“When I was young, I loved Notorious B.I.G, Mary J. Blige, R Kelly and A Tribe Called Quest,” says DANCE, one half of French gangsta house duo Amine Edge & DANCE.
“Amine loved this music too so when we met, when we were kids, we quickly became friends.”
Amine Edge & DANCE (they won’t give their real names) are both from Marseilles, a seaside city in the South of France.
Marseilles is one of the biggest ports in Europe. Crime figures are high, and the mafia reportedly have a firm grip over politicians. It’s probably this tense, dodgy undercurrent to the city that makes Marseilles a bit of a musical hotbed.
Gomma Records boss Mathais ‘Munk’ Modica, house producer Jack De Marseille and tech house DJs Medeew and Chicks Luv Us are all based here. And Marseilles is also home to Superfunk producer Mike 303.
It’s in Marseilles that Amine Edge & DANCE honed their art of mixing hip-hop and R&B vocals with chugging 4/4 beats and booty-shaking bass. Their music — that they’ve dubbed “G-House” — is an update to the 1980s hip-house sound.
The duo’s breakthrough release was ‘Halfway Crooks’, a vocal house banger with a low-slung bassline that sampled Mobb Deep’s ‘Shook Ones’, and came out last year on their CUFF label.
“If you’re a boy, and you come from nothing, when you’re young you want to be a gangster,” explains Amine, whose family moved from Algeria to Marseilles before he was born. “Working class boys want to be gangsters, just like girls want to be princesses. That’s where my fascination with rap and hip-hop started.”
Soul, funk and house were all thrown into the mix when Amine started DJing, aged 13. Playing only vinyl, he’d mix new tunes by artists on US house labels such as Strictly Rhythm, into old funk records and fresh hip-hop tunes, also from America. “I loved all that stuff too but I was a producer before I was a DJ,” says DANCE, whose parents are both from Tunisia. “I only started DJing a few years ago, when we started making music as Amine Edge & DANCE and when we started CUFF Records.” The format for CUFF is as varied as the pair’s DJ sets.
“It’s house with a hip-hop attitude,” says Amine, who took the name ‘Edge’ as a tribute to Kevin Hedge, one half of New Jersey house duo Blaze.
“Back in the early days of house music there was a more underground, cooler edge to the music — like all the stuff you’d hear come out of Chicago and New York. It was more urban-sounding. We’re bringing back that spirit.”
When they DJ, they mix hip-hop and house with “whatever else works for the party”.
Check below for the pair’s guide to hip-hop, defined by 10 artists they love best…
“When A Tribe Called Quest’s 'The Love Movement' came out in 1998 I remember feeling like I was listening to something really fresh,” says DANCE. “There was something about the way Q-Tip rapped, and I loved the energy of the group. Still to this day, if someone asks me what kind of music I like, I say ‘Listen to A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Find A Way’ and you’ll see’.” Amine agrees. “Q-Tip, just like Dre, has done hip-hop since the beginning,” says Amine, who currently lives in London. “I love Mos Def feat Q-Tip & Tash’s ‘Body Rock’. This had a huge influence on me when I first heard it. When everyone else was singing about ‘fuck the police’ and making aggressive hip-hop, his vibe was more positive. He seemed into bringing hope into his music. There was more soul in what he was doing.”
“Biggie was the artist that first made me get into hip-hop,” says Amine. “And I think my favourite track has to be ‘Juicy’, mainly because it samples one of my favourite funk tracks, Mtume’s ‘Juicy Fruit’. In this track, Biggie rapped about when he was young, in his bedroom, listening to hip-hop on the radio and dreaming about being king. When I was a kid I listened to this and dreamed about the same things. I used to sit in my house, reading magazines, listening to music by Masters At Work and thinking how I wanted to be like them. ‘Juicy’ was a song about making it in music. When I listen to it now, I sort of identify with the story. When I was a kid I dreamed about being like Masters At Work and now I’m making music and I’m friendly with Kenny Dope.”
“Kenny did a lot of hip-hop records,” says Amine. “When I was 11 or 12 and too young to go out, I would listen to the radio all night. Later on, the local stations would play music that was less commercial. They played stuff by Masters At Work and that led me on to Kenny Dope. There’s a record he did as DBX called ‘And There Ain’t’ that came out on Muggsy Records in 1998. I managed to get hold of it — it was a double vinyl — and there was a hip-hop track and a house track. The hip-hop tune was very instrumental — with a bit of funk on it. It sampled Funkadelic and I remember listening to that tune over and over.”
“The first hip-hop tune I remember hearing was Tupac’s ‘All Eyez on Me’,” says DANCE. “I think I was about 14. It sounded so fresh. I loved the attitude of the rapping. The beats were great. I heard French hip-hop, but it didn’t seem as good to me. In US hip-hop the rappers seemed to have better flow, the beats were tighter. I remember hearing this and thinking ‘I’d like to make music like that’.” Amine was also a huge Tupac fan as a teenager. “I loved his track ‘Gangsta Party’,” says Amine. “When I first heard this tune, I didn’t speak English, so I didn’t understand the lyrics. The voice — the rap — was more about the melody it created. Now I understand English I can rediscover a lot of these tracks from the past, and see them in a slightly different light.”
Armand Van Helden
“The first record I bought was Armand Van Helden’s mix of CJ Bolland’s ‘Sugar Is Sweeter’,” says Amine. Armand made house music with a hip-hop sensibility. “And he did a hip-hop album,” says Amine. “The album was called 'Sampleslaya – Enter the Meatmarket' and was a kind of medley of loops and samples. It had Method Man on there. I used to listen to that album over and over and I thought, 'This guy is doing house, but he’s doing hip-hop too'. Armand broke the rules. If you listen to ‘The Funk Phenomena’ — you’ll see how he put hip-hop into house music, which is what we do. It’s the kind of thing the Jungle Brothers did too. But Armand did it best.”
“I remember when I first heard Dr Dre’s ‘Let’s Get High’,” says Amine. It has such a massive bassline and if you pitch the track faster you can easily play it at a house party. The rapping in that track is amazing. Dre is great. It was the 1990s when I first got into Dr Dre. I loved his album 'The Chronic' and the track he did with Snoop ‘Murder Was the Case’. It was really dark and really aggressive hip-hop.”
“The single ‘Thuggish Ruggish Bone’ came from their first album and it’s got that West Coast vibe that I love,” says Amine, talking about the Ohio hip-hop group made up of rappers Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone, Bizzy Bone, Wish Bone and Flesh-N-Bone. “It has that G-funk style, Snoop and all the guys from LA do too. There’s a girl singing on this track and they all rap on it. It’s really melodic. And they rap really fast. In fact, it’s like they rap and sing at the same time. When this first came out, it sounded really new and I remember thinking that this was a cool sound. Really fresh.”
“I love the way this guy raps,” says DANCE, talking about 25-year-old US rapper Makonnen Sheran. “He raps on the off-beat and it really works. Last weekend Amine and I played his tune ‘I Don’t Sell Molly No More’ — it’s great to play in a club.” Amine is also a huge fan of the US rapper, who got his break last year when Drake did a remix of his song ‘Tuesday’. “I like the fact this guy — he’s called Makonnen — sings out of time with the beat. When you first hear the tune, it can sound weird, but by the end of the song you love it. The tune is signed to Drake’s label. It’s cool and it really works when we DJ. I like the fact that it’s quirky and doing something different with hip-hop. I think that’s cool.”
“There’s one of his tracks, ‘U Guessed It’, that starts with piano, before it goes into a rap, and this is the one that does it for me,” says Amine, talking about the recent single from the 22-year-old US rapper signed to Quality Control Records. “For me this kind of hip-hop, it’s like the new punk. These guys make hip-hop but they act like rock stars — the way they jump around on stage, the way they project themselves, it’s with a punk attitude.”
“These guys are from Marseilles and they were the first local crew that made hip-hop that I was aware of when I was a kid,” says Amine. “At the time, there was IAM in Marseilles and NTM in Paris. Back then there was a hip-hop scene in France but I always hated French hip-hop, apart from these guys. I can remember they made a track called ‘La Saga’ which featured a member of the Wu Tang Clan. I was young at the time but already into US hip-hop, and I felt proud that this local crew had worked with the Wu Tang. IAM still make music today. DANCE produced one of their singles last year — for their new album — and it ended up going platinum. They are all from Marseilles but the lead MC actually originates from Sicily, one is black and there are some Arabic guys in the group too.”
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