Something that might come as as surpsrise to many Björk-loving, Sigur Rós-adoring, Ásgeir-fancying Airwaves newcomers is that Iceland loves hip-hop. From the rapid rise of local stars like Gísli Pálmi, Úlfur Úlfur, Reykjavíkurdætur and Emmsjé Gauti to the emergence of hip-hop and electronica-centric festivals like Sónar and Secret Solstice (even ATP Iceland drafted in Public Enemy this year), to an increase in visitnig acts like Zebra Katz, Rae Sremmurd and Frank Ocean—hip-hop culture is super visible in Reykjavík.
With that in mind, the only overseas act to feature in this Airwaves special is one of the most interesting new hip-hop acts on the international scene. Future Brown is a production quartet made up of Fatima Al Qadiri, J-Cush, Asma Maroof and Daniel Pineda, drawing on everything from dancehall to grime, bass, footwork and R&B. We interrupted J-Cush as he was enjoying a pleasant evening in London, so we might ask him about how Future Brown came about and which of their arsenal of guest rappers will be joining them onstage at the festival.
How did the four of you get together to form Future Brown?
We were all friends, going to the same parties in New York, and we started talking about it in maybe 2012. We realised we were all connected to each other through different projects. I was working with Fatima, Asma and Fatima were working on something, and then Asma and Daniel have their Nguzunguzu project. We had a lot of similar tastes that drew us together, and we realised we could turn all of these different parts into something.
What do the different members bring to the table?
In a sense, everyone has a different approach to how they produce and what sounds they draw from—then, when we all come into the studio together, it really makes a difference because we react in real time to one another. Rather than developing ideas remotely and exchanging them and waiting for a reaction, you get that real human experience of building on a drum loop together while someone’s working on a keyboard melody—every track is different, and everyone has varying tastes, so when you mix it all up you get varying levels of madness. It works well.
How did it come together with Warp Records?
Warp was interested, I think, in expanding into more eclectic stuff that was different to straight-up rock or electronica, and they saw something good in what we were doing. We knew an A&R there who’d worked on one of Fatima’s records, and he pushed us a lot to get this project going. Him pushing us took us to a level where Warp was ready to sign us. I was already into Aphex Twin and Autechre—it’s cool to see Warp changing up and going for everything from extremely experimental through to poppy rap and songwriters—it’s great to have that diversity.
Where do you position Future Brown in the wider spectrum of music?
This project was essentially something we did to make our dreams come true—making a vocal-based album and working with people we were really big fans of, both new and old. We’re from a lot of different areas of music—not just house, not just rap—all kinds. So I guess tying us down to one genre doesn’t really work. Let’s just say: good music. Something new, something different.
How did you go about taking Future Brown out of studio and onto the stage?
We have really open-minded approach in the studio and we took that onto the stage. Nothing’s too regimented. We’ll have a starting point that we might discuss, but after that anything goes, really. We’ve been working it out while we play—how to play off each other and create a really interesting experience. We all play our own music, and we like to incorporate all the different styles and make it sound like a fluid mix.
Has there been a best show so far?
The project is pretty vocal-centric, so any show where we can have a lot of vocalists with us is a really magical time. It’s often in London that we’ll have a few—last time we played the ICA in London and brought on had Ruff Squad, Dirty Danger, Prince Rapid, Roachee, Riko and 3D Na’tee from New Orleans—she’s an amazing rapper on the record. It’s great to have the grime element and a strong rapper. Dirty Danger is coming with us for Airwaves, he’s on the tracks “World’s Mine”, and “Asbestos”, from the Future Brown album.
Have you been out to Iceland before? Will you have much time here?
I haven’t been to Iceland myself, but all the others have. I’m looking forward to Airwaves—I’ve heard great things about it. I’ll have a few days to get to know Reykjavík and check it out, explore and hopefully meet some cool people.
Posted October 12, 2015