News Column

G2: Film & Music: GOING OVERGROUND: A new breed of producers is keeping the likes of J-Lo, Kanye West and Nicki Minaj in beats, breathing fresh life into pop. Lanre Bakare gets the lowdown from both sides of the Atlantic

August 15, 2014

Lanre Bakare



LIL SILVA

Style UK funky meets sultry R&B

Breakthrough Night Skanker EP

Defining record Banks - This Is What It Feels Like

Lil Silva (real name TJ Carter) has developed from being a bedroom producer in Bedford to the go-to guy for wannabe pop starlets in less than five years. Bedford might seem like an unlikely hotbed of UK urban production talent, but after being influenced by the town's dubstep pioneers Macabre Unit, Carter emerged in 2011 with his own brand of tough but danceable UK funky. Carter put out his own white-label releases in 2008 before being picked up by London label and club night Night Slugs, which released his Night Skanker EP. More Night Slugs singles followed, before a couple of records with London-based imprint Good Years led to a hook-up with American labelmate Banks. That developed into Carter producing This Is What It Feels Like on her well-received London EP (which also featured British talent such as Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Jamie Woon), and he's the main production talent on her forthcoming debut album Goddess. Silva's own Mabel EP (named in honour of his grandmother) is out this month and sees the producer merging sultry guitar lines with uplifting house vocals, pulsating bass and soca percussion; it also features a cameo from (who else) Banks on Don't You Love. If Banks's album lives up to the promise of singles such as Beggin for Thread, Lil Silva could be swapping Bedford for the big time.

EVIAN CHRIST

Style Edgy electronica and industrial dancehall

Breakthrough Kanye West - I'm In It

Defining record Salt Carousel

Joshua Leary was training to be a teacher when he decided to make some tracks on Cubase. He put them online anonymously and soon the blogosphere was fawning over them. The tracks, including the Tyga-sampling Fuck It None Of Ya'll Don't Rap, impressed New York imprint Tri-Angle, which signed Leary and put out the free mixtape Kings and Them. The mixtape was a blend of dancehall drums, overlaid with horns, ambient noise andsynths, described as "slow-motion trance"(Leary's stepfather was a trance DJ). That mix caught the ear of Kanye West, who listened toLeary's work while assembling his CruelSummer album in Paris. West then gave him 48 hours to submit tracks for possible inclusion on the project that would become Yeezus; in that time Leary put together I'm In It, a slab of industrial hip-hop that sounds like something the Bug would assemble on a really tough day. That put him on a similar footing with fellow Brit Hudson Mohawke, and the rest of the mostly young, European producers who were called upon by West to work with US producer legend Rick Rubin on the record (West also used tracks by Parisian techno heads Brodinski and Gesaffelstein). Since then Leary has returned to his own instrumental productions, putting out the bleak and grimeinfluenced Waterfall EP.

HUDSON MOHAWKE

Style DayGlo hip-hop

Breakthrough Kanye West - Mercy

Defining record Fuse

Hudson Mohawke (real name Ross Birchard) is part of a group of Scots producers who have not only changed the face of British dance music, but are also seeing their sound sought after on the other side of the Atlantic. After an impressive stint as a scratch DJ, where he got to the final of the British DMC Championships, Hud Mo made a name for himself with a remix of Tweak's Oops, which turned the original into an end-of-night institution in his native Glasgow. He was then picked up by Warp, releasing two EPs and an album that established him as a producer who could marry maximalist hip-hop with subtler productions. Kanye West brought him into his Good Music stable and he earned credits on Cruel Summer, before teaming up with hyperactive Canadian Lunice for the TNGHT project. They became a hit at festivals and soon their OTT, drop-packed EP was sampled by West on Yeezus (on which Hud Mo had credits on three tracks). He then got into bother when he claimed the beats he gave to Jay Z were more exciting than the ones that made the cut on his lukewarm Magna Carta Holy Grain. Other producers in Hud Mo's circle include Cid Rim, who is working on Theophilus London's album alongside Kanye; S-Type, who is due to work with Drake; and, of course, Rustie, whose new album Green Language carries on his maximalist mission.

DJ MUSTARD

Style Trap with condiment references

Breakthrough 2 Chainz - I'm Different

Defining record Ketchup mixtape

LA's DJ Mustard (real name Dijon McFarlane, geddit?) made his bones producing melodic trap for west coast MCs such as YG and Ty Dolla Sign, as well as southern rappers such as 2 Chainz and Ludacris. His early tracks stood out for their steadfast minimalism, which allowed hook slingers such as 2 Chainz to create sometimes painfully simple, singalong rap earworms (for example, I'm Different). In 2013 he moved out on his own and released Ketchup, a mixtape that topped a lot of end-of-year lists. That brought him to the attention of Jennifer Lopez, who enlisted his help (as well as rappers such as Coke Boyz founder French Montana) to bring some urban heft to AKA, her kind-ofsuccessful comeback earlier this year (Mc-Farlane produced the Cyndi Lauper-quoting Girls). His skills were also employed by R&B starlet Tinashe, who teamed up with Mustard and Schoolboy Q for the club hit 2 On, and he put together Sanctified, the standout on Rick Ross's Mastermind album with Kanye West. He also lent his skills to the divisive white rapper Riff Raff (How To Be the Man), and Will.i.am (Feelin' Myself), and was invited to help out trap originator TI on his comeback Paperwork. Despite a disappointing recent London DJ gig - which amounted to a lot of button-pushing and shouting - in the studio at least, Mustard seems able to cut it.

ANDREW 'POP' WANSEL

Style Sentimental hip-pop

Breakthrough Nicki Minaj - Your Love

Defining record Kanye West Feat R Kelly - To The World

Andrew "Pop" Wansel comes from musical stock. His father Dexter is a keyboard player who helped to define the 70s "Philly sound". Andrew used to attend his father's studio sessions and began putting songs together in his teens, scoring his breakthrough with Nicki Minaj's Annie Lennox-sampling hit, Your Love. From there he's worked with a who's who of American R&B talent: he has credits on Rihanna's Unapologetic and has helped out Usher, Miguel, Alicia Keys and Chris Brown. Established artists looking for relevance have also come calling, with Mary J Blige and Jennifer Lopez both singing over Wansel's beats. He sometimes calls on his dad's playing talent, too: Dexter has a co-production credit on Trey Songz and Drake's 2011 slow jam, Unusual. Soundwise, his approach is emotional but not overbearing, with minor synth chords overlaid with cascading snares and samples. He cites Motown songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland as his musical heroes and his prolific hit rate and ability to turn his hand to most mainstream black music is reminiscent of the Detroit hitmakers. He teamed up with Usher again recently for his fellatioinsinuating single Good Kisser. However, he also helped Miley Cyrus on Bangerz, and has expressed a preference for working with trend-chasing pop artists rather than rappers.

DJ DAHI

Style Brooding, stylish, indieinfused R&B and hip-hop

Breakthrough Kendrick Lamar Feat Jay Rock - Money Trees

Defining record Drake - Worst Behavior

California native DJ Dahi has evolved from working with local artists into a versatile producer able to swing seamlessly from lowslung hip-hop beats to indie production. Born Dacoury Natche, the 31-year-old grew up listening to alt-rock and indie acts such as the Verve (he describes Bitter Sweet Symphony as "my shit"), before being introduced to hip-hop producers such as J Dilla at college. He started out putting together beats for LA rappers, got a break working with Schoolboy Q on the 2012 track Sexting, which then led to producing the sultry standout Money Trees on Kendrick Lamar's good kid, mAAd city. Last year Dahi caught the rap world's ear by producing another standout track from a very good album: Worst Behavior, a stuttering, stopstart four-and-a-half-minutes of aggression on Drake's Nothing Was the Same. He's been mentored by Miami-based beatsmith DJ Khaled, and since his breakthrough with Drake has worked with a slew of up-and-coming MCs including Kendrick Lamar affiliates SZA and Ab-Soul, as well as teaming up with Lily Allen on the title track of Sheezus. He's planning to work with indie avant gardists Purity Ring in the near future, as well as R&B singers Jazmine Sullivan and Elle Varner, and Mississippi rapper Big KRIT.


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Source: Guardian (UK)


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