Between the euphonic ska riddims of ‘Soundboy’ and the blissed-out rush of house hedonism on ‘Forward‘, p-rallel is a distiller of sounds birthed in the streets of the capital he calls home: his underground threnody-meets-dance-experiments repurpose breezy nostalgia with slick futurism.
p-rallel’s role as an in-demand producer almost minimises his multivalent ability as a curator of elevated Clubland glory. In his songs and in the DJ booth, p-rallel fosters community and interconnectedness; his close collaborators attest to his technical prowess as beatmaker, but also his ability to prize the culture of dance away from homogenised spaces back into the hands of originators.
p-rallel is heading up a new generation of electronic producers honouring the Black British club continuum; the Channel U aesthetics, the proliferation of pirate radio, the quirks and idiosyncrasies of black vernacular and coded language.
As part of our digital #PLTFRM feature, p-rallel shares the moment his love of dance music was crystallized, his co-creating production process and why his UK garage renaissance is both a call-to-arms and a tribute to his origins.
Dance music has been a feature of your life since you were young. Your Dad was a multi-genre DJ, you could say your path into music was fated from the start. What was the music you came up on?
I grew up listening to music in the house every day. My Dad was always going through his collections, playing music on the speakers. My palette was mixed: RnB, neo soul, funk, reggae, dancehall, soca. It’s a whole mix. That diversity in sound and style played into the artist I am today.
You have a background in dance choreography, as part of the street dance outfit Boy Blue Entertainment. Talk to me about the feeling you got from performing and the wider culture of performance art…
I started dancing when I was nine years old and I was always a fan of Boy Blue, so when I tried out for them it felt like a natural fit. I did a couple of shows with them. The whole culture is important because you’re part of a group – part of a tribe with shared goal. It fostered collaboration in me from a young age. I was so young! I have good memories going to venues dancing all around London.
How many of you were in the troupe?
They had about 50 dancers. It was a whole production team with dancers that were all ages; the youngest was about seven, the oldest was over thirty. I remember going to Trocadero sometimes and just vibing even when I wasn’t performing. You can actually trace a lot of London artists’ roots back to dancing. Do you know Sam Wise used to dance? The House of Pharaohs guys used to dance and so did JD. Reid. It’s actually quite wild how we came full circle. It was an important time for me as I was growing up within a space that was positive, creative and open.
As a teenager, you responded to Twitter callouts for studio engineers. Thereafter you were manning the boards for Rejjie Snow and Playboi Carti! Talk me through how that moment propelled you forward…
I knew who Carti was but he’d only dropped ‘Fetti’ – so this was SoundCloud-era Carti. After the session, I did my research on the London scene; the Rejjie Snows, the Piff Gangs, all of them. I found a space within this scene that felt like the right fit and I just wanted to learn and absorb as much as I could from them because they’re all unique.
We had your Elevation Meditation partners, Finn Foxell and Louis Culture, in the studio recently. That’s how music production started for you; producing with and for your friends.…
Essentially, yeah. I built a studio for them in my bedroom because I wanted to learn how to actually record vocals and get my head around the whole production side of music – the technical side of it. I guess you can say they were my test rabbits in a way!
Do you still have that studio now?
No, not even. I’ve got my own studio now, I’ve upgraded! I do still have the session files from back in the days.
Tell me about the evolution of Elevation Meditation. How has being part of a collective enhanced your prowess as a producer?
Elevation Meditation did everything for me to be honest. It all started as a group of friends that loved smoking and chilling together, as many days of the week that we could. We came up with ideas together; what genre we should tackle, who we’d rope in for a feature. It blossomed from there because there was no judgement. It was always about building each other up together and separately. It’s a big part of the foundation of where I come from.
Who are some producers in the UK and beyond that you reference in your work?
I’d say Basement Jaxx because they built this special relationship with their audience through club genres. I’m trying to replicate that energy and bring that whole dance music relationship back. Looking beyond the UK, Timbaland is one producer who’s always impressed me.
Your production work isn’t tethered to one genre but if you had to capture what defines your production style – the core conventions – what would it be?
It changes and I think you have to be fluid as a producer in order to stay relevant, but I’d say a lot of my music has soulfulness as a foundation. I then add the layers of dance history on top, whatever it is that gets the body moving. There’s so much within the dance category. It’s so layered and complex, you can’t just box yourself into one genre anyway.
Would you say you’re trying to reclaim dance and the essence of dance from homogenised white spaces?
I wouldn’t say reclaim, I don’t even want to say rebrand but there is a level of repurposing the past for a new generation. I’m always trying to give my personalised take on a genre and I’m always aware of the pioneers that birthed them.
What’s your process as a producer? Are you a solitary creator tinkering away by yourself in your own world? Or do you need to bounce ideas off your friends and collaborators?
I like doing my own stuff within a room, but then…I don’t send beats. I’d rather get the artist in, sit them next to me, make a beat and take their input into account. It’s all about chemistry and I’m very collaborative; I like to bring people in to share ideas. Nothing exists in a vacuum.
You released the ‘Forward’ EP around this time last year: 6 tracks featuring artists within your inner circle. The clue is in the title but what were you gesturing towards musically?
It was me leaning into a high-energy dance project. I’d wanted to embrace that world for ages but growing up within the rap scene it didn’t make sense to do it earlier. When lockdown happened, I dropped ‘Soundboy’, and after it felt right to make something more electronic. Dropping ‘Forward’ bridged the chill-wave vibe with something more club-sounding. It was an important step to take especially with where I’m going now.
You lean into that propulsive energy on new single, ‘Evening Time’. This is peak So Solid-Roll Deep energy. What are the hallmarks of the genre you wanted to capture with this single?
It’s a reminder of where it came from and what these originators did back in the 90s and early 00s. It’s about getting the new kids to understand this genre is deeper than it actually is to the plain view. It’s a genre that I grew up with, it’s heavily tied into British black expression. More specifically it’s a genre made in London that created a whole movement around it. My Mum and Dad grew up in this period so it’s an homage to them and their youth.
You roped in Kam-BU and BXKS on vocal rap duties. What did they bring to the table?
They’re two friends who are incredible artists in their own right. They brought that gritty, grimy flow; that whole modern London lifestyle that people can relate to.
Pick a contemporary track that captures the distilled vibe of club music you like…
Louis Culture ‘Grime’ – that one really hits.
Let’s talk new club concept ‘Never Mind’. Previously you sold out nights at XOYO, Fabric, Village Underground. You’re bringing the experience to Brighton, Bristol, Glasgow, London and more. What is the ‘Never Mind’ ethos?
I’m trying to build a community of kids that feel comfortable enough to go out and listen to people of colour play electronic music. There’s a lot of white DJs and producers taking space. It’s me creating a shared experience of people coming together in a place that distracts you from real life. I want ‘Never Mind’ to be a stage at festivals – I’m thinking cutting-edge installations and raves! That’s the vision.
You’ve DJ’d in intimate spaces and surround sound festival stages. What is your foolproof formula for anybody stepping into that world for the first time?
It sounds weird every time I say it but play to yourself. Play what you want to play because you have the control. I’ve never taken requests in my life. I never have and I never will. In terms of my set, I’m gonna roll you through an experience that I’ve taken time to create. Play the music that you love, from that people will love the fact you’re showing them music they probably wouldn’t go and search for on their own. You’re introducing them to a whole different side of club culture.
After the sonic experiments of your first few projects, where are you venturing to next musically? What does the next iteration of p-rallel look like?
It’s just really ticking off that dance bag for me and making sure I go deeper into that world. My next release is coming. It’s another garage track and it features one of the biggest singers within the circle of upcoming artists right now. With the relationship I have with her, it just made sense for us to make a song together. We’ve tried it a couple of times before but I think this is the one.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain
Photography: Jasmine Engel-Malone
Fashion: Sabrina Soormally
Styling Assistant: Ana Lamond