Peter Holslin rides a hoverboard to work.
You know a track is dope if it can kick your ass even when it’s playing through a pair of $10 earbuds. That’s what happened to me when I listened to “Love Di People,” the opening single off of Fresh Clipp’d, a sampler EP released last month from the dancehall label Duppy Gun. The tune features the Jamaican vocalists Sikka Rhymes and John D teaming up with L.A. beatmaker Genesis Hull, and together they puncture the listener’s inner ear with tottering subsonic bass frequencies, delay, and tremolo-fried vocals.
Duppy Gun was founded by two experimentalists out of Southern California—M. Geddes Gengras and Cameron Stallones, aka Sun Araw—and this new release is a teaser for a series of three EPs set to come out over the next three months. Like “Love Di People,” the rest of Fresh Clipp’d’s six tracks (three singles, three remixes) find Jamaican artists pairing up alongside L.A. beatmakers.
The collaborations feel natural in their intensity: Witness, for example, the way singer Arafat Brigande provides melodious hooks over blasted kicks and hollowed-out grime bass on “Whereabouts.” Or consider the way Mexican beatmaker Siete Catorce piles on the synthesizer dissonance for his remix of “Nuff Gal”—filling in some of the negative space in the original to ramp up the eerie mood.
Dancehall and other tropical styles have been a growing part of the American mainstream thanks to Diplo and others, but these sounds have become especially “hot” on the charts lately. Of course there’s Rihanna’s single “Work,” all sleek and minimal with an emphasis on her arresting vocals.
And then there’s the latest from Drake. In the run-up to Views from the 6, the former child actor has continued to show off his Toronto-style West Indian affectation. He’s also continued to mine underground talent for the making of calculatedly sunny pop hits—see his sample of UK funky queen Kyla anchoring his new track “One Dance.”
I’m sure all of this has prompted more than a few aspiring Top 40s producers in studios across Los Angeles and New York to try their own hands at sunny samples and rhythmic syncopation with hopes of making late-model Drake-esque hits of their own. That’s just how it goes in the ravenous landscape of mainstream pop. So it’s good that Fresh Clipp’d is coming out now, showing us another spectrum entirely. It’s an EP that delivers on the kind of globalized nightclub weirdness and catharsis that you could hear from Canadian duo Bonjay, or bubbling up in grime, or coming from a technoid crew like NAAFI from Mexico City. It’s important work these folks are doing here. The way I see it, if artists can successfully fuck with your vestibular system, then it’s a job well done.