Just like the rest of us, Marea Stamper, aka The Blessed Madonna, has taken up new hobbies in lockdown. Embroidery? Check. Bread baking? Check. A DJ mix for a global pop phenomenon with 13 remixers, features from three of the most successful women in contemporary music, and 11 additional samples? Check.
Over the last few months, Dua Lipa and Stamper have been busy transforming the pop superstar’s March-released second album into Club Future Nostalgia, a glittering, dancefloor-ready mixtape. “It was totally in my wheelhouse,” Stamper recalls when she first heard of the opportunity, “I asked my team to do whatever they could to make it happen.” Ahead of the initial Zoom with Lipa’s team, Stamper wondered, would they be suits? Or would they be heads? The latter, it turned out, for it was a collaboration with great synergy — many of Stamper’s initial suggestions for remixers had already been contacted. “Dua is good and smart and sharp and brilliant,” Stamper says, “everything was clicking, it felt like something very special was happening.”
Back when Club Future Nostalgia was just a concept, Stamper was working under the alias The Black Madonna. The name has its roots in Stamper’s family and her faith, but urgent conversations about Black lives in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, plus a petition started by DJ Monty Luke calling on Stamper to change her DJ alias, caused her to rightly reconsider her use of the word Black, as a white artist in a world owed entirely to Black musicians. “We’re in this historic moment,” Stamper explains, “of course the word Black should go through the prism of race.” On July 20th, Stamper announced that she would cease the use of the name.
With a stream of ideas “flying through the internet at enormous speeds,” lockdown has been an intense time of working for Stamper. She’s been holed up in her home studio for months, “like Jack Nicholson in The Shining”, she chuckles. But what better time, when the world is on pause, to get stuck into the project of a lifetime? “Honestly, this saved my life,” she says, “to have this miracle dropped in my lap, at a time unlike any we have lived through.” A sufferer of severe asthma, lockdown hasn’t lifted for Stamper in the same way it has for many of us in the UK, but Club Future Nostalgia has offered so much more than relief. “It’s opened up a whole new world in terms of what I’m able to do as an artist,” she says, “and that is a gift I will never be able to repay.”
Future Nostalgia (Joe Goddard Remix)
The perfect opener. The lyrics of this song express the energy of the mix, something that’s both futuristic and nostalgic. There aren’t many mixes like this where you take a whole album, remix all the tracks and put it together as a whole new thing. So in that way, I wanted to push things forward, while also looking backwards because the mixtape itself is an older format. I wanted to set the tone for everything lyrically, and “Future nostalgia” are the first words you hear. Joe’s remix is really great, it sounds just like him.
Cool (Jayda G Remix)
This is definitely one of the remixes I’d be most likely to play in a set. Jayda is a ray of sunshine. I think this is the best record that she’s done, it’s so fun and energetic, young and fresh. Jayda’s energy pairs so neatly with Dua’s, they were the most natural combination. For me, this is pitch-perfect.
Good in Bed (Zach Witness & Gen Hoshino Remixes)Samples: Neneh Cherry – Buffalo Stance, Art of Noise – Moments in Love
I think I went way past what you would necessarily file under a DJ mix here, I took great liberty with this section, it’s such a fun record, I added sound effects and ad-libs, chopped and deconstructed each remix into the other. It’s mostly Gen Hoshino’s remix that you hear, I love how he’s amplified the cheekiness of the original. Then I took the synth part of Moments in Love and pitched it up to be in key with Good in Bed. The “gigolo” lyric from Buffalo Stance is scratched in throughout the track, to go with that idea of having somebody you don’t have an emotional attachment to. We got Mark [Ronson] to do a call in and request Neneh Cherry, so when the first verse comes in, it’s like a radio interlude
Pretty Please (Midland Refix)
This is another one that I would play out a lot. This remix is incredible, I love the way that [Midland] made it this meditation on a UK sound. It’s totally got his spirit and it feels like a really queer record to me, especially in the way he uses the vocal. It’s so soulful, and full of all the things that make him an incredible artist. When [this] remix came in, that was the moment I knew we were heading towards something special, I was so touched when I first heard it.
Pretty Please (Masters at Work Remix)Sample: Cajmere – Percolator
Masters at Work were a strong reference point for me because they’ve done so many pop remixes that are so good and uncompromising. House heads will tell you that one of their greatest remixes is of Debbie Gibson’s Losin’ Myself. If anybody proves you can work in the medium of pop remixes and always have your own stamp on it, it’s them. So they were a natural ask from the beginning, and this remix is really cool, it reminds me of a sweet time in New York garage. Then I just put Percolator on top of it!
Boys Will Be Boys (Zach Witness Remix)Sample: Lyn Collins – Think
Zach is a brilliant producer who worked on Erykah Badu’s But You Cain’t Use My Phone mixtape in 2015. I’m obsessed with that mix. I was thrilled when I heard Zach was an option for remixes, and I love what he did with Boys Will Be Boys. It’s a fun return to this big room, chunky club sound. Then the automatic reference point for me was to bring in a Baltimore sound, hence the Think break. Zach’s remix didn’t include the verses, so I remixed his remix, adding in Dua’s verses and the Lyn Collins break.
Love Again (Horse Meat Disco Remix)
This is perfect from Horse Meat Disco, it sounds exactly like I wanted it to, and it’s a nice reprieve in the middle of the mix. The first half is super clubby. We’ve got Jayda, we’ve got Midland, we’re fully in club world, but this drops things down to cruising, just as you would at a party. It’s that moment in the night you can start to play disco, a phenomenal moment.
Break My Heart / Cosmic Girl (Dimitri from Paris Dubwize Remix)Sample: Jamiroquai – Cosmic Girl (Dimitri from Paris Edit)
If you have Jamiroquai, Dua Lipa and Dimitri from Paris on your 2020 bingo card, then you’ve won! Early in the project Dua mentioned that a big reference for her was Jamiroquai, and I knew I wanted to find something off the beaten path. I found this version, which I think exists only on vinyl. Dimitri’s edit is so good, so dubby, it feels like a Salsoul Orchestra record and it highlights the brilliance of the original Jamiroquai track.
Levitating (The Blessed Madonna Remix ft. Madonna & Missy Elliott)
At first, my Levitating remix was all Dua’s verses, and then there was discussion that Madonna might be in on it too. I am a big, huge, crazy, serious Madonna fan. And then Missy’s bit came in, which was especially cool as Dua and I had both requested her separately, and I sort of Frankensteined these three ideas together to make the arrangement. It’s the ultimate dream come true, I think Dua and I were equally excited and the outcome exceeded everything I thought I’d be allowed to do. I’m surprised anyone let me do it, and I’ll be surprised if I ever get the chance to do something like this again
Hallucinate (Mr Fingers deep stripped mix)Samples: Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl, Barbara Mason – Another Man
Larry [Heard] is such a sweet man, somebody I love that I see on the road all the time. He and Dua share some of the same team, and so I was encouraged — Ha, no problem! — to use Larry’s work and to think about his catalogue. I wanted to incorporate this Mr Fingers’ mix as well as Paul Woolford’s, to create this meditation on Hallucinate. Barbara Mason’s Another Man is a foundational record for me, the beat is unbelievable. And as for Gwen [Stefani], past being just a DJ mix, this mix is also about women in pop, so Gwen was a natural choice. Hollaback Girl is one of the strangest, coolest pop records that has ever existed. It has that characteristic Neptunes sparseness that I think about a lot, opening things up and giving the beat and the kick space. I feel the same space in the Barbara Mason record, so I put them all together.
Hallucinate (Paul Woolford Extended Remix)Sample: Larry Heard Presents Mr. White – The Sun Can’t Compare
Mr. White is from Memphis and I’m from Kentucky, so we grew up in the same corner of the rave scene and had a lot of the same friends. The Sun Can’t Compare is, for sure, one of the best records ever made, and because I was encouraged to do things involving Larry, this was one of my first ideas. It’s so trippy, it goes nicely with Hallucinate, and it gives everything a moment to breathe before Paul Woolford’s ravey remix, which quickly brings the energy back up. Paul is undefeated, one of the greatest living producers of dance music. It was a no brainer, and I was really thrilled to have him on the mix.
Love Is Religion (The Blessed Madonna Remix)
Love Is Religion has been a favourite amongst Dua Lipa super fans, and her team said I could remake it as a club record. I think it’s an epically beautiful song, and it does everything I love in dance music — euphoric sunrise moments. Being able to make that kind of record with a song like that was a great honour.
Don’t Start Now (Yaeji Remix)Samples: Gaz – Sing Sing, Robert Owens – Bring Down the Walls
I had this one in my head for about two months. Yaeji usually features her own voice, so it was interesting to see what she did with Dua’s. I really love it, the end result comes back to that Baltimore club sound. Gaz’s Sing Sing break is almost a genre of its own, so I took that and cut it underneath, did this little back and forth with that and a bit of Bring Down the Walls underneath what Yaeji’s done. I think again, this went past what I was really being asked to do, but by this point in the process I was right down the rabbit hole.
Physical (Mark Ronson Remix ft. Gwen Stefani)
I mean, Mark Ronson! Also undefeated, a low-level god amongst men. The original is so energetic, and Mark just goes and slides into this slinky, crawly, growly electro thing. It pulls out a new side of the record, it’s constantly stuck in my head. When we approached Gwen about clearing the sample she said, “well that’s great, but could I be on it?”. At this point, the mix was done, I was sat here doing some embroidery (since we all live on Little House on the Prairie now), and my phone rang and it was Dua. She’s like “Hey! Um, so, Gwen Stefani might want to be on this! What track do you think? Do you have time? Can we do it?” It was so exciting, and I was like, “I can do whatever you want, I’ve nowhere to be.” It ended up that Gwen wanted to be on Physical. Her voice is perfect on that second verse, it makes a lovely companion for Dua’s.
Kiss and Make Up ft. BLACKPINKSample: Herb Alpert – Rise
Dua wanted to include features and collaborations she’d done in the past somehow, but I knew I wanted to do something a little different. People who know Herb Alpert know Herb Alpert, and people who know him through rap, know him through rap, because it’s been sampled by Puff Daddy. I wanted to make an extended version of it, so a young crowd could hear it in a completely new context. I got the vocals from Kiss and Make Up, and the parts of Rise, put them together and they were totally in key. I couldn’t believe it, it was a perfect fit. I don’t know what BLACKPINK are saying [in Korean] on that second verse, but they sound so tough and cool, just like Dua. This record has so much style and attitude, it’s great to see it through a different lens.
That Kind of Woman (Jacques Lu Cont Remix)Sample: Stevie Nicks – Stand Back
I loved Stevie’s brief period of electro-leaning stuff in the 80s, Stand Back is just a great record. I went looking for an a cappella, and it existed! I was delighted to be able to get this sample in and have this homage to the great Stevie Nicks. When we first posted the tracklisting, Stevie Nicks was trending for like an hour. I loved seeing people get excited about her in the context of this thing we’re doing. She’s the queen, everyone’s witchy godmother, and somebody I admire so much. There’s a lot of demigods that appear on this mixtape and Stuart Price (Jacques Lu Cont) is one of them, he’s made a phenomenal record.
Break My Heart (Moodymann Remix)
Moodymann was number one on the fantasy remixer list. I own just about every record Kenny has ever made, and I think about his music constantly. Right at the last minute, as deadlines were looming and I wasn’t sure it would work out, Kenny sent in two versions of his remix. If there’s anybody that you want to present in their entirety, it’s Kenny, I wanted to give him his due place of honour, so we put the whole thing on there. What he’s done is, I think, one of the most brilliant pop remixes I’ve ever heard. He doesn’t change the record so much as he finds the heart of it and meditates on it. There was nothing to do other than to let him have that space, it was the honour of my life to have him involved.
Club Future Nostalgia is out now via Warner Records.