- Release Date 2017-08-11
- Label Big Dada
- Catalog BDDNL280
It's fitting that the album arrives via Big Dada - a label that helped shape his vision. "Big Dada started the same year I started DJing. Not DJing in clubs or making tapes. Literally when I first touched turntables," he explains. "I knew I had to find that other type of music to fit where my head was at. Leftfield beats and abstract rhymes were what I was looking for and alongside Jazz Fudge, Mo Wax, Asphodel and Fondle 'Em, Big Dada was what I was digging."
Kutmah is a mercurial creative whether you're talking art or music. As a DJ/curator, he has tirelessly searched for and championed new underground talent from across the globe. His passion, hunger and most importantly, his incredible ear for new music have made him Flying Lotus' go-to warm-up DJ and also earned him the honour of compiling an album - "Kutmah presents Worldwide Family Vol.2" - for Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Recordings in 2012. It brought to the fore Kutmah's gift for A&R, cemented when he founded his own label IZWID in 2013.
Justin McNulty was born in Brighton, England to an Egyptian mother and Scottish father. He moved to the United States when he was 12 years old and grew up in Los Angeles, California. In 2004 he co-founded the now legendary Sketchbook Sessions at Little Temple alongside Take, Eric Coleman (Mochilla) and DJ Nobody (Low End Theory). It was LA's first instrumental beats and art night, and it paved the way for the city's inimitable musical renaissance. The sonics and spirit are encapsulated in Kutmah's monthly Sketchbook radio broadcast on NTS - now in its sixth year.
On 29th July 2010 Justin was deported from the US for 10 years. He spent 3 months in a detention centre in New Mexico before being flown to the UK. He lived in Manchester and London before relocating to Berlin in 2016.
"Everytime I play, I feel I'm planting seeds," he muses, in relation to his move to Europe and his role as an albeit unofficial ambassador for LA's blossoming beat movement. "The funny thing is I was an outcast even when I was in LA. Dancefloors weren't really ready if I'm honest. People were still heavily into classic 90's hip-hop, so they weren't ready for some gnarly beats. I started DJing so late that there was no way I was going to get a reputation playing 90's hip-hop - we already had DJs for that."
The album was recorded in Berlin in Winter. Being in a foreign country around the holidays when one is supposed to be with family... that emotion of isolation weighed heavy on Justin: "For three weeks during this time I didn't speak to a single person... I had no internet and no phone." Accordingly, half of the record fits this season and these emotions. In Spring the sun came out and the flowers were blooming: "I started to cheer up a bit and so did the beats," says Justin. "I like that there are polar opposite vibes on the record. Hopefully I'll hear from some punk kid that they only like Part One, or from some hip-hop head that they only like Part Two... or some beat head saying they only like the instrumentals," he laughs.
Close friend Dario Rojo Guerra (aka Natureboy Flako) played a key role in piecing the album together with Justin, acting as engineer and occasionally producer, in addition to providing a set of trusted ears. "Flako is the real MVP of the album," affirms Justin. "I couldn't imagine what the record would have sounded like without his input." The album was mastered by Kelly Hibbert (AlmaChrome) who counts J Dilla's "Ruff Draft" and Madlib's "WLIB AM: King Of The Wigflip" in his discography - two massively influential and inspirational records in Kutmah's musical DNA.
There's a definite sense of contemplation and memory with "TROBBB!". The title is a reference to Justin's school days in Brighton. He would go to Egypt to visit family in the summer holidays and come back to school suitably tanned. One bully took to calling him Black Belly Button until one day Justin took retribution with his fists. The cover photo, taken by Justin himself is in itself highly symbolic: "It's my homegirl Angela at lunch break at Hoover High in Glendale around 1992. We would always try to go where no dickheads were hanging out, so we would go chill by the bleachers and take photos of each other." It was one of the only possessions that survived a house fire in 2007. "If you look at the right corner of the photo you can see the residue from the fire," he says. "Having this be one of the few things that made it through the fire that was going to burn me alive if I didn't wake up in time to rescue my housemate and jump out the window in our fucking underwear made the photo even more special, so I had to use it for my debut album."