So the music of Abidjan’s CIAfrica crew does sound a bit like a grimey, glitchy elephant staring you down as angular new-money architecture burns or smolders or looms in the background and the sky’s color stumbles from white to black with a few lasers for good measure, because we’re not living in the future, they are.
Sometime last year the visionary ringleader, Amadou aka Green Dog (RZA to their Wu) gave me access to their deep hard drives — packed with singing, rapping & fwd-thinking beats. Thrilling material. I pulled out my favorite 17 songs for a CD which will be released physical/digital on August 24th, DJ Rupture presents CIAFRICA. This coincides with CIAfrica, Nettle, and myself performing at Gotenburg’s Sweden Way Out West festival next Friday, August 13th. I’ll be DJing separately from them, in a party with Sleigh Bells and Fool’s Gold (the band). It’s a 3-day affair, with folks like Wu-Tang, M.I.A., Jay Electronica, The xx, etc performing, so if yr in Scandinavia, might be worth the trip… & I’ve found that drunk Swedes tend to still be really nice, at least in Gotenburg.
It will be the first time the CIAfrica MCs and vocalists perform outside their Côte d’Ivoire/Ivory Coast home base! They have this awesome Pam Grier video for one of their female MCs, Nasty, but it keeps getting censored by YouTube. So here’s a vid from one of the guys coming over, Manusa:
It’s not unreasonable to compare Richard Cowie to Bob Dylan or Miles Davis. It’s not like he’s not churned out a lot of shoddy material, like other legends, but his ability to adapt and find new ways of nuancing his skills is astounding. Wiley’s compulsive about music, and compulsively restless in the way he makes it. His plans change like the weather, he’s constantly unavailable, constantly changing his various mobile numbers: famously he’s like the 38 bus, cos he never turns up. He’s had beefs, fall-outs, and hissyfits galore, been stabbed 14 times, retired at least twice, and never released an album without denouncing it at some point, often before it’s been released. But each time you think he’s too bitter or dejected or exhausted to keep on making music (or at least, to keep on making good music), he hibernates as a ‘studio rat’ and comes back with some fresh wonder. He can’t help himself.
It’s worth noting that the new album The Elusive, was slated for release on a major, Island/Universal, as part of a 4-album deal he signed last winter. (Punk’s not dead!) Wiley is a major force of change, fearless, constantly imagining how things could be Very Different (music industry norms, synth settings, common sense etc) then making his fundamentally ‘other’ vision real.
British contemporary art magazine Frieze asked me to write an essay on the year in music. Results can be found in the Jan-Feb issue on newstands now (or soon), and it’s viewable online.
my Top 10 List for WFMU contains RealAudio links, functioning as a kind of dispersed soundtrack to the above piece.
tonite’s radio show can be listened to. Expect a few killer Low Deep tracks (see below), an exclusive remix by Sonido Martines, new tunes by DJ C, The Bug, Michelle, and – always – more.
My OiNK piece is being translated to Italian and will be republished soon, details on that as they come. I’ve been busy doing heaps of writing for various ‘real’ publications — expect a wave of articles in 2008. Plus a followup to the OiNk post soon here on MuddUp!
The Low Deep instrumentals album is gorgeous instrumental grime and grime/r&b hybrids, showcasing his distinctive take on time and melodic orchestration. Self-released, purchase links on his myspace.
i first heard ‘Straight Flush’ years ago and was floored. happy to say that a handful of cuts are as good as that or even better… this mp3 wont be up for long. seems that, outside the grime scene, folks aren’t checking for Low Deep, which is too bad… i could see him making serious waves in the mainstream R&B world:
i first bumped into bassline via Dexplicit, a producer i knew from the grime scene who also creates powerful 4-on-the-floor tunes. If you’ve caught me playing in a club in the past year or so, chances are you heard at least one bassline track by Dexplicit.
i’m no genre cop, but i think of bassline as 4/4 housey stuff wrapped in (obviously) elephantine basslines with grime/dubstep synth programming, ravey fx & vocal cut-ups, some MCing, and, deliciously, those triplet breakdowns that Wiley throws into his riddims. (Check ‘Eskimo 4×4 on DJ Murkz MySpace to hear a grime anthem rebuilt by bassline logic)
Wordthecat’s new post on bassline sketches the genre’s UK geography & offers a bumpin’ Dexplicit-heavy mix. “It’s interesting to see a style that is popular all over the north of england making inroads into the capital,” writes Chris, “(Londoners like to think) the currents usually move in the opposite direction.”
the two mixtape excerpts below come from Bassline Flava vol. 6 by DJ Total (buyable). They contain a lot of what i find thrilling about bassline… The first flips a triplet time-shift (then the mix throws in a Jay-Z vocal on hyperspeed), the second hits that rare elegiac / unrequited love thing (the heart-stricken diva) which gets me every time…
the lactose intolerant may denigrate bassline as cheesy, but its dancefloor power is undeniable.
Low End Spasm ups a basslinely mix (which i havent heard yet), noting that, “our 4×4 obsession is a reaction to dubstep’s flatlining rhythm (not to make sweeping generalisations or anything – tunes like Night by Benga & Coki still totally destroy the dance and there’s more). But in many ways 4×4, especially niche bassline house, is the anti-dubstep. Huge banging blines that buzz and wobble like the best of em, but also no reserve on the drums, no holding back, just euphoric breakneck tempo all the way.”
The great part about having a thing & an anti-thing is that, if they have similar tempos (and they do), you can mix them together, bend ‘em into both and neither on the turntables…
But then you go to Italy, not a ‘nice’ city but Milan – expensive and user-unfriendly – and you find Crookers. Sound leaks, no matter how carefully you package it up. Bass travels through any wall. Although what you hear on the other side might not be…
The Bug on dstep, d&b, and the asphyxiation of influence:
Because for me the beauty of dubstep were the producers that I met in the beginning, the fact that they were influenced by a lot of different music; Kode 9, Mala, influenced by jungle, influenced by dub, influenced by classical music, soundtrack music. That’s brilliant, I could hear that on the tracks but now i think that there are new producers that are coming into dubstep and they only listen to dubstep and for me that’s when jungle became drum n bass, that was the problem then. Drum n bass producers were just listening to drum n bass producers so there weren’t as many interesting influences on the music and I think of course with dubstep now, its amazing the progress in the last year but I don’t see why I should say everything’s positive when its obviously not really.
from a thoughtful two – part interview with Kevin.
dubstep is still so studiously documented and recorded in the annals of bass history that it needs decent artwork to accompany it like monarchs’ portraits in history books, but grime exists mainly on mp3/ phone/ whites and is accordingly easy to delete from memory. most grime producers are more concerned with bringing out new beats than accumulating a ‘respectable’ archive to be remembered by.
this is a good point. i drafted a post on something similar when Andy sent me 2 or 3 clips to dubstep documentaries on YouTube. but we shouldn’t overlook Risky Roadz and all the grime DVDs! These are thrilling, self-produced documents both from and of a scene, completely visible but hardly a ‘respectable’ archive.
the subject of a grime DVD is a whole lot of things – lyrical beef, strutting, DIY cameraboy aesthetics, skyhigh testosterone levels, etc., whereas the subject of a dubstep documentary – any documentary – is ‘dubstep’ itself (the integral objecthood of the docu’s subject); not the content of the scene but only its most obvious, exterior shell, the part of it which has hardened into visibility and no longer moves (maybe the dead part). Once people outside your scene recognize your scene as such, (talking in money terms here) they recognize you as a potential market, something they can invest in or advertise to: you exist.
London dubstep documentary
I’m not criticizing (dubstep) documentaries at all, i simply feel that these are interesting ways to think about the way scenes get remembered or forgotten or overlooked, the durability of its artefacts – cultural visibility – and how well (or poorly) these aspects of a scene can flourish as mainstream media narratives.
and then there’s another thing, about the way ‘quality’ (usually a long-term consideration) and ‘newness’ are very different production goals.
Roll Deep in session
Nearly everybody in the docus (big respect to all involved!) talks about dubstep’s diverse and hard-to-pin down nature, but the nature of a documentary is that by the time that we see it, the subject’s been killed a bit. Things move on. And self-conscious diversity rarely stays diverse for long. In the interview above, Kevin says:
I cant really help but take a look back as well to try and assess what’s sort of going on in the scene because when DMZ had its first anniversary, when it moved upstairs, that night was a turning point for me and not just a positive one. Its great for Mala and its great for Digital Mystikz for all the hard work they’ve put in these past three years but for me, at that night, suddenly the audience seemed more like a drum n bass audience, it seemed more white, it seemed more male, the formula seemed to be almost there then so that was the first night I really noticed there was emerging a really strong formula like in drum n bass, like all the tracks were starting to sound a bit like Coki or Skream. And Skream also that night was rewinding every track which i thought, well the crowd weren’t even generating so much interest for him to do that, so it seemed like a lot of hype and an audience that I thought were maybe a little too closed.
Bristol dubstep documentary trailer
…but it’s true: scenes need anthems, they just shouldn’t become formulas. (I’ve enjoyed watching Team Shadetek’s Brooklyn Anthem become itself, a Brooklyn anthem! – even the crowd up in Denmark knew it when i dropped Ghis’s rmx last Friday).
You can think about Risky Roadz as grime’s Pyrrhic victory in translating itself across media. It is much better at being itself on YouTube then dubstep is (massive physical bass weight doesn’t translate across YouTube clips; instead dstep vids give us people explaining what we’re missing). But grime videos’ success at, well, being grimy means a lot of shouting, a lot of confusion & swears, angry artistic city kids, no voice-over or talking-head explanation since there’s no assumption of curious outsiders looking in who should be catered to or created…
Risky Roadz freestyle clips
but who cares about dialectic when we’ve got this?
if you haven’t been paying attention to the Genre Known as Grime lately, i’d recommend checking Durrty Goodz’ new 9-track EP, Axiom. It’s shockingly good. (Has he always been this on-fire?)
As a grime MC, Durrty’s taste in backing beats is unbeatable: riddims by Bass Clef, Coki, Fireworkz, and more. haven’t had time to absorb lyrics & digest his mic-persona-aura, but there are some virtuoso, challenging flows around those beats. Case in point:
while i’m an advocate of self-released music — don’t eliminate the middleman, become him/her — my brothers in grime should either spend more time with photoshop or hire a designer. Goodz loses points for his X-Files / Star Trek cover, which feels like wack German techno from 15 years ago:
Any funds received can only be used to pay web-fees. Rest-assured that I will not spend your generosity on food, shelter, ice cream cones, blin-blineo, or health care. As an American in America, I gotta pay for that stuff out of my own pocket.