January 27, 2017, was the most exciting day in music this year so far, with three highly anticipated albums dropping within a 24-hour time period. One of such, XL recordings’ NEW GEN is an album combining the very best of underground UK rap and grime with collaborations from numerous amounts of emerging, young artists such as AJ Tracey, Bonkaz, WSTRN, Abra Cadabara and many more.
The album is an essential listen for anybody wanting to understand the UK underground music scene.
The album is out now. After hours spent in a studio rented out as a space for these young artists to produce raw, real music. NEW GEN initially started out as a playlist created by GRM Daily creative director, Caroline Simionescu-Marin and now an A&R at XL. She had a vision to expand NEW GEN from a playlist, with regular radio shows and club nights into a album project concentrated on the NEW GEN studio.
Artists like 67, WSTRN, AJ Tracey, Nines, Avelino and Stefflon Don, in the same studio creating hits, the outcome is an album “anchored in the half space between trap, grime and new wave R&B, the melting pot which has typically come to represent the New Gen sound,” XL explains. “There are influences from everywhere – it would be really hard to pick one label. All of these new artists are less genre-confined” – Caroline SM
One of the biggest tracks on the NEW GEN album, “My Ways”, featuring AJ Tracey an emerging grime MC and R&B artist, J Warner, a contrasting duo creating an extremely well produced and thought out track by producer Nyge, who also produced successful tracks such as “Lock Arf”, “Pasta”, “Leave Me Alone” and “Boom Bye Bye”.
Put three extremely talented people in one studio and you create a song that is destined to be immensely successful.
The song is soft rap song which evidently takes AJ Tracey out of his comfort zone which shows listeners that his talents can be stretched as far as possible, which creates a fresh, rare track that is bound to be successful. The track starts with soft, sensual adlibs from J Warner, where then AJ brings his distinctive flow to create a track that has the sound of London.
“One of my favourite songs on the album, AJ came in, felt the vibes, wrote and recorded his verses and everybody in the studio was loving it but the hook just wasn’t sitting right. We tried at least 4 different hooks with different artists as well, it’s only when the magician that is J Warner came in and heard the song that we had a solution, it only took him about 30 minutes as well, legend!” – Executive producer, Renz.
Initially, when first hearing this track it sounded extremely familiar but also very different. The song was created using a sample from a Nina Simone song, but was revamped by Jevon, to create a fresh, urban track to mould with the rest of the NEW GEN album.
Jevon is very much the mastermind behind the track, and regarded as the secret weapon of NEW GEN, creating beats for the group and working on his own music alongside, 2017 is set to be a milestone year for his talents.
Everything about this record is natural and it is evident throughout the track that everything was done by Jevon. His vocals, crafty beats and honest lyrics help give the track an authentic sound which helps it stand out from the rest of the tracklist on the album.
The leading lady herself, Caroline said that the track was “another one that was never gonna make the album. One day Jevon was working on his own in the studio and he just made this demo using a wicked Nina Simone sample”.
“We knew the sample would be hard to clear so I said just make another track. As time passed I kept going back to this demo and it just felt so London, the story he was telling was captivating. I asked Jevon to finish it, there was no way it couldn’t make the album”.
“Money Haffi Mek”, was one of the few to be released prior the release of the album on January 27, even though it was the last track to be made on the entire album. This is definitely on track to becoming one of the biggest on the album, with the help of the star quality of Stefflon Don and Abra Cadabra’s lyrical and vocal excellence, the production talent keeps the quality of the song at its very highest.
Like with most underground UK music, they come with a subtle motivational message between the verses, with “Money Haffi Mek” the message seems to be, get money by any means necessary. This message is very relevant to the London lifestyle, which is why it is guaranteed to be successful.
Abra Cadabra’s gravelly, distinctive tone matched with Steff’s cool, confident and patios-licked flow over bars from KZ, Sokari and Jevon’s trap rhythm beat was the kind of club ready track needed to top of this year long project.
NEW GEN is set to become one of the biggest albums of 2017 and will help expose a variety of artists and talents who have all been a part of the NEW GEN project. Out now on XL Recordings, purchase the NEW GEN album on iTunes, here.
Words by Hiba Hassab