This Ain’t Hip Hop: Let’s Dance To Crooked Beats
There is a new sweet spot for electronic music and it lies at a languid 60 to 100 beats per minute.
It is the Andante for the trap generation, give or take a couple of beats.
Despite being at a tempo range that is traditionally reserved for hip hop and R&B, this new musical movement has in recent years attracted left-field bass musicians of all kinds with the promise of greater creative freedom, and the chance to make rules as often as they break them.
You might call it alt hip-hop, you might call it future bass, but it is neither—there are echoes of so many sub-genres from grime to halftime that it is impossible to determine where one ends and the other begins.
So, let’s call it crooked beats.
At the bleeding edge of this ‘not a genre’ is the North London outfit Ivy Lab, a super-producer duo famed for their ’20/20 LDN’ project at Brixton’s Phonox nightclub and their contribution to an ever-expanding musical dimension.
With a signature sound that has been evolving since they were made Mixmag’s ‘Top 10 DJs of 2015’ list, Ivy Lab takes the fringe ever further with their latest Press Play EP, where hypnotic vocals, reversed pads and acid house synths meet heavyweight beats in the titular track.
It’s not all grimey, if masked rapper CASISDEAD is anything to go by. In his latest release, he makes a dystopian comeback collab with ‘Park Assist’ together with La Roux and Com Truise in an ‘80s sci-fi trip complete with a fictional evil corporation called DeadCorp, and featuring a music video helmed by actor Ed Skrein.
The defining characteristic of this ‘genre within a genre’ of music is that there is none.
There are no hard and fast rules that say it needs to be “bangin’”, nor are there any prerequisites for entire tracks to be engineered around an earth-shattering drop.
The true freedom of making music between 60 to 100 beats per minute is that you can borrow from any existing genre from any tempo range, but you don’t need to abide by any of its conventions.
And it’s not just a UK ‘ting.
On the other side of the Atlantic, even the prodigious Amon Tobin has dabbled in this new vibe via his alias Two Fingers, while the likes of Eprom, Shades and a host of other US producers continue to tweak their way through this newfound acoustic alchemy.
The Stateside variety of these crooked beats, however, tend to be heavier and perhaps more festival-friendly, undoubtedly influenced by its origins in dubstep, glitch-hop, neurofunk and, of course, trap music, while the UK styles are painted in swathes of UK bass.
Not to jinx it but the longer there isn’t a real definition for this ‘genre within a genre’, the better. For more crooked beats, check out our playlist below.
For more articles relating to R&B or Hip-Hop, read about:
- The Evolution and History of R&B
- 1970s Hip-Hop in New York
- Kendrick Lamar and Conscious Rap
- Popular R&B Singers
- Kiana Lede
Cover Credit: Antoine J./Unsplash
Writer | Suffian Rahman
When not working on ad campaigns as a creative consultant, Suffian Rahman is either talking nonsense on Twitter or working on his next Soundcloud mixtape as Kamo.