sango is the soundsmith injecting major emotion into hip hop

Currently on his European tour, Soulection familia Sango chops it up about his deep interest in slang, his love for grime, and what to expect from upcoming album, In The Comfort Of.

by Nardene Scott
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06 June 2015, 11:02pm

The running theme within Seattle-born, Michigan residing producer Sango's work is emotion. From his trap beats to his numerous refixes and more recent gospel samplings, Sango's sentiment-laden sonics set him apart from regular radio fodder. Although he's mainly referenced by the hip hop community, his productions are instilled with soul while a love of baile funk, jazz and an appreciation for grime and garage gives his records a truly global aesthetic. With a back catalogue including Tinashe, Vic Mensa and Little Simz, his Da Rochina instrumental series and remixes of everyone from Aaliyah to Little Dragon and Nas, plus upcoming collaborations with Sinead Harnett and (possibly) Stormzy means you can't quite squash Sango into any type of box.

So you're just finishing a degree. I checked out your thesis and wondered why you chose to focus on slang and language in particular?

I actually graduate tomorrow! I'm so happy to come to the end of that, it's overdue! I'm a language nerd; it comes from just wanting to know stuff. I've been teaching myself Spanish because my wife is from Mexico and also French from Kaytranada, so when we had the opportunity to choose a topic for our thesis project, I went in with slang because slang is so fun to show people that don't really know. The most interesting thing I found out about that was just how different Montreal was compared to the rest of Canada; it's like another world. Music helps to spread slang too; hip hop is a specific genre that carries slang heavily in its lyrics because you don't hear that in rock.

As well as graduating, you've had a great reaction to your latest Soundcloud offering, No Greater Place, aptly titled #AlbumMaterial. Is thata hint towards what we can expect next perhaps?

Yeah, I'm actually surprised about that because that's one of my more sentimental songs that I've created. I've been doing a lot of gospel sampling directly because I was talking to my mom, she's an amazing pianist, and we do a lot of sharing. We'll have a nerdy conversation about chord progressions and stuff. We do have normal mom conversations like, 'Boy you better take this trash out' but when we do get deep, it's always about music, so she got me into gospel again. Growing up I listened to gospel music but when you're little you want that ratchet stuff; you want to hear 50 Cent. So it came back into my mind that I should start sampling gospel more because it has elements where someone could rap on it. I'm glad that I released No Greater Place because I wasn't sure. I thought it was too leftfield. But overall I'm happy about it because I had a lot of friends hit me up, like 'I appreciate you taking those risks rather than uploading some trap festival song to get some plays.' I think it's good to switch it up.

That's what it has been like with Kendrick's album. It's a lot to get your head around.

When he made that album, it was explaining the black community in the States and how we feel right now through music. I highly doubt that a lot of people in the media are listening to Kendrick Lamar, but he's literally explaining how we feel right now, with Baltimore and Ferguson and Missouri. Everything is lining up and it's felt everywhere. From people that aren't even in those communities or in those cities, not even from America, because I have a friend that's from Northampton and we had an hour-long conversation and he was like, 'It feels like I'm there.'

There was an unannounced show here in London the other day that Skepta did and the police presence was insane.

That's pretty cool because man, Skepta… That guy is coming through, like for real. I've been a big Skepta fan for a while from way, way back. Ghetts, Giggs… Wretch has taken a different turn in my opinion, him and Tinie Tempah. It's not sounding like Stormzy or Skepta or JME. Those guys go in and I like Wiley's new video too, that was sick. He's an OG!

You actually brought Stormzy out on stage not too long ago at Brixton Academy. Are you working with any underground artists in the UK?

I haven't done anything with them yet because I think when it comes to that scene they all know who's upcoming in America, the producers to mess with and the rappers to mess with. I know, for example, Virgil Abloh has been doing a lot of stuff, so I think when people start seeing that more often, then they'll start getting more comfortable with international collaborations. I would like love to see Stormzy on like a Metro Boomin track or with Young Thug, or Chief Keef with Skepta, that would be some craziness. Me and my wife, we always play grime. I showed her Stormzy's Know Me From and she was like 'What is this, send this to me'? She works out to that song because it's hype. I want him to come over here; I just hope the music will get received well when they come over to America.

What is it about grime that you like?

The thing is I've known about grime for a long time, since like 2006. I heard about it on the net and the very first grime artist that I'd heard of was obviously Dizzee Rascal, everybody knows him. Then I got into Kano and I stopped because they kind of stopped making stuff. They get one hit and then 'poof' but we do have a taste for the UK scene in the US. It doesn't sound like what we're listening to so when you play it around, you're like the cool kid. That was one of the main reasons as to why I started playing grime, it was different.

What can you tell us about your album, In The Comfort Of?

The album is pretty much done. I like to be my own A&R so, so far I have Jesse Boykins, my long time friend SPZYRKT, hopefully Partynextdoor likes some music, I've been talking to him but I wanna co-produce and I want to get another singer on that track if we do it. A lot of people don't really know that he produces and he produced like three songs on Drake's new mixtape. Waldo is another long time guy, hopefully I can hit up Stormzy for something more sentimental for the album. Sinead Harnett sent me some amazing vocals over some of my beats that were on Soundcloud, so I think I'm going to take those vocals and make something around it because the song is already out. Possibly Ryan Ashley, we collaborated when we were in London. We made a song together called Comfortable that's one of my favourite songs.

What music or artists have made you approach music differently over the past year?

There's a duo called Inc. they worked with FKA Twigs on a few songs. Their album sounds like Blackstreet produced by like Noah "40" Shebib and then they add a guitar. Rather than traditional R&B it has rock influences but it's gentle, you can barely understand what they're saying. I still play that. The thing is I like to force myself to listen to albums, I change my iPhone music once or twice a year, so I've been playing a lot of Herbie Hancock, lately I've been playing a lot of jazz and Darrell Coley, he's a gospel singer but he's really traditional, like older generation from the '80s. His music is really rich so if you draw from that, straight from church inspired music, it's going to reflect in your music, it's soulful. You can't listen to Young Thug all day. I listened to his album and I didn't feel the spirit on the CD, it didn't feel like good music. Some good music can sound good but it doesn't feel good, so I just had to stop it like 'Nah man something's not right here, there's nothing attached to it'.

What can we expect next?

The album will come after Da Rochina 3. I'll be back and forth in Europe. I love it, it's so different and the people there are so with it. I'm having my wedding too this summer. I'm already married but I had to time it out, we didn't want to rush it, so this summer is about touring and wedding cake,

Sango plays Parklife 2015 this weekend in Manchester. Head to parklife.uk.com for tickets.

@SangoBeats

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Text Nardene Scott

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