Pan-African Hip-hop meets pulsating, analogue electronics, as DRIFT bring Yao Bobby and Simon Grab to Q U A R R Y on Tuesday.
The combination of Togolese rapper Yao Bobby’s fast-paced, aggressive vocals with Swiss rhythmic noise producer Simon Grab’s dark, bass-heavy soundscapes is as unique as it is impressive. At first glance, it seems the duo couldn’t be further apart. Hailing from separate continents and working in disciplines which rarely collaborate, Yao Bobby and Simon Grab both had successful individual careers before they first took the studio together in 2018. They instantly connected, however, and it wasn’t long before they released their first project, an EP titled ‘Diamonds’, out on Bristol’s LAVALAVA Records. It was an instant hit and quickly sold out physical copies, as well as receving critical acclaim such as ‘Album of the Year 2019’ according to The Quietus. But what made the formula so successful?
Yao Bobby’s lyrics take a deeply political stance as he offers commentary on local and global issues in both French and Ewe languages. As known for his activism as for his hip-hop career, the rapper focuses his energy throughout the EP on the diamond trade which plagues West African nations such as Sierra Leone and his native Togo to this day. To add to the power of these charged lyrics, they are set against a backdrop of deep, rumbling bass waves – the product of Simon Grab and his signature ‘no-input’, analogue feedback production style. Drawing on genres including noise and dancehall, the instrumentation can be thought of as experimental music built for soundsystems, a blistering inferno of low end frequencies which provides the perfect accompaniment for Yao’s vocal style.
Naturally, the music lends itself well to live performances and their initial work in the studio soon led to them planning a European tour. Armed with his incorrectly wired mixing desk, pushed into the red for a harsh distortion (a recipe which had proven so successful for their first EP) Simon Grab lays out intense and energetic rhythms for Yao to freestyle over. Their sound filled independent venues across the continent, including the highly-regarded Avant Art festival in Poland, and received rave reviews from all who attended, fans loving the ‘freeform rap and noise’ live show. This tour led to a desire to collaborate further, and they were soon back working on their new album WUM which will also be released on LAVALAVA. This project promises to be just as exciting as their last, with a brilliant video already released for the lead single ‘Lekeo’. Accompanying this release is a UK tour, which ranges from London to Edinburgh and allows Uk-based fans of experimental, noise and hip-hop to see them in action.
The pair will perform in one of Liverpool’s newest and most exciting small venues, Q U A RR Y, on Tuesday 8th March and will also provide a one off special live-radio show for DRIFT on Melodic Distraction on the same day at 4pm. Tune in to hear a taste of their explosive live show as well as exclusive tracks from their new album played live from the MDR studio! Joining them for both gigs is ‘mutant-dancehall’ producer Dhanghsa (co-founder of Asian Dub foundation), who is a long-term friend of Simon Grab.
Get your tickets here, and check out the video for Lekeo below!