Jazz meets grime in one conversation...

South London’s Henry Wu is a multi-instrumentalist, artist and DJ whose work explores the cross-section between jazz and electronic club music. After building a name for himself with neo-soul-influenced club productions, his collaborative Yussef Kamaal project would set the standards for the UK’s current jazz resurgence. In May he released his latest solo project ‘The Return’ under the name Kamaal Williams.

Hailing from West London’s Mozart Estate, Big Zuu is not only one of the UK’s most electrifying grime artists, having established himself as both a radio host and MC who has racked up hundreds of thousands of views on his YouTube freestyles as well as releasing a pair of EP’s: last year’s ‘Big Zuu EP’ and this year’s ‘Hold That EP’.

As both artists gear up to play Red Bull’s Odyssey event, we invited them to sit down for a conversation about London’s thriving music culture, and the similarities between their respective practices.

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Henry: I actually met you the other day, in the Patta store. You were talking to one of my good friends Damo. He mentioned you’ve been chatting to Tim & Barry about doing something with them. He said you’d seen the ‘One Take Freestyle’ we did with Mez and wanted to do something similar?

Zuu: Yeah, that ting was mad! He was spitting for like eight minutes straight! I wanna do something like that definitely. Henry: It was nice to do the Tim & Barry thing with Mez, ‘cos I feel like our two kind of musical worlds still haven’t been connected yet. I think the only producer who’s connected our two sides of the musical spectrum is Swindle, who’s really tried to make jazz and funk come over into grime.

Zuu: Yeah I hear you, have you heard of Treble Clef? There’s a track he did called ‘Cake & Bread’, it’s a grime riddim but the musicality behind it, it’s incredible. I like that kinda stuff, like, especially watching that Mez thing you did, the vibes work so well because it’s so musical. Grime has that stigma where it’s a bait, 140bpm ‘Rhythm ’N’ Gash’ kind of music, but when you add in those musical elements that you’re doing, anyone can listen to it. It’s more accessible.

Henry: I feel like we’re doing the same things you guys are doing on the mic, but on our instruments instead. I’m vibsing, I’m working the crowd the same way you are. I’ve always been trying to say, ‘Look we’re doing the same thing here’. I feel like MC’s have always veered away from doing stuff with a band. When people think of bands, they think of indie or rock music, some neeky guys on the instruments, y’know what I mean?

Zuu: That’s the thing, I’m trying to do something like that! I feel like if you have someone on the drums, someone on the keys, someone on the guitar, it just brings out things in the music that are not typically there when it’s just an instrumental.

Henry: Yeah bro, I wanna push this thing forward. I want people to know we’re all from the same place, whether it’s London or the UK, why not push the sound forward together and work with each other more?

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Henry Wu and Big Zuu will perform on The Boogie and The Transmission boats as part of Red Bull Music Odyssey on June 30th. Tune in to Red Bull Radio on the night to listen live.

Interview: Mike Wood

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