I’ve had a run of acts come my way of late that fall into the broad hip-hop/rap spectrum and who claim to be really pushing the boundaries of what the genre can be as we move forward into a new era. Most, however, has been the sonic equivalent of dropping a hand grenade into the middle of the listener’s expectations and then trying to rearrange the debris into new and pleasing shapes. Sure, you really shake things, and then some, but you also find that the result is normally, well…a total disaster.
What is so clever about Damian Redd’s approach at finding new ways forward, new directions for hip-hop, rap and the various urban music threads which lie at the core of this music is that instead of pushing outwards into more tenuous and fractured realms, as some artists are trying to do, he instead looks inward to pop, chilled dance floor beats and even 80’s infused electronica to create his sound. Whereas so many of his fellow artists are trying to create music by blending disparate genres which have no business hanging out with each other into chimeric and unsatisfying new styles, Redd reunites hip-hop with its pop roots.
And the result is the best of both worlds as Caught in a Fantasy drives on a confident lyrical flow and some deep and intriguing scenarios being painted with those words but it is underpinned by a real old school synth motor-groove, trippy-trappy beats and some equally intriguing and intricate music details, glitchy sounds and strange peripheral motifs. Music is cyclical, we all know that, but the great thing is that every time a nostalgic sound or a long forgotten scene comes back into the zeitgeist of the current age, artists get a chance to reimagine it, reinvent it, use those original musical colours to paint anew.
And that is what Caught in a Fantasy is all about, it tips its hat to the past whilst shaping the future and it does really feel like a first, a bold step forward, a post-genre style that pushes beyond the rules and regulations, ignores the fickle finger of fashion and has no time for musical guardians and narrow-minded pedants telling it what hip-hop, pop, rap, electronic dance music or any other genre should be about. Actually, maybe we should stop using genres, labels, pigeon-holes altogether, after all it really is lazy journalists, like myself, who employ them to make our lives easier, after all Damian Redd clearly isn’t worried about genres and their narrow demarcations and maybe that is a lesson to all of us.