June 4, 2012

Son Raw is a pirate on the Black Atlantic.

As Abe so eloquently put it, R&B kicked Hip-Hop’s ass in 2011, even as the seeds of rap’s triumphant revival were already paying off like a fast-growing weed plant. In terms of outside influence however, a completely different strain of urban vocal pop continues to have a profound and lasting effect: London is still enthralled with the sweet sounds of the early aughts. This pleases me on the basis that 2002 was the last time I paid any real attention to R&B but also because those canny Brits have once again unearthed hidden possibilities in a long-abandoned strain of American music: divorced from high-drama and populism the robotic pop of Aaliyah and Missy becomes even more bizarre and post-human.

Becoming Real’s “Slow Memory” with vocalist Alice of Sunless 97 initially seems to owe more to the THC soaked grit of Chillwave than anything to do with TLC and Chilli but the minute those pentatonic harp-strings kick in, anyone who remembers Dr Dre’s comeback will immediately be transported back to the first time they heard “The Message.” Throw in a delicate vocal and that ever so devastating London bass and you’ve got a record that cuts the difference between LDN, Shanghai and the space station where Hot97 beamed from around the turn of the millennium. An argument can be made that this is less futuristic than Future  but there’s room for both these days, what with Kelis supposedly working with Skream and Drake’s continuing infatuation with Jamie XX. Rather than continued attempts to awkwardly pair rappers & white dudes with flannel, these cross-Atlantic exchanges between Urban musicians should be strongly encouraged.

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