Having made waves with his 2016 EP ‘Mavericks’, Peckham-based, Turkish producer Sami Baha returns to Planet Mu for his debut album, expanding on its crystalline trap sound and cementing his globe-trotting credentials with a series of vocal collaborations that take in Brixton Hill, Chicago, Stockholm and Cairo.
Tracks with UK drill star Dimzy, footwork producer and rapper DJ Nate, and Egyptian MCs Dawsha and Abanob — who Baha met on tour — all add a fresh dimension and energy to his clean-cut instrumentals, with only a listless appearance from mumble rapper Yung Lean proving disappointing.
Baha’s ability to draw seemingly disparate voices together on a single, entirely coherent project is impressive. The collaboration with Nate, in particular, will do damage in a club, while Dimzy’s contribution welds drill music’s traditionally nihilistic arrogance to a contrastingly tender beat, making for one of the record’s surprisingly less brash, and also most memorable, moments.
‘Gambit’ is another highlight, a full-bodied beat that picks up the album’s pace after the haunting, delicate hi-hats and keys of ‘Aliens’ and in preparation for ‘Thugs’ (alongside Nate), while title track ‘Free For All’ showcases Baha’s ear for beautifully arranged orchestration, using instruments from his home country. Penultimate track ‘Limbo’, meanwhile, which pairs eerie rising chords with rumbling sub-bass and slinky drums, even has a whiff of grime about it, though remains situated within the hip-hop templates of the rest of the record.
On this project, as well as demonstrating his established passion for precisely constructed, ice-cold hip-hop, Baha has also shifted into new territory. On closer ‘Cold Pursuit’, for example, he showcases a laidback lounge rap style reminiscent of instrumentalists like RJD2. ‘Free For All’ is a debut album from a producer continually finding new perspectives on your favourite sounds.
Words: Alex McFadyen
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