the Brixton address checks out, but the gender is something a bit different in a scene which let’s face it, tends to be quite male. ‘Him Da Biz’ from her new Volume 4 EP is the kind of start-the-night-off funky that people just aren’t making enough of. Uncompromising beats sit well with the ravey synth line and haunting vocal drifting in and out. Another lady repping funky to the fullest is KG, whose ‘Feeling Funky’ is definitively one of the tunes of the summer. Big synths, tough percussion and a vocal that has been expertly chopped in all the right places. Check it on my latest mix over on the Toejam blog.
In grime Bashy has been picking up a lot of hype of late. He’s certainly an artist worthy of respect, coming out with ‘Black Boys’ last year, an uplifting track that brought the whole scene together on the remix and directly addressed critics of the genre. With his Bish Bash Bosh clothing line and latest album ‘Catch Me If You Can?’ he seems to have his sights trained on the same kind of mainstream success some of his colleagues have been attaining. ‘Your Wish Is My Command’ has been getting nuff radio play and it’s easy to see why with the electro beats, slower tempo and female vocal:
Overall, the album balances these kind of offerings with tracks that are more wholeheartedly grime. Even the likes of JME have put out poppier tracks in their time. The Boy Better Know man has, however, just dropped a release which is the first grime track in a while that has managed to be plenty catchy without compromising any of the genres conventions. Not a bad video either!
Dizzee, should take note, ‘Holiday’ has its moments and his talents as a vocalist are always convincing, but it just hurts to hear him fall short of what he’s clearly capable of.
Summer, of course is also the season of love and a lot of the tracks that have been picked up by urban radio reflect this. It’s sugary as hell but has been firmly embedded in a few heads over the last few months: Drake’s ‘Best I Ever Had’. The Toronto rapper dishes up the kind of vocal and autotune schmalz that drives people mad. Why can’t I get it out of my head? There’s been a few effective Baltimore remixes kicking about over the interwebs too if anyone has noticed. A tune in a similar vein is Jeremiah’s ‘Birthday Sex’, which although fairly saccharine alone has been nicely remixed, notably by Donaeo on a funky tip, but most especially by Venom and Damage. These two have fused their ravey approach with funky’s soca-beat to great effect and this remix drifts from big bassy breakdown to jumpy xylophone accompanied percussion:
In BigBudgetVille, there’s been a new album from Jay Z which seems to be a lot of him boasting about being married to Be-yonk. Fair play. Bassfiles would be boasting as well, but the album only really started to make any sense at all after hearing him explain it out in a recent interview he gave to 1xtra. Apparently, we are supposed to be appreciating that he and his generation of rappers have now attained the kind of status that his influences once had. Ok. In any event, DOA (Death of Autotune) is something of a grower, what with the jazz sample and all that, and maybe it’s time for a rapper to be allowed to talk about growing older and getting more respect, you know for the kind of success he’s had, not just because of his ability to administer violence when perceived necessary.
Sean Paul’s new album has just dropped! The single ‘So Fine’ does what the Dutty Rocker is known for, smooth flow and gyal lyric, nothing unexpected but nothing unpalatable, solid overall. Without having heard the whole thing yet, it’s difficult to know how it will be. Although dancehall is a genre that tends to work best as individual singles, the industry has always been keen on pushing their great light hope into album territory. ‘Pepperpot’, an earlier single is pretty anaemic. Perhaps approach this one with caution. Caution was far from Rusko’s mind at the Major Lazer Soundsystem when he dropped a dubstep remix of Dire Straits’ ‘Money for Nothing’. He and his diehard fans seemed to enjoy it, but will the rest of the world? Don’t worry. Bassfiles will be here next month to answer this and other pressing concerns.