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.
With two EPs already in the bag this year, Brooklyn-resident Seafloor is gearing up for his most high profile release yet, the year closing Drift EP on Montreal-based imprint Infinite Machine. Utilizing skills as a producer, vocalist and drummer, Seafloor has crafted a group of jungle-inflected 160 tunes that bounce and swim through a haze of recognizable samples, and sawtooth synth riffs. And like some of the best jungle/footwork crossover material, Drift maintains a certain elegance, balancing the extremist sentiments of the junglists and the jello aesthetic of footwork with aplomb. While certain tracks reach a level of linearity where they would not be out of place on a festival stage, Seafloor’s sonic approach doesn’t allow the EP to fall into a monochromatic trap. Drift is set for a December 1 release, but for now you can stream snippets from the effort below and download “It Continues”, an EP outtake that has been gifted to us by the good folks at Infinite Machine.
When we first heard Mssingno’s momentous “XE2” last October, the R. Kelly vocal sample was like nothing we’d heard before, immediately identifiable, yet impossible to place. “A dog on the prowl when I’m walking through the mall” isn’t necessarily the most recognizable line in “I’m A Flirt”, but it functions perfectly when disassociated and re-appropriated by the London-dwelling Mssingno. It takes on a slinky, sidewinding quality that reinforces the grand nature of “XE2” and carries the track through several percussion-less minutes. The song came to define a year of instrumental grime, portraying the protean proclivities of the “genre” and highlighting many a peak-time set.
With a good deal of reverence, Los Angeles/Wisconsin-based producer Riley Lake has given “XE2” his own treatment and allowed us to debut the track. Utilizing vocals from R. Kelly’s original to beef up the harmonies and a fair share of eski clicks, Lake’s edit allows for both karaoke singalongs and gun finger waving. The edit belongs in a dystopian club and reminds of the hectic, world-colliding nature of much of Donky Pitch and Tuff Wax’s recent output. If grime is going to continue on its current path, colliding with Southern hip hop, old school electro, R&B and more, then we’re going to want producers like Mssingno and Riley Lake to take the lead. Stream and download Lake’s “XE2” edit below.
Like many of his Scottish contemporaries, Aberdeen-based producer TryTryDieDown has a knack for synth-led melodies that are based as much in the g-funk and electro of yore as they are garage and grime. With a number of widely variegated number of originals and edits (Khia, Khan & Neek, Andre 3000) to his name, TryTry has shown a willingness to experiment across ‘nuum styles, balancing the more aggro sides of 140 material with R&B-centered garage. It’s a kaleidoscopic approach that some might misconceive as meandering, but TryTry isn’t unfocused, just hyper-curious. Today, we bring you “Cool Party”, a track that initially sounds like Jacques Greene’s “Body Party” remix before revealing its true colors as a roughneck grime roller concealed under layers of swirling, evocative synth work. It’s easy enough to get lost in the melodic components, but the track is heavily layered and its sharp snares and crunching percussive stabs are equally rewarding.