How Afro B captured the sound of UK Afrobeats for the MOVES compilation
Released today (19 May), MOVES is a 21-track documentation of the sound of UK Afrobeats.
Linked with artists like J Hus, Kojo Funds and Belly Squad, the sound is built on a fusion of hip hop, UK rap, dancehall and Afrobeats.
The compilation was curated by – and features a track from – Afro B, a London artist who exists at the centre of the scene and is acutely tuned-in to the artists behind the movement.
To celebrate the release of MOVES and to learn more about how the compilation was put together, we caught up with Afro B to talk about the sound and unpack the recipe.
How would you describe the mixture of sounds which go in to UK Afrobeats?
It’s either very traditional and percussion focused with a specific rhythm pattern or it’s a fusion between elements of different genres. Mainly dancehall, hip-hop and of course Afrobeats. The UK Afrobeats artists sometimes take references and flows from old-school RnB songs or dancehall and African melodies.
For those who aren’t aware, what’s the DNA and history of the sound which brought us to the current wave?
A lot of young Africans that were raised in the UK have Caribbean friends; this had a major influence on the type of slang they used on a daily basis and the type of music they listened to. Before Afrobeats was well established in the UK, it was predominately dancehall and hip-hop / RnB that were the hottest genres. This really played a big part on the current wave because artists have now fused everything into one genre with the sounds they were brought up on. An artist called Naira Marley really launched the sound with a song entitled Marry Juana. This was a dancehall instrumental with Naira sing-rapping over it, using African melodies and UK slang.
What, if any, would you define as the key characteristics of the sound?
Artists using African & dancehall melodies over an instrumental that is fused with elements of Hip/Rnb, dancehall and Afrobeats. The percussion determines how traditional the song is.
Which artists and tracks in particular stand out as strong examples of the UK Afrobeats spirit and vibe?
Afro B, J Hus, Kojo Funds, Abra Cadabra, Yxng Bane
Any particular tracks?
Afro B ft Yxng Bane – Juice and Power
Kojo Funds – Warning (This has the dancehall melodies with an African rhythm instrumental)
J Hus – Did You See
What do you think it is about the sound which has captured the attention of so many young people?
It has a feel good vibe. An artist can be sing rapping about the rawest topic but you cant help but to move your feet because of the vibe of the song.
What do you think will happen next for the sound and the scene?
MOVES is a reflection of what the sound is currently like in the UK with Afrobeats. It shows the various lanes artists are using, whether it is full on traditional or the fusion. This new sound is getting frequent co-signs from major artists and celebrities. The sound is going to leave the underground and become the norm!
Were you present for any sessions where these tracks were recorded? What was the vibe like?
Yes! The Veeiye, Bedrock song, it was very uplifting, sharing melodies, picking out what was best for the track, bouncing off eachother.
My song, Lover, started with Team Salut [producers]. They sent the instrumental, and as soon as I like an instrumental an idea will pop up in my head. He put down an idea and I just put down the chorus minutes after, then built the song from there. I kinda started off with them [Team Salut], very early in my career they really saw the vision and helped me excel to get to the next level.
Do you have any favourite tracks from the compilation?
The Bace one, 50 T.A.P., the NSG song We Dey, Bedrock as well. And obviously Lover.
What sort of presence do you think these tracks will have this summer? Where can people expect to hear them?
From the clubs in universities to the clubs in the cities, up and coming radio stations like Radar, Rinse, Reprezent, and 1XTRA, Capital XTRA.
The sound dominates the University scene, if a song breaks through that scene, 9 out of 10 times it’ll break through the mainstream and get played on radio, that’s where the song will build it’s buzz. Hertfordshire, Luton, Leicester, Birmingham, even up to Manchester, sometimes down south with Cantebury, Brighton, Portsmouth a lot of the students are from London and cause they’re going so far for university it’s spreading more than ever.
The album is out now! What are you hoping people get out of the MOVES compilation?
I just want the sound to expand, and reach different heights. Obviously it’s had an impact, but I think there’s still more juice to squeeze from it.