How I Made: Big Zuu on his ‘Navigate’ album

"That’s why I called in 'Navigate'..."

22.10.21 Words by: Maisie Goulsbra

In this feature on Dummy, we’re asking artists to drill down into how exactly they make their music. We’re looking to hone in on the processes, equipment and locations they made their sounds in, and following Berlin-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Gifford, we’re chatting to legendary grime MC Big Zuu about his brand new, debut album ‘Navigate’, which boasts a huge list of collaborations with the best vocalists and producers within grime and beyond, including Sir Spyro, Novelist, AJ Tracey and Kojey Radical to name a few.

As an individual that exudes talent and versatility, Zuu began his working life as a youth worker, and has since received a TV BAFTA nomination for his debut series Big Zuu’s Big Eats. Three years worth of work has been put into his empowering album ‘Navigate’, which spans a selection of beats from rowdy 140, hefty drill fused trap, and afroswing with a grittiness.  Zuu’s here to talk us through it.

Where was ‘Navigate’ made?

All over London. I made a few of the songs with a guy called Owen Cutts whose studio is in North West, Hampstead side. I made ‘Offline’ with Spyro in his house. ‘Variation’ was made with Joker in Bristol and the song with Crafty called ‘Don’t Get Emotional’, we made on tour as we were going from Bristol to Manny, I think. ‘Big Eats’ – we made that in Tape Studios, and a lot of the songs we made in Ditto in East London, we also did some sessions in Sarm – the famous Sarm in Ladbrooke Grove.

Who did you work with on it?

Everyone that you see on the ting you know – the producer list and the artists list is on there. There’s a bag of producers, and a bag of artists. People from Tracey to Kojey to Muller… then producer-wise you’ve got Owen Cutts to Spyro to people like Scott Styles and Scott Supreme. Got a Nyge beat on there which is really sick, Crafty my brother came through and then the mix and master, Sean D touched it up and Joker finished it off.

What gear or software was used on the release?

Joker is a wizard. You’re gonna have to call Joker and find out what spaceship stuff he uses to mix the songs because he has a lot of plugins but he has the real life versions of them. We did a lot of recording on Logic, I’ll tell you that for free. And crafty makes a lot of his beats on Logic so Logic’s been the number one software that we’ve used. But with Joker and all of them man, they use different things. I think Owen Cuts uses Cubase or one of them other random softwares to make his beats.

What were some of the musical inspirations for the record?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Travis Scott, Drake, oldschool 2Pac, Biggie, Skepta, JME, Tempa T. There’s a lot of random inspiration in there, like singing inspiration. I listened to a lot of Children of Zeus, Tems, WizKid – a mixture of all the music I love right now but those are the standouts sonically. On this one, a lot of my overall life inspired me. The life that I’m living – doing music, tele, radio, all those things. That’s why I called it ‘Navigate’, because I’m navigating through all of that.

Stream ‘Navigate’ on your preferred service here.

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