While we may still associate certain sounds and sub-genres with particular geography, the Internet and our continually broadening interests continue to make this idea less and less relevant. With MCs from Brooklyn and Harlem sounding like those from Atlanta and Houston, and London sounds infiltrating Toronto, influence can be drawn from anywhere and the stigma attached around not sonically “representing” your local area is being abolished. Sonnyjim is a perfect example of that. Hailing from Birmingham, UK, the rapper and producer should be filed closer to the likes of Roc Marciano and Ka than he should his British counterparts. Over raw loops banged out on the MPC, Sonny’s new LP Mud In My Malbecsees him delivering his own brand of decadent gonzo journalism, that draws from his real life with a healthy dose of poetic license.
There’s been a five-year gap since his last album The Psychonaut, and the new 13-track LP sees him redefining a sound that he’s been crafting for over a decade. Although it’s easy to assume that independent artists are free to make music for themselves, Sonny’s experience suggests that isn’t always the case. “I guess there was some sort of need to cater – you used to have the poppy track, the double-time track, the big hook – now I don’t feel that need, not at all, and I think it shows in the music I’m making.” Mud In My Malbec is, in short, the music that Sonny wants to make.
Despite his uncompromising new mindset, he admits there was a concern about how those that have been riding with him throughout his career might think. “You need to be worried about not alienating the people who are already stuck with you,” he says. “People who were helping me do some of the production were like ‘That’s one thing you need to be careful of.’ But I feel like the people who really love my music right now like it because of the bars, and the lyrics are even better on this one. It’s just the musical backdrop is a little bit different. It’s not so boom bappy.”
Although Sonny is often perceived as a rapper first and foremost, it was the production that got Mud In My Malbec off the ground. The initial spark of inspiration came from the vintage sound of the music he was finding while digging. “They don’t make it like that no more,” he says. “Even if they tried to, the equipment that’s being used means it won’t sound like that. That’s the seed of this album, if you will.” While he’s always had input in production on previous records, he’s never been as hands-on in the past – describing his previous approach as more like co-production. This time around he’s drawing from a much wider palette of source material, from progressive rock to obscure Japanese anime, which he loops up in the MPC, rapping on large sections of raw music.