Today (27 January) sees the release of NEW GEN, the party / radio show / label / music collective curated by former GRM Daily editor Caroline SM and made possible by XL Recordings.
Showcasing a snapshot of the UK’s most exciting young talent – AJ Tracey, Jevon, Stefflon Don, Ray BLK – the compilation is essential listening for anybody hoping to keep a grasp on the UK underground.
The record is out now. After hours spent in a basement studio in Dalston, these 17 tracks from this cast of young, hungry artists is ready. To celebrate, we asked chief A&R Caroline SM and Executive Producer Renz to break down the record, track-by-track.
Welcome to the New GenAvelino, Bonkaz
Caroline: This song was made randomly at 4AM in Red Bull Studios, Bonkaz and OG Maco had a session that got cancelled so Avelino came and they just started barring. This is kind of like a sequel to a track they have called Shine. It was never gonna make the album but when we listened back to all the tunes recorded in that time period we were like, wow, there’s no better way to start off this album than with 2 of the originators.
Renz: I wasn’t in the session for this one but I’ve been in the studio with both Avelino and Bonkaz more than enough to expect greatness. But when I heard this record I was blown away. It was only fitting that this song kicked off the album.
Rather Get MoneyTE Dness
Renz: TE is one of the first artists we connected with through New Gen and he was on the first New Gen Live show. When we first made this record it was missing something that a TE record usually brings, everybody wanted to scrap it and start again apart from me and [Producer] Nyge, we reworked the beat and TE rerecorded his verses and voila! One of the biggest bangers on the album.
Caroline: Ray BLK has a really specific recording process, so we tried to make it as comfortable as possible. I think there was only 3 or 4 of us in the studio (tiny in comparison to the huge amount in every other session). One of our producers, Jevon, who made the track really encouraged Ray to rap, I believe this was the first record she ever rapped on a song. It’s a really special one.
My WaysAJ Tracey, J Warner
Renz: One of my favourite songs on the album, AJ came in, felt the vibes, wrote and recorded his verses and everybody in the studio was loving it but the hook just wasn’t sitting right. We tried at least 4 different hooks with different artists as well, it’s only when the magician that is J Warner came in and heard the song that we had a solution, it only took him about 30 minutes as well, legend!
Man of the HourJevon
Caroline: Here’s another one that was never gonna make the album. One day Jevon was working on his own in the studio and he just made this demo using a wicked Nina Simone sample. We knew the sample would be hard to clear so I said just make another track. As time passed I kept going back to this demo and it just felt so London, the story he was telling was captivating. I asked Jevon to finish it, there was no way it couldn’t make the album.
All Saints RoadNew Gen
Caroline: Avelino and Tiggs created a proper reggae rap vibe on Ring The Alarm that was nostalgic to us all and from a London perspective, reminded us of Notting Hill Carnival. We wanted a skit to sit before it and felt like it needed to represent the vibe of being at carnival. Its called All Saints Road because that’s a street in West that carnival goes down.
Ring The AlarmAvelino, Tiggs Da Author
Renz: The whole journey of this song is amazing, it started off as a sort of Jay Z / Linkin Park – Encore stadium song but it just wasn’t clicking at the time. We were all sitting in the studio racking our brains over it until Jevon flipped the breakdown and it gave the song a whole new lease on life, he cut the verses to make space for a hook (for Tiggs). Av came back in and heard a whole new song. He loved it so much he wrote new verses, we watched the song really evolve. Amazing stuff.
Money Haffi MekStefflon Don, Abra Cadabra
Caroline: This was the last track we made for the album. Stef is extremely talented and with her fast rise since, we’d begun the recording process but all recognised we couldn’t wrap the album up without her. Stef had this demo for a song she’d made with producers KZ and Sokari, we brought it into the New Gen Studio and Jevon worked with them to bring it to life. Stef added another fire verse and decided we needed Abra Cadabra to come and bless it with a feature.
Renz: Funny story about this song, I had the idea in my head for some time and it was me and Nyge in the studio, we had some time between the next sessions so we just brought my idea to life, if I tell the truth I wasn’t feeling it until Nyge flipped the beat and Caroline practically forced me to finish it!
Caroline: The original version wasn’t working, I asked Renz to do a singing version and a full rap version. We were trying to decide which one to go with but I had a brain wave! I asked Nyge to put the singing hook on the rap tune. It just worked. Certified club anthem.
Top FloorYxng Bane
Caroline: Bane came to so many sessions (even ones that weren’t his), he’s a proper vibes man. Working closely with all of the New Gen producers in general, he was just churning out tracks. In the end we just picked the one which fitted the sonic of the album best. To be honest, all of them were hits. Look out for him.
Renz: The thing I love about this song is that when 67 came into the studio they had no idea at all about the New Gen jackets. We wanted to keep that raw energy that 67 have but put them on a different beat, Jevon and Nyge really came up with something perfect.
Caroline: The studio was freezing, me and Scribz were sitting under everyone’s jackets. When we had the tune we were like, ‘What the hell we gonna call this?’ Then I had the brainwave, it had to be Jackets. 67 blessed it. Jackets it was. Jevon was doing some post production a few weeks later while Nines was in the studio working on his album. He heard the track and thought it was crazy. He asked if he could talk some shit on the start and end of it. Obviously we got gassed and said yeh. I was too scared to tell 67 for a while but when they heard it they loved it!
Life SupportBonkaz, Tiggs Da Author
Renz: This song was one of the early sessions, it might have even been the second session we did. Bonkaz is a pioneer of New Gen alongside myself and Caroline. The subject matter on this song is so deep and has so many different layers to it but Bonkaz’s ability to paint a picture with words is amazing especially when you see him do it without having to write anything down!
Caroline: One time I was in the studio with Bonkaz, Jevon and Dotty and the session was over. We were all drinking and chilling. Jevon starting playing the piano and Bonkaz and Dotty just began freestyling back to back. Dotty started rapping a track and it was so emotional. Literally me and Bonkaz just stopped being loud and watched him rap with Jevon playing the piano. It was so raw. I hit him up the next day and told him he had no choice but to do that on the album. Everyone who hears it is touched by that track. You’re going to hear a lot more from Dotty this year.
Caroline: A2 is one of a kind, and we had to respect that. It was actually only me and him in the session to make this track. He produced it himself after hearing the rest of the album and coming to some sessions so he really got what the sonic was that we were trying to piece together. I watched him make the beat on fruity loops for hours and hours. He recorded the track at home and sent it to me. It’s classic A2, and his fans will definitely love it.
Say Those Words AgainJ Warner
Renz: This was actually the first session we did for the album, he raised the bar very high. J had sent this track as a demo version to Caroline, for Bonkaz, and when she played the song to me we had an hour-long conversation. It definitely sparked the idea of doing the album.
Caroline: Without this song the album wouldn’t exist. J is a singer/songwriter, he sent me the track as a demo for Bonkaz. It’s safe to say I never passed it on (lol). I told J to forget he ever made it. I sent it to Renz and Anthony, we unanimously decided it was too special. Me and Renz had the idea for a New Gen mixtape but this sounded like an album intro. Thus, the album began with J Warner. It could only go one way with a track this amazing.