The Camden Jazz Café recently launched a series of Friday Club Nights called “Soul City”, which, in their words, aims to “connect the dots between hip hop, soul, funk and disco, dipping into classic tracks and brand new sounds from around the world.”
The man to do this would be London based beat maker, Eric Lau. His laid back, almost effortless groove has been making waves across the scene for years, often drawing influences from the unlikeliest of sources. As one of the few Asian figures in the Hip Hop community, Lau has taken opportunities to articulate the prejudice and discrimination that unfortunately still plagues the music industry, filling a much needed role as an ambassador in the hope that the scene can start to change.
Kicking off a little after midnight, he started by reminding everyone of the anniversary of Prince’s passing with a delicious compilation of his greatest hits to get the whole venue bouncing. Lasting around 25 minutes, the collection included “Sexy Dancer,” “Erotic City” and “When Doves Cry.”
After this, “Awake o Zion” by Twinkie Clark sounded out like an anthem. This was the signal for a genre shift as we headed into a world of Latin-infused Jazz beats, Lau’s signature style. Any lingering tension in the room dissipated: shoulders fell back into their natural place and lush Portuguese lyrics washed over everyone like a waterfall. Hints of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder were noticeable, particularly Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me,” a song about how much the environment is changing. The music was utterly intoxicating, particularly George Duke’s glorious “Brazilian Love Affair”.
Eventually some much needed hip-hop came our way, It was Friday night after all. The lyrics to “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar could be heard shouted above the Jazz Cafe’s fantastic sound system, and the funk of Anderson Paak was reminiscent of some of the Prince records that opened up the evening's proceedings. Lau mixed some old in with the new too, with the iconic “Sound of da Police” by KRS-One thrown in, as well as some vintage Slum Village too.
Overall, his set was fantastic. The variety of styles showcased his ability to produce in a number of genres, with the tracks seamlessly mixed together to the delight of the receptive crowd.
This was very different from Lau’s album “Examples,” a work of old school Hip Hop which has been giving him comparisons to artists like J-Dilla and Nujabes. However, it was another reminder of his outstanding artistry, and with an album rumoured to be in the pipeline, clearly Eric Lau is one to watch this year.
Shout out to Jazz Café too for launching Soul City, a fantastic new Friday night to look forward to.