Like any genre or sonic movement dead set on getting more women/gyals on the dancefloor, rhythm and grime, the cheekily dubbed R&B + grime combination, was doomed from the start to a few years of aping Kanye West and the Heatmakerz before fading into obscurity. And while Sadie Ama’s star has fallen and Kano is rarely found weeping on hooks in 2014, several producers, Blackjack, Terror Danjah and Kid D especially, rose out of the morass to create some truly differential material through the means of cutting up classic R&B into grime’s eight bar format. Off-kilter and swung in the classic garage style, the aforementioned producers channeled iconic falsetto hooks from TLC, Destiny’s Child and Ray J (don’t laught) into frankenstein-esque 140 creations that, while inherently pastiche, offered a non-aggressive, deeply melodic tinge to the mid-2000s proceedings.
Today, producers like DJ Milktray, Gundam, Tarquin, Detroit and Inkke have continued the R&G tradition, flipping any and every vocal snatch, guitar lick and over-processed Rhodes melody into overwhelmingly fun bedroom and club cuts. They’ve also carved out a home for 90s R&B and early 2000s hip hop in the contemporary grime landscape, a task easier said than done considering the near-constant barbs and misunderstandings that have flown across the Atlantic between the two scenes for the better part of the last decade. Today, we have relative newcomer Arma on the stand, providing an eminently nostalgic cut up of Jodeci’s “Freek’N You”, matching Triton sounds with the fraternal North Carolina band’s now-classic come ons and gospel-derived entreaties. In a sense, Arma’s sound fits more snuggly in the J Dilla tradition than it does in the eski continuum, but its function in the grime world, to humanize the oft-freezing proceedings, is both necessary and welcomed. This Friday (12/5), the London-based producer will release a full tape of R&G cut ups, edits and refixes to celebrate a social media landscape, a tape that should fall alongside the previously mentioned Milktray’s All Because The Lady Loves and Gundam’s Flirtation as one of the best releases to come out of the niche this year.