For their fourth Chase & Status album—a dynamic, muscular drum 'n' bass set—Will Kennard and Saul Milton set themselves a challenge: They would pitch up at Big Yard studios in Kingston, Jamaica, and attempt to round up an ambitious squad of dancehall MCs. “It wouldn’t have been remotely possible without our friend [and radio DJ] Seani B,” Kennard tells Apple Music. “He came over to act as our fixer. Obviously our entire itinerary went out the window from the moment we got there. But I think we knew that would maybe happen.” The pair would quickly adapt. Their guests would largely lay down vocals over more familiar dancehall beats rather than the jungle intended for the record, and Kennard and Milton learned how to do business in Jamaica. “It was very much ‘OK, we’ve agreed on a fee, give us the money when we turn up and we’ll come and do a song for you,’” he says. “You fear you might be getting played a bit. But actually it makes everything so much more simple. You pay the money and you get an artist working incredibly hard for the next four, five, or six hours.” Let Kennard guide you through his learnings and his band’s thrilling album—track by track.
“Shut Up” (feat. Suku) “One of the tracks we recorded in Kingston. Suku was someone we'd worked with before and is part of an incredible group called Ward 21. He just has this fantastic baritone and an incredibly low, monotone, almost monosyllabic delivery. He's just so cool and moody and different. He’s the coolest dude—turned up on his own, no big entourage or anything. He was excited by the first beat we played him and took half an hour on his own to go and write down some ideas. He came back and just started delivering that crazy voice, and just immediately hearing that on something you’ve just made coming out of the speakers was so exciting. It ticked the box straight away.”
“Heater” (feat. General Levy) “So this wasn’t done in Jamaica, and it was by total chance this record happened. We came across an a cappella of a famous General Levy dancehall song called ‘Heat’ from way back in the early ’90s. I couldn’t believe there hadn’t been a really good jungle remix—especially as he’s known for his ‘Incredible’ track, which was one of the big, iconic jungle tunes back in the day. We tried a few things and it gelled together really nicely. It didn’t feel like we’d done a remix. Fortunately, General Levy was really excited about what we’d done, and it’s just great to have this really summery, carnival-friendly record on the album. Something that wasn’t too hard. It’s added a totally different flavor to the album.”
“Original Business” “This is one of my favorites. There's a lot of vocals on the album, and we're known for working a lot with vocalists and combining vocals with dance music. It's just really important to have a song that was back-to-bare-bones drum 'n' bass with a nice groove, no vocals all over the place. Something really DJ-friendly. Everyone in drum 'n' bass at the moment is making tunes to tear the roof off. Back in the day, there were a lot more cool, groove-led tunes. Some of the best records are like that: They don’t immediately have this big impact, but they grow on you.”
“Murder Music” (feat. Kabaka Pyramid) “Kabaka Pyramid was just super cool. We'd got in touch and he knew our music and was really excited to work with us, which was nice. While we were out there, his album was being launched—which was was executive produced by Damian Marley. They had a launch party in a big outdoor venue in Kingston and we all went down, hung out with Damian, and watched Kabaka perform. We immediately built a rapport with him when he got to the studio days later and put down all these wicked lyrics to his hip-hop beat and an old reggae sample we had. We went away, but couldn’t get the sample cleared and so had to redo all the music—the pianos, the horns, the strings, pretty much everything. I reckon it was a godsend, because it’s actually way better now.”
“Program” (feat. Irah) “This is probably the biggest record in our set at the moment. Irah is a British-based artist, so we did this in London quite late in the project. We just felt there was one exciting, big, hard club moment missing. Irah came up with the verses right away before we suggested something more melodic for the chorus. People think there are three vocalists here, but it’s the guy’s tone—he’s sonically the most versatile character. A few hours after finishing the track, we were special guests at [drum 'n' bass icon] Andy C’s residency at [London club] XOYO and played it with our childhood hero standing next to us in this wicked, intimate, packed environment. The place erupted.”
“Cool n Crisp” (feat. Natty Campbell) “Last year we started doing these online sets called the Foundation Shows to introduce people to this project. We did the final one live at [London club] the Hangar and asked some DJs called Reggae Roast. Natty was their MC and he killed it. Two days later he came to our studio in Kings Cross and we asked him to just record whatever was in his head over this ’90s dance floor beat. Some artists hate this, but Natty didn’t even need the beat. He freestyled everything, chopped and changed and had a million and one little hooky ideas in there. We particularly loved the ‘Cool n Crisp’ line.”
“Weed & Rum” (feat. Masicka) “Masicka is a massive name in Jamaica coming through. So it was definitely one of the more high-profile Jamaican acts that we wanted to work with, and also someone that had never been associated with anything to do with drum 'n' bass or jungle. He'd never been sampled. He turned up with about 50 guys wearing balaclavas and ski goggles. There was private security on the outside of the studio as well. Kingston can be an edgy place. We played him a couple of dancehall beats and he immediately picked one of them and asked for half an hour. Went into his car, came back, and just delivered. Smoother voices like his aren’t common across jungle tracks, so once we established how to make his vocal work across drum 'n' bass beats, it felt very cool and refreshing.”
“Burning” (feat. Cocoa Tea) “Cocoa Tea is quite an iconic artist, and our MC, Rage, sent us over the original sample. I don’t know how he managed to just swap out Cocoa Tea’s vocal—there wasn’t really an a cappella available—but he did and crafted this beat around it. It’s not full-on drum 'n' bass, which for this I really liked—there’s a real groove here. It’s been a lovely record to DJ when you want to bring the vibes out a bit.”
“Retreat2018” (feat. Cutty Ranks) “One of the first records we did for the project, before we went to Jamaica. We were listening to a lot more atmospheric, ethereal, liquidy, old jungle with long-ass intros. It would get called ‘intelligent drum and bass’ in the ’90s, which was a weird tag that people got pissed off with. We had recorded Cutty Ranks for a ‘Retreat’ dubplate—where you get artists to do versions of their famous tunes with your name featured. It brings the record back into the 2000s, which helped alleviate a concern of ours—that we were going to make a load of jungle music that DJs couldn’t really play in their sets because it sounded too dusty. But this is an example of how we’ve hopefully touched that ’90s sound but brought the production back to what’s happening now. This track gave us the confidence we needed.”
“Delete” (feat. Burro Banton) “This came from a hilarious session in Jamaica with Burro Banton, a real old-school veteran of the scene. He’s got one of those true iconic, unique voices—the most gravelly, low, bonkers voice. He turned up, didn’t know too much about us, or care too much. Very business: “Where’s the money? Now I’ll do the beat.” We built the bassline around his vocal. There’s such a quirky groove to it.”
“Bubble” (feat. New Kidz) “We went to Truckback studio as soon as we got off the plane. It’s basically a massive truck with a studio inside it run by this amazing group called New Kidz. Saul and I turned up—fortunately with Seani B too—horrifically jet-lagged and feeling very sheepish. No one knew we were turning up, but Seani basically stopped New Kidz as they were in the booth to come out and work on this track with us. It was an incredibly surreal night.”
“Disaster” “A real mental, fun ending to the record. We had a vocal from David Rodigan recorded at a venue about five years ago that we had never used, but always loved. He’s very close to us and an incredibly important voice in drum 'n' bass. So it was very cool to put him on a record and make one of those old-school messy, high-energy, bonkers jungle tunes. It’s quite poignant at the end, with Rodigan saying, ‘Don’t go anywhere, it’s not over.' And it’s true: This has been such a fun project, it might not be the end of it.”


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