Flohio, Mykki Blanco, Cosima, and more discuss their appearances on the duo’s new mixtape
For the past few years, God Colony have been dropping tunes that, though varied, follow a similar template: killer vocalists, club-ready bass weight, and leftfield production underpinned by a core melodic songwriting sensibility. Their past collaborations have included GAIKA, Kojey Radical, and Flohio – the latter of whom returns on the duo’s new mixtape, CULT. The mixtape expands on the ideas of those previous singles while expanding their role as A&Rs. CULT features a lot of vocalists who don’t necessarily come from musical backgrounds: Sine’Gal is perhaps better known as stylist and art director Ib Kamara, Isamaya Ffrench a visionary make-up artist, Samirah Raheem a model who previously went viral for her takedown of a reactionary preacher during Slutwalk. But it all gels together alongside additional contributions from rappers Haleek Maul and Mykki Blanco, and newcomers like AZADI.mp3, Cosima, and Izambard.
At Dazed, we’ve obviously known about God Colony since day one – one half of the duo is Thomas Gorton, Dazed’s former digital editor, who writes and produces alongside studio partner James Rand, who has previously mixed records for Sega Bodega, Shygirl, Mykki Blanco, and Beatrice Dillon. He contributed a track-by-track guide to the mixtape, with additional insight from all of their collaborators. Listen to the mixtape below, and purchase it on Bandcamp, where for the first month 100 per cent sales will go to The Black Curriculum and Black Minds Matter.
01. “JOY” (FEAT. SINE’GAL)
Sine’Gal: The vocal on “Joy” is just me at home making noises, singing along to the end credit to a movie I was watching. I do that a lot – I watch films alone so I get to do it all the time. I grew up singing in the choir. Even though on my dad’s side the whole family is Muslim, my grandmother who is Christian allowed me to sing in church in Sierra Leone, and I sang in the Gambia. So I like to think I understand music and can get on with it once I get going.
God Colony: I’ve been following Ib work in fashion for a long time. It’s stunning, and everything he does blows me away – he’s the best stylist in the world. I heard through a friend that he was interested in starting to make music, so I asked to be put in touch. He came down to the studio. I just wasn’t prepared for how good his voice is. He’s got this gentle intensity about him that I love. He told us he spent time at home just singing into his phone, and played us some of those voice notes. One of those voice notes became “Joy”. I took away the acapella and built the synth track around it in my old flat in Nunhead. It was kind of simple, and it’s testament to how good he is that we didn’t bother re-recording the phone vocal with a good microphone or anything. I think if we had, we’d have fucked up the song.
02. “PLEASE” (FEAT. AZADI.MP3)
AZADI.mp3: The lyrics are about a particular club, but it’s all clubs isn’t it really? Whenever I go out, I usually end up spending about 60 per cent of my time in the smoking area chilling and chatting to friends. Only thing with that is that you get the occasional added sidequest of people coming up to you and striking up conversation, whether you’re down or not. It’s funny. You see it happen all the time; some guy comes up to a girl to ask for a light, and suddenly for the next 20 minutes she’s navigating how to politely interject in the breathless gaps of his fervently slurred monologue about that-time-he-went-to-Berlin.
I self-produce, mostly, so it was really refreshing to work on this to tease out different vibes that I might not have otherwise gone for. It was really fun, and I think it has fed back into my own production in its own way. When I first heard it, there was something about the drums and the sample that just made me instantly think of the club; it had a certain pulse. I love that sample and the way it distorts throughout the track, I think it sounds sick. It also means that the song is not in a western key, so the process of writing to it meant that I had to rely more on my own voice to figure out the melody.
God Colony: We met Juliette at the premiere of the film Pagans, a short directed by Lucy Luscombe that she stars in and we did some scoring for. She’s sick in it, as are the other two leads, Frankie and Vivian. Anyway, we got chatting and she let on that she makes tunes, so we arranged to work together. The beat is one we made really late one night in the studio when we got a radio out and were just sampling whatever local stations and interference we could pick up – it’s what the main sample is. It’s a real love letter to our Timbaland/Neptunes obsessions, no doubt. Her solo stuff is quite different, so making this was a buzz – she turned up and just dropped a pop Sugababes-type vocal straight off.
03. “ETIQUETTE” (FEAT. IZAMBARD)
Izambard: I met God Colony through Brian who runs the place in Homerton where we both had a studio. He showed them some of my work and then we met up and talked about James Brown and Wiley. They played me this selection of tunes and instrumentals they had produced with the working title “Raw Concrete”. Not only did we seem to be on the same page, but also at the same time. They played me the beat they thought I could do something with – there was no real need for choice, they knew what I liked pretty quickly, and I got given a direction from the off to say yes or no to. It was the right direction.
At the time, there was only like a handful of artists I liked the totality of, and although before meeting God Colony they hadn’t released a lot of material, I had liked almost everything they had touched or at least elements of. I then sent them like an eight-minute dashing shit against the wall rough recording for “Etiquette”. To be honest, we used most of those ideas – except for, like, this whole bridge of me tutting and kissing my teeth. This was all in 2018.
God Colony: Izambard was hanging round in our old studios, the Gunfactory in Homerton.. Someone there introduced us because they thought our styles would suit each other, so we started listening to tunes in our room and eventually did some work. I don’t think there’s anyone like Izambard around right now. I love working with him because he’s so intensely dedicated to what he does, plus is a total encyclopaedia on UK rap and grime, and US hip hop and R&B. He doesn’t seem to think about much else apart from music. We’re talking about doing more stuff together through MAD WORLD – let’s see.
04. “GIRLS” (FEAT. SAMIRAH RAHEEM)
God Colony: Like most other people, I became aware of Samirah when that video of her owning some right-wing pastor guy at a Slutwalk went viral. She’s got such undeniable charisma, such presence. We met in London when she was filming something for Dazed and hung out. Something in the cadence of her voice made me think if she’d ever done music or rapped before, it had such natural rhythm. She said she used to at parties and stuff, but never particularly seriously. So I sent her a load of beats, she liked them, and then came to the studio in Forest Hill. That day was one of my favourites we had while making this record – loads of energy in the room, loads of excitement. We finished the track over two trips she was making for Fashion Weeks, and Haleek Maul was in the room the second time around too. I love the chorus in this, the switch. Everything opens up and it always makes me think of Tame Impala or something. I hope we make more with Samirah, once COVID is over and it’s safe.
Samirah Raheem: What I remember from the first session was just the natural chemistry that took over the space. I was with my manager at the time and was bouncing song ideas off her and by the time we came to the studio we had like three different songs, but I think “Girls: just felt the most on point. When I first heard the beat I just felt like it sounded like somebody fighting for their lives. So then my next thought was if you were to write a love letter to your younger self, what would you say? Then I just remember telling my friend that I wanted this to be like the young art school girls’ “10 Crack Commandments” for being a bad bitch. When I listen to “Girls”, I see myself surrounded by women of all different genders, all different ethnicities backgrounds, all different physical capabilities, and we are uniting and celebrating our bodies, stories, and the sacrifices it took to get here.
05. “THE REAL” (FEAT. FLOHIO)
God Colony: Flo’s our friend from day one of this thing, someone who started around the same time that we did and someone we’ve worked with a lot. I love “Fights” and “SE16”, earlier tunes we did, but this is my favourite one we’ve done together. It started when James and L-Vis 1990 were messing around in our studio, and then I added chords and melody later. It’s been around for a while, but we always used to play it live when we were doing shows together. The lyrics are unreal, my favourite she’s ever done.
Flohio: This one is like a breakthrough moment, it’s a place myself and my friends have been before – doubts turn to tribulation type of vibe. The beat is almost transcending as well, I get chills from performing “The Real”. James and I were trying to figure out the best way to put this record together recording-wise, it was in the new God Colony studio so you could feel the excitement of something new sort of brewing up. We were discussing life, and things we had been up to during that time and because I had just returned from touring, I was telling him about these crazy tour life experiences and the beautiful places I’d been. That had my mind in euphoria, reminiscing on old convos, so we put all that excitement and energy together, and stepped on new ground really. Before we knew it we were both high-fiving each other at the end like, “Yeah, we are happy with this.”
06. “PLACES IN MY HEAD” (FEAT. HALEEK MAUL)
Haleek Maul: Making this was quick, no time was wasted. They played the beat and I vibed to it for some time, before we knew it we had the song. It was definitely made in an interesting part of my life. I had been in London for a little bit at that time and I really had to adjust to the pace there, I feel like that pushed me to make the music I made in that period though. A lot of my latest album was recorded in London. It makes me happy that I can bar out on a track like this and it doesn’t get boring.
God Colony: Hands down, Haleek is one of the most talented rappers we’ve ever worked with. I’d been following his work for ages, ever since his debut release Oxyconteen. We were just DMing and sending each other stuff, and then it turned out that he was moving to London for a while so it was obvious we’d start working. This beat is probably one of my favourites on the record, the heaviest and the darkest. Haleek is so good on it, goes full space cadet. We’re sitting on another tune that needs to see the light of day, fingers crossed.
07. “DON’T ASK FOR ME”
God Colony: This track is a few years old and has been up on YouTube a while because we used it as the trailer for a project we did with NTS in 2017. Jacob, our art director, was filming loads round London with an iPhone and a gimlet, and the video just ended up being footage of the police standing around outside Peckham Rye with sniffer dogs waiting to arrest people with weed or whatever on them. Fuck that! But they do actually catch someone in the video, just by chance, even if it looks like a setup or something. If you see police with dogs at a station, it’s important to tweet a warning. Probably the only useful thing you can do on Twitter now. The tune samples some ravers getting into their car after Fantazia on New Year’s Eve in 1993, somewhere in Wiltshire I think.
08. “CONTROL” (FEAT. ISAMAYA FFRENCH AND IZAMBARD)
God Colony: I’ve been friends with Isamaya for a while and always wanted to work with her somehow. She’s hilarious and a visionary, with such an unflinching take on what she wants her work to be like. We were hanging out one day and I asked if she could sing – she showed me a video off her phone of her performing when she was at the Theo Adams Company. She was embarrassed about it and asked me not to show anyone, but she was just… really good. Typical that she can sing, on top of everything else. Initially this song has a weird, ghostly spoken word section, about love and drugs – mostly about someone obsessive that Isamaya used to go out with. We cut that and decided to get Izambard in for a day with them together. There’s a similar anarchy to those two, and I knew they’d get on. I still wanted it to be about a toxic, unhealthy, relationship, and they did it straight away really. Sega Bodega came and did some additional production too. It was weird to see Isamaya nervous – I hadn’t seen that before.
Isamaya Ffrench: I remember losing at pool to Tom that day, probably the greatest moment of his life. I definitely felt nervous though. Izambard is amazing to watch, he’s so confident and pure in his approach to his work and he kind of gave me the confidence to just get on with it! The song is so specific to a moment in my life where I just started to explore music in a way other than just listening to it. I felt privileged to be asked by God Colony as everyone else they are collaborating with I really admire, and I have always loved God Colony’s sound and been a fan of their music. It’s nice to just make something totally guided by someone else and just go with it.
Izambard: One day in like February, they belled me and was like “Ay can you write a verse, maybe two, for this tune with Isamaya Ffrench by Friday?” I shit myself ’cause Isamaya is, like, one of greatest multi-disciplinary artistic forces around – and Friday was, like, tomorrow. Then they were like “…also Sega Bodega is gonna come down and chip in on the day, so should be fun.” And I thought, “Yeah, bollocks to your fun, I’m going to be up all night sweating.” I suggested changing some of the lyrics in the chorus to fit the narrative idea I had, and did some instrumental and vocal edits in the verses to help contrast, and we nailed quite a lot of work in near enough half a day.
09. REBEL BOY SOLDIER (FEAT. MYKKI BLANCO)
God Colony: We flew to Lisbon to make this. Mykki was still living there at the time, and we wanted to go back anyway because we’d played shows there before and fallen in love with the city. We’d sent Mykki everything beforehand, and when we arrived at their apartment, I remember we sat down, drank wine, and went through pages and pages of words they’d written. I was blown away by how much they’d done, and how prepared they were. We hung out, had dinner with FaltyDL who’s been producing a lot for Mykki, and then hit up Mykki’s favourite studio in Lisbon and worked into the early hours. I love this song, and loved watching Mykki work having known each other a long time but not actually been in the studio together. Mykki’s lyrics and voice at the end are beautiful.
Mykki Blanco: When I wrote the lyrics for “Rebel Boy Soldier”, I had in mind a young militant kid who can “talk the talk” but can’t necessarily “walk the walk”. A lot of times you can know all the right words, all the right lingo, but if there isn’t any lived experience behind your thoughts and beliefs, sometimes they don’t count for much. There is something very beautiful about transcending your life situation through hustling. Those lyrics I wrote – “Hey young man, you’re only getting older / Life is but a game my friend, don’t let it get you over” – aren’t directed to anyone in particular, but to everyone in any kind of struggle, because you can’t hold the perspective that life is this crushing never-ending depressing cycle and win at it. Having James and Thomas being in Lisbon was a blast because they’re very English, and so having this sense of us being on holiday was great. It was relaxed, direct, and the best way you can begin to work creatively with people if situation, finances, and circumstance can allow.
10. “NEW YEAR’S EVE” (FEAT. COSIMA)
Cosima: James and Tom played me the instrumental for “New Years Eve” and I sat with it for quite a while. I usually write from scratch, so was a bit intimidated by the track, as I really liked it and wanted to make sure I wrote something over the top that did it justice, so I kind of made random voice notes over it for a few months and then I found the line “this is lonelier than when it was just me” in my notebook. From there it came together quite smoothly.
God Colony: I remember making this so vividly. We’d had this song for a while and tried it out with a couple of other vocalists, but hadn’t ever been happy. I remember it being really cold outside, and Cosima sat on the floor of the studio for hours with a pen and sheets and sheets of paper. When she started writing about being in a cab, we decided quickly that the song couldn’t leave the car – we wanted it to feel claustrophobic and tense. The lyrics are brilliant, and that’s all her. We talked a lot about the meaning and the situation behind the song. It’s set in an Uber in Los Angeles and is ultimately about downers, alcohol, melancholy, and knowing something is over but not quite being able to say it.