2016 has been an exciting year for new labels in drum & bass.
Many of them artist-fronted, it seems like acts from all sides of the sphere are going it alone and extending the passion they express in the studio and in their DJ sets into a tangible stable. A place where they can release what they want and, eventually, help like-minded artists in the same way they experienced themselves at the start of their career.
So far we’ve seen SpectraSoul launch Ish Chats, Alix Perez fire up 1985, Hybrid Minds establish Hybrid Music, The Prototypes ignite Get Hype… Now time for Lenzman’s new joint: The North Quarter.
“It looks like we all sat down and decided to do it doesn’t it?” laughs the soulful Dutchman. “But it’s just one of those things. I think everyone’s just realised how easy it is to set it up once you’ve got an established name.”
Lenzman certainly has an established name with a rich history of releases on Metalheadz – a crew he’s still super tight with and have encouraged him to set forth and establish his own imprint.
“It’s the next step,” he states. “I got Goldie’s blessing, Headz are still family. They want me to develop as an artist. That said, the label isn’t just about me. Once it’s established I want to put out other people’s music. I feel the soulful stuff is under represented in a way. In the mid 2000s there was more of it about. I feel there are a lot of producers that I rate who are struggling to get love from labels. Having my own label gives me a platform to support them.”
Couple this with Lenz’s deep-seeded love for 90s New York hip-hop and his roots growing up in Leiden’s Northern Quarter, The North Quarter’s parameters are clear. To make them extra clear, the first release will be 10 track EP from Lenzman himself comprising some hip-hop beats, two skits, some delicious soulful rollers and bars from DRS and the sweet soul sounds of Children Of Zeus (AKA Tyler Daley and Broke’N’English’s Konny Kon)
“I wanted to really establish the sound of what the label is about you know?” says Lenzman. “If you put out two tracks to start then it could go anywhere but this really gives a feel of what it’s about. It’s about all things soulful, it’s about doing new things with that 90s New York hip-hop, it’s about trying to write songs with real substance.
“Drum & bass has been around for well over 20 years but a lot of lyrics are still about being in the club or what the music sounds like. We’re a mature genre now, we should be confident to sing or rap about anything. It’s like hip-hop – it started as a club music with the focus on the DJs. Then, as it matured, the MCs became the stars of the show. If you want to make tracks rather the club bangers than you should be talking about real subjects not just how the bass is kicking or whatever. DRS always delivers that.”
Soul, depth, substance and range: Expect nothing less from The North Quarter when it launches on September 23. Head over to his Facebook where he’s giving away a chance to join him at the label’s launch at DRS’s event The Summit at Band On The Wall, Manchester, September 9 with full travel and accommodation costs covered.
In the meantime, for a more detailed view of the label’s future output, Lenzman has put together a top 10 of influential albums that has led us to this point and shaped The North Quarter sound.
Soak it up…
Nas – Illmatic (1994)
Although Nas never made another album that comes close, Illmatic really made me get into hip-hop when it came out and it’s classic to me on many levels. Of course he was working with an all-star cast of producers. But what makes this album for me is his lyricism. No other rapper has consistently touched Nas’ street poetry on Illmatic. It’s truly a beautiful thing.
LTJ Bukem feat. MC Conrad – Progression Sessions (1998)
When it comes to fusing drum & bass rhythms with hip-hop lyricism, this mixed album was a complete revelation to me.
Gil Scott-Heron – Pieces Of A Man (1971)
There are multiple Gil Scott-Heron albums which I love, but I had to choose one. I love how he brings great jazz and soul music together with poetry and a political narrative. As an artist he was so real, he had imperfections, but that’s what I love. Music doesn’t have to be perfect. Sometimes the imperfections are what makes something great.
Mobb Deep – The Infamous (1995)
The evocative atmosphere on this album to me is second to none. As a kid it transported me straight to the streets of Queensbridge, and whenever I put it on today it still does. It’s an urban crime story painted with words and tones. Stunning.
Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995)
If The Infamous is a crime story, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx is a crime opera. In my opinion RZA was never better than he was on this album. This is in a three year period where he completely dominated hip-hop production. Raekwon, Ghostface and guests are all top notch with Nas and Inspectah Deck delivering two of their best ever verses.
D’ Angelo – Voodoo (2000)
The best Neo Soul album ever made.
Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue (1959)
Having this album on a best album list is a bit of a cliché, but it’s one of the greatest albums ever recorded. I put this album on when I’m feeling stressed out. It provides meditation through music. And to think these recordings were largely improvised.
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971)
To me The North Quarter is in part beautiful music that was born in struggle. Music from the soul, and this album is exactly that. It’s the content and the sound that make this an incredible part of music history.
Outkast – ATLiens (1996)
Look, I could go on naming hip-hop albums. Many have been important to me, some of the most important ones I’m not even listing here now. The reason I want to mention this one is that the sound on this album oozes melancholy. And melancholy, a certain sadness, has been an important part of my sound and what moves me when writing music.
Calibre – Second Sun (2005)
To me this is the best drum & bass album ever made. Pure depth and emotion.
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