London producer/songwriter KwolleM’s RULES THE WORLD RECORDS debut serves up a hopeful dedication to the next generation. Inspired by, and titled after his young daughter, Melo refreshes the “mellow grime” approach he featured across 2020’s joint venture with Joe James, c2c. The East London MC (who also became a father in 2022) returns strong here, applying scattergun flows on six colourful tracks. But for the producer to bring the album and its stellar supporting cast (including Bawo, SL, AJ Tracey, Unknown T, Tommy Genesis) together, some soul-searching—prompted by the awakening buzz of fatherhood—was required. “I had to ask myself: ‘Why are we making music? Why are we so happy to be parents? And what does it mean to be a girl dad?’” KwolleM tells Apple Music. “That was the energy behind this whole project. In the end, Joe and I made both of our daughters executive producers, so clearly, this album is theirs.” Flickering over rap, grime, garage, neo-R&B (and handily edited sample cuts), KwolleM bravely faces down these questions and meditates on personal growth. Of course, odes to family surface on “Melo” and “Grandma’s Kitchen,” as does Baby Melo with a brief appearance on “GIRLDAD,” plus there’s a freshly uncovered verse from East London rap legend Mover. Melo also follows on from c2c (named after the popular London train service), exploring the Essex/East London underground culture so influential to the producer’s sound. “I’m trying to teach people—this is something of a history lesson,” he says on sampling grime MCs Skepta, Frisco, Tinchy Stryder, and Nu Brand Flexxx. “I’m trying to reintroduce people to something they maybe haven’t thought about in a while. It’s not that I’m trying to keep grime alive, I feel that’s a little egotistical—and I also don’t think it’s dead—but I love the nostalgic element to this whole record.” Read on for KwolleM’s thoughts on the album, track by track. “GIRLDAD” (feat. SLAWN, Joe James & Melo) “For most songs, I go through a couple of drafts. This one went through maybe four different instrumentals, there’s even one [version] with me rapping on it, but I’ve left that for now, maybe I’ll use it on the deluxe version.” “Melo” (feat. SL & Joe James) “My daughter’s like me in so many ways. She has my eyes, and she’s got my screwface [expression], too. It creates the illusion that we’re somehow either angry or upset, all the time—but that’s just our resting state. So many elements of this album are directly inspired by [Melo]. And others are just the same objective that I had with the first project: pushing the ‘mellow’ sound.” “Grandma’s Kitchen” (feat. AJ Tracey) “It was inevitable that I’d do something with AJ Tracey again. ‘Hood Antics’ [from the Mellow EP] is still one of my most recognized tracks. We linked up, I played ‘GIRLDAD’ to him, gave a brief explanation on what the album’s about, [and] we knocked this out in 15 minutes. Super quick. The first of the skits here we recorded at [Corteiz streetwear label founder] Clint’s house [in 2022] in Nigeria. The other one at the end is when I showed my mom our baby picture [scan] in a card later on at Christmas.” “Only Human” (feat. Bawo & Joe James) “Bawo had this with a different instrumental at first, but it just wasn’t clicking for him. I said, ‘Cool, don’t overthink it, just send me the vocals, I’ll make a new riddim. It’s a process that I wasn’t used to. If I give Joe a riddim, he’s always sending me back the vocals. But this second time is when it all connected for him.” “No Heart” (feat. Joe James, Novelist & Ashbeck) “This one of my favourites. I like the balance of the soulful, the mellow, and then the grime. If anyone asks, you can tell them this is the quintessential mellow grime tune.” “Talk to Me” (feat. dexter in the newsagent & Mover) “I’ve always said to my manager, ‘I want a Mover tune on one of my albums.’ Fortunately, I was able to sort some connections to his family to get this sorted. But the origin of this track came from a bunch of Dexter demos I was playing with. We’re both on [RULES THE WORLD RECORDS] so her manager sends me music all the time.” “DND Interlude” “I wanted to involve [London musician and producer] Rayf as much as possible. We’ve both helped to push this sound, but he’s also a rapper-singer, so his [production] angle is very different to mine. With this theme, I just had to use [Ghetts’ 2009 single ‘Don’t Phone Me’]. Everyone knows now: If you call me at 9 or 10 [pm], you will not get through. it’s not even that late, but I might be trying to get my little girl to sleep. That’s when life gets sticky and it’s hard. So the DND [feature]…I’m in love with that right now.” “Mainstream” (feat. Ghostpoet, Tinchy Stryder, Joe James & Rayf) “This is the grime song of the project for me. The type of banger I’ll play in my car. It’s just hard. It’s grime, but with a garage inflection, you’ve got Joe and Ghostpoet spitting, and this Tinchy Stryder verse [from 2007 single ‘Mainstream Money’] is still one of my favourite grime verses. This is an insane moment for me.” “Thinking It Thru” (feat. Joe James & Tommy Genesis) “This is one of darkest tunes on the project. So I wanted to get [Canadian rapper] Tommy Genesis to come in and balance out the tune. She’s an incredible artist and is close friends with my wife—so I had to get Melo’s auntie on this record.” “End of Time” (feat. Unknown T & BXKS) “The first time I met Unknown T, we recorded this song, and we’re still close now. I think he really likes the way I sample—intentional, layered, and the structure isn’t generic. Drill revolves around looped-up beats, [but] these samples breathe and progress through the tune. This was initially supposed to be the outro, so it sounds like lullaby in places. At the end, when everything’s faded away, those piano keys give me that feeling. Hopefully Melo can go to sleep to this one.” “110s” (feat. DC) “This track arrived at the very last minute. When [photographer and creative director] Gabriel Moses told me, ‘You’re insane if you don’t put DC on this album,’ I knew he was right. DC’s tune [”Woolwich Arsenal”] on c2c was one of the biggest tracks, but for some reason, I didn’t think to repeat anyone besides Joe and Rayf. For sure, DC is one of the best rappers in this country.”

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