Dubstep Head Compa Shows Us His Sensitive Side, with His Favourite Funk Cuts
"Call the fucking vibe police! It's too much."
There is a misconception that dubstep is too cold and brooding to convey a range of emotion, but for a young producer like Compa, there's feeling. Tracks like 'Alpha' and 'Dem A Talk' are ingrained with the kind of palpable, human touch that is often brushed over when talking about dubstep in 2014. The inspiration behind this? 80s funk.
To mark the release of his Murda Dub 10" on Killa Sound today, let's leave it to Compa to explain, in his own words, how the likes of James Brown and Chaka Khan have helped his own sound draw you in.
I have mood swings a lot; I listen to a lot of different music dependant on where I am and what mood I'm in, but I particularly like to listen to funk - perhaps moreso than any other genre outside of dubstep. It lifts me up when I'm tired on the road, and it brings me back down to earth when I'm dazed, after a long studio session.
The way funk music translates feeling - to make you smile, dance and sing, to just feel it and take it all in - inspires me to focus on the emotion in my own music. Sure, my music draws on darker emotions, but i'm still trying to make people feel, think and react emotionally. I got into funk through commercial radio, but from record shopping I've mmanaged to delve deeper. Here's some favourites of mine, just for Hidden Depths.
D-Train - 'You're The One For Me' (Prelude Records, 1982)
Oh Lord. This one is a perfect way to start the list.
Skream introduced me to this one via one of his one-off Rinse FM sessions from a few years back; when he was running funk and soul cuts, as opposed to the usual dubstep he was representing on air at the time. "Yooooouuuu Just Doooonnnn't Knooooow!" - sing it. The lyrics are beautiful and that synth solo in the middle (big up Hubert Eaves III on keyboard) is too much. James Williams' voice just draws me in. I can't turn this one off until it's ran the last groove on the record.
Chaka Khan & Rufus - 'Ain't Nobody' (Warner Bros, 1983)
Everyone knows this one, right? Chaka Khan's music controls your entire body. It grabs me and forces me to make moves . Yvette Steven's has such a powerful voice. It instigates an emotional reaction, which is why I love this music so much. Okay, this one isn't the most underground of selections, but it's some of her best work.
Rea & Christian feat. Veba - 'Spellbound' (Old English Remix) (Kickin Records, 1999)
(Unfortunately this one isn't on YouTube. Only the original mix is, so here's the original mix, as well as the 12" that I'm referring to on Discogs).
This is an absolute percy through and through. My mum had a friend who passed away a few years ago, whose son had a record collection of about 3-4000 mostly house and funk records. The whole lot was being given to charity and before it went, I was lucky enough to have the chance to dig through and take what I liked. I took about 200 records, but this was probably the stand-out record that I found. I've really come to treasure it. The vocals and the bass guitar are heaven on wax.
James Brown - 'Get Up, Get Into It and Get Involved' (King Records, 1970)
Call the fucking vibe police! It's too much.
I don't just like this guy's music because we share a surname - James Brown changed the face of funk music. He isn't referred to as 'The Godfather Of Soul' for nothing. His vocal range, those trumpets… it's all deadly. If this doesn't instigate dance moves and fill the floor instantaneously, nothing will. Check out 'Hot Pants' - another personal favourite, and a shining example of his groove and vocal range.
Stevie Wonder - 'All I Do' (Unreleased)
With Michael Jackson on backing vocals, you know this one's going to be serious. I remember hearing this one on Smooth FM, and the title stuck in my head until I found it in a record store whilst in Stockholm on tour. They pressed a shit load of this, so it was only a matter of time until I found a copy. It's probably my favourite jam right now. I've had it on repeat out in the garden in the sun over the last couple of weeks. The vocal walks the walk and definitely talks the talk. Hotter Than July is the album: his best work ever, in my opinion.
Marvin Gaye - 'Sexual Healing' (CBS, 1982)
As soon as those drums and whispers hit, and the chords come in at the start… Oh Lord. I heard women have gotten pregnant just from hearing the first few seconds of the chorus. Fire. Check out his duet works alongside Mark Wells and Tammi Terrell too: those are some of his best works, and some of my favourites amongst my funk collection. It's such a shame that he lost his life too soon, because he had so much more to express.
The Whispers - 'And The Beat Goes On' (Solar, 1980)
If you're not singing and swaying along by the second chorus, see a doctor.
I want to give you some more examples of my favourite tacks by these guys, but as is said a lot about them, they have a constant track record of hit records dating right back to the late 1960s. Almost everything by them is worth your time, if you've been feeling my selections so far. Despite their fame, I originally found this track through record digging. I knew right away that I'd struck gold.
Mtume - 'Juicy Fruit' (Epic, 1983)
We all know this one. Biggie, anyone? Check the percussion swing and those chords. Shouts to James Mtume every time. I find this one particularly inspiring as I play drums - not a lot of people know that. He previously played and toured with Miles Davis back in the 60's or 70's. All very inspiring work. These guys as a group actually blew up down to hip hop artists sampling them and, I have to say, that's how I found out about their music in the first place. As ever, from there, I did my research and started buying up their records. This one is their biggest hit of all though, and rightfully so.
Yarbrough & Peoples - 'Don't Stop The Music' (Mercury, 1980)
I wish I had been alive in the 80's. Listen to that bassline. Fuck me. This isn't strictly speaking funk music; they're known for working within boogie and soul, but I picked this up from the funk section in a record shop in Berlin called Spacehall, which is where I found out about these guys, so - allow it.
This is probably their biggest hit above 'Don't Waste Your Time', which is another personal favourite, but this one is top of the list of their beats for me. Their synth work is untouchable too, but that was inevitably going to be five star after both members played piano since they where really young kids. Get into it.
Alicia Myers - 'I Want To Thank You' (MCA Records, 1981)
Most people know this one thanks to Busta, Q-Tip, Kanye West and Lil Wayne's recent version, and this has been sampled time and time again from drums to vocal cuts, but the original is the real jam. Any original always is, in my opinion. If you haven't heard her voice before, get ready to fall in love. She's absolutely unreal. Alicia Myers is better known for her work within One Way, a funk band popular back in the 70's. Check out 'Push' by One Way. It doesn't quite top Alicia's solo work, but it still grooves.
Luther Vandross - 'Never Too Much' (Epic, 1982)
I can't believe I only just got to this one, and we're at the end of the list. This is the ultimate jam. Vandross was a really in-demand backing vocalist for people like Chaka Khan, David Bowie, Diana Ross, Barbara Streisand, but c'mon, who wouldn't want to collaborate with this guy? It's no surprise he was working with stars, left right and centre. This tune is the lead track of his debut album Never Too Much, but 'You Stopped Loving Me' and 'Sugar And Spice' in particular are great.