Hotly tipped producer reshapes grime template and turns in ice-cold debut
See that stylish chap on the cover? That would be Faze Miyake. Faze is usually referred to as a grime producer, and not without reason – his ties with the scene run deep. His 2011 breakthrough, ‘Take Off’, took grime’s sound palette and injected a hefty dose of stateside swagger, finding inspiration in the new hip hop capitals of Atlanta and Chicago. He’s also part of the sizeable London-based Family Tree crew, home to MCs like MIK and Merky ACE.
But Faze’s remit is much broader, and while this self-titled debut album pulls a fair few buckets from the grime well, it makes more sense as an untethered satellite floating between various bass-heavy genres. Originally slated for release in the summer of 2013, Faze has taken his time here and it shows. None of the tracks are particularly intricate, but the textures are perfectly rendered, the product of intense attention to detail. It’s a record that operates at more of a plateau than a series of crowd-pleasing peaks, although it functions just as well in the club as in your vehicle of choice. If his material to date had seemed somewhat disparate, there’s a real cohesion here. Everything sounds hewn from the same piece of stone (although we’ll see that this can also be a weakness).
Five of the 11 tracks here are blessed with vocals. ‘None of That Stuff’ is a clear standout, with the whole of Family Tree turning up to spit bars, verses stacking up against each other over a menacing instrumental. Otherwise, the songs are all female-led (which is great for what’s nominally a grime record). Little Simz – enjoying something of a moment right now – completely bodies ‘The Nest’ with the kind of casually accomplished performance that results from true confidence on the mic. Elsewhere, it’s a thrill to hear Chicago rapper Sasha Go Hard on ‘Below Me’, and I can only hope collaborations like this one lead to more cross-pollination between grime and US hip hop.
For the most part, the instrumentals are pretty strong; they don’t feel like bridging tracks, nor do they seem empty without a vocalist. ‘Burciaga’ is the pick of the bunch – propulsive yet restrained and built around a whiny little G-funk figure. If there’s a problem with the album, it’s the format. Taken as individual tracks, there’s little in the way of weak material. As a front-to-back listen however, it’s too repetitive. It needs more songs like ‘What U Say’, where Izzy Brooks’ voice is given room to sparkle over dubstep-laced production that would fit right in on a Katy B record. It’s far from the best thing here, but it feels especially welcome after a run of samey instrumentals.
With a bit more variety, this could have been one of the records of the year. As it stands, the album drags a little towards the end, despite the intelligent sequencing. It’s clear that Faze is a talented producer, with the ability to conjure up imagery and atmosphere as well as make club bangers. Hopefully next time round he’ll discover how to make the long-player format work to his strengths. For now, there’s more than enough to cherry-pick from.