With so many producers literally taking on the world’s sounds when it comes to beat making, it’s no surprise traditional genre definitions are dead. The influence of Garage, Grime and UK Funky is one that has touched near enough every corner of the UK for over a decade. When it comes to Beat Culture today, producers are reinventing as much as they are reminiscing or throwing nostalgic nods back to times past. Without a need to adhere to a one style standard the music is able to take on new dimensions.
Streaming sites generally, and the rise in playlists more specifically mean users are less likely to simply stick to one album. Instead, users are free to surf through genres and sub genres. All while discovering, saving and creating playlists filled with music from multiple artists and ultimately making rigid genre lines less important.
Last year, the Music Tech Summit explored the ways in which technology was changing the musical landscape. 78% of young people that responded to a Vice Magazine survey claimed they couldn’t be defined by the genre of music they listen to, ‘the boundaries between genres have fallen away, and the genre-less fan has risen.’
In part four of Beat Culture we explore the death of the genre with UK based producers Melle Brown, Team Salut and MINA.
“I make soulful House, soulful electronic music, and it’s what I call it because I can’t really put it into a box.”
North London native Melle Brown is a producer, DJ and radio host who has started her career in music blurring the lines between traditional R’n’B and mid-tempo House. Her debut self produced EP ‘Blossom’ is the passion project that came from a love of artists, sounds and styles she grew up with. “My inspiration in House kinda stems from House music back in the day – from Detroit – and I also love the way people like Disclosure and Kaytranada have infused House in their music as well, and mix it with different genres.” A BRIT School graduate, Melle went on to use her University dissertation as an opportunity to level up her production skills and take ownership of the ‘producer’ label. ‘Blossom’ was released in 2017, and across five tracks Melle dipped between soulful Electro, Deep House and Neo Soul, creating an EP that embodied the growth in her person and a chance to explore those first inspirations; “When Disclosure came out, that was a big thing because it was kind of like one of the first times I’d seen, in the UK, House music being done like that. So I really drew a lot of inspiration from that and the melodies; and the way they sit the vocal over the production is just incredible. So yeah, people like Disclosure, Kaytranada, J Dilla but I also love production like Timbaland [and] Pharrell you know? So, I draw inspiration from a lot of different places.”
The UK’s R’n’B scene is arguably the most vibrant it has ever been and for Melle – as a music lover and as a producer – this renewal in original homegrown R’n’B talent couldn’t have been better timed, “I feel like it’s been under looked for a lot of time, but I feel like there’s a resurgence of that now in terms of different vocalists coming through. Something I love to do is kind of incorporate that, with a House element. I like to add a Dance element to my music, most of my music is at the tempo of 120 bpm, and that’s actually the heartbeat tempo. And I don’t know why, but I find making music in that bpm range just so much easier and I can relate to it more that way.” ‘Blossom’ carries consistent echoes of Dance music, from it’s sequencing to its choice of samples, and Melle Brown’s production sways from one genre to the next, lifting elements of each to forge something new. “I’m able to incorporate my melodies around it. And also, House has got that four to the floor rhythm and I feel like 120 bpm sits really nicely in terms of me incorporating Jazz, Neo-Soul, and House all in one.”
“It’s a great feeling to be able to find somebody that’s relatively not that known – or they’re known for something else – and then giving them a new infusion of something”
Mr Wood (Team Salut)
Team Salut, the production trio from South London, have been innovating their signature style over the last few years. Pioneers from the jump, Mr Wood, GKP and Side Chain Manny are three self taught multi-instrumentalists whose earliest musical memories go back to their days in church where they all met in London. Producing hits for Afro B, Eugy, Mr. Eazi, Yxng Bane to working with Anne Marie and Cheryl Cole, Team Salut have been among the most effective UK producers to kill off the one style standard. “Four, five years ago you wouldn’t catch me with no Afro, no Grime or nothing on my phone – just straight EDM House music. It’s crazy,” percussionist and DJ Side Chain Manny says. For GKP, the team’s synth and keys specialist it was more, “Garage, Grime, UK Funky, Bashment – basically all the things you would have heard in the typical UK rave scene I was very much into.”
In 2017, Afro Swing came bursting into its own in the UK, neither strictly Afrobeats or solely influenced by UK Rap, musicians have been twisting Afrobeat melodies with rave ready tempos and smashing the UK charts. Bashment bass lines are being fused with Afro arrangements sometimes tinged with R’n’B and Team Salut have found themselves at the centre of this new musical movement. Team Salut have freed themselves from genre boxes creating new personas along the way. “It’s a great feeling to be able to find somebody that’s relatively not that known – or they’re known for something else – and then giving them a new infusion of something. Bane’s a good example,” Mr Wood says about their partnership with the rapper. “First time we met him, say two, three, years ago – he was still doing his hardcore Rap. Then we just switched it up on him, I think it was the first session that he did any melody stuff with us. And two years down the line – he’s done ‘Rihanna’ and whatnot – it’s crazy!”
Since the release of their singles ‘Hot Property’ and ‘Wagon’ last year, Team Salut have been busy in the studio working on their forthcoming ‘EP’, while basking in #SalutSeason and what a season it’s been. Since the beginning of 2018, Team Salut productions have taken over – footballing icon Drogba posted a video singing Afro B’s new single ‘Drogba (Joanna)’ word for word. A worldwide dance challenge kicked off, with their rhythms front and centre. The minds behind Eugy’s new single ‘Tick Tock’ also boast production credits on Sneakbo’s album which hit top 20 in the UK Charts, and still more bangers are yet to be unleashed. Team Salut continue to dominate this new fluid era of music making, lacing tradition with innovation – their discography takes in all styles, moods and dance moves, showing them off to be a production trio for the digital age.
“You kinda create your own sound palette, you develop that over a few years, then you’re like, ‘okay that’s a Mina sound.’
Mina, is another London based music producer creating a Dance music style all of her own by merging Afro heritage sounds with bassier elements found here in the UK. As a producer and DJ of five years, Mina began DJing in her second university year in Leeds. Craving beats and remixes to add to her sets, Mina went about learning the craft of a beat maker from the ground up. “I make music that’s inspired a lot by Afro-Caribbean music. So, there’s elements of Afrobeats, Dancehall and also UK sounds such as UK Funky, Grime, Bass all kinda mixed together to create something that hopefully gets people dancing and moving in the clubs.”
Released on Portuguese imprint Enchufada, Mina’s 2017 ‘Sentah’ EP brought together all the best elements from her favoured genres, creating an infectious global style of club music. Mina met and recorded with stand-out local MCs and producers Bryte, Gafacci and Cratus, whilst travelling in Ghana. Peruvian vocalist Nané and Italian producer Lorenzo BITW both came together with Mina through the light, bright rave centered side of the UK’s music scene. ‘Sentah’ is packed with and all kinds of syncopated rhythms mixed and blended with a clutch of talented vocalists and the result resolutely defies any singular genre label. “My music is usually quite uplifting, I like to have melodies that are happy and make people feel good. Collaborating a lot with people – I feel like it helps you learn as well. So, when you’re working with someone else, you kind of learn their techniques and what samples they use. You start collecting samples and sounds together and then you kinda create your own sound palette – you develop that over a few years, then you’re like ‘okay yeah, that’s a ‘Mina’ sound. People listen to your songs and they hear marimba or steel pans or the particular rhythms and think ‘oh yeah that’s a Mina track’ so that’s sort of what I wanted to develop.”
Mina’s first release of 2018 features Omo Frenchie and Gafacci. Titled ‘Allo’, the single is a rework of ‘Ringtone Riddim’ previously released on her ‘Sentah’ EP, another typically bold and uplifting production ‘Allo’ side steps the genre box and instead plays to the strengths of both Mina’s multifaceted approach to music making and Omo Frenchie’s multi-lingual style of lyricism.