At 6am in Massachusetts a man wakes up to an as-yet-uncracked dawn to begin what will be a busy September Wednesday, dealing high-end furniture to the well-heeled and discerning of America’s East Coast. Meanwhile, over in Turkey, in the South-Western city of Bodrum, a woman finishes up her midday gym session and sits down in early autumn sunshine, earphones plugged into laptop, ready for an online business meeting. Somewhere in the middle, not long after breakfast-time in London, sits your correspondent, having invited both to join him on a multi-time-zone Zoom call, with the object of putting them on the October cover of Echoes.
For the furniture guy is none other than Klive D’Farley, founder of and driving force behind New York-based outfit Dreemtime, a somewhat Incognito-ish aggregation of studio and live musicians, purveyors of ‘New York Lounge Funk’, and a movable feast that changes according to D’Farley’s will and creative instincts. The woman in Turkey is the redoubtable Maya Azucena, erstwhile New Yorker and neo-soul star of the early noughties…
“Hard work and dedication,” he spits back. “I just been working hard. I work myself to exhaustion. That’s the only way guys like me can survive.”
The Washington DC rapper is explaining how he’s gone the distance. Emerging as an internet tastemaker favourite back in the late ’00s, Wale is a man whose career turns have lent to a surprising journey in the eyes of many, maybe even Wale himself. It might be why he’s not taking anything for granted.
When it comes to rap’s changing tides, Wale is a wily navigator. Having started out rapping over go-go, he’s gone on to forge a reputation as a crowd-pleasing hitmaker who collaborates freely with everyone from Dua Lipa to Westside Gunn. That’s also made him a bit of an eyebrow raiser. You could never accuse Wale of being partisan.
“I’ve so many different influences: whatever I gravitate towards, I can rock with it,” he asserts. “If Garth Brooks wanted to do a record, I’d find out how it could work… ”
There are certain albums that are so familiar you can’t imagine wanting to hear them again – but then when you do, they sound fresh and evocative as ever. Carroll Thompson’s Hopelessly In Love, which Trojan have now reissued as a special 40thAnniversary edition with four extra tracks and liner notes written by the artist herself, is one of them.
That debut LP was voted ‘Best Ever Lovers Rock Album’ by Mojoreaders, although it’s a limited field, in truth, since few other lovers rock singers got to make albums, and we can’t think of any other young, female UK artist who was trusted to help out with production either. Carroll’s one of a kind, but that’s not to say she hadn’t earned her luck.
Born to Jamaican parents, she grew up in Letchworth, Herts where she was raised on a diet of jazz, reggae and soul singers including Sarah Vaughan, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick and Marcia Griffiths…
As Spice wasn’t available for an interview to help promote her latest album 10, what better stand-in than the instigator of her project and co-producer of all but a couple of tracks, Shaggy? He’s still an international superstar in his own right but that shouldn’t overshadow the fact that, since launching Ranch Entertainment in 2012, his parallel career as a studio and label owner/producer has continued to flourish.
Spice, who sees out her contract with VP Records with this album, initially contacted him to ask if he wanted to collaborate on a song. Shaggy agreed and invited Jamaica’s dancehall queen along to his New York studio.
“Firstly, I had to figure out what song I’m going to write for her, so I started to listen to her catalogue and realised that whilst she had great social media presence on YouTube and Instagram, she didn’t stream very well,” he told me. “I saw a pattern there, because some of the records she’d been doing weren’t all that well-produced and so, instead of giving her just the one song, I gave her four – because I couldn’t believe that she’d been at VP for so many years and still didn’t have an album! People were saying, ‘Oh Spice, she’s too raw!’ but I was like, ‘So what’s the difference between her and Cardi B, who was asked to perform at the Super Bowl? I went to see Chris at VP; we came to an agreement and, right from the start, I was really taken aback at how quick and professional she was, and how well she took instruction.”
Spice, who’s from Spanish Town, has reigned supreme in the female dancehall stakes for more than a decade, ever since she led a donkey on stage at Sting during a clash with Macka Diamond [whose career never recovered]…