The bass continuum is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. Entering the conversation and quickly having gained momentum as a signifier for dubstep music, R&B is the foundation for a trillion sweet dancefloor cuts in the bass bubble.
Cutting and chopping up R&B samples as the groundwork for a banger isn’t really a brand new method of making club tunes– it’s been going on ever since someone made a computer. And you know the dudes making this music: your James Blakes, your Jamie XXs, your Kingdoms, your Deadboys. They’re all ostensibly citing the genre as an inspirational focal point for the music they make.
The resurgence has elevated, too, with a revision in its very own rubric. Guys like Frank Ocean and The Weeknd making top-cut slow jams with productions appealing more to music geeks like me than dudes jamming out to Hot 97. (Though, oddly enough, Frank Ocean has gotten a bit of airtime on that station, and is being regularly spun by DJ Khaled in my hood) Though, Frank Ocean is further proof that the only thing separating these tunes from commercial to blog appeal is that they release all their stuff on a tumblr, and not on World Star Hip-Hop. Once you get past that point, though, the output is ripe for both communities to devour. Dj Khaled seems conscious of that fact and has no problem connecting both Frank Ocean and Rick Ross back-to-back in a DJ set as introduction to a new narrative.
The dubstep community has embraced all of this, too. Joy Orbison played a Weeknd tune in his Coachella set for a noon/afternoon crowd. Oneman’s been playing Weeknd tunes for the past month and half on his Sunday Rinse show. And like I mentioned in the post before, Jon Rust and Reecha closed their set with “The Morning”. Martin Clark namedropped Frank Ocean’s “Novocane” on his twitter, and remarked how sick of an R&B tune it is.
To further underline the connections between R&B and dubstep, two producers decided to mash-up James Blake and R&B/rapper stalwart Drake into a narrative that makes almost too much sense. Both sing, both draw in R&B tropes, both electronically fuck with their voice when singing. James Blake gravitated from making electronic club tunes using R&B samples to then actually straight-up singing R&B. Drake was already straying away from the commercial R&B bubble by rapping over indie electronic tunes, and still managed to get played on commercial radio. He got his “Best I Ever Had” money, and now he’s fucking with The Weeknd, bringing the circle fully back into fruition.
Thoughts before going into the mixtape: A mash-up of these two dudes is a little too obvious in nature. And if it wasn’t for the fact that the mash-ups actually work unsurprisingly well together, then I would’ve moved this tape into my Macbook’s trashbin. But is that a good thing to know? As in, shouldn’t we already know that this kind of mashup would work well together? Drake’s beats and Blake’s productions are in a lot of ways really similar. Both explore the club-banger format, as well as the really spacious and roomy slow jams.
And y’know it’s not like Drake and James Blake are collaborating on a record together, storming out fresh new material. This output is the culmination of two dudes jamming out to James Blake and Drake, and deciding they’d sound cool together in a tune. I’m biased, too, because I’m not really into mashups, unless the producers understand the music they’re crushing together, and not just mixing a grunge song’s instrumental and an 80s pop song accapella for the fuck of it.
And in that sense, as far as mashups go, sonically both of these artists make sense. So in that respect it’s a listenable output and ripe for casual repeat listens. Working off of the confidence and floor-bouncing cadence of a tune like “CMYK” is already sure-fire way to get someone’s attention– adding “Successful”‘s minimal drum patterns to the mix doesn’t make a huge mashup statement. But regardless, the tune is given a bit of weight.
And I guess that’s what I liked about the tape in general. Mashups can get overtly obvious within the listening process– sometimes they shout: “HEY! Look over here! This is Nirvana and REO Speedwagon!”–and the James Drake tape accomplishes the feat subduing its obviousness and not attracting too much attention to its mashupiness. It has nothing to contribute to the dialogue that already hasn’t been introduced already. “Why?” seemed to be the question I asked a lot when jamming out to the tape. But shoving all of my questions aside, it was a free 10-minute download I put no personal investment in, and I somehow got a couple of good tunes in my iTunes library. How much more could I really ask for?