The new R&B: Rhythm and bass

Each successive generation of musicians brings its own group of influences to the table. For a rising group of electronic music producers, this means mining the catalog of turn-of-the-century R&B in the service of soulful, hook-laden dubstep, funky and bass tracks. Producers like Timbaland and Magoo loom as large as Burial and Joker for these twentysomething DJs, and for good reason: their groundbreaking R&B dominated the charts for the better part of these producers’ formative years.

Last year, I profiled Deadboy, whose limited catalog is already filled with reworkings of familiar R&B tracks. Along with takes on songs by Cassie and Ashanti, his latest is a “slo-mo house edit” of the downtempo Drake / Alicia Keys jam “Fireworks.” Deadboy’s is an improvement on the original, as he pitches up Keys’ chorus and drops Drake’s pedestrian verses. His remix of the Burial-produced “Night Air,” by UK crooner Jamie Woon, adds a funky beat and soaring synths; he also can’t resist chopping up Woon’s vocals in the chorus.

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/fireworks.mp3″ text=”Drake – Fireworks (Deadboy Slo-mo House Edit)” dl=0]
[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/night_air.mp3″ text=”Jamie Woon – Night Air (Deadboy Remix)”]

Meanwhile, Future Grooves featuree Kavsrave has been dabbling with the soulful side luvstep. His Numbers EP Quotes features the surging bass of the dubstep derivative, with samples similar to those utilized by Deadboy. His as-of-yet unreleased “Deluded” flips the chorus of “Replacement Girl,” pitchshifting the vocals and seemingly changing the gender of singer Trey Songz.

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/deluded.mp3″ text=”Kavsrave – Deluded” dl=0]

For fans of the critically-acclaimed James Blake, the R&B underpinnings of his self-titled debut are more obscured than on his earlier work. The dizzying “CMYK” relied on processed samples of Kelis and Aaliyah: hints of nostalgia in an otherwise forward-thinking song. It should be no surprise that Harmonimix, who crafted a jazzy, chiptune remix of “Bills Bills Bills,” was eventually revealed to be Blake: the 1999 hit would have been ubiquitous for the 22-year-old.

[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/CMYK.mp3″ text=”James Blake – CMYK” dl=0]

The latest Luvstep mix by Flufftronix and Dirty South Joe shined a spotlight on many of these producers, including Submerse and Psychonaught. Psychonaught’s “super tweaked RnB resteps” of tunes like “Nasty Girl” and “Birthday Sex” are available for free.

The greatest discovery off Luvstep 2, however, is Two Inch Punch. TIP is a self-described “frustrated Soul / RnB singer” who produces grooves with influences that go even deeper than his contemporaries. The shimmering “Love You Up” and “Luv Luv” will be self-released on April 4 in the UK.



The largely UK-driven explosion of bass music has been a Godsend for an electronic music scene at the tail of the electro movement. For EDM fans who came of age when R&B dominated the airwaves, this new form of R&B – rhythm and bass – is a welcome mix of nostalgia and modernism.

Bonus: When they’re not putting out tropical bass, Nguzunguzu has gotten into the R&B fun, as well. They turned Ciara’s “Deuces” into Baltimore club, and their recent “Perfect Lullaby” mix for DIS Magazine launches with a remix of the classic “The Boy is Mine.” The entire mix is worth a listen:

MP3: NGUZUNGUZU – The Perfect Lullaby Mixtape (via DIS Magazine)

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