Catching up with UK artist Cadenza, the young producer known for turning classic samples on their heads gave us a deeper look into his versatile world and how he has his hands in a bit of everything. As a producer, DJ, manager and just overall orchestrator of connecting the right people musically, Cadenza is a man of many hats. From working with Busy Signal to Diplo to Ryan Leslie, this music man does not let genres define him nor bound his success.
Let’s talk a little about your musical background.
The first record I did probably would have been around 2011, which was called, “The Darkest Hype.” It was like a dancehall record, like an instrumental, which sampled the Lafayette Afro-Rock Band, which is that famous sample they use in the Wreckx-N-Effect “Rump Shaker” and all that stuff. Jay-Z’s used it. As I put that out, I started doing A&R scouting for that label that put it out called Dummy Magazine; they had a record label called Dummy Records. I worked for them for a while. I was at Universal, as well at the same time [for a publishing deal]. I was busy with my degree work and I liked making records on the side. I would go away for the summer and go to America and work with guys like Diplo over at Mad Decent and so I ended up putting out a record with him on his label. I did some stuff with Fool’s Gold [Records] and MixPak. All through that time, I was still studying; just putting out random singles, or whatever. When I finished University, I was in London and just started working. This year I’ve worked with TALA on her EP and the Kiko Bun stuff, which came through my label. That was the “How Many Times” record, which we did last year. Moving forward with Kiko, I’ve just been involved in his whole album, which he’s signed to Island [Records] now. We went to NY in January to record that and do the first single, “Where I’m From” out there with a band called The Frightnrs and another producer called Ticklah who produces that band, who are like a 5-piece reggae band from Brooklyn. I’ve just been working with loads of people who come through my studio like Stylo G, Busy Signal, other UK club producers…my life’s kind of all over the place so I’m probably not making much sense (laughs).
You’re the music man that brings the artists together; you produce the track and link people up. You’re the orchestrator. Do you take any pride in that or do you feel that just comes along with what you’re trying to accomplish?
Yeah, I find the right people, the right producers, the right singers, the right rappers; yeah, I kind of bring the right mix together. Obviously, production was something I started when I was a little bit younger, but it was never the main thing that interested me. I was never strictly just interested in just being a producer. I was as equally interested in A&R, scouting, that kind of stuff, as well as management. I manage this other guy called BMB Space Kid; he’s a guy we have on our label. He’s from Russia. I kind of always wanted to have my fingers in every side of it as I quite enjoy it and that means I never really get bored. Some days I’m in the studio producing or I’m DJing or going to a gig or I’m sorting out some stuff for BMB or whatever. So, everyday is always different. I’m never bored.
How do you juggle all of that?
I find it all kind of falls into one, if I’m honest. Because I’m looking for new stuff by default, either for myself because I want to work with someone new so, I’m always looking for new stuff. That either mean I’ll have the opportunity to sign them to the label or just to work with them on something for me or for something for them. It all kinda just feeds into each other naturally. I’m just constantly looking so there will always be a right reason for me to be in contact with that person. It could be one of three things: to do something for them, something for me, or maybe if I really like it, help them put their record out.
You did production work on Ryan Leslie’s Black Mozart. How did you two link up?
In 2011, I was in NY and my friend was interning for him. I went to go meet my friend by Ryan’s apartment one night and Ryan came into the deli near where he lives and I said, “Hey, I want to send you some tracks.” He was like, “Cool.” I sent them to him and I got a message from him like, “Hey, come to Vienna and work on the album.” I looked up to him for ages. I use to watch all his YouTube videos of him making beats and stuff so, it was pretty cool to link with him and get to work.
What’s the reggae and dancehall scene like in the UK?
There’s a big reggae and dancehall scene here; always has been. It’ll get played in the club. It’s always there, but these past few years, Stylo G’s probably been the main guy who’s championed UK dancehall. We haven’t really had a UK artist for that in a while. He walks the line perfectly: he can do big radio records and he can do real street, gully Jamaican records, as well. So, I think he’s a good artist. He’s flying the flag definitely…There’s not too many UK artists. Kiko is probably the next one that comes to mind, but there aren’t really a whole heap of UK-based dancehall or reggae artists that are successful or that are well-known, I would say. Unless they’re coming from Jamaica or America…Around where I live, there’s a big West Indian community, just always has been since the 50s when they all came over after the war. It’s strong…I’m half-Jamaican myself.
Your single, “Foundation” is being released in August in time for Carnival.
Yeah, it’s going to come out internationally. It may even release a little bit earlier so, possibly even the end of July. It’ll be around that time. There was no intention behind it. It was a record I’ve been sitting on for a couple of years actually. I made the actual beat when I was 18. That’s like six or seven years now. I made it when I was in Jamaica and I just never did anything with it. When I finally set up my own studio in London, Stylo came around and voiced it. Straight away he was like, “Yeah, I like this. This will work.” It took ages of back-and-forth and eventually we got Busy on there and it all kind of came together. I feel like sending it out to people especially people in New York like Bobby Konders and Hot 97 is championing it. Even in Europe…because everyone knows that song. It’s the “Real Rock” riddim. Even if you don’t listen to reggae, you’ve probably heard that. It’s probably in the back of your mind somewhere, like in your subconscious. I think people will, hopefully, naturally take to it.
Will you be performing or attending at the Notting Hill Carnival in London this year?
Yeah, I probably will. Probably have a party for the label, which we’re trying to plan now. There’s always tons of stages all around the carnival route. I’ll be showing up, doing stuff with Kiko and Stylo and making sure the record is getting played out loud.
The “Foundation Mix” is a mash-up of hip hop, throwback classics, soulful house, and more. With so many different sounds, what’s the common theme for YOU?
I don’t know. Growing up my brother was always into dubstep and drum bass so, he would show me that side of music. He used to take me out to clubs with him…So, that was always like a big influence for me and I always liked the intensity of that music. Then, for me also, production wise I find myself when I was learning how to produce and making tracks, I use to enjoy making club music, but I maybe wasn’t that good at executing it well like how I heard people doing it. I always found I was better at more soulful, hip hop, and R&B edge kind of thing where I could find old samples. I had more of a talent for that type of tempo and that groove than I did for straight up club music. I like to kind of showcase that because I like to play the stuff I make then, I also want to play the more club stuff that I grew up on and still listen to now.
Do you have an album coming out soon?
It’s not confirmed as of yet. I haven’t really started it as such. I have tracks that I’ve written. Yeah, there will be a longer length project coming out at the end or start of next year.
Have you put out an album before?
Being that this would be your first LP, what exactly would you want it to say about you?
Definitely want it to have a classic, timeless feel to it. I don’t want it to be a snapshot of what’s happening right now because I feel like that can be quite disposable. You can be like, “Oh, this is cool now,” and then, you forget about it next month. I definitely want to draw for some more classic features that people wouldn’t expect. People from eras gone by and just bring them back in and also, people that I’ve grown to work with now that I have a good relationship with. Like Kiko, I would definitely have him on the album. I think that it would just be a case of me taking ideas that I have now, which I probably just made on my computer, but breaking them back down into the raw elements of a song. So, literally working them back to just a piano, writing a song around it, and just building it back up. That’s how I see myself doing it. Breaking ideas down and then, just building them back up again.
Do you feel like it’ll be as mashed up as the “Foundation Mix” or do you feel like you’re going to focus more on the whole reggae, dancehall type of feel?
No, it’ll be all over the place (laughs). I think it’ll make sense.
Yeah, because you’ll basically have no genre.
Exactly. That’s kind of what I want. I don’t really want to be like, “Oh, he makes reggae or he makes this.” I think that if you’re a producer you should be able to, in theory, make pretty much anything. You just have to know the right musicians to get the right people and bring it all together and you can do whatever you want. If you can envision a sound, you should be able to create it…I want to get people on a record that you really just wouldn’t expect. I want to get the most out-there collaborations and have people like, “How did he even get these people on this kind of record?” That’s how I want it to feel like.
What has been the most monumental moment in your career so far and what’s the biggest goal you have that you have yet to achieve?
Working with Ryan was definitely a big moment. Then, I think touring with Major Lazer was pretty special, as well just because it was completely out the blue. There was no preconceived plan, it was like, “Ok, come and do this,” and I went and did it. I never really played that much before. I DJ’ed, yeah. I used to DJ when I was at university, clubs and stuff like that, but only to 300 or 400 people. Then, suddenly I was at Roskilde [Festival] in Denmark and we were closing out the Arctic Monkeys and there were 80,000 people! It was surreal. It was an experience I’ve never had and don’t even know if I ever will again, just as me. So, that was really cool.
Pre-order Cadenza’s new single “Foundation” featuring Stylo G and Busy Signal here.
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