Eneeks: My Queen, My King, My God
Tokyo Dawn Records

VA: The Boogie Volume 5
Tokyo Dawn Records

Any release from Tokyo Dawn Records feels like the most refreshing of breezes, and these recent samplings are no exception. The Munich-based imprint, relaunched in 2009 after its initial founding in 1997 by Marc Wallowy and friends, specializes in a radiant and melodic blend of soul, hip-hop, funk, and jazz. The more recent of the two releases is My Queen, My King, My God a seven-track EP of soulful hip-hop from South London MC Eneeks (Christopher Skeene) that draws for inspiration from the ancient African trinity of man, woman, and child and explores personal, political, and spiritual issues over the course of its thirty-three minutes.

Eneeks' deft wordplay is certainly strong, but it's the luscious backdrops producer Robert Strauss and his London-based jazz-soul outfit Personal Life fashion that make the biggest difference. In place of a too-static programmed feel, a live, full-band sound is provided by keyboard player Daniel Taylor, vocalist Natalie Oliveri, bassist Nathaniel Bennett, drummer William Francis, and DJ Agile, the latter credited with cuts and scratches. With Taylor egging the MC's rapid flow on with vocoder effects, “Pillow Talk” digs into a seductive funk zone for a too-brief two minutes, after which the punchy swagger of “Going In” sees the collective digging even deeper into a warm, old-school hip-hop vibe; particularly memorable is the ballad-styled “My God” for the beautiful solo turns taken by Oliveri in between the MC's heartfelt verses. In a typical cut, Eneeks' delivery is sweetened by her soulful presence, Taylor's silky synth textures, and the rhythm section's crisp support. Their contributions to the EP are so appealing, in fact, they single-handedly break down whatever resistance a non-hip-hop fan might have to material of this kind.

More representative of the label's broad range is The Boogie Volume 5, a seventy-minute compilation that captures the richness of Tokyo Dawn's roster and the dynamism of its productions. A huge number of label-associated producers and vocalists are featured on the seventeen cuts, making the collection a veritable audio advert for the label, especially when everything from robo-funk and soulful balladry to electro-boogie and hip-hop surfaces. Hailing from San Francisco, Teeko gets things moving right away with the frothy, synth-heavy blaze of “The Hot,” after which New York beatmeister Still Weavens, joined by Erik Rico, serves up the first of many vocal cuts on the soulful “Everlasting Love.” From Pugs Atomz and remixer Roux Spana, we get “Girl,” a hip-hop sparkler flavoured with grime, while the Drop Out Orchestra and remixer Opolopo school us with the funky“Be Free With Your Love.” Standouts? Buscrates Sunrise's slinky, Prince-ified mix of Positive Flow's “Hold On” (featuring Colonel Red) is certainly one, as are Kaidi Tatham's punchy rerub of Ruth Koleva's sultry “What Am I Supposed To Do” and R&R Grooove Xpress's ultra-smooth “Sweet Lady” (featuring Fabian). Vocal cuts dominate, but Matt Matix's strutting “Robertson's Jam” and Reggie B's space-funkster “Databan” make strong cases for the compilation's instrumental component. The collection's a fresh ride, regardless of whether the cut in question's vocal-based or otherwise.

February 2017