Mura Masa’s Best Songs Thrive On His Cross-Genre Production Finesse

Picking out key tracks from his catalogue...

The generation ahead have pushed genres to their tipping point, shuning the patronising guidance of definitive labels and categories. Perhaps it is in the pairing of an interconnected 21st century, bridging sounds across new locations and contexts, and the instincts of the producers shaping popular music today. One of which is the ever-evolving unpredictability of Mura Masa.

Once known for the bright and youthful likes of ‘Love$ick’ and ‘What If I Go?’, a collective fondness for Masa’s early work remains, eventually climbing its way to the more challenging, discreet collaborations with Stormzy and Lianne La Havas. Situated at the heart of the contemporary and experimental, it’s of no surprise that at times the Guernsey producer excels, at others he misses the mark – that is a given. Yet, as Mura Masa gears up towards third studio album ‘demon time’, Clash revisits a discography framed by versatility and innovation.

Mura Masa’s Best Songs Thrive On His Cross-Genre Production Finesse

‘Firefly’

For many of us, the first introduction to Mura Masa’s production chops came with the arrival of ‘Firefly’.

Although his abundant talent had been clear since his debut ‘Soundtrack To A Death’, the single was definitely his first bona-fide hit – aided by a killer contribution from the still criminally underrated East London singer NAO – and it quickly gained hype across dozens of the most popular hype blogs and YouTube channels of the day.

Even though its lush, house and jazz-inspired beat sounds terribly familiar now, it’s important to emphasise just how fresh it all sounded back then, just a few months before the likes of Masa and Kaytranada would take the sound truly global. – Louis Torracinta

‘Love$ick’

In 2015, Mura Masa released a steel pan drum laced cut called ‘Lovesick.’ After the track saw huge success, none other than A$AP Rocky entered the scene. So ‘Love$ick’ was born, the link-up we never knew how badly we needed. Moving simultaneously between stripped-back sounds and complexly layered calypso-inspired beats, the duo manifested a track carrying buzzing energy that can only be equated to the vibrancy and untapped energy of being a teenager.

Originally the track was about an empty sexual encounter but A$AP Rocky took it to an exotic twisted-pop kind of place with his lovelorn bars. The music video that followed,directed by Yoni Lappin, was so intimate and visually striking that the whole collaboration now stands as one of Mura Masa’s most iconic releases. – Naima Sutton

‘Doorman’

2019 brought together the inevitable forces of slowthai and Mura Masa, both sat comfortably in positions that, quite bluntly, prioritised risk-taking. ‘Doorman’ situates itself amongst Slowthai’s debut album, commanding a turn in the Northampton rapper’s sound. Now following through his breakthrough audaciousness with a direct nod towards punk-rock nostalgia, the single is a ferocious ode to British grit and, down to its cinematic visuals, Trainspotting. Similarly, the times saw Masa shift away from a signature polished production, venturing into a jagged noise.

Taking snippets from an 1983 documentary on punks in Islington, the track struggles between class and disparity. Harsh guitar strums charge their way through the opening, setting pace for a punchy verse from Slowthai, surrounded by big drums and a racing bass. To this day, the track invites for bustling mosh pits and remains a crowd favourite for both forward-thinkers. – Ana Lamond

‘Walking Away’ (Remix)

Prior to meme-rabid choreography and selfies with Drake, HAIM found themselves dipping between their pop rock aesthetics and electronic leaning remixes that invited a string of renown producers onboard. Wookie, Jayda G and Toro Y Moi are amongst the names of the established and rising, yet it is Mura Masa’s remix of ‘Walking Away’ that bagged itself a Grammy.

Again, at its initial glace, the sophomore album’s contribution felt like a deviation for the bedroom producer, fully aware of its potentials to elevate his career all the meanwhile. Yet, in many ways the remix reserves Masa’s seat amongst the pop stratosphere, piecing together a cool refresher that highlights the three sisters’ featherlight vocals whilst favouring power commanding basslines, flickering between digital and raw instrumentation. Swapping out its predecessor’s minimal approach for plucking string sections and glitching hooks that swell across the track, there is a balance between the distorted and crystalline that makes for a progressive and absorbing listen. – Ana Lamond

‘Can’t Fight’

The union of Mura Masa and Lianne La Havas is perhaps the most exciting of the producer’s escapades, capturing his work at its most soulful and purifying.

Masa’s early encounters with music describe a gravitation towards playing in bands, going on to learn how to play the guitar, bass, drums and even dabbling in his own vocal chords. Across his contributions to electronic music, there has been the underlying focus towards instrumentation, most prominently so during the innovator’s live performances. 

It is for this reason that the radiant and warming ‘Can’t Fight’ simply makes sense. Taking a step back from the electronic cuts, the collaboration pushes keen-eared Masa fans to re-imagine his discography. Rhythmic to its core, it’s a track that subtly builds on an upbeat melody, meshing punk strums over a rich bass guitar that is finally joined by elevating string sections. Referencing contemporary funk group Vulfpeck, the two come together to soundtrack the internal struggle between the mind and the heart, tangled in relationships and hopeless romantics. – Ana Lamond

‘Just For Me’

For a whole year, it was hard to escape the clutch of PinkPantheress, making a viral debut on TikTok that went on to soundtrack every festival, every car journey and every lonely night in.  It’s hard to pinpoint what makes the likes of ‘Just for me’ so addictive, but it’s a clear indicator towards the resurgence of UK garage, now morphing itself into a genre-spanning sound that dips and dives between jungle, breakbeat and jazz.

Already with his finger on the pulse, Masa took to the genre’s return and envisioned the ultimate sadgirl anthem. Blending longing guitar chords with a 2-step bounce, the production preserves a youthful nostalgia, following through Pantheress’ vocals that detail infatuation and heartbreak. In many ways, the track falls under the influence of the more insular and intimate electronics that transcend the club, reaching for a more adaptive and in turn accessible outlook. 

‘Just For Me’ would later pave the way for recent collaboration ‘Where you are,’ summoning alt-pop sensation WILLOW and Pantheress, further pushing the boundaries of UK Garage across shores. – Ana Lamond

‘Blessing Me’

Ahead of his upcoming album ‘demon time’ set to be released later this year, Mura Masa has bestowed us with yet another tune for the summer vibes so many of us have been yearning for. With the musical powerhouses that are Pa Salieu and Skillibeng by his side, the trio create a hedonistic tone that is held aloft by a playful and distinct electronic-infused dancehall sound.

In all honesty, you might not immediately look to Mura Masa for the ability to channel dancehall influences in such a brilliant fashion but if there’s one thing the producer possesses, it’s the ability to bring dynamic and unexpected sounds to life. His latest release proves just that. – Naima Sutton

Mura Masa will release new album ‘Demon Time’ on September 16th.

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