Now I know it’s not just me that has spent almost every waking minute of the past month or two thinking of this one thing… Roy Hodgson’s probably definitely unbeatable team selection for the Euros (it’s our year, I can feel it)? Not that. Bernie Sanders? The Donald? That’s right, you guessed it: Justin Bieber’s dreadlocks. Few things have roused the opinions of the previously unheard as JB’s luscious, peroxide stained matted locks. It wasn’t a simple case of disrupting the die hard fans of his previous brown teenager mop, however; this was an insight into the much larger, and much more serious, prominent issue of cultural appropriation. On one side, it might just be his hair, who cares? The other – because you’ll claim it as your own, and forget it ever happened before you did it. It rings true – should Justin Bieber get credit for his own bastardisation of a culture, with no regards for the culture that obviously went before?
But I think that’s the main crux of the issue, before I digress too far. It’s the claiming something as your own, or at least the threat that you might forget the truest roots of something which sort of hurts. You might just forget the meaning of something you’re doing and nick the bits you like just because, you know, well, it looks nice.
This issue might be closer to home that we think as well. Our very own (us being electronic music – we’re dangerously inclusive these days you know) Marquis Hawkes had previously been at the brunt, you could say, of an interrogation about his validity in his use of urban American proper nouns and whatnot. LWE, made an obvious point out of emphasising his lack of credibility to use Cabrini Green, the infamous Chicago housing project as a title in his work. Back in 2014, this ended in him deleting his Twitter account all-together. Appropriation, you see, permeates so many echelons and facets of society that it seems as if someone is always losing out.
Back to the here and now, it seems Marquis Hawkes hasn’t quite fully shied away from the sociologically effected names; that is to say, his new LP is named Social Housing. I’m not one to judge the intent behind this, but I am the one to make unequivocal statements about its objective quality, so here goes:
This release is mixed, but a good mixed, to put it simply. Peaks and troughs, hills and valleys, upsies and downsies, whatever. Some of it is really smart; the odd song is crafted well and falls into the right holes like those children’s toys with geometrical blocks and corresponding holes to aim for. Some songs are triangles in triangular holes. But, some of these songs are just squares trying to squeeze into circular gaps. What I mean, is that some of the songs do sound a tad lost. I’m not sure why, but I get the feeling this was meant to be a complete piece. There is definitely the inclination of a narrative here. I couldn’t say exactly why, but this piece feels at least meticulous in its creation; it’s an ostensibly summer piece which seems to follow a theme throughout. It’s hard to pin down, I know, but when you listen to it, it sounds sort of correct, but bits of it sort of sound out of place, too. It’s good, really quite good too, in parts, but in other parts, it’s a bit like a stray bullet. You know, misled.
But that sounds a bit negative. It’s really fun to listen to for the most part. Memorable, even. But I think what is confusing me a little is the intention behind it all. I feel that Mr Hawkes thought he might have had an epic tale up his sleeve here; some experimental elements lend my thinking to towards that – I feel he thought the scale of this might have been a little larger than it ended up.
Take the first track, for example: there’s a breakbeat sort of coolness to it, but it’s a bit too higgledy-piggledy to be catchy. Take a later track, Wake Up, Baby! The name probably denotes a line of script in this movie-style episode he’s created. I really like what I think he’s tried to do here; there’s a sort of metropolitan, urban feel to these tracks. It all feels like the building blocks, the musical bricks in a socially charged piece. But, does it all get lost? I think so.
Perhaps I’m being presumptive, though. He might not have wanted any of this grandiose narrative and storytelling behind it. Maybe it’s just a summer release, full of the ol’ bangers. Which it is.
The Landsberger Funk, for example, is rad. Already on repeat, for me. Funky, good bassline, catchy, debonair. It’s got it all, man, it’s got everything. The reverberation and buzz of this song is properly infectious, and it gets the shoulders moving. Much like Feel the Music. This is one you’ll definitely be hearing on terraces (which actually turn out to be fenced off car parks – oh, I know your tricks London events) throughout the summer for sure. I can see the dancing now. Oh how ye Red Stripe flows.
So, besides my distractions, it is decent. There are some tracks on here that are catchy, and that will get played again and again. But I can’t help but feel there’s something missing. A certain umami, je ne sais quoi, that’s gone awry somewhere. It’s got the ingredients for a really cracking LP, but someone just baked the cake not quite right, if you know what I mean.