Kelela is releasing a deluxe vinyl version of her Cut 4 Me mixtape on Fade To Mind next month but the LA singer also has a new EP called Hallucinogen on the way too.
The EP was entirely produced by Arca who Kelela met “on a boat” in 2012. “We sought one another out across a dance floor and within five minutes agreed to meet each other as soon as possible to collaborate,” she says. “I had one song released to my name and had just heard one of his mixes, but we knew we’d found something in one another. We spent the next three days, 14 hours a day talking about our artistic visions and how it intersected with our personal lives, making songs that reflected that while dancing around the room to let it all out. ”
‘A Message’ is the slow-moving aquatic R&B opener, a song about “the despair that I was experiencing at the time,” says Kelela. To that end, the raw emotion is felt in the video, directed by Daniel Sannwald, in which Kelela cuts off her dreads. A debut album is also due this year.
Andreya Triana is a name you’ll recognise from her vocal collaborations with Flying Lotus Bonobo and Lapalux. The Londoner is a former RBMA attendee and has been biding her time over the last few years since releasing her debut album Lost Where I Belong on Ninja Tune. Now she’s ready for her second album, Giants, out in May.
The lead single ‘Gold’ is a stomping soul track that puts Triana’s voice in a poppier context than before. Check out that and a Fort Romeau remix too:
From the very first time I heard Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ ‘Uptown Funk’ back in November, I couldn’t help but admire the influences the pair were mining for the track. Particularly, I’m thinking 80s funk: whether it’s the Minneapolis funk pioneered by Prince along with Morris Day and The Time or the vocoder electro-funk of Zapp And Roger, or Cameo, either way, there’s a lot of fun to be had spotting the influences.
Here are 10 tracks that ‘Uptown Funk’ is inspired by, takes influence from or reminds me of and here’s a longer Spotify playlist featuring those tracks.
1. Morris Day and The Time – ‘Jungle Love’
Prince and Morris Day were high school buddies who were in a band together in school. Prince basically started The Time and Morris joined after and Prince focused on his solo career after that. The pair would go on to define the Minneapolis funk sound. Day and his band The Time famously appeared in the film Purple Rain and they’ve a couple of fun albums I’d recommend. Minneapolis funk is the most immediate influence many people hear when listening to ‘Uptown Funk’.
2. Zapp – ‘More Bounce To The Ounce’
If you’re like me you may have heard Zapp (or Zapp and Roger as they are sometimes known) on the soundtrack to Napoleon Dynamite or as sampled by the Beastie Boys on ‘Hey Ladies’ from their sample-bouillabaisse Paul’s Boutique. The Ohio band were characterised by Roger Troutman’s talkbox vocals and an electro-funk sound that would be influential on the west coast G-funk rap movement in the early 90s which culminated in Troutman providing the hook for Tupac’s ‘California Love’. Their song ‘So Ruff, So Tuff’ (which was the song on Napoleon Dynamite) was also sampled on the Beastie Boys’
3. David Christie – ‘Saddle Up’
The French singer’s 1982 sounds a bit like 80s Paul McCartney’s ‘Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time’ but despite Mccartney’s credentials ‘Saddle Up’ is much funkier. It’s all about that bassline.
4. The Gap Band – ‘Early in The Morning’
The funk band from Oklahoma was started by three brothers: Ronnie, Robert and Charlie (who sang on Kanye’s ‘Bound II’ on Jools last year). They had a 43-year long history until they retired in 2010 when Robert died. This track has similarities in the rhythms, drums and some of that dancing swing.
5. Earth, Wind & Fire – ‘Getaway’
The famous American funk band are responsible for many hits – ‘Boogie Wonderland’, ‘Let’s Groove’, ‘September’ and ‘After The Love Has Gone’ but it’s ‘Getaway’, and specifically the horn section of that disco funk track that can be most obviously heard on ‘Uptown Funk’.
6. Duran Duran – ‘Notorious’
Ronson told the Guardian in an interview that his father, who was in the 80s rock band Foreigner, asked him if the guitar in ‘Uptown Funk’ was Nile Rodgers. It wasn’t but Ronson’s guitar lick isn’t a million miles away from Rodgers work, particularly to these ears, Duran Duran’s ‘Notorious’.
The line “Uptown Funk You Up” that Mars sings could be from anywhere due to it being used in funk vernacular over the years but the cadence of it does closely align with this 1979 track from The Sequence, an all-female trio of Angie Brown Stone (Angie B, now just Angie Stone, a Grammy-winning long-standing recording artist), Gwendolyn Chisolm (Blondy) and Cheryl Cook (Cheryl The Pearl). The Sequence were the second release on Sugarhill Records after the song that brought hip-hop to a larger consciousness – ‘Rapper’s Delight’.
7. Skyy – ‘Call Me’
Cited by others as a closer influence to the guitar riff, this New York band also known as New York Skyy released this in 1981 and it was their biggest hit.
8. Brass Construction -‘Get Up To Get Down’
The 1979 funk track from the New York band has a similar style.
9. One Way – ‘Let’s Talk’
A 1985 funk hit from a Detroit band embodies the spirit of Ronson and Mars’ track.
10. The Bar-Kays – ‘Too Hot To Stop Part 1′
The late 60s/early 70s group were known for backing Isaac Hayes and their Stax Records recording career. This song opened their 1976 album Too Hot To Stop and a parallel between its double time rhythm is found in ‘Uptown Funk’ as is its “too hot” title.
There are plenty of other artists heard by others too from Cameo to Rick James to Prince. I should also say that the only credited track in the liner notes is for ‘All Gold Everything’ from Trinidad James which gives the song it’s “don’t believe me just watch” line.
Thanks to the popularity of acts like London Grammar, there’s been a succession of suavepop R&B acts that have deliberately or otherwise, followed a similar imprint: yearning, rich vocal tones; warm minimal electronic R&B backing and on-point production techniques. Think of The Hics, Mansionair, Aquilo, Klo, George Maple, Wet and Halos to name but a few.
The Australians seem to have gone in for the sound more than most so it’s no surprise that the latest new band to impress with the electronic R&B tag have a singer Parissa Tosif from Canberra. Teaming up with Seattle producer David Ansari, the pair named Vallis Alps, after the mountain range, have dropped a debut EP of impressive proportions.
‘Young’ is the EP’s marquee track, a smooth song that bumps gently into the mould. ‘Thru’ takes elements of zeitgeist beats while ‘Oh’ has a more chilled Balearic feel and ‘Reprieve’ is a largely downbeat piano ending.
The latter three tracks are available as a free download on Soundcloud but the entire thing is available on Bandcamp. Vallis Alps are the first previously-unknown brand new act of 2015 that are getting me excited for the days ahead.
Chance The Rapper isn’t going a regular route in his musical journey. He’s been playing with his live band The Social Experiment ( Chance with Donnie Trumpet, Peter Cottontale, and Nate Fox) and the has a free record with them on the way called Surf before the end of the year.
It’s the trumpet player, Donnie Trumpet, who gets his moment in the title of the record – Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, due to it being under his main operation.
‘Sunday Candy’ is our first bite from the album, an uplifting song that doesn’t tie in with anything going on in modern music, taking inspiration from Chicago brass bands, TV theme songs and old-school pop music. It’s delightfully out of step, unabashed soul pop.
Last month they released a downbeat song called ‘No Better Blues':
Soul singer Mayer Hawthorne started at Stones Throw before the major label whisked him away to the mainstream. So if the guy wanted to go and do something a bit less commercial, the only way he could do it would be to do it under a new name. Which is what Tuxedo, his project with G-Unit producer Jake One is, it seems. Their names haven’t been officially announced as being part of the project but this video suggests Hawthorne is as does Stones Throw’s recent post.
There are tunes on Soundcloud but the go to track and only one that has a video is ‘Do It’, a fun and funky R&B soul track. An album is coming next year.
Following their redux version of ‘F For You’ from Disclosure’s debut album Settle, the Lawrence brothers teamed up once again on some tracks on her upcoming The London Sessions release, which will also feature Sam Smith, Naughty Boy and Emili snoorefest Sandé.
You have have already heard ‘Right Now’, their first collab for the album. ‘Follow’ is part two, a song that’s very much in the vein of ‘Grab You’ from Settle, except with added million selling soul diva.