Dean Blunt: "I think genre terms are really connected … to race and boundaries."
Dean Blunt’s debut full-length as Babyfather is very noisy. Harsh static boils furiously on tracks like “Motivation”, “PROLIFIC DEAMONS”, and “Flames”. Blunt relates to Frannie Kelley and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of NPR’s "Microphone Check" a story about a recent performance in Manhattan where someone requested he play trap music. “[A] white guy asking a black man, ‘Can you play trap? Cause I'm hearing you play noise.’ I understand what he wants, and we just left it at that,” Blunt says.
There’s a widespread, not to mention misguided, assumption that noise music is the exclusive domain of white artists. With BBF Hosted by DJ Escrow, Blunt endeavours to dismantle the misguided notion that black artists should stay away from overtly experimental forms of music. Indeed, he would bristle even at the mention of noise as a generic term. “I think genre terms are really connected … to race and boundaries,” he says, “and … if you've experienced any kind of isolation … you definitely treat genres in the same way that you [treat] race.”
The noise which listeners are exposed to on BBF isn’t limited to the harsh variety. We hear cell phones blaring, sirens going off, cars revving, babies mewling, ice rattling around in tumblers, lighters being sparked, and so forth. Moreover, the otherwise disconnected suite of “Stealth” is tied together by the mantric repetition of the phrase, “This makes me proud to be British”. All of this conspires to summon an out-and-out cacophony on BBF.
These noises work to create a sort of mythos around the multi-dimensional Babyfather persona. For instance, we learn from DJ Escrow -- Blunt’s rapping alter ego -- that the most formative record for him growing up was Cormega’s The Realness. This seemingly innocuous remark highlights the ontological fulcrum of the album: what’s real and what’s not? Music takes a backseat to noise and spoken-word on BBF, as Blunt plays with the idea of form. After all, this is an album that’s presented as though it’s a mixtape. The listener is thrown into a mire of confusion from the moment BBF begins. Whose album is this, really? Is it Dean Blunt’s? Is it Babyfather’s? Is it DJ Escrow’s? There are a couple of guests here, too. Arca shows up on several tracks, though in what capacity it’s not made clear. Mica Levi from Micachu and the Shapes appears on “God Hour” as well, contributing an unassuming vocal.
Listening to BBF, it’s difficult not to be drawn back to the cover art. What’s depicted there is almost offensively kitschy: a Union Jack-adorned Swegway overlooks a brightly-lit London at night. “Message”, the final track, has Escrow remarking, “There’s no unity and that”, ostensibly undermining what the English flag represents -- a nation galvanised by a shared solidarity. What the BBF Swegway ultimately signifies is an uncrowning of the patriotic British ideal. Because, at the end of the day, who’d be “proud” of a crappy faux-hoverboard painted with noisy national colours?