by phill young
One of the most exciting creative forces in Manchester, if not the UK right now, is the GREY Collective. Comprising of Bipolar Sunshine, Gaika, August&Us and Jazz Purple; together they have been slowly changing perceptions of Mancunian identity, confronting the idea that black artists have to sound a certain way to be heard and achieve recognition. Historically, Manchester has of course been a city noted for it’s role in the rise of British hip hop – from early pioneers The Ruthless Rap Assassins and Krispy 3, right through to the present day where we find The Mouse Outfit and Levelz deservedly ruling the roost. But GREY are at the early stages of a new musical awakening, with the spotlight flickering from one artist to the next, revealing a different and perhaps more liberated vision for Manchester’s future; one that shuns the expectations of both industry and the audience.
Bipolar Sunshine was the first to break down the barriers, with a handful of beloved and beautifully crafted alt-pop singles, before Adio Marchant’s self-belief and persistence was finally rewarded when ‘Middle’, his recent collaboration with DJ Snake, crash-landed it’s way into the Top 20 of the US billboard charts. Talk about making a statement.
Gaika may never have the same mainstream appeal, but it’s also never seemed to have been his intention; instead he’s chosen to walk his own path, presenting a dark and brutal electronic landscape, that has already been compared (quite wonderfully) to a Basquiat painting. Debut mixtapes ‘Machine’ and ‘Security’ are seismic in their ambition and scale; politically charged and hyper-real, a veritable treasure chest of sounds and ideas. With roots in both Manchester and London, Gaika is soaking up his surroundings and turning them into a visceral audio/visual experience.
Which brings us in timely fashion to Jazz Purple, the blossoming project of Ola Modupe-Ojo; a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer with unlimited potential… and Mancunian swagger to boot. Having intrigued with early release,’The Chronicles of Jazz Purple’; an electronic/rock/RnB fusion with grand ambitions, and then later transfixing with the lucid, hazy production on show during ‘Do You’, it’s been exciting to see where Jazz might take us next. The result is ‘Intentions’, a new track which draws upon the spirit of 808’s and Heartbreak era Kanye and ends up somewhere approaching pop perfection; there’s enough romance, soul and introspection here to justify any hype.
It’s hard not to admire Ola’s confidence and ambition, and in a week where we lost the greatest Purple musician of them all, it feels somewhat fitting another Purple star is about to write his own chapter. Check out the new track below.