The mixtape occupies a unique position in contemporary culture. Longer than an EP but definitely not an album, they are often a site for collaboration, where artists with distinct styles and ways of working come together to create weird and wonderful sounds. The casual, often unexpected gesture of “dropping a mixtape” is usually more exciting than a painfully obvious planned album rollout, and because there’s less pressure to create something conceptually cohesive, they are often a place where artists actually try new things.
L-Vis 1990 is releasing his first mixtape this Friday. The DJ and producer is probably best known as a co-founder of the experimental dance music label Night Slugs, and after dropping a steady stream of club-ready EPs, mixes, and and an LP since 2008 and bringing his sets around the world, he’s set to drop 12 Thousand Nights – 11 collaborative tracks folding in hip-hop, R&B, dancehall and pop music, with effervescent and unexpected results.
Mista Silva is one of the producer’s main collaborators on the mixtape, lending his bars to three tracks, alongside contributions from the likes of electronic experimentalist Gaika and Ohno, with additional production from Jimmy Edgar, who is one of the brains behind Vince Staples’ Big Fish Theory banger “745.” The British-Ghanaian singer-songwriter has become a key figure in the UK Afrobeat scene, bringing in sounds of the diaspora into his music a decade before Drake’s More Life.
Although they’ve only recently started to collaborate, they both cut their teeth in different corners of London’s underground dance music scene, but managed to bond over their mutual love of UK Funky. L-Vis was obsessed with playing out the tracks from the subgenre in his DJ sets, while Silva became known for his MCing abilities in the underground circuit, frequently freestyling over UK Funky beats, a style of music heavily influenced by the Afrobeat sounds he was already surrounded by, and that would guide his development as a vocalist and songwriter.
In seeing the way the two interacted, even after a day of shooting a music video in Berlin, it seems odd L-Vis 1990 and Mista Silva didn’t cross paths sooner. Unwinding over Turkish meze and döner, the duo discuss how they first linked up, how their 12 Thousand Nights tracks came together, how the music scene has evolved in the past decade in London and beyond, and what’s next for the two partners in sonic experimentation.
A few years back, L-Vis had a studio session with Silva’s brother Mickey Lightfoot, who experiments with future hip-hop, Afro-beats and alternative grime. Mickey began talking about Silva, and played L-Vis his brother’s track “Goes Down.” He immediately knew he wanted to collaborate with Mista Silva, and while Mickey was laying down his vocals, L-Vis put his headphones on and go to work on the beat that would become “My Ting.” “I wanted to get Silva then to record “My Ting,” L-Vis explains, “but whilst we were just vibing, I played him ‘Sunlight,’ and he went, ‘Okay, this is the vibe.’” Although Gaika had already hopped on the track, Silva got on the mic for a freestyle, and the result is a dancehall dreamer with clever bars and wavy harmonies.
With “121,” the duo’s third collaboration on 12 Thousand Nights, their propensity for creating truly global music with a catchy pop sensibility is indisputable. “I was listening to a lot of Japanese ’80s kind of new wave and electronic music at that point,” L-Vis 1990 recounts, “so I was actually trying to make something Japanese when I made that instrumental, but it turned out very African.” After hearing the beat, Silva soon had ideas for his vocal parts – “I had a melody in my head …Then we tried it and we knew, ‘This is the one.’”
“Us working together has really helped me find my pop sensibility, but in an interesting way,” L-Vis explains. They both see pop not as a genre or set of sounds, but as a freer way of working on music. Although L-Vis has self-imposed tight creative restrictions on himself in the past, which brought some of his most mind-bending work, like his Club Constructions EP from 2012, he has returned to the expansiveness of pop he first explored on his 2011 album Neon Dreams.
“I need that freedom to just create whatever the vibe is of that day. I’ve just learned over the past few years to just let the world kind of take control of you and music, and do whatever feels right at that time and not try and push anything else,” L-Vis asserts.
“No matter who’s watching you, keep putting it out. If it’s good music, someone’s gonna gravitate to it. So less about trying to focus on views and figures and numbers and that. It’s important, don’t get me wrong, but you’ve gotta build it and stay focused on the task at hand. That’s how I’ve kind of adapted for myself,” Silva explains.
“Silva’s been the one person that I’ve really clicked with on the mixtape for a change. We’ve just got this connection. We’ve both come from the underground world, and we have that sensibility, but we also really wanna do pop music. And I think that’s what our main connection is. That desire to make-”
“Music for everybody,” Silva interjects – a simple statement that brilliantly underscores what the pair are trying to achieve. Instead of playing it safe like many of their peers, the duo is happy to put their blinders on and explore uncharted sonic territory through being mutually influenced by each other’s communities and moving beyond the restrictiveness of genre. As you’ll soon be able to hear on L-Vis 1990’s mixtape, it’s a place worthy of excursion.
L-Vis 1990’s ‘12 Thousand Nights‘ mixtape drops Friday, October 27.
For more of our interviews, check out our recent Q&A with Jhené Aiko as she dives into her surprise LP ‘Trip’ right here.