“I think it’s a bit of a mixed bag, to be honest. It took me a while to embrace it. Initially, I felt it was like riding on somebody’s coat tails and that’s not how I was raised, so I shied away from it. And it’s not how our relationship has worked: he’s a tough one and he doesn’t really give you… you have to be really good for him to say anything!”
Deva Mahal is talking about her father Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, better known to the world as Taj Mahal, beginning another interview on a subject with which she has become very familiar over the years – that of familial influence and industry connection. To be fair, it’s an elephant in a still small-ish room: when you’re the daughter of a Grammy-winning, bona fide legend of the blues, people are going to ask. How could they not?
He’s had plenty of hits in-between times, but Romain Virgo’s last full-length album was 2012’s The System. The 28-year-old Jamaican singer explored reality themes on that one, whereas his latest, again released on VP Records, is a different kind of album entirely.
Romain wanted Love Sick, named after a recent smash, to have broad appeal, which means the balance is now tipped in favour of love songs. That’s how he started out after all, although we’re still talking about music of real merit rather than anything too contrived. There’s a tremendous amount of talent, hard work and careful planning gone into this project and if he’s to significantly expand his audience, this is the album that’s supposed to make it happen.
“It’s a big step,” he agrees. “There’s been a lot of growth since 2012… ”
Provocative titles in music are nothing new. However, Sons Of Kemet’s new album Your Queen Is A Reptile is liable to raise eyebrows by any standards – all the more so as it falls just a few months short of a grandstand event in the British [as well as international social calendar] this year: a royal wedding, to which American presidents old and new, black and white, enlightened and bigoted, seek a gilded invitation. For some it’s the party of the year.
Among the flag waving subjects one might not see saxophonist and founder-leader of Sons Of Kemet Shabaka Hutchings.
“I came up with a title a long time ago,” he says, sipping red wine at Café OTO in Dalston, East London. “The thinking around this area stuck with me: in some ways the ‘Your Queen Is A Reptile’ is the aggressive part of the total picture… ”
Ty’s an artist with an eye on the long haul. He thinks in terms of albums, careers, legacies.
“I try and deliver quality music that’s gonna last longer than a year” he says. “I’m not trying to fit into the competition of who’s the top MC or the top producer. I’m not trying to win a race.”
It’s partly why he hasn’t hurried to release an album since 2010’s Special Kind of Fool. There was an EP in 2013, Kick Snare And An Idea, but in the gap between Fool and new album Work Of Heart much has changed in music, especially for independent artists.
“My albums cost money to make,” he says. “And what’s happened is the music game is shifting. It’s shifting to the point where an artist like myself can’t spend money on making a record and mixing and mastering… ”