'Never burning out' yU, prod Drew Dave (2014)

Totally love this production sound on this record, at one point when listening to it I wondered if I had left another track running on my low-fi sound system (this is being generous) played to my headphones via my computer, sounding as it does as if two divergent streams of music are running into each other, in waves.

There is a kind of slate-like quality to this sound, as if the music is in lines striking hard against each other that is swirling, but going nowhere and that tiny computerised click sound, a fragment of found noise. It could be an orchestra finding its tuning - the string sections first, as in Fantasia (though I can't find the clip from the film now).

The key sample draws on a particular sound (it sounds 1930s) and then layers it with something from a totally different era, but makes no effort to meld them together as we would expect. This music is not so much about the sounds being heard and then fading, but the primary elements battling each other for dominance, and yet this mix remains cool, mainly because of the elegant drum-beat. 

This music reminds me of this other, quintessentially radical moment in terms of the actual sound of the music, slipping and sliding all over the place:

Listening to this track from 1993 it's hard to distinguish the beat, which in a way seems like an affront to the hip-hop genre as a whole (though of course it's there providing the foundations). Verging on the unpleasant, such music takes a punk stance of refusing to be an object that can be easily enjoyed.  

Comparing yU/Drew Dave's recent music to the Gravediggaz might seem a bit weird, as each have a totally different atmosphere - that's obvious. But the use of the main sample strikes me as similar in the way it refuses any development. All elements in the Gravediggaz track are treated equally - the voices of the MCs; the beat and that dissonant noise - everything seems darkened, obscured, which adds to a general mood of claustrophobia and no escape. If you take the beat as the key element of hip-hop, the fact that it's not highlighted refuses us any certainty. It asks us to listen again and think differently about not just how the music sounds, but what it is. 

Thinking about this further then, what's interesting in terms of the Drew Dave production is the way it contrasts strongly against the explicit, upbeat delivery style of yU, who is very clear in the way he presents his worldview - it's a defining quality of what he does. In this sense, there is no real link with the way he presents and the paranoid griminess of the 90s New Yorkers, scraping their imaginations for dirt and debris, so for this reason this unexpected production is even more interesting. 

Indeed, yU has said that 'Never burning out' has a very clear subject, in that it is dedicated to his late father: 

I talked to the sun today. Said he was heated, going out of his mind.
He asked what the darkness was like, cuz everywhere he goes it’s bright outside.
I tried to tell him that the world gets cold, he ain’t believe me. Told me that I was lying.
The main thing we’ve got in common, in our heart there is a fire, never burning out.

And it is for this reason that I think the production on the record is so surprising, as it undermines the essential quality of the MC via its dissonance and refusal to offer any momentum, or resolution. Nothing better than a 'subversive' quality in music being played out, in open view. 

Coda: