Jesse Boykins IIII & Melo-X


Zulu Guru Ninja Tune ****

The art of collaboration is a complex one. From making sure the relevant egos are parked at the door of the studio to calibrating individual contributions and ideas without disparaging or irking either side, getting two artistic heads together can be an onerous task, even with the very best of initial intentions.

The best collaborations, though, zing with energy and enthusiasm. They happen when musical minds leave individual concerns to one side and mint a new common currency by working in tandem.

Zulu Guru unites fascinating Chicago boho-soul singer and producer Jesse Boykins III (one of the highlights at last summer’s Electric Picnic) and Brooklyn rapper and sound sorcerer MeLo-X. Boykins’s inventive, futuristic, soulful work and MeLo-X’s intriguing approach to putting new kinks into hip-

hop’s vintage boom mean both have the right credentials for this kind of collaboration. And both have form when it comes to working with others. (Boykins has worked with everyone from Thundercat to Sinden.)

Zulu Guru offers signs of where hip-hop and r’n’b could go next. For those tracking how these particular sounds mutate and morph – and how such diversions impact on mainstream pop – the influence of players such as Boykins and MeLo-X is important. Hip-hop and pop producers are always searching for the edge, the next jump in sound that will make their tunes stand out from the crowd.

But it’s not only the swagger and panache of the sounds on Zulu Guru, as they swerve from soulful shades to electronic textures, that impresses the listener. There’s an abundance of confidence in the songwriting department, with the pair throwing down a rake of strong, well-rounded tracks. The bodacious Black Orpheus, the muscular Change of Heart (with contributions from MoRuf and Chris Turner) and The Perfect Blues are the ones to hold dear.

Future collaborations involving this pair will also be worth investigating.

Download tracks:The Perfect Blues, Black Orpheus, Change of Heart