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Release Radar: London native, Baba Ali releases new single 'Nuclear Family'

New Jersey native, London-dwelling artist, Baba Ali has today released his new single, "Nuclear Family”which trails previous tracks playlisted by BBC 6 Music and KCRW and tipped by Clash, NME, The Line of Best Fit and Paste. Baba says of “Nuclear Family:”

“At the start of writing the song, we only had the bassline and the drumbeat, and I remember the idea for the chorus hook arrived almost immediately, with everything else easily falling into place around it. the chorus basically says it all: this mess of a world we’re in, we’re all in it together and that’s something to be hopeful about. i also like that the phrase nuclear family suggests something quite middle and average, and suburban, which is an experience most of us fall into but many times don’t like to admit”.

Though most debuts are the culmination of a lifetime of influences and experiences, few artists succeed in mapping their musical journey quite as vividly as Baba Ali has on Memory Device. Tracing his Nigerian heritage, adolescence absorbing No Wave and the hip hop on NYC’s Hot 97, time immersed in the techno scene in Berlin, and the experimental punk spirit of his current base in London, Memory Device is an enthralling introduction to a musician who resolutely defies pigeonholing. Written during the lockdown and recorded with Al Doyle (LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip) in East London, Memory Device is both a dizzyingly inventive exploration of Baba’s complex musical DNA and a thought-provoking treatise on the collective angst of modern existence; a dance record dealing in small ‘p’ politics that, spiritually, has been three decades in the making. Born and raised in Fort Lee – the New Jersey borough connected to upper Manhattan by the George Washington Bridge – the singer/songwriter born Babatunde Teemituoyo Doherty spent much of his childhood immersed in music. Related to Fela Kuti via marriage on his father’s side of the family, Baba recalls regularly accompanying his father into Manhattan to see Femi Kuti perform, while he credits his mother for the appreciation he developed for Sade, Prince, Michael Jackson, and Chic. When he eventually began developing his own musical tastes, he gravitated towards hip-hop - particularly conscious rappers like 2Pac, Nas, Common, and A Tribe Called Quest - as well as neo-soul trailblazers like D’Angelo and Erykah Badu. It was the discovery of J Dilla’s seminal second album Donuts that would prove most influential on his own musical trajectory.

Growing up, Baba and a group of close friends coined the phrase “Yarchism”, a philosophy promoting an instinct-led approach to creativity, so as to pursue the purest possible expression of your creative vision, unaffected by socially constructed norms. Baba still subscribes to this outlook today, describing himself as being hardwired to “resist any type of expectation of what I'm supposed to be,” as well as being “almost antagonistic” during his powerful live performances, which draw heavily on his background in visual arts. In 2017, he moved to London to pursue music, emboldened by his experiences visiting family there as a child. Says Baba: “London had a huge effect on me because it expanded my understanding of what Blackness could be,” he recalls. “Seeing my cousins in the UK in a whole different context - listening to grime, and dressing and speaking in a certain type of way - was so radically different to anything I’d ever experienced before, but [it was] so compelling… As a result, I'd always had this idea of the music scene in the UK being really forward-thinking and open to experimentation.” It was here that he began writing new music as a solo artist, with his debut EP Nomad released in 2017. Soon after he met British guitarist Nik Balchin while they were working together at a bar in Whitechapel. Nik brought with him an entirely new set of references, ranging from LCD Soundsystem and the Pixies to Suicide and Iggy Pop. The new collaboration resulted in the February 2020 release, This House, an eclectic four-track collection fusing funk, blues, and soul, and featuring production from Jamie Hince of The Kills. In July the same year the duo released an unofficial mixtape, Rethinking Sensual Pleasure, which they wrote while locked down together at Baba’s parents’ house in New Jersey, having been temporarily stranded in the US following their New York shows.

Today Baba describes this process of producing a longer body of work as being akin to “ripping a Band-Aid off,” giving them the confidence to begin writing their debut. Work on Memory Device began shortly afterward, culminating in the pair recording the album between November 2020 and February 2021 with Al Doyle, who was chosen for his vast experience operating at the intersection between dance and rock music. There’s no question that Baba is leading by example with Memory Device. Memory Device is available to preorder on indie and direct to fan-only crystal vinyl and signed red and orange splatter vinyl from Record Store. Listening and pre-ordering options here.

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