The British label First Word Records was founded in 2003 and since then they’ve been making some interesting moves, steadily adding talented acts to their roster. Founded by Aly Gillani and DJ Andy H, the label released their first compilation, “Two Syllables”, in 2004 and since then a new one has been released every year. These compilations do a good job of showcasing where the label is at musically at the moment and are well worth checking out.
First Word releases cover a wide range of genres and styles, from afrobeat to instrumental hip hop, but according to the founders the common thread is the soulfulness of all their acts. I tend to agree and below is a sample of some of my favorite music on the label.
Tall Black Guy
Tall Black Guy, whose real name is Terrel Wallace, is a talented, versatile and very prolific producer from Detroit, Michigan. Throughout the years he has been developing a signature sound which often involves very clever and original sample flips. The man simply has an amazing talent for flipping even the most well-worn samples in new and interesting ways. His work spans hip hop, soul and R&B and he also does a lot of remix work. Definitely one to watch!
Ariya Astrobeat Arkestra
This group from Leeds, England with the wicked name is equally inspired by Fela Kuti’s afrobeat, space jazz from the 1970’s and free jazz from the 1960´s. It’s a combination that makes for some very interesting music and they’ve explored their unique sound on two full length releases so far.
Souleance is a French production duo formed in 2006. They are DJ Soulist, who runs the “What The Funk”-nightclub in Paris, and Fulgeance who is a hip hop producer and remixer. They released their first full length in 2012 and have also released smaller projects. I’m not a massive fan of their music but they have very eclectic tastes and now and then they succeed in combining their influences in an interesting fashion. Among other things, they’ve explored hip hop, jazz, funk and Turkish music. They also recently journeyed into Brazilian music with some pretty satisfying results.
Riot Jazz Brass Band
This horn-heavy outfit from Manchester, England is clearly influenced by contemporary brass-fusion bands like the Hot 8 Brass Band and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, but they’ve also succeeded in carving out their own sound. In the long run, all the horniness can get a bit too much for my tastes, but they certainly have their moments. I’m also told that they’re live shows are quite a sight to behold.