Once as important a musical moment as the Christmas number one, the standout summer ‘breakaway’ hip hop single often seemed to define that year’s culture; 1991’s good time feel represented in the sparkle of the Fresh Prince’s ‘Summertime’ for example, or the introspective flower power feel of 1989’s Me Myself and I, or the funky, good time, fizz of 1994’s Juicy. If you were around in those times you’ll likely remember how the summer hip hop standout both dominated the charts and reflected the sound of the time perfectly; yet when was the last time a hip-hop track took a big swing at capturing a summer? Tinie Tempah’s 2016 Mamacita?
Picking up the bat for a swing at one of hip-hop’s greatest prizes, one-half of Ne-Dons, Newcastle’s NE-O, clearly has summer in mind with the release of “Seventeen”, a flamenco sound-tracked moment of summer vibes and feel-good hip hop.
“It’s funny because I wrote Seventeen quite a while back” confirms Ne-o “and originally it had a different sound, but as soon as I heard the beat from Kazza, and it was covered in all of these flamenco vibes, then I had this proper inspiration to make it a summer track, and I wrote the track over the different beat and ran with it.”
A deliberate attempt to tap into the good-time, summer, hip-hop history, the release of Seventeen has been timed not just to fit around academic studies (Ne-O is just out of Uni, “I’ve finally got some time back”) but also to fit in with summer weather; “yeah, Seventeen has got the same lyrics as before I heard the Kazza beats, but now has a totally different vibe and I wanted this to be a standalone summer banger. The second I heard the flamencos I knew exactly what I wanted and the weather I wanted to sound track it with”.
Uni workloads or not, Seventeen will be the fourth release from Ne-O this year, finding him in potentially his richest vain of form and growing in strength and confidence (“because of Uni I had to stock pile some tracks knowing that I might not have much time to record new tracks so I’ve been releasing them this year and they feel good”) something which he also puts down to his style of releases (“I’m steering away from Mixtapes and EP’s at the minute, I’m just looking to put out singles, gain some momentum and then get consistent with my releases”.)
Building on the sound of Seventeen, as well as this year’s momentum and radio-play, don’t let the laid-back vibes of Seventeen fool you, Ne-O is not looking to slow down anytime soon; “there’s already a few collaborations done which should come out this year, I hope, and hopefully some NE Dons stuff later this year also, but for me I just want to get really into a really good momentum, build up some radio play, and get things moving with some really strong tracks”.
Don’t be fooled by Seventeen’s laid-back groove, it may well disguise the writer’s focus and energy. You don’t look at producing the standout summer ‘breakaway’ track without having a sense of urgency and ambition.