He might be a poster boy for bandwagon dance music fans in ‘Keep Calm and Run the Trap’ t-shirts, but essentially, what Harry ‘Baauer‘ Rodrigues makes is big, dumb hip-hop bangers.
And as Rustie, Lunice and Hudson Mohawke – all poster boys for the LuckyMe label, who’ll be releasing Baauer’s next two records – will presumably tell you, there’s nothing wrong with that. Having also been picked up by Diplo, who released his calling card ‘Harlem Shake’, the 23-year-old Baauer has seen his status rise to that of one of hip-hop’s – and dance music’s, though the two are currently more intertwined than ever – most exciting prospects.
From TNGHT to Timbaland, Basic Channel to the British Murder Boys, much of the best hip-hop and dance music is powerful through simplicity. Baauer’s tracks are usually at their most layered right before they hit, when all channels bar the key few drop off the grid, leaving a big, dumb riff maximum room to move. In the right context, it can be revelatory – and tracks like ‘Swerve’ deserve a longer shelf life than your average bandwagon.
FACT caught up with Baauer to find out where he comes from and where he’s going, and better yet: we didn’t use the t-word once.
Everything seems to have taken off for you really quickly.
“Yeah, I just got back from Europe, playing shows. It’s going really good – I’m just working on stuff for the new EP for LuckyMe.”
How did you end up hooking up with those guys? You’ve got the Dum Dum white label coming out through them too.
“I think it was mostly through Rustie. I emailed him some tracks a while ago, he Tweeted saying he was doing his Essential Mix and needed some tracks. He’s one of my absolute favourites – like, Glass Swords? And so he put it in the mix, and I guess from there he emailed my stuff to the other guys in the label.”
Had ‘Harlem Shake’ already come out at this point?
“Yeah. That was around for a while, and I’m not exactly sure how Diplo or Mad Decent first heard it, but they were the first ones to reach out. I was like ‘definitely’, of course, it’s Mad Decent.”
Did you know you were onto a good thing with that track?
“No, I had no idea what I was doing. I was just trying to have fun and make a weird, fun tune. I had no idea that it would have any kind of effect, or catch on in any way. That was just crazy.”
How long have you been around for?
“I’ve been producing since I was 13, mostly making house music and electro. I did have one tune, under the name Captain Harry, which is kind of embarrassing… Kissy Sell Out played it on Radio 1, it was kind of Baltimore club mashed up with a trance tune. But that was the only one that got to that stage – everything else was just messing around.”
Is that a big thing for you, drawing from American ghetto genres? You mentioned Baltimore, and a lot of your tunes have the Southern rap snares and high-hats.
“Yeah, definitely. Those sounds – I’m not even sure why, but I’m drawn to those ghetto, hood sounds. For me, growing up it was hip-hop and dance music – I guess the stuff I tried to make was like Ministry of Sound dance music, but the stuff I listened to was all hip-hop – me and my friends, like nerdy white kids, you know [laughs]. We listened to a lot of Madlib, MF Doom and Dilla. The classic nerdy white kid stuff.”
Was there a particular tune for you, hip-hop or otherwise, that gave you that ‘fuck, I have to start producing’ moment? I think a lot of people have it, even if it’s just like a friend’s tune.
“Man I dunno, I was so young. It was probably Darude – ‘Sandstorm’ or some shit [laughs].”
I presume you’re trying to get your beats to rappers – how do you find that?
“It’s tough. Getting something done in this hip-hop world is tough, but it’s something I’m working on. I definitely want to get to the point where I’m regularly collaborating with rappers.”
The hip-hop world’s opening up more and more though, to people from dance music backgrounds. I guess because that’s the shit that’s huge right now in the States.
“Yeah, it’s interesting. The worlds are kind of colliding.”