Release Date: Apr 15, 2016
Record label: Hyperdub
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock
“The state moves by stealth to gather information.”– Nat Hentoff “I’m not British. I’m not British at all. The British told me that.”– Dean Blunt. There’s a sound that I can’t hear. It’s a high-frequency, around 17.4 kHz. I can’t hear it because that frequency of sound (and ….
"I remember my man said, 'Don't waste time doing a crime if it's already been done.' Do you know how real that is?" muses DJ Escrow partway through Babyfather's debut album. "That's why I'm here, you know? Not just to play tunes but to show man certain things." He seems to be warming to his instructive theme, but then he loses interest. "Ah, I'm chatting too much shit, just play that fucking tune." It's not clear who DJ Escrow is—a friend of Dean Blunt's or a persona, an unknown London musician or a parody of one—but his plucky presence is at the centre of Babyfather.
Preceded by fake Idris Elba quotes about nationalist pride and arriving adorned in that artwork, the debut album from mysterious group Babyfather features frontman Dean Blunt’s devilish humour by the bucketload. But like all the best satire, it’s also steeped in grit and realness.A paranoid atmosphere is built up by emergency sirens and baby screams. Blunt’s vocals and droll samples of the voice of DJ Escrow then swipe at the elitist language of patriotism, tackling themes of civic discord (“Who the fuck do you know around here?”) and directionlessness (“What you gonna do when a dealer’s being long?”) among the jokes.But it’s not all politics and whimsy, the album stands up on its musical merit.
Dean Blunt's 2014 album Black Metal seemed to be far more influenced by '80s college rock than his previous work (the album was fittingly released by Rough Trade), but it contained a significant amount of hip-hop as well. He followed the album with an EP titled Babyfather, which was song-based in the manner of Black Metal, and followed that with releases by Babyfather, an abrasive experimental hip-hop trio rounded out by DJ Escrow and Gassman D. Escrow is credited as hosting the project's debut album for Hyperdub, and he appears to have a digitally altered helium-pitched voice similar to Quasimoto, leading one to question whether it's Blunt's alter ego (even though Escrow has appeared during Babyfather's performances).
A cover that features a picture of a Union Jack-emblazoned hoverboard against a grey urban landscape gives a clear insight into what to expect from this collaboration between Dean Blunt and DJ Escrow - BFF Hosted by DJ Escrow has the sound and the spirit of inner London in its sights. Elusive Londoner Dean Blunt first came to public attention as one half of Hype Williams, but who DJ Escrow is remains a mystery. He could be a friend of Blunt, another part of his persona, or something else entirely, but whoever he is, he's a central figure throughout the course of this album's twenty three tracks, with Venezuelan hip-hop producer Arca also playing a notable role.
Dean Blunt’s debut full-length as Babyfather is very noisy. Harsh static boils furiously on tracks like “Motivation”, “PROLIFIC DEAMONS”, and “Flames”. Blunt relates to Frannie Kelley and Ali Shaheed Muhammad of NPR’s “Microphone Check” a story about a recent performance in Manhattan where someone requested he play trap music. “[A] white guy asking a black man, ‘Can you play trap? Cause I’m hearing you play noise.’ I understand what he wants, and we just left it at that,” Blunt says.
Dean Blunt is the kind of musician who inspires even the headiest of critics to admit in think pieces that their take was "doomed from the start." He is the kind of musician that has been dissected, questioned, and subject to the wildest interpretations, theorizing, and speculation. Even as he invites all this, Blunt remains nearly impervious to any kind neat conclusion. And on April Fools day of this year, like only Dean Blunt would do, he is releasing a new album called BBF: Hosted by DJ Escrow, under the banner of a possibly fictitious group called Babyfather.
Babyfather — BBF hosted by DJ Escrow (Hyperdub)“This makes me proud to be British,” intones the mysterious DJ Escrow over and over again for five minutes on “Stealth,” the opening salvo of BBF hosted by DJ Escrow and from the off the listener’s patience is tested. The flag-waving sentiment behind that sentence, so often deployed by politicians and public figures, is rendered ridiculous and meaningless by mind-numbing repetition, despite a pleasant harp melody in the background, before a trilling phone ring and blaring sirens rupture the uneasy peace, wrenching vocalist and listener into the harsh realities that lie behind the pointless jingoism of the phrase. This is the mercurial Dean Blunt, formerly of acclaimed duo Hype Williams, at his most mischievous, testing the limits of his music and his audience to the max.
Dean Blunt doesn't make it easy to love him: alongside his genre-swapping, magpie musical mind there runs a brilliantly contrarian streak that has seen him variously proclaim his love for Oasis and stage an art exhibition that consisted of a single stock photo. This middle-brow art pranksterism makes Blunt one of the singularly most interesting British producers of the moment but it can be hard to enjoy his work without wondering if the joke isn't somehow on you. This is especially true of the first full album from Babyfather, BBF Hosted By DJ Escrow, a group that comprises Blunt and the (probably fictional) DJ Escrow, with contributions from Arca and Micachu.