British urban music has always had a deep legacy of strong statements combined with rhythm. It is undoubtly inherited from the Caribbean immigrants in the colonies. This explains how a journey was possible from Young, Black & Proud to the grime crew Murkage and their BBC ban, or from The Specials to Tricky and more recently, Young Fathers.
Black Britain, musically, has proved itself ever more focused, vocal, eclectic and cosmopolitan. It’s an ever-flowing sense of struggle-for-freedom music with strong accent on the reality of the authentic surroundings. As outcasts, black artists had nothing to lose, therefore the courageous messages in the songs, therefore the sonic experiments, and they had and still have the spine to speak their minds. Criticizing racism, abuse, youth manipulation, vile education and the dysfunctional system and politics.
In comes GAIKA, a phenomenon clearly rooted in this socio-political ungenreficable musical stream. It is the most special fusion. Not quite Vybz Kartel’s auto-tune dancehall, nor Roll Deep’s and Boy Better Know’s solid state grime, his sound bridges the gap between strange rap and droney-electro.
I realized late we first met awhile back, in 2012 when I was flabbergasted how cool Torches from Murkage sounded. The now-defunct experimental indie band WU LYF had posted it on social media, and it reached in Bucharest RO, to my feed. It comes as a surprise that now in 2016, after the mixtape Machine has been my top ten favorites of last years releases, I remember how it got started.
The concept behind Machine feels to me as futuristic as Kode9 & The Spaceape’s Memories of the Future, The Bug’s London Zoo, Kuedo’s Severant, and Mark Pritchard work with Africa HiTech and Harmonic 313. I feel that these guys have created sci-fi dystopic musical canvases.
Of no surprise it is that after this self-released premium quality and conceptually compact mixtape, Machine (referring in the same time to a young man’s best friend, his gun), his second effort, the Security mixtape comes out within the alternative-dancehall-soca label Mixpack. While the debut was a revolution, the warrioring is not over, it is now morphed into fun, a power tool directed at clubbing and social critique, for the dance halls!
Rock solid sonic-wise, as well as with the same surgical attention to detail as his debut, Security sees this young artist continuing his manic drive towards weird twisted popularity. Ten more extreme tunes, real jewels about life under the neon lights, contemporary gang rules, their members unpredictable futures, rock star self-sufficiency (take Keith Richards for granted), urban estate symbols and a e-shop like display of firearm cause and effect solutions.
This time Security features all the credited collaborations and it’s an amazing rooster. The casting director is worth all that Hollywood doe: The Bug affiliated MC Miss Red, the Toddla T affiliated Serocee, Mista Silva, Trigga, 6Cib, August+Us and frequent collaborator present on Machine as well, Bipolar Sunshine. Without undermining all the ten tracks my favorite are GKA, Buta, PMVD, Knuckleduster, World Star. A special gem is also In Between, a unique duet that feels like a kaleidoscopic revelation and ID for GAIKA, the motto of his avangardist attitude. No wonder he made it into The Guardian, on the cover of WIRE Magazine and on Afro Punk.
His heart and soul lies in his multi-layered inspiration: ambiance-wise from residencies like Amsterdam, Berlin, London and Manchester, visually from fictions like Point Blank and Ghost in the Shell, musically from Prince, the amazing Peter Tosh, The Melvins and Skepta. Comparisons are weird innit? Some people said GAIKA is London’s Basquait (I wonder if those people ever listened to Jean Michel’s music) and even, Kevin The Bug Martin, sees him as the collision of Vybz Kartel with Coil. Some have called his music occult funeral music and gothic grime.
What definitely seemed like a PR scheme but has been confirmed by himself, he is the son of a scientist and brother of a robotics engineer. Could a context like that affect the music you make? Doesn’t Machine/Security sound like the name of a sci-fi book written by, let’s say, Philip K. Dick? What is GAIKA building? Or communicating? In the future the best is yet to come!