i listened to the future and it sounded something like this
There’s so much new music ear-worming its way out into the world these days that it’s often easy to let the good stuff slip by unnoticed. From the two girls crafting beautiful Norwegian minimal techno to the freshest young London Grime MCs...
Jorja wears jacket and top model's own. Trousers McQ by Alexander McQueen.
18-year-old Northern beauty Jorja is the kind of person who prefers to stay in and write music. Growing up to a soundtrack of reggae and soul, Jorja and her friends formed OGHORSE in her native Walsall and began ruling the local scene. Newly relocated to south London, it's been just over a month since the release of Blue Lights, her debut single, and a track so strong it still has people talking about both her and it. Through the lyrics and the powerful music video that accompanies them, Blue Lights questions the guilty conscience of young black males today and the flawed society that leads to such a problem.
How did growing up in Walsall influence you creatively? Although it's very small, there was always lots going on so I spent a lot of time observing things. I wrote Blue Lights back home. It talks about sitting on the Number 4 bus home from town, watching people and taking in their stories. Blue Lights is about being stuck in a cycle? Yeah, and not getting out. It's about having a guilty conscience. I guess how people are stuck with the stigma of having to fear the police. It's society's problem, not their own. How did you end up using the Dizzee sample? That's how I wrote the song. I was analysing the Sirens video for my media class and just freestyled over it. How are you finding London life? It's quite good but different to back home. I still represent Walsall, WS1. South east London is really cool though, there's so much talent coming out of there, it's crazy! What's the plan? There'll be a lot more music coming out so hopefully a lot more people will be listening. If every month is as cool as this, I just want it to keep going!
Having dropped out of his anthropology course, Ladbroke Grove mummy's boy AJ Tracey has fully embraced the music game that he's quietly been warming up for since he started rhyming at just six-years-old. Following in the footsteps of his Trinidadian rapper father who once had a No.1 video on MTV and his Welsh mother, who used to play jungle and NWA on pirate radio stations, he takes his craft seriously while dropping Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh references into his bars. Keeping up with his south London mates Elf Kid and Novelist, with a summer of festivals ahead of him and a mouth full of gold, AJ is dropping spirit bomb after spirit bomb.
What are your plans for your birthday next week? I might go to Dubai for a little bit… or, if not, then I'll just rent a penthouse out for the week. One of those two, definitely. Casual. What's your idea of luxury? Having the freedom to be able to sleep until when I want and knowing I'm still gonna get paid and that my mum's comfortable. Whose opinion or approval matters the most to you musically? Recently Skepta told me I'm hard, and that meant a lot to me. It sounds like a fanboy ting but I am a fan of Skepta and I'll always be. I grew up on him, so for him to tell me that in person, I don't really need anyone else's approval. What other artists do you rate from your neighbourhood? There's not really anyone from West, that's the thing... I'm trying to put on for us. There used to be a guy called Ice Kid; he went to my school and everyone used to think that he was gonna be the next one from West to blow, but he kind of just dropped off. He taught me the basics of Grime in school and I just carried on from there. What've you got coming up? More jewels in my mouth! Loads of rappers get them but grime artists don't, so yeah, I'm that guy. They're not fitted though… I think my gran would beat me up if I had permanent ones.
Cambridge grad, reluctant model and all-round total dream girl, Rina makes sugar coated R&B with meaning for the digital age. After befriending artist Arvida Byström, the young Londoner was inspired to reflect real life in her art and began observing the disconnect between the IRL and digital lives of the online community she found herself in. Pairing a Mariah Carey vocal obsession with a laidback production, Rina has the magic formula.
Tell us about your new Alone, Together EP… It's mostly about how we sit spending time on our phones, contextualised into a love story. Something that acknowledges our everyday reality! Exactly. Studies have shown that young people are more depressed and anxious and have lower self-confidence than generations that grew up without the internet. It's really interesting because there's no musician talking about it. There's a lot of 'internet music' out there, but it only sounds like the internet technologically. I wanted to make music that was inspired by the unashamed pop I listen to from the early 00s like Mariah and Justin Timberlake, but that still means something. Maybe it's because I studied politics, but I always feel like everything has to have real meaning. Does it not feel weird to comment on such issues in your music but play into them on your own socials? Yeah, it seems entirely hypocritical. But the point is to problematise it. To say; let's discuss this, this is a problem. It's not black and white, which is what I want to get across. Whose Instagram account do you double tap the most? Sita Abellan. Oh my god, her style is everything. She just doesn't give a fuck! I'd love to work with her in some capacity.
Born on Valentine's Day, Elf Kid admits to being a bit of a romantic but, keeping lips locked tight, he refuses to kiss and tell. Lewisham's Golden Boy is the latest grime MC to come through with The Square via No Hats No Hoods Records and is keeping things in-house with Lolingo on production duties. With a cheeky smile and deserved confidence, Elf is murkin it.
How did you get your name? On my 16th birthday The Square started getting serious and, because of my pointy ears, people suggested I started using the name Elf. People used to call me that around the area anyway. Who was an influence on you growing up? In my early teens Dizzee and Roll Deep were in the charts, so them as well as everything and anything on Channel U; Mr Wong, Bruiser… that whole era. What is the ultimate situation to listen to your music in? This is gonna sound weird but in Lolingo's bedroom. His set-up is like, a mattress on the floor and a mic and clothes everywhere. When I'm in that room I find that I'm locked in more than anywhere else. I can't do stuff in studios, it feels forced. Which other Lewisham artists are you into? The Vision Crew, they're really sick and I've watched them progress for a bit now. They're from my area and younger, like 16, they've been hitting radio and doing what we do basically. You told us before that you'd like to see more female MCs coming through… I still stand by that 100%. People need to rep for the females. They could easily be just as sick, so why not? What are your aims? I wanna learn how to produce, mix and master my own music... and how to be a proper businessman. Just that really!
Like something from a teen movie, Henriette and Catherina first met in the hallway at school aged 16. Realising they both had the same post-school plans, they moved from Oslo to Copenhagen to study music theory but soon found themselves taking a more practical approach. Considering themselves primarily producers, the duo use their voices as one of many instruments in their minimal techno creations. In ripped jeans and trackie tops, with the bass pounding along in the background and their dreamy vocals dancing around each other's, the girls twist their way through various effects and drum pad triggers from either side of their worktop of gear. Simultaneously super friendly and impossibly cool, Smerz seem not to give many fucks and it's perfect. They're perfect.
What were you guys like as children? C: I was really bossy and high energy, lots of crazy running around. I remember being much more fearless. Now, I'm much more aware. Things are scary now. H: I was quite shy. I read a lot of books and I played the violin… but I had friends and stuff. I wasn't an outsider. I just had nerdy interests. C: We were both happy children. What kind of scene have you found yourselves in in Copenhagen? H: It's definitely an electronic music scene with all kinds of genres. C: From techno to synthpop to footwork. People are really inspired by the club scene here, but we put that into a more pop universe. So what we listen to the most and the concerts we go to are more like straight club and techno music. What's the clubbing like? H: The Copenhagen scene is really good at renewing itself all the time; testing out new club genres and having themed nights. Do you know many female producers or DJs? H: A few, but not many compared to how many male producers and DJs we know. It's becoming very popular to book female artists though, so I think the situation will continue to improve. Do you think you'd ever work with a guest vocalist? H: Yeah, we would because the sound of different vocals is interesting. We've spoken about getting rappers involved actually!
Canada seems to be on a roll with its ethereal female musicians right now and Ontario born, raised and based Jessy Lanza is killing it. Busy making music with writing/life partner Jeremy of the band Junior Boys, the Hyperdub-signed singer and producer caught our attention a couple of years ago with her Pull My Hair Back LP before cementing her place in the awesome stakes with You Never Show Your Love ft. DJ Spin and 2016's It Means I Love You. With a minimalist R&B meets footwork style and just the right hint of sparkle courtesy of her delicate breathy vocal, Jessy is about to release a brilliant second album that we already can't get enough of.
Tell us about your introduction to music… My parents always pushed me to do music because they were in a rock band. They started out in the 70s with Crosby Stills and Nash covers and ended up with Eurythmics style synthy stuff. I started really formally with classical, and then I went to school for jazz studies and piano. Music has always been a big part of my life. Who do you consider your contemporaries right now? I have my friends around me doing their weird art, but I feel like I'm not really a part of any scene. I like that though. I choose to live in a city outside of that for a reason. Your music is quite minimal. Is that reflected in your studio and home environment? I don't have any studio equipment at my house because Jeremy and I already live together and make music together. It would almost be too intense. So we both have our own separate studios to escape to. My studio is quite small, so you're right in saying that it's quite minimal. It's still a work in progress. Do you have a favourite piece of gear that's key to your sound? My Juno 106 was the first synth I ever bought and that's a real go-to. I have an SH101 that I really like that I bought recently, and my 707-drum machine is pretty important as well. You have a very distinct vocal… who would you switch with if you could? It would be pretty sweet if I had been born with Evelyn King's voice.
Dreams do come true... at least for certain purple-haired elvish types. A week after graduating high school, at just 17-years-old, HANA moved alone from Montana to Los Angeles with a spring in her step and music on her mind. Fast forward to now and the electronic pop singer, songwriter and self-taught producer has the dream set-up, working from her studio in the apartment she shares with boyfriend Mike, aka BloodPop, and their adorable dog Eevee. The past two months has seen her tour the world with BFF Grimes as both band member and support act - snapchatting their adventures as they go.
Which musicians influenced you as you grew up? I've always been really inspired by powerful ladies like Gwen Stefani, Alanis Morissette and Björk. She was my queen. My aunt gave me her entire discography all the way back to the Sugarcubes and it was the best gift I've ever had. It sounds like you've just been on the ultimate tour... It's been a tonne of work, but the best work imaginable. I'm seeing the world and playing my music to the world... it's just been a dream come true. What's Grimes like as a tour buddy? I think I have a six-pack from how much laughing we've been doing. Together we have a party on stage - it's just so much fun. Is there a common theme that runs through your self-titled EP? The whole project spawned from a complete rebirth of my art and personal life. I ended a tumultuous relationship, started producing my own music and really took a step back from what I wanted both my life and my music to be like. So I'd say the theme is freedom and finding power within myself. What do you hope to achieve this year? My career is still at a very grassroots point - I don't have a label or much money at my disposal, so every download of a song or play of a video is so appreciated and treasured. I feel insanely lucky to have been able to tour as much as I have so far, to share my music with so many people. I'm hoping for more of that. I've got letters from girls who tell me how Clay and Avalanchehave made them feel more empowered as women, so if I can do that for more young girls, I'll be a very happy human. What's the best advice you've ever received? To focus on the art first and let everything else follow.
Photography Maxwell Tomlinson
Styling Bojana Kozarevic
Text Francesca Dunn
Hair Nicole Kahlani at The Book Agency using Bumble and bumble
Make-up Danielle Kahlani (For Jorja, Smerza and HANA) at The Book Agency using Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
Make-up Jessica Taylor (for AJ, Elf Kid, Jessy and Rina) using Nars Cosmetics
Photography assistance Andrew Moores