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Crate Digging: Toby Williams, Leland Music



The fifth episode in the music discovery and discussion series from Concord Recorded Music

Crate Digging: Toby Williams, Leland Music

Crate Digging is a music discovery platform where contributors take home and discuss two records from across Concord Recorded Music’s active and historical labels.

Toby Williams, music supervisor at Leland Music, reveals his top two finds. 

For a frontline pick, Denzel Curry has been a go-to artist for a while. I'm pretty sure the first time I took notice was his collaboration with Yung Simmie on "Threatz" in 2013. I'm fascinated by the rate of evolution in hip hop and the singular sounds that can come from a particular group of musicians, an era, or a location. In this case the Florida sound championed at the time by Raider Klan MCs and associated acts. To me it was an exciting twist on other key US rap styles of the time - hard and angular production and dark textures combined with technical vocal delivery. Denzel Curry’s UNLOCKED retains all of these brilliant elements and shows another step forward in terms of Denzel's flow which has always been hugely impressive.

I’d describe UNLOCKED as fierce but colourful. There are classic hip hop references to draw in the seasoned rap listener (Kenny Beats' broken beat rhythms, playful spoken word / vintage samples and restless beat juggling) but Denzel is a unique presence, hopping between relaxed and considered to explosive double-time delivery from line to line. His words are unusually pronounced and the moments where he roars with peak energy are exhilarating! There's fun and humour in here too, and he expertly plays with character over the similarly restless beats.

I’d go for "DIET_" as the standout track here. The hyper-modern production, its sparse and economical arrangement providing the backdrop for Denzel's vocal which is a brilliant exercise in building tension and energy. He starts effortlessly, easing into the rhythm before driving it forward and upwards. Technically speaking it is brilliant and perhaps more importantly it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

Naturally music like this needs a certain type of opportunity but they are out there. Kenny Beats' production is vivid and powerful and directly expresses itself - meaning that I can imagine a good connection with a visual that is driven by similar energies. Denzel's vocal is clear and technically so impressive with the variety of rhythms and tones. There's tons of shifting character to engage a viewer and the tracks have twists and turns that would be an editor's dream to work with.

Catalogue wise, I'm slightly embarrassed to say that my interest in Dale Warren's music was reverse engineered via The Numero Group's relatively recent retrospective "III". Though Ghetto: Misfortune's Wealth by 24-Carat Black is undoubtedly the masterpiece... It's a hugely cinematic concept album that stretches soul and funk into a widescreen and deeply engrossing style. It's classic production and ambitious form combine with patient and evocative storytelling. This is truly filmic music! And if you need convincing, check the number of artists who have sampled 24-Carat Black in recent times.

I’d describe Ghetto: Misfortune's Wealth as a journey through the artist's musical and political world. It takes much loved sounds and truly lush production and expresses the artist's environment in long-form. I think that anyone who has an interest in classic soul and black musical history will appreciate this album.

I would advise against taking any of these tracks in isolation. A true concept album - a listener will benefit from taking it in as a whole and from repeat listens. I am certainly nerdy enough to be seduced by this kind of creative ambition! But if I have to pick one moment... I'd advise settling into all 12 minutes of "Poverty's Paradise".

Ghetto: Misfortune's Wealth is undoubtedly cinematic and evokes a sense of story before even thinking about a visual. It clearly references era, culture and political landscape and as such would lend cinematic power to the right sort of sequence. Finding a sync moment that can carry the weight of it would be the challenge... though finding that instance where music like this clicks with film is the stuff that music supervisors dream of!

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Concord Label Group, Thu, 08 Jul 2021 09:16:56 GMT