jay daniel ushers in next gen of detroit hi-tech soul

November 2, 2018
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Fact: There is little music that some of us at AFROPUNK get as excited about as the next generation of Detroit artists pushing that city’s incredible hi-tech soul tradition forward. One of the producer/DJs I ride-or-die for (figuratively) nowadays is Jay Daniel—and if you peep “Qalbi,” the first track he’s dropped off his upcoming new album, TALA, you may get an idea as to why.

Though it’s undoubtedly instrumental, electronic dance music, “Qalbi” is not “house” or “techno” or any other “genre” that came out of American Black culture, and been fighting white gentrification for going-on three decades. It is a wonderful combination of rhythmically complicated (almost jazz-like) drum-machine programming and soulful synth chords that invokes a spiritual piece; fronted by a Moog-like doodle of melody (think classic Dr. Dre production) that brings to mind an early evening twilight, where the colors of sky mix with street and car lights. Nature and man convening their powers together. My AFROPUNK colleague Dev, on the other hand, called it “a classic barbershop vibe.”

What Daniel’s music helps exemplify is the breadth of sound and feeling that many Detroit artists seem to access almost at will. (In Jay’s case, it may also be a family trait: his mother Naomi, sang on some classic Detroit dance tracks in the early 90s.) When Daniel DJs out, his house-music-minded sets go as deep and as soulfully hard as anyone’s (for proof, dig these three hours he and fellow young Detroit master Kyle Hall spun just a couple of weeks ago). But on “Qalbi,” named for an Arabic term of endearment that literally translates as “my heart,” as well as elsewhere on TALA, Daniel’s energy is often one of rumination, his technology serving a more intense commitment than mere dance-floor pleasure.

Jay Daniel’s new album, TALA, drops on November 9th on his own Watusi High label. Peep it here.