When Wiley producer Bless Beats sent for his fellow grime producers back in September, a slew of war dubs were uploaded in a frenzied couple of weeks that saw heavyweights and newcomers alike thrash it out on Soundcloud. Visionist took shots at Bristol's Kahn & Neek with some less than subtle Nando's jokes, Wiley called out the overuse of the ubiqitous Lex Luger sound with his 'This Ain't A Trap War', but it was Inkke's sharp sampling of that Jammer and Waka Flocka Flame moment that made his war dub stand out.
A mean-muggin' cacophony of rapid-fire grime with side-eye notes to commercial US rap stagnation, Inkke held his own amongst more established names - a moment set to become a habit in 2014 for this young Glaswegian producer. After being taken into the Boxed fold with Slackk and finding kindred spirits in Oil Gang, JT The Goon and affiliates, Inkke's output has so far been indebted to, but not enslaved by, the grime sound; balancing on the edges of rap and hip hop with relative ease. Now, with the upcoming release of his debut LP Faded With Da Kittens for Astral Black, this balancing act finds itself on steadier ground. A heady mix of Memphis rap, hip hop and grime, the mood is dark and the horizon hazy, yet always with a sense of humour and wealth of knowledge that's carried over from that killer war dub.
Alongside the exclusive premiere of Faded With Da Kittens, THUMP caught up with Inkke about writing an album, where his sound's headed, and how his muse is his, um, cat.
THUMP: You've gradually been building hype as a producer and DJ over the past year or so. How do you feel about your work so far?
Inkke: I'm happy with most of it. It's interesting listening back. I think you can learn a lot by reviewing past work with fresh ears after having some time away from it. I often find myself taking ideas from old tracks that weren't fully developed at the time, and using them to make something new. It's been a constant learning process since I started.
The album is class. I think people were maybe expecting you to make some more obviously grime-sounding tracks, but there's so many different influences in here; Memphis rap, hip hop, as well as grime. Can you talk through how you pulled these influences into your sound?
Inkke: When I was producing the tracks for this release I was listening to a whole lot of Memphis rap, tapes like Lord Infamous' - 'Scarecrow Tha Terrible', Three Six Mafia's - 'Smoked Out, Locked Out' and Lil Fly's 'From Da Darkness Of Da Kut' were all major influences. The idea was to make my own smoked out and raw instrumental rap tape, a homage to the slow Memphis style with a real gritty, lo-fi sound, like it was put out in '94 only to be forgotten and rediscovered 20 years later. My cat Nina was the main muse for the project, hence the title Faded With Da Kittens.
What sort of techniques and gear did you use to produce the album?
Inkke: I pretty much didn't use any gear other than my computer and a Tascam DR-40 for recording. I ripped the individual drum sounds and vocal cuts from the original tapes, and processed them all through Ableton. I then went on to manipulate the samples, and reconstructed them into my own beats. That's how I created the base for each track. After that, it's just more layering of sounds; structuring, programming the melodies, etc.
And how do you feel the album represents you, at this point in time?
Inkke: All I can say is this is a selection of concept tracks I've produced and have been lucky enough to be able to release with a great label, who have fully supported my vision and idea from the start. For that I'm really grateful. I guess it's a little different from what most people have heard from me before, but I'm glad it has finally come out. I would like to think this release shows a little more of what I'm about, I've got stacks of varied stuff like this, it's just a lot of it never sees the light of day.
Much has been talked and written about the past year about the "new wave of grime"; is this something you feel is actually happening as a trend, or not? And either way, why?
Inkke: The music has never stopped as far as I'm concerned, there have always been people making and putting out grime, its just that it's come back into the public eye lately, for whatever reason. I'm not sure how that actually happened really. When things get a little popular there's always going to be new people wanting to get involved, which is great. You've just got to be careful that it doesn't turn into a bandwagon situation where the original sound gets lost or confused. Thankfully that hasn't yet happened and I hope it doesn't. I'm all for mixing styles when it comes to influence in music but I don't think anybody would want such an iconic sound to be split into a thousand sub genres like dubstep did.
You've got an MC on one of the album tracks. Talk us through your relationship with hip hop, and how this collaboration worked out.
Inkke: I've always been a big fan of the music, and have been involved in making hip hop as long as I've been producing. Depths is a friend of mine and I've always admired his flow. I hit him up with the concept of the project and sent him a selection of beats I wanted to use for the tape. A couple of days later he hit me back with a rough vocal over a beat I had originally called 'Got The Nina Strapped'. He totally got the vibe straight up, fully on point with the hazy weed raps. We ended up running with the original recording, it didn't need any more work, it fit the track just right as it was.
What new artists are you into at the moment, and who would you like to work with?
Inkke: I'm really into what I've been hearing from Neana and Rabit lately, and Novelist too. I'm also really feeling the new releases that are about from MssingNo, Jam City, Denzel Curry, Sinjin Hawke and Zora Jones. Gorgeous Children, I would like to work with those guys on something new.
Looking forward, what have you got coming up that we can get excited about?
Inkke: Later this month I've got a remix of DJ Q's 'Trust Again' coming out, followed by a six track EP on Local Action which will be in the shops come April. I'm also currently working on an EP for Lit City Trax, which is exciting. Other than that, it's just new tracks daily, working away on some projects that I haven't yet found a home for.
Inkke - Faded With Da Kittens is released on Astral Black on March 3rd, You can buy the limited edition bundle of the release via Astral Black here, and the cassette release with booklet artwork via Bleep here.
You can follow Inkke on Twitter here: @JintyInkke