April 8, 2013

Max Bell ghostwrote BAYTL

Hucci is 17.  He hasn’t had much time to master Fruity Loops or how to monetize his Soundcloud following (currently over 20,000 and counting). But make no mistake, Brighton’s Ollie O’ Neil has put in serious work and is starting to come into his own.

Scroll down his Soundcloud. You’ll find beats he made two years ago, beats he’s said in an interview that he’s left up ” to show where he came from when it comes to production.” They’re relatively sub-par hip-hop beats from someone just starting out, who counts Schoolboy Q and A$AP Rocky among his favorites. Over the last eight months, Hucci, whose most prominent influences include Baauer, Flosstradamus, Lex Luger, RL Grime, and AraabMuzik, has released one trap beat after another. Most appear on his nine-track EP Novacane, which dropped last November in conjunction with Cream Collective—I hope it’s a Wu reference—who also put out his older brother Ozzie’s music.

Novacane is a remarkably solid batch of trap tracks for someone so young. They are all more than re-playable, and some have even popped up in DJ sets on BBC’s Radio 1Xtra show. However, most of the tracks on the EP, as well as those released on his Soundcloud around that same time, suffer from the same symptom—they are derivative. They feel like very good imitations, rather than wholly original entities.

“Ball So Hard” is highly remniscent of TNGHT’s “Bugg’n.” “Roll It Up,” which samples Lissie’s cover of “Pursuit of Happiness,” doesn’t add much to the beat destroyed by Best Kept Secret (Schoolboy Q’s “Hands on the Wheel”). “Wonder” feels like it’s straight out of an AraabMuzik compilation. And the latter half of “Swerve” aspires to be the Salva & RL Grime “Mercy” remix.

Obviously, Hucci is high school-aged–the same with Joey Bada$$, so it’s permissible to imitate one’s influences as a way to find your own voice. It’s the same in every art form. How do you create something new if you don’t know what’s come before?  If no Brave New World (Huxley), then no 1984 (Orwell). And if no Brave New World or 1984, then no Player Piano (Vonnegut). If no Nas or AZ, no Bada$$. If no Baauer or Flosstradamus, no Hucci. You get it.

Thus, it’s been great to follow the development of Hucci’s sound via his Soundcloud over the last few months. While his EP sounded like a well-articulated letter of introduction, one that clearly outlined and borrowed from his influences, the latest tracks feel like a definitive declaration of his evolution as a producer. They are the beginning of his departure into fresh territory.

His take on Meek Mills “House Party” (below the jump), which Diplo dropped in a recent BBC Radio set, capitalizes on every ounce of Meek’s energy and adds even more. Vocals are chopped and stacked with both with precision and raucous abandon. While “Phoenix” features the most hypnotic and indecipherable sample in Hucci’s catalog, and possibly my favorite skittering hi-hats of late.

But Hucci’s most recent offerings really got my attention. The first is “YEAAH!,” which samples The Temptations “Get Ready.” Hucci is in top form here, as the song moves seamlessly between the soulful and the sinister. The “Good” drops  make one wonder if he’s trying to get Kanye’s attention (he did sign Hudson Mohawke). With the chopping of the “Get ready cause here I come” and “I’m on my way” vocal samples, this track can only be Hucci’s assertion that he’s coming for the top spot. Given that he’s only 17, it’s hard to argue. There is a lot of potential and possibility.

“All the Leaves Are Brown,” which dropped last week, is what I’m most excited about. If the title didn’t tip you off, it’s a trap-inspired rendition of The Mamas & the Papas “California Dreaming.” This sounds awful but somehow is not. The latter half of the track, which has Hucci drops all over it—they are both great and warranted—is where everything coalesces, and where Hucci let’s is all go. The sample is played in full once more before being completely ripped to shreds. It is creation through destruction— psychedelic pop/folk turned face melting menace.

There’s no telling where Hucci will go. He may end up being a comprable alternative to his influences, or may one day exceed them.  For now, if he’s exposing molly-addled twerkers to The Temptations and The Mama’s & the Papas, as well as making those records accessible to those people, then there’s only one question: How can you hate on Hucci, mane? You can’t.

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