The world of hip hop has changed a lot recently. Ten years ago there was a set sound and identity, you were either a backpack rapper, a charting artist, or an old boom bap head, and even those weren’t mutually exclusive categories. Now, there are so many types of rapper that the genre is an almost constant state of flux; as soon as one trend becomes dominant, another emerges to take its place.
This shift is thanks in large part to artists experimenting with the genre’s form, from Death Grips to Lil Uzi Vert, the most popular strands of hip hop today would be unrecognisable to many of the genre’s fans a decade ago. Unless you listened to dälek that is. The New Jersey group were fusing wild experimentation and noise with hip hop as far back as the mid-90s and have become one of the cult acts for both experimental music fans and avant-garde hip hop fans alike.
Jump forward to today and founding member Alap Momin, aka Oktopus, has teamed up with Jan Johansen of Danish band GLORYBOX for new project, Third Culture Kings. Their debut single ‘Flamingo’, premiering today on Notion, fuses that same experimentation with elements of neo-RnB, soul, indie and beyond, to create a truly genre-defying piece of music. Like much of Momin’s work, ‘Flamingo’ leaves the listener challenging their preconceptions, however, unlike dälek, Third Culture Kings consider themselves, in the broadest sense, to be pop. ‘Flamingo’ opens with gently plucked guitar and hazy vocals that wouldn’t sound amiss on a Frank Ocean cut. Gradually more layers build up, and the track finds a solid groove; UK house and doo-wop finding their way into the mix as it progresses. On paper, it shouldn’t work, but it’s testament to Momin’s skill behind the boards that all these elements come together in the most natural way imaginable.
That fusion of styles and influences is even more impressive when you consider the fact that the vast majority of the instrumental parts were recorded on an iPhone. Johansen explains: “‘Flamingo’ came about in an untraditional manner, at least in my world. I have never before worked under parameters, or been given a specific assignment; specific influences, targeting for where this song could be aired and how it would actually sound very different when played live. If anyone who wasn’t Alap Momin gave me these rules, I would have told them to jump in the sea. But I took the challenge. On this song, I did get to do a few vocal takes until the stream of consciousness was somewhat coherent. I think the lyrics are about lust. Most of the overdubs on this song were field recordings on an iPhone where I would play some instruments I found in my house or in some other studio. Then, with the song in mind, I would jam out, and Alap would then take the recordings and integrate them into the song.” Listen to the premiere above.
Third Culture Kings’ debut album Is That Light You Carry? is out 18th August via 100.000/Internet & Weed.
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