After all the delights of an Indian summer, this September meant one thing for millions of beleagured schoolchildren: start of term.
Spare a thought for those nippers who’ve had to spend the last month re-acclimatising to stuffy classrooms, stentorian P.E. teachers and – if school is anything like how we remember it – confiscated MiniDisc players. To toast the new academic year, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to profile an assortment of some of music’s most prodigious Year Sevens – relatively unknown producers who we think have every chance of making proper waves in the next twelve months.
We’ve tried to keep the selection as broad as possible – the list runs the gamut from grime rabble-rousers to Le1f-approved beatmakers – but we’re confident this bunch will be prefect material before too long. These are ten names you’ll do well to remember this year.
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When NYC rapper Le1f emerged from the Gotham underground last year to deliver his game-changing debut mixtape Dark York, his team of producers were firmly shoved into the limelight as we scrambled to hear more bonkers beats from the likes of Nguzunguzu and Morri$. So when Le1f picks two of your productions for his new tape, Tree House, and plonks them both in the opening quartet of tracks, you should probably start checking your voicemail. Shy Guy’s cloudy ‘Cane Sugar’ and the trap catchphrase-flipping ‘Damn Son’ show two sides of the Dallas-via-NYC producer, with the latter’s hyperactive hook one of the tape’s standout moments. He’s also worked with Black Dave and Junglepussy, and previously released a collaborative tape under the name Crakk Nicholson.
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Unless you’ve been living under a North Korean rock you’ll probably have heard this producer’s work already – Nate Fox is the brain behind four tracks on breakout Chicago star Chance The Rapper’s second mixtape, Acid Rap. He’s pretty much as regular a Joe as can be, though – living in Pennsylvania and working a day job in construction, he’s hoping to save up the cash to move to Los Angeles and hit the big time. “I always picture myself on VH1 Storytellers or something, like, ‘Man, I remember the day I got the phone call from Diddy. I had just put the sledgehammer down. He was on the other line like eh-eh eh-eh,” he joked to Complex recently. Pick up the phone already, Dids!
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Mokona doesn’t give a lot away, with only a handful of public tracks to his name, but it’s been enough to build up plenty of buzz amongst those that know. ‘Exploring the Deep Sea’ and Ben UFO favourite ‘Stewardess Rush’ tread a middle ground between XTC’s snow-capped grime and Drexciya’s bubble metropolis, while a forthcoming debut single for Templar Sound, ‘Untitled’, features a vocal from Ruff Sqwad’s Rapid. Keep an eye on Night Slugs and Oneman’s Rinse FM shows for more.
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There are plenty of people turning to the noisy underbelly of dance music for inspiration right now, and a lot of generic Blawan-alics being born as a result. Not Neana though, whose tracks blend ballroom, grime and gritblaster techno to deadly effect. He might have taken a beating in grime’s recent war dubs soap opera – see Gage’s ‘Yoshimitsu’ – but we expect big things of Neana next year. Fans of the Night Slugs Club Constructions aesthetic should be all over him.
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Though 20-year-old producer Thelonious Martin is based in Chicago, there’s the definite sense that he’s simply not interested in mimicking the rapid-fire style of his local scene. Rather, Martin is taking cues from Madlib, Doom and Dilla, and surprisingly (given the sheer number of other producers that have done the same) manages to emerge with a sound that’s far from mere hero worship. His productions for Fiend (‘Crawfish’ and ‘California Mornings’) on Jet Life’s Red Eye mixtape were the two unparalleled highlights and though he wears his influences on his sleeve, he manages to do so with such earnest passion that it feels a million miles from the tired backpack brigade.
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The first signing to Jon Rust’s LEVELS imprint keeps a low profile, and his discography to date is similarly small-scale, with only a single EP (this Summer’s Natural Partnership) to his name. It’s a hard-to-classify humdinger, made up of all sorts of disparate ingredients: overdriven house textures, glitch-hop sound palette, dub tempo, hip-hop swing. Lord knows what recipe book he’s using, but, with any luck, he’ll be cooking with gas in the next 12 months.
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Drew Kim might not be a total unknown – he makes up one half of Montreal production duo Grown Folk – but his Druture project is a relatively new venture. It represents Kim’s attempt at exploring more obvious rap tropes, and from the scant handful of tracks we’ve had offered up so far he’s on the right track. His polarizing rework of Chief Keef’s ‘Round Da Rosey’ is an obvious jumping off point, sounding inexplicably like a faded collision of Young Chop and Lana Del Rey, and offering a rare peek into the producer’s forthcoming Chicago-focused mixtape Out Of Towner Vol.1.
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Ron Morelli’s L.I.E.S. imprint has pretty much bossed the last 18 months, and don’t be surprised if another homespun, Brooklyn-based house/techno label has a similarly charmed 2014. No-frills imprint White Material have caught notice with releases from the gorgeous Galcher Lustwerk and label co-founder DJ Richard, but we’d say the one to keep an eye trained on is fellow label director White Male – check the rough-cut, acid-inflected All R 12″ for evidence.
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Beato’s been grinding in 2013, and has probably amassed a more substantial release history – a split with Bookworms, a killer EP on FunkinEven’s Apron imprint, and a three-track peach for L.I.E.S. – than most others on this list, but we think the Miami teenager is still at the bottom of a career trajectory that could reach some very impressive heights indeed. ‘Respect The 78’ is his most auspicious 2013 offering – a long, labyrinthine piece of electro, as viewed through Kowton’s dirt-smeared kaleidoscope. More, please -and soon.
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Tehbis has been heavily repped by UK-based beat scene lynchpin Kutmah – a co-sign we can always get down with. On the evidence of his Soundcloud, he’s yet to quite nail his sound, flitting from juke to head-nod to electro-soul, but, on the testimony of more than one beat freak we’ve spoken to, we’ve a hunch 2014 is going to be showing him all sorts of favours.
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