Loose Lips’ Sunday Jams feature has been going for over three years now, with one writer tasked to provide a quick, honest weekly takeover of the aux cable, one track that people should really hear. The fourth writer to take its reins, Nana Fani-Kayode, is a producer at Threads radio and a dynamite writer, one who emphatically 'gets it'. Her jams have all been fantastic [[*2021 edit*; linked here is a compilation of 6 of Nana & I's favourites]] . Now that we have the official artwork for her series (created by the majestic Trav), it felt right to do an introductory interview. Though first, I’ll share the description Nana gave me, when I asked what she imagined for her personal Sunday Jams artwork;
‘Okay so here goes! It’s a multi landscape place, one part city, the other part water probably an endless river, the other part forest and the other desert. Flora and fauna grows everywhere. I’m taking a tour through it, either on skates or some kind of contraption that I can get about quickly on, I’m accompanied by bird guide who has Eartha Kitt’s voice. Every stop on the tour is a different musical genre. Each is represented in a physical way, either a symbol, building or a representation of the artist some surreal others more obvious. I get to go inside the space or talk to the artist and explore each one at my own pace in my own way. It’s warm and sunny, not killer bright but of 70s soft glow. It’s an ever-expanding place that I have all the time in the world to explore and I’m always miraculously dressed for all environments and weather. That’s my ideal Sunday dream place Wizard Will’
Aaaand the interview commences! That description, is that metaphor something you had thought about before, or had you come up with it spontaneously?
It’s been there for a while, but never properly articulated. The bird is an easy symbol of flying freely, and being able to go where you want, when you want, and that’s how I feel about music, it’s one of the few mediums that can take me and put me in the shoes of people I’ll never meet. Because the landscape is so vast I couldn’t choose one particular landscape, and that’s my idea of a perfect Sunday, it would be a place where everything is kinda standing still, and I can explore loads of different places, to have the time and space and freedom to talk with these people at length. But yeah, I can’t believe that artwork, I had to message Trav because when I saw it, I closed my eyes and opened my eyes, and that’s exactly what it looked like. But sorry, continue, it’s amazing.
The first time I became aware of you, was through this enormous document that was sent to me via Freddie (Loose Lips bossman), for one of our monthly Deep Cuts articles (under the theme Blind Sided, prompt question: ‘when has music caught you off guard?’), what was the story behind it?
The outpouring of madness, as I like to call it, I was so happy with your response to that, as I was convinced that, you know, it had literally been an outpouring of my brain, and seeing it on paper was a bit scary, haha! When I took the prompt, Freddie said ‘I think you should have a go at writing this, I think you might enjoy it’, and that was the trigger, that it could be something that I could just do and enjoy it, but when I got the prompt, I made an emotional connection, it had just been so visceral and I reacted to it, and so that’s what I’m doing, that’s why it lead to all this unearthing.
As I was writing I was thinking, it wasn’t already formed in my mind, and the first thing that came to mind was being like 6 or 7, and remembering how music felt to me when I first became consciously aware of it, that it made me feel something and feel safe, and it was with my mum, listening to music in my mum’s car. Even if we weren’t going anywhere in particular we listened to music, and also purely because when we lived in Lagos, the traffic there is actually a kind of a joke, some of the smallest places in the world and it can take you hours to get there, it’s a real test of skill to be able to get somewhere within half an hour at a certain time of the day. So we could play games, listen to music, I would jostle for space or fight with my brother and sister, that kind of thing… So that’s what it triggered, and I started thinking more and more about how I’ve interacted with music since then, it just became more and more of a kind of ‘oh my god, I’ve forgotten how much I love writing about music’, I haven’t done it for such a long time, and it just became this outpouring haha, and actually it was kind of edited down-
- the first one I wrote was about six thousand words long, and I thought I couldn’t subject anyone to that.
When did you last write about music, before that?
I had recently finished university and was on holiday in Ghana, hanging out with my family, and met a relatively well known BBC producer/correspondent. It was at a radio station called Vibe FM, they didn’t have a dedicated studio but they ran it out of a café, and I was just shouting my mouth off about music, and telling these really committed heads that they were wrong, that Rap music was misogynist bullshit and Hip Hop was the way forward, and he heard me shouting at all these boys and a tiny little girl, and offered me a job working at a radio station named Colourful FM, writing reviews for their website.
Yeah it was, I was just mucking around and not really making any plans or anything, just finding my way through, I presented a show and produced a bit before eventually leaving - nothing dramatic, I’d just picked a different path - so for some reason I didn’t go back to it, it’s probably been about 5, 6 or even 7 years since I’ve last written about music, or even talked about music in any way other than hanging out with my mates.
What was going on with that Hip Hop argument?
All I remember was everyone was going on about how Hip Hop is dead and Rap is the way forward, and I was like don’t be ridiculous; first off Hip Hop can’t be dead, that’s just physically impossible, and secondly I was trying to make a distinction. Rap is about posturing, who get’s what, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but Hip Hop has always been recognising and articulating feelings and emotions and reactions to things. And I was literally shouting my mouth off, I hadn’t realised how loud I had gotten, so much so that everyone else had got really quiet haha, and anyway Henry was having a great time of it, and came over and said I think you should work for me.
[Trav's artwork for Blind Sided, the Deep Cuts concept Nana first responded to]
That’s a nice organic segue into discussing the basis of your music taste, you always seem to be looking out for music that’s deep, which is obviously great for Deep Cuts. I was actually just thinking up a future Deep Cuts theme, you’ll like this, ‘Double Sustenance’, music that’s satisfying to both the head and heart-
-or to both the spirit and stomach, something like that. I never want to do basic functional Deep Cuts themes, like ‘chill out’ or ‘party’, I want it to get at a particular thing in music.
I would never judge anyone else’s music taste, but yeah, that is a bang on description of me. I’m always interested in music that makes me engage with it again, ten years down the line, where I have a positive reaction and still get something new out of it. And I really appreciate what you’re doing with Deep Cuts because it’s so hard to convey personal writing, in a way that lets you feel like someone’s letting you in rather than just shouting about themselves, that it is actually about the music, it isn’t just a flimsy mask for a some cathartic soapbox.
It is tricky. Like on one hand, I am really frustrated with the impersonal state of music journalism, but on the other hand I like making work that has its own internal logic, where it makes sense why you’re doing what you’re doing, which is a lot of the fun of Sunday Jams, it provides a really natural outlet for personal expression.
That’s what I like about what you’re doing, it's a challenge in terms of the writing, to anyone who can try to find a way to do that, because that’s what getting stuck into your craft is about. I mean I read a hell of a lot of music journalism, I always have done for many years, and sometimes I get the sense that it is about, like, ticking off who’s the coolest, and that’s all well and good but I’m reading because I want to be inspired by what you’re inspired by, and sometimes that gets a bit lost. I don’t know what it is about writing about music, you want to sound like you’re in control, and I think a lot people feel like that means being overly critical and cynical. Having said that, I’ll read pretty much anything, there are only a couple of publications that I draw the line at because they’re just morally reprehensible.
Ooooh juicy! Just between us, off-mic, which ones?
***off mic talking*** - but that was one of the first times that I realised how important representation is, how this kind of thing of maintaining the status quo actually has damaging effects on people, because this woman, she spent her whole life working hard, becoming the best at her craft. She’s now the only female chamber orchestra director in the UK, she’s in her 70s, how damaging it was that she had to go around with a begging bowl, begging for people to take notice.
I was recently on a kind of video call with an artist and some of their other fans, where we got to discuss all sorts of stuff and ask them questions about the music industry. I asked what music publications they liked, and they said that for the first 6 years of their career, they never got interviewed by anyone other than straight white men, who only really loved rock music, and like, pretended to be into Clipse, how it’s such a treat to find a journalist whose motivation for getting into it was a love for R’n’B or Jazz. I was thinking about this, about how the NME - which I used to love - did this bumper issue at the end of the 00s, ranking their top albums of the decade, with 21 white artists at the top, ending in 3: XTRMNTR by Primal Scream, 2: Up The Bracket by The Libertines, and 1: Is This It by the Strokes… *takes breath* and that made me think about a Phoebe Bridgers interview (funnily enough with the NME, by the fantastic Ella Kemp) where she mentions that the Strokes are literally an industry plant, but no one ever talked about that, they were cloaked in pure privilege. At the end of the day a lack of diversity just results in boring music journalism, like that album title is so appropriate, is that Strokes album really it? If you were gonna try and do your own top, semi-objective ‘best albums of the 00s’, what would be at the top?
I immediately think of Boy In Da Corner by Dizzee Rascal, even talking about it now gets me a little bit breathless. I think I first heard I Luv U on a pirate radio, I think it was live, and I remember thinking Oh My God, who is this guy, it was like a fast moving train coming at you, his energy, his lyrics, his musical sensibility, all of it just blew my mind.
I remember meeting Ifeoluwa (amazing DJ / writer) for the first time back when they were working in Idle Hands in Bristol, I asked them for some tips and we were walking around the store, and at one point they just kind of half-pointed at Boy In Da Corner and gave me this small look
Hahaha it is that look isn’t it, like you have to quickly respond or that’s it. And yeah they were totally right, it burns through everything. It gave me the sense that there’s a huge change coming in the world of street music and producers of black origin. Like people who knew Fabio and Grooverider, they knew them from late night sets and seeing them play out, but they weren’t mainstream at all, Dizzee Rascal performing that track gave me the sense that we’re gonna see something happen. But yeah, other ones… I did used to get lots and lots and lots of joy from turning on the radio and hearing Romy XX just sing in those beautifully soft but edgy tones, it’s really really great for a vocalist to be able to do that, just being true.
Oh yeah, I think that Boy In Da Corner by Dizzee Rascal and xx by The xx are great companion albums, they both introduced a new core element to mainstream awareness, Dizzee brought in the coldness of grime, The xx brought in emotional sparseness. Dizzee exposed the black London youth, the xx exposed the queer London youth.
I don’t think it’s been deliberate for me, but yeah, those people that they exposed were part of my existence, they were my friends, it wasn’t built around, it wasn’t… let me make a parallel, it wasn’t the Scissor Sistors. They’re just that, Anna Matronic is a gay woman, Jake Shears is a gay man, and they’re great but very stereotypical, whereas Romy and Oli are just Romy and Oli. Same thing with Dizzee, he was a rudeboi from East London, and he was incredibly bright and articulate, and he managed to express himself without the need for a journalist to clarify him.