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"When it went from being sound-and-feeling orientated to being more about the lyrical content, that's when it lost it for me a little bit," he says. "That was probably the late '80s. I mean, how does an L.A. black guy rapping about how big and bad his neighborhood is have any relationship to my life in London? That's the bottom line. I'm trying to innovate."
The reason drum 'n' bass has successfully carved out a niche for itself is likely its innate complexity and ability to innovate and adapt, accommodating elements that don't appear compatible. On Urban Jungle, King showed just how successful it could be to spot-weld Ice Cube's vocals onto a pulsating rhythm track. The remix of Dread Warrior's "Man of Steal" bends from supple, rolling jeep beats to a drawn-out curtain call of French horns and strings snagged from John Williams' "Superman Theme."
King's best remixes shine new light on the source material. His collaboration with the old-school duo the Jungle Brothers on the anthem "Jungle Brother (True Blue)" downplayed the song's braggadocio and infused it with elements of house. This remix is widely credited as having rejuvenated the Jungle Brothers' career, as well as pumping King's name in American hip-hop circles.
Still, for all his dabbling in hip-hop, King says the genre has made few inroads in Europe. "When acid house and the whole party scene in England came through, who cared about hip-hop and R&B? That's the truth of it. Now you're hard-pressed to find a club in England that plays hip-hop or R&B. When you compare it to house, drum 'n' bass, speed garage, tech step, no one cares. If a guy comes out and plays hip-hop, the floor just clears; no one's interested. There's no power there."
But King's stylings are not just about high-energy beats. At the end of Aphrodite's extended ride, passengers disembark to the strains of "Summer Breeze," a composition interpolating elements of the Seals and Crofts chestnut with modern-day ambient electronica. Following the disc's onslaught of propulsive beats, the track is a soothing snippet of AM-radio nostalgia.
"The vocal kind of turned up," King explains. "We had the a capella vocals on a track that I used to take out to shows and mix over some drum 'n' bass. It always went down well, so I thought, 'Why not? Let's grab it and throw it into a real track.'"
Samples lend Aphrodite many of its best moments. "Spice (Even Spicier)" is kick-started with a quote from the David Lynch film Dune before being carried away by jazzy trumpets. And like the populist he is at heart, King goes straight for the obvious on "BM Funkster," which warps the bass line from the O'Jays' "Money" to delirious effect. He also layers some soulful, vintage Quincy Jones on "Rincing Quince."
But when he's not making his own music, running the operations for his labels, or deciding whose remix to work on next, King's agenda is simple: to be the best DJ he can be. "When I look down on the crowd and I feel there's a record I want to play, I look through my box. And if it's not there, then I'm gonna try to make it."
Contact Jeff Stratton at his e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org