Downtown Postcards: London

September 24, 2019 by Elvin Sabla


For the first installment of our new playlist series Downtown Postcards, we highlighted the music of emerging talent and hometown heroes from our headquarters in New York. This month, we’re taking it across the pond to feature some of our artists, songwriters, and producers from London.

With a rich, diverse musical heritage, and home to many historic performance venues and recording facilities, London has been a breeding ground for some of the world's most iconic talent since the dawn of popular modern music. Denmark Street in London's West End, dubbed the city's own "Tin Pan Alley" after its New York predecessor, not only housed most of the U.K.'s publishing industry but eventually became a creative hub lined with studios, rehearsal spaces, instrument stores, and record shops — where British rock legends like David Bowie, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Elton John, and The Sex Pistols conceived some of their classics, frequenting haunts like the Gioconda café bar in between sessions. Across the Thames, on the other side of town, bands such as The Beatles and Pink Floyd tracked celebrated albums at the iconic Abbey Road Studios — which continues to operate to this day.

London's musical legacy is by no means limited to 1960s British Invasion icons or the 1970s glam rock and punk scenes, however. Many electronic-based genres like drum and bass, jungle, and grime were born and thrive in the city's clubs and streets. Culturally influenced by its former colonies, much of modern British music derives from countries in the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, West Africa, and North America. Today, London boasts a diverse musical landscape — reflected in Downtown's U.K. roster and, appropriately, our Postcards playlist.

The city has made significant contributions to hip-hop, R&B, and grime music, the latter having emerged in East London. With rave reviews rolling in for Kano's new album Hoodies All Summer, considered "one of the best MC-led projects of the year" by Complex, the "prodigious grime legend"holds it down for East Ham with the tracks "Trouble" and "Class of Deja" featuring fellow grime pioneers D Double E and Ghetts — which The Guardian called a "testament to how thrilling a lyricist this 34-year-old can still be." Representing North London and West London respectively, fellow rapper Tion Wayne and renowned grime producer Zdot are also included.

With a rich, powerful voice and evocative lyrics, 20-year-old Hackney newcomer Hamzaa sets the playlist off with her appropriately titled track "London." Hailing from the city's southwest region by way of Ethiopia, where she was raised, the ever-soulful Izzy Bizu delivers her alluring new single "Lights On" — while British-Nigerian singer and songwriter Moelogo adds his signature brand of afrobeat-infused R&B and hip-hop to the mix, as well.

Renowned for his work with key-collaborator Sam Smith and other heavy hitters like Alicia Keys, Disclosure, Ellie Goulding, Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Ray BLK, and Rita Ora, esteemed singer, songwriter, and producer Jimmy Napes has contributed to countless contemporary classics. In addition to the massive Smith hit "Dancing With a Stranger" featuring Normani, Napes co-wrote and co-produced the moving Stormzy single "Crown" in 2019 as well — recently recognized by Music Business Worldwide as a candidate for Song of the Year at their upcoming A&R Awards.

London has always bred pop icons, and this generation is no exception. Alongside cuts by the illustrious Hackney vocalist and songwriter Paloma Faith, the multitalented British Pakistani Watford-native Naughty Boy, and hitmaker songwriter Sacha Skarbek, a pair of songs by Mae Muller — one of the city's most promising emerging artists — are also included on our playlist: "Busy Tone" from her 2019 album, Chapter 1, and her new single "Drama" featuring Ms Banks and Caitlyn Scarlett.

"Castaway" by drum and bass pioneer Goldie is featured, as is his collaboration with Ulterior Motive and Natalie Williams, "I Adore You" — both from his 2017 album, The Journey Man. Fellow drum and bass virtuosos Chase & Status supply "Program" from their 2019 project RTRN II Jungle as well as "Control," their collaboration with English punk band Slaves from 2017's Tribe.

A testament to the city's varied musical landscape, our London roster also includes the Dorset-born folk singer-songwriter Roo Panes and even an Americana act — Bristol's own self-described "Queen of Country Soul," Yola, whose Dan Auerbach-produced album Walk Through Fire features the single "Faraway Look" and was released to critical acclaim earlier this year.

Listen to our Postcards from both London and New York, if you haven't already, and stay tuned for future installments — highlighting Downtown talent from each of the cities we call home, including Sydney, Paris, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Nashville, Los Angeles, and beyond.

Downtown Postcards is a content series launched as part of our Songwriters Across Borders initiative to foster global collaboration between Downtown songwriters, artists, and producers from around the world and highlight their work.