Mura Masa and his pop sensibilities will take over in 2017
Someone who started out far removed from frothing modern culture is now leading the charge for how 2017 will sound.
Published: 10:00 am, January 03, 2017
Every year is the same. as the start of another twelve-month cycle comes around, the new band tips begin. Who will shift the most units? Who is the ‘priority act’? Who has the biggest budget? But this year, this year might be a bit different. A group of young bands and artists have been gaining momentum over the past couple of years. Here is when they’re set to come of age. Prepare for something special. Prepare for... the New Wave of 2017. Over the next few days you'll be able to find out more about some of our top picks for the year ahead, or find out more in the latest issue of Dork, right here.
Mura Masa has become a sensation. Not the type of tabloid-splattered scandal you see on a regular basis on your Twitter feed, but the type of sensation who’ll take on the globe and seize it from under your feet without anyone realising. The only difference is that a whole load of people are checking into Mura Masa’s world and are ready to follow it into 2017.
At the start of 2016 Mura Masa (otherwise known as 20-year-old Alex Crossan) was already the talked-about star of the underground dance world, the clear-cut heir to the chart smashing heights that Disclosure hit back in 2012. What’s followed are twelve months that have seen him whisked around the globe, playing sold-out shows and delivering the sort of bangers that turn any radio station playing it into Mura Masa FM. It’s an infectious rise that has heralded the coronation of future banger royalty, giving Alex the opportunity to grow and experience sights he would never have dreamed of growing up in Guernsey.
“It’s been a real adjustment period for me,” explains Alex “I wasn’t actually expecting to be out on the road so much, and I probably could have toured more but I think I’m more of a stay-at-home kinda dude. It’s just been really cool getting out to different countries and playing these shows.”
Shows have flowed and masses have been moved by a potent cocktail of vibrant dance, a mixed concoction that’s underpinned by the raw emotion of classic pop songwriters - a collection that a young Mura Masa grew up with on the island of Guernsey, a place more famous for its cows than any sort of late-night electro hysteria.
“My mum really loves Joni Mitchell, so I was listening to a lot of that growing up,” remembers Alex. “The first song I can remember hearing on the radio was Phil Collins’ ‘Another Day In Paradise’ - which is a wicked song, but beyond listening to those old records, my time was spent tapping into the internet and trying to understand from afar what people meant by ‘club culture’.”
He may not have been in the midst of things, but Mura Masa had the next best thing - spending days and days absorbing a web filled with sounds, beats and flourishes from across the musical landscape. Whether it was indie, hip-hop, rap or soul - what’s come from it is an appreciation and dedication to making truly defiant and independent music, pushing the boundaries of what he can create at every turn.
For a guy who knows his way around a late-night electro mover, Mura Masa’s path to underground beat sensation lies squarely with one of the most creative and influential forces in the scene today. It’s just some guy who’s done a few things, you may know him...
“Every time I think about it, I think of James Blake. Up to that point, I wasn’t really listening to electronic music. If you’d said to me at that age what did I think of electronic music I would have said - ‘What, like house and dancing in clubs?’ And that’s because there’s really no such thing as club culture in Guernsey, so I didn’t understand it.
“It was right at the start of it all for him, and he did a performance of ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ at like Maida Vale and I remember hearing it and thinking, ‘Wait, why has he made the choice to say the same thing over and over again, not to change the song around too much but sound so good?’ I went and listened to the album and it was even weirder, but I learnt just how beautiful electronic music could be.”
Ever since then it seems, Mura Masa has been preparing to make his own life-changing beats and hooks into a reality. Immediate dance floor anthems such as ‘What If I Go?’, the Nao-featuring ‘Firefly’ and the Shura-featuring ‘Love For That’ expose exactly what makes Mura Masa more than a dance prodigy done good. It’s the gritty feeling of dirt beneath your fingertips, the tangible sense of what it means to be young and the glimpse of a future with all its fragilities and raw truths on the table.
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“I’ve got a pop sensibility, which pisses me off sometimes actually!” notes Alex. “I want to be a bit cool and edgy but everything I write seems to come out catchy. I think that’s good, though, to be quite accessible - I can get weirder as the years go on. Do a Radiohead and write ‘Creep’ and then just go off and do my own thing!”
Working with whatever equipment he could muster together, Mura Masa’s hits are the type that will be played again and again for years to come, and have found themselves a home not only on the UK mainland but far across the globe.
“It’s kinda crazy,” Alex explains, taking a moment to think back to a year which has transformed his life. “With music, it’s like this baby that you raise for ages, and by the time it’s come out you’ve heard it a million times - so it’s surprising to see people hearing it with fresh ears and liking it.”
After spending his childhood on the island, moving to London was a true cultural turning point for someone who had studied and peered in for so many years at the city’s darkest secrets - wanting to know more and be invigorated by its 2am flashbacks.
“Just being in London... Like, having moved it was quite a shock, but I now feel like I’m a bit more in touch with my club culture and the underground world - which is really good for me. I’ve seen it all first hand now and have a grasp on a much wider breadth of music now.”
His presence is undeniable and future destined for greatness, something even the biggest names in music have noticed. Enter frame, A$AP Rocky - dropping arguably the knockout remix of the year by jumping all over the previously released ‘Love$ick’ and in turn ensuring just as Mura Masa soundtracked the beginning of 2016, Mura Masa will be the name on everyone’s lips in the clubs, basements and venues rounding out the next twelve months too.
“It was a lot of talking back and forth,” recalls Alex. “In the end, we actually ended up in the studio together in Abbey Wood - where he came over and worked on it together and recorded it all, and it ended up being quite a personal collaboration. He had heard the original version of ‘Lovesick’ and really enjoyed it, and just wanted to jump on it - quite simple really I guess?!”
While touring and dropping so many bangers have kept him out of the studio for most of the year, 2017 looks set to be the one where the world finally gets to grab onto a full-length Mura Masa journey. If this year is anything to go by, it’s going to be something special, as a true fan of boundary-breaking gets to shift up the storyline once again - with a collection of tracks that jump between style, genres and memories with ease.
One thing’s for sure, Mura Masa is excited. “I think it’s going to be mental, to be honest. I think some people will be confused as to why I chose to do certain things - like there’s a guitar ballad on there which is just a guitar and me singing, and it’s about a minute long.
“It’s stuff like that and just choices that are more about me doing what I want rather than being coherent, which is selfish but I think will make for a better listen once it’s all out. I guess it’ll be the sort of album where everybody has their favourite couple of songs from it, so not like an album where you can sit there and listen to a narrative all the way through.
“I was very obsessed with making a coherent storybook of an album to start with, but then I just thought... it’s not that deep! I’m 20 and can make that deep album later on in my career when I’ve got more to say, y’know? It’s more of a mood than a message, this album.”
Someone who started out far removed from frothing modern culture is now leading the charge for how 2017 will sound. And boy, do we want Mura of that.