- Who Is Richie Brains? might very well define drum & bass in 2016, and it's not drum & bass. Produced by some of the greatest minds in the scene today—who all share common ground where drum & bass has merged with footwork, hip-hop, jungle and even grime—the album lands on Exit, following two collaborative projects from label chief dBridge and his Autonomic partner-in-crime Kid Drama (AKA Jon Convex). They first linked with Joe Seven and Consequence as the clinical The Binary Collective, and then a month later, Module Eight's Legacy offered more traditional fare with the help of Loxy, Resound and Skeptical. Who Is Richie Brains? isn't like either of those, nor does it sound distinctly like an Exit record, which is surprising given that everyone in Richie Brains has released with the label.
Richie Brains is Alix Perez, Chimpo, Fixate, Fracture, Om Unit, Sam Binga and Stray—the more you dig into their individual catalogues, the more you wonder why something like this hasn't happened sooner (studio complications notwithstanding). Fracture, Om Unit and Sam Binga are the most obvious conspirators, having released on each other's labels and produced likeminded jungle/footwork hybrids for years. Meanwhile, in Manchester, Chimpo has been joining the dots between grime, dubstep and drum & bass with a footwork bite and plenty of Northern cheek to boot.
It seems that these four were in cahoots on certain Richie Brains tracks. "Dem A Talk Bout," with Manchester's Trigga, resonates with the gangster swagger of Trigga, Chimpo and Sam Binga's "Who Run Tingz" collab; the breakneck techno of "The Nine Two Three" doesn't sound far from "Acid Claps" off Fracture's Exit EP with DJ Spinn & Taso. There's also the '90s-jungle-touting "Buss It," which comes directly from Om Unit, Sam Binga and Fracture's domain. But the rest of Who Is Richie Brains?—save for "The Blips," which brings to mind the dystopic hip-hop of Stray's Ivy Lab trio—is harder to figure out. The wobbliness of "Likkle Som," another halftime number, brings to mind Alix Perez's alias with Eprom, Shades. Then again, the obvious drum & bass ideas at play point to Sam Binga, Fracture and Om Unit.
Although it's fun to guess who's responsible for what, doing so might be missing the record's point. The main takeaway of Who Is Richie Brains? is that the producers use traditional drum & bass minimally. "Voyage" exemplifies this, doing some lovely soul with a smattering of classicist sounds that resonate on a Metalheadz level. With their moody pads and little details, "B Boy 900000" and "Respeck Due" feel more grounded in Exit's emotive back catalogue without being anchored to any specific artist. Sometimes Who Is Richie Brains? goes totally off-piste, like G-funk opener "Game Shades" and the ambient "Sk8 M8," but that was bound to happen on an album with so much creative muscle and so few rules.
01. Game Shades
02. Sk8 M8
03. Bring Dat Back feat. Killa P
04. The Nine Two Three
05. The Blips
06. Buss It
07. Splatta feat. Fox
08. B Boy 9000
10. Likkle Som
11. Dem A Talk Bout feat. Trigga
14. Respek Due feat. Rider Shafique