RL Grime Tests the Limits With Void: "There's a Lack of People Trying to Make Timeless Music"
Photo by Andi Elloway
Dance music's obsession with trap beats is far from over, but just as in any relationship, you've got to spice things up. L.A.-based trap star RL Grime has been in the game for almost four years, and as much as he loves 808s and grimy drops, he needed something more.
Enter the Void, RL Grime's official debut album. It's a 12-track journey exploring 50 shades of darkness, each track it's own mix of rhythms and mechanical, cinematic landscapes. With features from Boys Noize, Big Sean, Djemba Djemba, and How To Dress Well, it's the most ambitious project of the producer's career to date.
He's toured the new project all over the country, and he's winding down with a visually-stunning performance at the Fillmore Miami Beach Friday, February 27, and we were lucky to get him on the phone in advance.
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New Times: I noticed you have production credits on Pitbull's "I'm Off That," but it's actually the "Trap on Acid" beat. What's the story there?
RL Grime: That was kind of a weird scenario, very early on in my career. His camp just sort of took the beat. I didn't have any rights over it because I sampled something else [Afrojack's "Pacha on Acid"], but they gave me a production credit on it, so I guess that's cool.
Congrats on the debut album. You've said you were trying to explore dark landscapes. How did that come into play?
It was sort of exploring the darker stuff that I wanted to make for a while but never really had the context to do it. Being that it's an album, you're able to try new things, try interludes. I made an eight-minute song on there. I wanted to really try and make landscapes with music. I wanted it to be very cinematic, because I'm really into movie scores. I wanted to try a lot of new things and keep it all under a similar vibe so that the album makes sense. In that way, it was exploring the deep ocean, for example. That's a visual reference I used a lot when making the music for the album. It was just the idea of being in the deep sea, how it's completely pitch black and you're just suspended in time there. That whole visual idea really influenced a lot of the music.
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What made this the right time to explore themes on a larger level?
I just noticed everyone is putting up singles on Soundcloud that would pop for a week, then it's over. There's a lack of people trying to make timeless music and making full projects that mean something. I really wanted to buckle down and try to do that, try to create a body of work. I think the dance music album is a lost art. I hadn't heard an album in a long time that comes from dance music that really inspired me. I would listen back to some of the older records that I listened to when I was younger and just try to understand how to put together an album. That was definitely one of the fist steps I took.
What are some of those records you find inspiring?
Fat of the Land by The Prodigy, † by Justice, old MSTRKRFT on The Looks, Boys Noize's Oi Oi Oi, a lot of the stuff that initially got me into dance music, that drew me into it.
Those records were a gateway to identifying with dance music for a lot of people. It's crazy to think how much time has gone by and how far we've actually come from that place.
Back then, it was more just about trying to tell a story and really trying to find a sound. It was less so about drops and, I don't know, it was just a really cool time in music. I think that's why it exploded so much in the U.S. and worldwide, because it was very authentic and really well done.
As well as exploring thematic soundscapes, Void seems to have been a more personal experience for you. Does it resonate as personal?
I think a lot of the records on there were very personal to some extent. Going into it, you want to make the album a proper representation of what you're about and who you are. A lot of them, the titles would reference things in my life. There's little things in it that make it very personal.
It's really cool you worked with UNICEF on the song "Always." How did that come about?
They reached out a while ago, and I was obviously on board right away. We worked with them, just making sure the video and the song made sense together. They're obviously a great organization. It was an absolute pleasure, and I'm really happy we did it.
What else is coming up in your world?
I'm going to be doing a bunch of festivals this summer, so people should come check me out there. I'll probably be working on some collaborations and remixes this year, hopefully working on a bigger body of work by the end of the year.
Has this experience got you excited for more large-format projects like this?
Oh, definitely. I definitely put off making an album for a long time, and being able to finally conquer that has been great. I'm looking forward to expanding on it.
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RL Grime. With Djemba Djemba and Tommy Kruise. Saturday, February 28. Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $25 plus fees via ticketmaster.com. All ages. Call 305-673-7300 or visit fillmoremb.com.
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