Kamaal Williams Wu Hen Black Focus
Though undoubtedly a posterboy for the London jazz explosion, Kamaal Williams has always resisted categorisation. On his DJ-Kicks mix last year, the Peckham multi-instrumentalist paid homage to dance music forefathers like UK funky icon Hard House Banton and broken beat mastermind Seiji. His own music he dubs Wu funk – a blend of hip-hop, jazz, funk combined with the hallmarks of his hometown: grime, garage, dubstep.
As well as tapping into his musical heritage, his second solo album nods to his own family lineage (the title is the nickname his Taiwanese grandmother gave him as a toddler). ‘Wu’ itself translates to ‘gateway to heaven’, and from the get-go there’s an ethereal feel: harp flutters and shimmering violins from Flying Lotus collaborator Miguel Atwood-Ferguson swell on the opener Street Dreams before we’re catapulted sharply onto London roads with One More Time, bleeps playfully cutting into street chat samples. As well as channelling Herbie Hancock and Coltrane with tight-wound bass and tissue-paper hi-hats, Williams tries his hand at luxe R&B with the help of Lauren Faith on Hold On, and recruits rising Newark rapper Mach-Hommy for a likeable but all-too-brief snap verse on disco house cut Save Me.
With a push and pull of sonics but an underlying, undeniable groove throughout, Wu Hen finds Kamaal Williams as explorative as ever, the kind of album you’d only get from a proper crate-digger. Where drawing from such a wide palette might stump other musicians, Williams pulls it off with finesse.