Rising, London-based Jazztronica production duo Blue Lab Beats — producer NK-OK and multi-instrumentalist Mr, DM — had rather humble origins, as bedroom producers, who remixed tracks by the likes of Dua Lipa, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man and others. The duo’s sound quickly morphed to incorporate jazz, soul and hip-hop influences while staying true to their British/London roots. Since the formation, the London-based duo have quickly exploded into the national and international scenes: they’ve played played Glastonbury — and they’ve opened for the likes of the legendary Roy Ayers and Thundercat. They’ve also contributed a remake of Bobby Henderson‘s Blue Note Records‘ classic “Montara,” which appeared on last year’s Blue Note Re: imagined compilation. And adding to a growing profile, the duo’s work has amassed over 25 million streams to date.
2021 has been a busy year for the rising British production duo: They’ve released a handful of critically applauded singles including “Dat It,” “Blow You Away (Delilah)” and “Sensual Loving,” which have seem them collaborating with the like of Stones Throw Records affiliate Kiefer and Afrobeats star Ghetto Boy. And as you may recall last month,I wrote about “Labels,” which featured a J. Dilla meets The Midnight Hour-like production centered around soaring strings, boom bap beats and a sinuous bass line.
The production serves as a lush and mesmerizing bed for thoughtful and lovelorn verses from London-based emcee Kofi Stone that find him questioning the need for labels to define what his romantic relationship is to others. The song also features a soulful hook by London-based vocalist Tiana Major9.
Those four singles will appear on the duo’s long awaited new album and Blue Note Records full-length debut Motherland Journey. Slated for a February 25, 2022 release, the album is a result of two-and-a-half years of work that celebrates pushing boundaries, taking risks and overcoming adversity. Starting out with over 70 demos, the duo meticulously whittled them down to the final 17-track album.
“This album took us two-and-a-half years to finish, our longest process to make an album, but it was so worth it,”the members of Blue Lab Beats say in press notes. “On this album you’ll hear many fusions of genres and inspirations that we gathered throughout that time frame and especially to work on so many of the songs during the first lockdown it was a test in itself. We had to figure out so many different ways to achieve what we exactly wanted sonically and having Blue Note to help us achieve that was an absolute blessing. Many of the vocal features and instrumentalists on this album are great friends of ours and it’s just so amazing to have family on this album.”
Motherland Journey‘s fifth and latest single, album title track “Motherland Journey” features Ghanian producer KillBeatz and the vocals of the late Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. Co-written by the duo and Killbeatz in Accra, Ghana, the song was blessed by the estate of Fela Kuti. Featuring a warm, dancehall meets Afrobeat-like production, featuring a looping and shimmering guitar line, skittering beats, regal horns, “Motherland Journey” is an upbeat, club friendly bop. But underneath those dance floor vibes, the song suggests that Africa is the future — and for some, it’ll be an introduction to the legendary Kuti and the sounds of Africa in a crowd-pleaisng fashion.