An exciting air of fusion has been wafting from the Zombie Cats laboratory this summer as the undead feline duo are celebrating one of the biggest influences on drum & bass with their brand new project – hip hop.
The project is Manifold, an open ended series of collaborations with rappers and MCs from the US, UK and Europe. It started earlier this month with Hurracan / Hurracane with US rap heavyweight The Game.
“Our aim is to show hip hop our respect, getting a deeper understanding for the music – from a technical point of view – and challenging ourselves by trying something completely new,” the duo tell UKF. “We started the project with The Game better known for classics like The Documentary and collaborating with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Drake, Lil Wayne or Kanye West.”
The Cats’ concept is simple: send beats to a rapper who’s up for collaborating, then taking inspiration from that to create a drum & bass version.
“Exploring a different territory like hip hop can sometimes give us an inside look into how to create this specific vibe,” the Zombie lads purr. “For instance the sombre east coast feeling which Havoc created by using his infamous sample techniques. Transferring that vibe to drum & bass is refreshing.”
It’s an exciting and incredibly well-timed transference, too. With US D&B reaching peaks it hasn’t experienced in decades, and hip hop being such a huge cultural phenomenon in the US, putting drum & bass on the radar of respected rap names like The Game and Kidd Kidd (who will feature on their next Manifold single in the future) could pay off in many ways.
For the Zombies, though, this is a project of inspirations and musical passions. “Along with D&B, hip hop has always had a major impact on our musical socialization,” they tell us. “As children of the 90s, the four elements of hip hop were everyday life. Many of our friends breakdanced, drew graffiti, rapped or tried their hand at DJing and scratching. Especially the DJing did it to us and so the VHS cassettes of the tournaments ITF and DMC were studied. But not only the different scratches were important, but also the songs and performers themselves.”
With hip hop playing such an influential role in the Zombie Cats’ upbringing, Manifold makes perfect sense. To mark this new chapter in their sonic evolution we asked them for some favourites.
“Creating a top 10 list of the best hip hop tracks seems impossible,” laugh the pair who recently won the Best Producer title at the German Drum & Bass Awards. “But you can try…”
Thug Life & Nate Dogg – How Long Will They Mourn Me?
“There is no other song that is as personal as this one. Between hope and sadness, the song captures exactly the feelings I felt when I went to my father’s funeral. In no other song do I hear pain and love so clearly. 2Pac & Nate Dogg are the perfect combination in hip hop.”
Nas – The World Is Yours
“Sampled from Ahmad Jamal’s I love music, Nas is showing why he is one of the greatest Lyricists of all time. It is crazy to know how young Nasir was when he made this all-time classic song. In general it is hard to pick one track from the whole Illmatic because all are killer.”
Wu-Tang Clan – C.R.E.A.M.
“Sampled from The Charmels As Long As I’ve Got You, C.R.E.A.M will be 30 years old next year. That’s crazy! It is like fine wine, the older it gets the better it is. No wonder that a lot of critics describe it as the best song from the 36 Chambers album. RZA made the beat in 1989 which already surpassed the 30 years anniversary. Wu Tang nailed it with a perfect example of great storytelling combined with a sombre and relaxed style. You can feel the vibe of 90s NYC.”
Gang Starr – Moment Of Truth
“This song is more relevant than ever. The last years raised the numbers of depression immensely. Guru reminds us that we are not alone with our problems and everyone has to face challenges which seem at first too high to climb. But giving up is not an option and even small steps are important to go in the right direction. RIP Guru.”
2Pac & Dr. Dre – California Love
“This beat catches exactly the vibe of the west coast at that time. Pure class. Based on Joe Cocker’s Woman To Woman Dre created a masterpiece. It is a pity that Dre and Pac had a fallout based on the Death Row label situation. Imagine how many bangers they could have created. Like 2pac said, “Give me that bomb beat from Dre, let me serenade the streets of L.A.””
The Game – Dreams
“Kayne West produced this beat based on Jerry Butler’s No Money Down song. It is The Game’s best solo track – hands down. It’s crazy seeing the level of maturity and depth this track displays. He is paying homage to rap classics and that is what hip hop is all about: Respect.”
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib –Thuggin
“Freddie Gibbs seemed to fit perfectly with the sometimes delightfully odd production style of Madlib, and one of their first tracks Thuggin sums it up quite nicely. The track featured as a preview for their awesome 2014 full-length debut Piñata.”
Jay Z – Dirt Off Your Shoulders
“Early 2000s producers were just crazy good and innovative. I guess the limitation of studio gear in the past makes us appreciate old school hip hop productions much more. Timbaland killed it with this one. You need to check out the studio session he had with Jay Z. Shawn Carter’s face says it all while listening to the instrumental for the first time: Fire!”
Curren$y – Scottie Pippen feat. Freddie Gibbs
“Fantastic combination of legendary producer Alchemist with Curren$y and a Gibbs feature. The vibe of the whole LP stays in its perfectly painted mellow world, where the Gibbs feature is the cream of the crop.”
Mobb Deep – Shook Ones, Pt. II
“Havoc is a sample-genius. The way he pitched cutted and twisted the sounds to create the dark gritty Mobb Deep sound of the early days is unbeaten. It is close to impossible to hear Herbie Hancock’s Jessica sample when you listen to the song. That’s what sampling is all about: create something totally new.”