IT’S A meeting of musical values as well being a perfect colour match: the none-more-esteemed Blue Note Records, 82 years in the game, has announced that the latest addition to its proud roster, the bright Afrojazz textures of London’s Blue Lab Beats, will release their first album for the label, Motherland Journey, on February 25th.
Blue Lab Beats is the twosome of producer NK-OK and multi-instrumentalist Mr DM; and. as with all such potent musical venturers, they grew from bedroom producing into carving out a name for themselves, blooding in the world of remixes for Dua Lipa and Rag’N’Bone Man.
But it wasn’t long until they flowered beyond that, splicing together their love for the sound of the London hip-hop underground and the classics of the pioneering days of Sugar Hill and the like, with the musics coming out of Africa and the African diaspora, giving it that all-important London twist and brightness.
Their recorded CV includes the 2017 EP, Freedom, which set out a bold sonic manifesto on the track “Sam Cooke & Marvin Gaye,” placing themselves in the very best of lineages; a first album, XOver, followed quickly via The Society Of Sound audiophile community.
Last year saw them and Blue Note begin to flutter eyelashes at each other in the most positive way with an appearance as part of the reworkings project, Blue Note Re:imagined; the relationship went public with a debut EP early this year. They’ve played Glastonbury, of course they have; racked up streams well into eight figures; supported Roy Ayers and Thundercat and brought this year to a giddy close with a sold-out, hometown show at Hootananny in Brixton.
It’s all looking bright, and how; and wrap those earbuds around the title track from Motherland Journey, bright, grand highlife jazz that encompasses the musical flavours of New York, Africa, and London – and featuring no less than Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti lining up alongside Ghanaian producer KillBeatz.
NK-OK and Mr DM just can’t wait to get started; to get this record out and heard. “This album took us two and a half years to finish, our longest process to make an album, but it was so worth it,” they enthuse.
“On this album you’ll hear many fusions of genres and inspirations that we gathered throughout that time frame; especially to work on so many of the songs during the first lockdown was a test in itself.
“We had to figure out so many different ways to achieve what we exactly wanted sonically and having Blue Note to help us achieve that was an absolute blessing.
!Many of the vocal features and instrumentalists on this album are great friends of ours and it’s just so amazing to have family on this album.”
They whittled down a huge initial selection of some 70 demos and rough cuts to the 17 they’re ready to present to you – that curation includes previous single drops such as “Labels”, “Blow You Away (Delilah)” and “Sensual Loving,” and sees a host of great collaborators on board, including Ghetto Boy and Kiefer.
“Motherland Journey is an extremely special album to us,” they conclude.