the best of the balamii radio crew share 28 epic tracks
As the station gears to open up in New York, six of Balamii’s best reveal their favorite tracks of right here, right now.
James Browning set up Balamii two years ago, when stations like Rinse and NTS were still pretty much the only UK platforms pushing things forwards. "Commercial radio was still as rubbish as it is today," James points out. The promoter and occasional DJ/host created Balamii initially as an iOS app, delivering mixes recorded while he was out and about at nights like Dance Tunnel, Bussey, Rye Wax, XOYO, Canavans, and Peckham Springs. "I thought Balamii could provide people with information about what it is they're listening to at any time, with links to purchase. It was a response to seeing everyone asking for track IDs on YouTube and SoundCloud. It's grown to be much more than that, though."
Transmitting live and direct from London's Peckham, James has consistently sought out some of the most interesting, forward-thinking hosts to create a schedule that is exquisitely diverse. From BBZ to Crack Stevens, The Square to Rye Wax, Balamii's best manage to be discerning without being stuck-up about the sounds the station spins. "Not being snobby is a personality thing more than anything else. I just want to have a good time with it all; there's no need to draw attention to anything you don't like," insists James. "You don't have to be a snob to have good judgement. Keeping things discerning comes from being totally immersed in whatever you're doing. Having your ear to the ground. Most importantly though, don't tell people what to play — if you book the right people, you won't ever have to."
The station will launch in New York this summer, meaning Balamii will run until 9pm GMT in Peckham before switching over to New York at 4pm EST. "My initial thoughts were, 'why not give this a go and see what happens?'" says James of basing Balamii US in NYC's LES. Moving forward, content will soon include talks, documentaries, and discussion-based shows. "Up until now, Balamii has been music-focused but we'd definitely like to open it up a bit more. All I know is that this is what I want to do everyday for the rest of my life, and I'll work hard to make it happen."
Here, six of Balamii's hottest hosts — from Aisha Zoe to BBZ — tell i-D their top five favorite tracks right now.
A northern lass now residing in Deptford, Aisha hosts #TheFullEnglish breakfast show on Balamii a few times a week, from 9am-11am.
1. Eliphino, "Lay Me Down"
"Effortless, sexy groove."
2. Stormzy, "100 Bags"
"Deep love for this raw tune, embodying most of our real struggles. It really gave me hope hearing this one."
3. Jerome Thomas, "The Stone"
"Lovely Jerome eeeee! His voice though? Not much else need be said."
4. Ben Hauke, "I Kinda Missed It"
"An astounding collaboration by these two angels of sound."
5. S4U, "Rocksteady" ft. 808 Ink
"This is absolute fire from everyone involved — a wavy concept with fire amidst. Can't stop playing it!"
A producer and MC from Lewisham, Hilts hosts a monthly show with his collective, Turtle Basement. It's a platform for artists to showcase good music, no matter the genre. Hilts's solo music is influenced by grime, MC culture, and a love for all music with feeling and vibe.
1. P Money & Pharoah (ft. Hyde), "Like Dem Man"
"I loved this tune when Pharoah first released it as 'Dunno,' but I love it even more now that P Money has jumped on it."
2. Ezro, "Nothing Is the Same"
"The lyrics are mad real."
3. Oscar #worldpeace ft. Ragz Originale, "That's Alright"
"This is a straight banger and the video is very well shot."
4. Future, "Mask Off"
"You can't not skank to this tune."
Copenhagen-born, south east London-based selector Alex Rita is a singer, illustrator, designer, and host of Rita's Rhythmic Remedies, where you can hear her stitching together musical patchworks of everything that she loves: raw emotion, percussive grooves, and organic sounds. Since she started her show on Balamii, Rita's love and passion for music has gained her a monthly residency at London's audiophile haven, Brilliant Corners, together with her DJ collective, Touching Bass. As if that's not enough, Rita is also finishing up her debut album as part of Afro-soul duo, Okapii. Expect to hear it this year via Fresh Selects.
1. LTD, "Love to the World"
"The break at 5:42 is probably the best break ever. I get goosebumps every time it flips. I love how this track takes its time. Be patient. There's gold at the end."
2. F Kenya, "Ngakula Ngakula"
"Possibly number one record on my 'Records I Need' wish list. High Life is the sound of happiness."
3. Billy Harper, "Priestess"
"If I play this loud enough, it makes me cry. It's just so, so beautiful. Them chords."
4. Terry Callier, "Dancing Girl"
"The first time I heard this track I was probably 15 and it was an out-of-body experience. Some cool cats at Copenhagen's only reggae club Rub A Dub introduced me to Terry."
5. Hero, "Naima"
"I don't think I've played a set without playing this. As close to perfection as it gets."
BBZ is an intersectional club night prioritizing femme-identifying people and genderqueer people of color. Rooted in south east London, bringing the BBZ sound onto Balamii airwaves was the perfect marriage. The show spotlights the crew's favorite bedroom and dancefloor DJs throughout the QTIPOC community with an hour-long guest mix, followed by a very frank discussion with an artist or public figure that relates to the BBZ mission.
1. 808INK ft. Sam Wise, "45 with Sam"
"The kings of Croydon."
2. "BLWMA" (Boddhi Satva Ancestral Soul Remix)
"Sets a tone."
3. Dis, "Cheeky"
"The song our 14-year-old selves long for."
4. L S D X O X O, "V X X D X X P V S S Y"
"Something to get kunty to."
Chaos in the CBD
Beans and Louis are two brothers from Auckland that make up Chaos in the CBD.
1. Valentino Mora, "Extravagate (Transfiguration Phase II)"
"Another deeper-than-deep excursion from our friend Valentino Mora.'"
2. Fred P, "6AM"
"Fred P is back with another impressive hypnotic work out."
3. Sven Weisemann, "Maori Octopus"
"An effective, well-thought out slice of dub techno from our boy Sven."
4. Jon Sable, "Gray Paper Moon" (Chaos in the CBD remix)
"Keeping with the deep theme, here's our new remix for our good friend Jon Sable. Out now on Tief."
5. Rosalind Joyce, "I Will Never Be Your Lover"
"A recent purchase by Beans. Dope UK street soul business from the late 80s."
Nick Bam has worked in record stores and music promotion since he was a teenager, and was in rap group Piff Gang in his early twenties. Currently running club nights Fiesta and License 2 Trill with DJ Motive, Bam's show on Balamii typically contains a lot of underground UK hip-hop, R&B, grime, garage, US rap, and soul, but he also likes to mix things up with a bit of rare groove, classic soul, and Brazilian boogie.
1. 808 Ink, "Suede Jaw"
"This sounds so fresh, it doesn't sound like a typical London record. The beat is almost like some Miami bass/house tune and the rapper's patterns are unconventional. Banger!"
2. Milkavelli, "Cold Outing"
"Cult Mountain's man of mystery, Milk delivers punchline after punchline with his weird, occult, Laigon sweg rap: 'Smoke an eighth and raise the dead/Took a moonraker laser on the stage at a major Major Lazer set.'"
3. Emmavie & Jarreau Vandal, "Murder"
"Emmavie is my favorite singer from the UK. Here, she's teamed up with Jarreau Vandal, the Amsterdam-based Soulection producer."
4. Giggs, "Rap Gustavo"
"London's most prolific road rapper destroys this tune. Giggs is on top form and this beat is so ridiculously epic."
5. Thundercat, "Tokyo"
"So funky, futuristic, and cool."
Text Hattie Collins