The rise and rise of HAAi
'Hyperdub 10.1', the first of four compilations released by consistently boundary-pushing label Hyperdub to mark their 10th birthday, celebrated the club producers on the label's roster and the dancefloor-geared tracks that they've released over the years. Their second installment takes a different tack, shining a light on the vast talent of songwriters, singers, and producers who have released with the label, with tracks by Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland, Cooly G, Morgan Zarate, Jessy Lanza and more featured. Although the compilation leans towards pop, R&B, and soul, it's still tied together by the drive (whether conscious or unconscious) of the label and its artists to carve new sonic ground. It's 21st century pop music done right, something that resonates strongly with Dummy.
Here, Hyperdub founder Kode9 gives a track-by-track rundown of the compilation, with additional comments and contributions from some of the artists – Scratcha DVA, Jessy Lanza, Cooly G, and more – who feature.
01. Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland – Signal 2012
Kode9: "From what I know, it was the last track they did before they split. Instrumentally, the backing sound's a really sloppy, weird sinogrime track. Hype Williams only did that a couple of times, with those kind of oriental instruments. There’s a track we released called Badmind, which also had that sinogrime vibe. The vocal on this I think is incredible; the way Inga sings is always wavering in and out of tune, and the backing track is wavering in and out of tune. I really have a soft spot for sounds that don’t stay in tune.
"It is a cleaner sound – a lot of their stuff used to have a haze over it. I could never call this track in your face, but it’s a lot brighter and more present, and less shy. I don’t have any of their other collaborations that are unreleased. I’m sure there are other tracks lying around, but only Satan knows."
02. Burial – Shell Of Light
Kode9: "All of Burial’s music is low-key – this one even more low-key than most, because it’s not one that people talk about much. The compilation has got a bit of an R&B vibe, but in an odd way, and that ‘Closer’ vocal always just stuck out in my brain as an R&B track – obviously, it’s an R&B sample.
"It always struck me as a really good song, in its chopped up, mutated state. I always loved this kind of 'implied song' that’s in a lot of Burial’s tracks – his best stuff is where he chops up vocals, and makes this stitched together voice say something it didn’t realise it was trying to say, by taking words from different places. I always thought he was like a ventriloquist making a puppet speak, or like being able to throw your voice to the other side of a room so it speaks through something else. That’s why I love Burial’s songs."
"I always loved this kind of 'implied song' that’s in a lot of Burial’s tracks – his best stuff is where he chops up vocals, and makes this stitched together voice say something it didn’t realise it was trying to say." – Kode9
03. Jessy Lanza – 5785021
Jessy Lanza: "5785021 is a made-up phone number, but people always ask me if it's my actual number and if they call it, will I answer? I just really like songs that use phone numbers or addresses as lyrics."
Kode9: “Jessy’s voice is the closest thing to a straight-up R&B singer [on Hyperdub], because she can actually sing in tune, and sustain it [laughs]. This was off her album ‘Pull Your Hair Back’ from last year. It was one of the strongest tracks on the album; it had a really strong Aaliyah vibe, for me at least. At the same time, the backing track is kind of skittery and a bit odd. Since the album came out, she’s developed quite a big fanbase quite quickly.
"She’s got two tracks on the comp. Morgan, Scratcha, Cooly, Jessy, Terror Danjah – they’re the backbone of people doing this more R&B-influenced stuff. So that’s why there’s a couple of tracks from them – they’ve done them in more contexts, rap and hip hop contexts, or in funky or garage contexts. They’re the guys who are really strong with vocals.
"I like the way this follows the Burial track – even though it turns out to be quite sweet, it starts with murky sub-bass. For me, the vibe across most of these tracks is identical: for me, the vibe on the Burial track is identical to the Jessy track."
04. Cooly G – Obsessed
Cooly G: "The song is actually 10 years old this year, so it's good to have it part of a Hyperdub 10th anniversary comp, too. It's really weird how this release happened – it was just a track stored away on my hard drive and forgotten about, and by accident it came on at Kode9's house on my laptop, and he liked it, so it's getting a release.
"I wrote and produced it 10 years ago. I remember the studio session in Brixton, with my ex sitting on the sofa witnessing it all. I wrote the song about this boy who I knew, who was supposed to be a friend. He was so cool, and whilst he was around me, he grew to like me, but I then found out someone bet him to try and get with me. However, at the time, I had a boyfriend and was happy and in love. The 'friend' knew I found out about the bet, and strangely, he became very angry and obsessed, and admitted he didn't really know me that well before but had fallen for me, and he said he really wanted to be my boyfriend after all. As you can hear in the song, he was a bit crazy and possessive, and stalked me for a while, but it died down after a few months. Anyway, I recently told my ex who was in that session on the sofa that time, and he was really pleased it was finally coming out, and so am I, even though the story around it is long gone."
Kode9: "This is brilliant. Cooly used to make a lot of slow jams like this, and then she’d take the vocals and work them into her house tracks. It’s like a perfect South London take on R&B. It’s got a big, dubby bassline, and she shuts down the guy – hard. Cooly is, and she has been since she signed, the part of Hyperdub that’s always had that relationship with R&B. But she’s also a sick house DJ – as a vocalist she’s R&B, and she’s a house DJ.
"So her new album is really all this kind of vibe. It’s much more slow jams and much more hip hop/R&B tempo than house or garage. Even the first album had some upbeat moments – this is a lot more 'club' oriented, but not in a dance music context. The album alternates between Cooly parring guys, and seduction. That’s R&B, isn’t it?"
"The [forthcoming Cooly G] album alternates between Cooly parring guys, and seduction. That’s R&B, isn’t it?" – Kode9
05. Fhloston Paradigm – Never Defeated (feat. Rachel Claudio)
Fhloston Paradigm/King Britt: "When Rachel was over from Paris, we were working on various ideas. I was going through a 'dark' period of introspection, and felt it was a good time to harness that energy for the next Fhloston track. I wanted a vocal mantra that was like the movie The Omen, kind of biblical and feels like sorcery at work. I didn't necessarily want the listener to understand the words, just feel them. Rachel builds and builds on this idea and harmonies. Never Defeated is just that – whatever you go through in life, there will be moments when you need a song like this. Rise up 'The Phoenix'."
Kode9: "This is my favourite track off his new album, ‘The Phoenix’. When I first heard it, when the vocal drops, I probably listened to the track about 50 times on a loop. It’s a really incredible vocal. The way it kind of comes in out of phase, and then she’s kind of singing in this counter-rhythm. Just an amazing track. Lots of dance remixes of pop tracks, you just shove a 4/4 under an a capella, and that’s kind of what you’ve got. But you can tell with a track like this, the backing track and the vocal are so woven together."
06. DVA – Solid (feat. Zaki Ibrahim)
Scratcha DVA: "Zaki is a singer from Canada, but she lives over in South Africa. We hung out when I DJed there, and she guested on my debut album Pretty Ugly, in 2012. She also came and performed at Sonar, doing guest vocals on my set on the main stage on the Saturday night. We worked on this track remotely – I gave her a concept and she dropped some vocals on the track. Metrodome is a producer from Manchester who has recorded for my DVA music label, and I gave him the final track to do some work on the drums, as he does sick drums."
Kode9: “Zaki’s an amazing singer, should be much bigger than she is. Scratcha’s an amazing producer, should be much bigger than he is. When those two get together, as people, it’s fantastic – and musically, it’s better. Both incredibly funny, and you just get the vibe coming through the music. I think they may have some other unfinished stuff they’ve worked on; Zaki’s supposed to have done collaborations with Gerv from LV. She’s done loads of house stuff and broken beat type stuff and amazing vocals on loads of things.
"Scratcha’s definitely one of the core in Hyperdub now. He’s an amazing DJ, great producer. He’s like a pocket party engine. He totally gets the Hyperdub vibe, he’s incredibly open-minded about music, he’s hungry, he’s really keen to get out there and DJ as much as possible. He’s just an amazing guy to hang out with."
07. Ikonika – I Know (That U are the 1)
Kode9: "That’s Mr Cake, with Dam-Funk on it. This is another vocal that’s wavering all over the place, but it’s got such a good party vibe. When I heard Ikonika’s Mr Cake it reminded me of Dam-Funk – that ‘80s boogie vibe. So it made sense to me at least. We’ve tried to get Dam-Funk on things before and it’s never happened, so I was just happy to get him on a track that actually related to where he’s coming from as well."
08. Morgan Zarate – Pusher Taker (feat. Roses Gabor)
Morgan Zarate: "This track was started on my phone using iMaschine while I was waiting for the AA to arrive. Next time I looked at it was probably a month later, in a studio session with Roses Gabor, Acyde (my partner in We Are Shining), and Thundercat. I've even got a version of it with Thundercat singing it, but to be honest Roses killed it, so we went with her. We did a bunch of stuff that day and then got drunk."
Kode9: "I think Morgan’s an amazing producer. A lot of producers and DJs realise that, but a lot of the general public don’t, because he’s always been a kind of backroom producer character. I love the way he does songs, and this is one of my favourites, because Roses fits this Prince-style instrumental perfectly. I actually thought it was Prince when I first heard it, which is a bit weird thinking retrospectively. A lot of these vocalists (on 'Hyperdub 10.2') we’d released already, so it was about pulling them from b-sides and lost in album tracklists, and into a cluster of vocals."
"I've got a version of [Pusher Taker] with Thundercat singing it, but to be honest Roses killed it, so we went with her. We did a bunch of stuff that day and then got drunk." – Morgan Zarate
09. Jessy Lanza – You & Me
Jessy Lanza: "You & Me started out with Jeremy Greenspan and I messing around with a vocoder. Once we had this low, vocoder version of my voice, kind of half-singing, half-talking this one line, we made it the chorus and then we just wrote a song around that."
Kode9: "I first heard this track when she played a live set in Stoke Newington last year. I heard it on a big system and it sounded amazing. I think she’s getting better and better. This sounds more confident [than ‘Pull My Hair Back’], and the beat holds together better."
10. Morgan Zarate – Sticks & Stones (feat. Eska & Ghostface Killah)
Morgan Zarate: "This track is a super old, unreleased one that I made during my 'soul chopping' phase. Eska came to the studio, heard the beat, and came up with the melody instantly – no lyrics, just the verse and chorus melody. We put it down, knew it was crazy. She then came back a few times after that to re-vocal once she'd got the the lyrics together and to work on the backing vocal arrangement, which – if you listen to the detail – is incredible.
"Because the whole track came out with this 'classic' feel, I always heard a Wu-Tang sounding verse on it and was gonna reach out through some guys in LA I was working with. In the end, while I was out there, they handed me this acapella from Ghostface that they owned and were gonna use on another record. I slowed it down, threw it in and it all made sense. Never met the guy though. Then I came back to London, added guitar and ended up mixing it at home with Loefah. Was a mad process, that one."
Kode9: "I know Benji B used to play it on radio a lot, I had it for ages and I couldn’t find the right context for it. We were gonna get remixes of it done and so on, doing this compilation has just provided the perfect context. Morgan’s got other tracks with Eska that are fantastic, and to get Ghostface Killah on a Hyperdub release – I’m a huge Wu-Tang fan, obviously. Morgan sent me the track ages ago, and it’s only recently that I’ve been pursuing to release it. The track was licensed from a label called Sound & Colour, who I’m not sure what they’re doing any more, but it obviously never came out through them. I think everyone was just happy to finally get it out. It’s got a classic Ghostface vibe, that kind of ‘60s soul sample type thing."
11. DVA – Just Vybe (Soule Power Mix) (feat. Fatima)
Scratcha DVA: "This is a track from way back – I wanted to write with Fatima because she's got a great voice and is just cool. She came into the studio, and the theme of the song came about as she had nowhere to live at that time and was feeling like a bit of a nomad. So the lyrics are about her situation and finding a stable place to 'just vybe'."
Kode9: "So the tune Natty was how I first came across Scratcha, and I think Scratcha was building it into this, but I was just so blown away by this instrumental. He was like, 'Don’t you what me to finish the track?', and I was like, 'Maybe, but let’s just release it as an instrumental, because there’s nothing like it, it’s sick.' So we released Natty in 2009, and then he went on to finish the track and got Fatima on it. It’s a great track to drop mid-summer, and Fatima’s getting better and better. Her album’s amazing. Like with Ghostface Killah, I was just happy to have Fatima on this record, even though we’ve released this before. It’s the same with all the vocalists really – I’m just so happy to have so many cool vocalists on this record."
"This is a track from way back – I wanted to write with Fatima because she's got a great voice and is just cool. She came into the studio, and the theme of the song came about as she had nowhere to live at that time and was feeling like a bit of a nomad. So the lyrics are about her situation and finding a stable place to 'just vybe'." – Scratcha DVA
12. Terror Danjah – You Make Me Feel (feat. Meleka)
Terror Danjah: "I made You Make Me Feel in 2006. It was originally an R&B track featuring Meleka at 115bpm. Later remade the beat from scratch and called Tinie Tempah to do a vocal on it too. I was a special guest on Elijah & Skilliam's Rinse FM show with Kode9 to promote the first album, 'Undeniable', on Hyperdub a few years later. The track got played and the rest is history. Hyperdub released it, with Tinie's contribution left off as as his management said it couldn't stay on."
Kode9: "He’s the king of R&G stuff. It would be great if he kept doing it. I always loved this one, it just reminded me of that amazing period of R&B in the late ‘90s – Timbaland, Brandy, Aaliyah, and so on. Those really stuttering beats, that kind of Rodney Jerkins, Timbaland style production. It’s just a really sparkly, trip-py R&B track. Terror Danjah’s another guy who’s an amazing producer, and more of a producer’s producer and a DJ’s producer than your average punter. You know a lot of people know his big tracks, like Cock Back and so on. I love it when he does big vocal tracks. He just nails this one perfectly – there’s no friction between the beat and the vocal at all, it’s just sparkly."
13. DJ Rashad – Only One (feat. Spinn & Taso)
Kode9: "It’s one of my favourites off ‘Double Cup’ and it’s the strongest R&B theme, basically. With all these different vocalists, I wanted to show approaches to vocals – stuff that’s not necessarily always in tune, with a slightly amateurish vibe to it. I love that stuff, as well as stuff like Jessy that’s really tight.
"On the production side of things, people used to use the word 'hypersoul' to describe garage – the vocal cut-ups, the helium vocals, and so on. Footwork does that, but in a completely different way – its vocal science is totally different to that Todd Edwards-style vocal science. What the three of them do with the vocal on this track I think is fantastic. Sick tune. He didn’t get to see the first compilation, so I wanted to at least get him on these first two compilations.
"This and the Burial tune have a lot in common, in a way – not just their album covers. The ‘Double Cup’ album cover is a bit like the first Burial cover – one is South London, one is Chicago. Both have a really sad vibe – Burial, obviously, but people don’t really talk about that kind of sad vibe that runs through a lot of Rashad’s tunes. More importantly, they both slice the fuck out of vocals in a really amazing way."
"This and the Burial tune have a lot in common, in a way. The ‘Double Cup’ album cover is a bit like the first Burial cover – one is South London, one is Chicago. Both have a really sad vibe – Burial, obviously, but people don’t really talk about that kind of sad vibe that runs through a lot of Rashad’s tunes." – Kode9
14. Kode9 – Lies Lies (feat. copeland)
Kode9: "It’s a Copeland sandwich! Like my tune Kan from last year without me intending to do it, it’s ended up half-dancehall, half-footwork. I’ve always heard Inga Copeland’s voice working really well in a dub reggae/dancehall context. Particularly dub, but I think it works well in a bashy, dancehall context. She’s pretty good on Lies Lies – all her vocals are amazing, whether it’s always in tune or not is irrelevant. There’s something more important about her voice than whether it’s in tune or not.
"Lies Lies started with her asking if I wanted to try remixing or producing one of her tracks. I think the vocal appeared on her album on another track. I’d done so many versions of this vocal, took too long over it, she released it on her album, and then this was the version I was happiest with. It’s pretty stripped down and it’s pretty raw – no frills."
Hyperdub released 'Hyperdub 10.2' on July 21st 2014 (buy).