Best of 2016: Max Rewak’s Picks
“Global Bass Music” (GBM) is an appropriate name to define the sounds of 2016 as producers dug deeper and deeper into regional specializations of dance music (see also: baile funk, Jersey club, gqom, etc). My favorite tracks to come out of this movement were Banginclude and Zee Reach’s remix of Mc Pedrinho’ s “Dom Dom Dom,” and Pobvio’s edit of MC Andinho x Lemonick x MC Baiano & MC Kalzin’s “Aquecimiento da Litoral.” Both these tracks actually saw official releases in late December of 2015, but I’ve heard them rinsed so much this year that I’m going to count them as eligible for this list. These tracks are sexy and intense, simultaneously hard as nails and melodic. While these two didn’t originate the trend of “GBM,” they both demonstrate some of the most interesting characteristics of the baile funk and club music undercurrents running through today’s dance music scene.
Qween Beat, Qweendom
Night Slugs, Night Slugs Allstars Vol. 3
With such a diverse array of full-length releases distributed by heavy hitters this year, spanning all genres, it’s a fool’s errand to pick just one. That said, one could do worse than select Qween Beat’s and Night Slugs’ respective compilations Qweendom and Night Slugs Allstars Vol. 3. Both of these labels have been pushing underground dance music culture forward, and these two compilations demonstrate their continued commitment to innovation. Your favorite producer is just getting hip to the sounds that these crews have been spinning for years, but instead of stagnating in order to cash in these imprints, they’re always changing up their sounds and styles. Go listen to these if you haven’t yet.
Best New Artist
Although Leonce has been affiliated with the Night Slugs and Fade to Mind crews for quite some time, he’s only started to put out proper releases this year. The Heatwave mixtape, covered by yours truly, served as an appetizer for the Atlanta producer’s Q4 ’16 effort Shadows, featuring heavy hitters such as Divoli S’vere and Neana. I can’t wait for Leonce’s upcoming full-length Insurgency, slated for early 2017.
Track of the Year
Is anyone on the planet more joyful than D.R.A.M. or Lil Yachty? Their ubiquitous SoundCloud anthem “Broccoli” lit up the charts and propelled both artists into superstardom. It’s impossible not to smile when you hear Big Baby crooning the intro over J Gramm’s bright, bouncy piano, and impossible not to throw bows when the heavily distorted 808 hits. Broccoli was everywhere this year, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Artist of the Year
It’s been a huge 2016 for Jubilee. The Brooklyn-based Mixpak affiliate released her debut album, After Hours, to serious critical acclaim. Jubilee, already a mainstay in the crowded NYC club scene, is finally attracting listeners outside of New York. They’re taking notice of her outstanding, eclectic DJ sets, magnetic personality (as referenced by cultural icons Desus and Mero), and electrifying original productions. If you haven’t already, make sure to familiarize yourself in advance of her upcoming U Street Music Hall date: Dec 22, for Mathias’ Everybody In The Place event, which we covered here.
Favorite Show of the Year
Something special went on at DC Eagle earlier this month. In the basement of the famed leather bar, legendary ballroom producer Vjuan Allure (read our interview with Vjuan Allure here) and Nervous Horizon sensation TSVI blessed the decks in front of a crowd of diverse fans, gay and straight alike. The LENG and Classical Trax crews brought out some serious local support from the likes of Duolo, Panch, StrikeStone, and LUSH, but the best part of the night was the vibe of radical acceptance among the attendees. From a strictly identitarian point of view, some straight dudes booking a gay main act might seem appropriative or tokenistic. However, the respect afforded to the night’s main attraction clearly demonstrated that DC’s underground dance music community seeks not to erase the contributions of underprivileged communities, but to amplify their voices and acknowledge their endless contributions to the culture that we all love. Thanks for an amazing evening.
Label of the Year
Tons of labels had a huge 2016, but none came up bigger than Mixpak. Although their site lists only five official 2016 releases, Mixpak artists dominated their scenes and pushed culture forward in tons of different ways. From massive releases by the likes of Konshens to the introduction of GAIKA, Mixpak brought its ‘A’ game at all times. This was never more evident than the Red Bull Culture Clash in London, where Drake’s custom One Dance white label won the day for Popcaan and the Mixpak crew, sparking memes for months and reminding pop fans of the histories of dancehall, dembow, and riddim culture. 2016 was Mixpak’s year, and everyone else was just living in it.
DC Artist to Watch
DC’s music scene is absolutely on fire right now. From rappers like Jay IDK and WillDaRapper putting on for their city, to artists like Rico Nasty and Dyson Alexander representing for the young kids, to DJs like Dawit Eklund or DJ Lisa Frank, to promoters like Closed Sessions and the aforementioned L.E.N.G. and Classical Trax, to those who do all of the above like Basscamp, Blisspop’s own zacheser, or The Borrowers, Washington’s musical expressions are flourishing. It has never been a better time to be an independent artist in our nation’s capital. But if I were a betting man, I’d lay down some cash on Ayes Cold. Ayes Cold (a.k.a. Ayesha, who we interviewed earlier this year) has been literally everywhere, playing a grueling schedule of performances across the city. Her sets inspire descriptors like “eclectic” or “genre-defying”, but those seem a little trite, so I’ll just say this: she’s good. Really good. Next time you see those two words on the bill at your favorite venue — Ayes Cold — go check it out that night. You’ll be glad you did.