JD. Reid
How the stellar producer constructed his ambitious new mixtape...

JD. Reid is a busy man. The London producer – North Weezy postcode – has watched his profile rocket following chartbound collaborations with Mabel, nailing that new pop sound that takes its cues from the underground.

His Inbox is bulging with offers from big names, and he’s almost literally in the studio 24/7 – meaning that tracking JD. Reid down is fairly simple, but disrupting his studio flow is nigh-on impossible.

When Clash finally gets the producer on the phone for a quick chat he has literally just stopped the tapes on a new session, working with an as yet unnamed talent. “We got a nice idea down, but we’re back in tomorrow to finish it off,” he explains. “My calendar is more busy than I think it’s ever been. But it’s good, man, because I like being busy. I like making a lot of music so I’m happy that it’s going the way it is.”

Everything is positive in JD. Reid’s world right now. New mixtape ‘Tree’ is gaining numerous plaudits, a document of astonishing breadth that includes everyone from rising jazz star Henry Wu to grime legend D Double E, new voices like 808INK and Oscar #worldpeace to icons in the game like Ghetts and Katy B.

“I’ve been making this music and meeting people along the way – the more music that I’ve made with artists then I’ve met five others as a result of that, or been introduced to other people,” he explains. “The level of connectivity between me and artists in London right now is starting to be broad as well. It’s grown quite a bit.”

It’s this interconnectivity that supplies ‘Tree’ with its over-arching concept; the tape has deep roots, but it’s branches extend outwards into fresh ideas. It’s the work of a confident young voice, with JD. Reid’s opening two EPs on Rinse helping pave the way for a brave and breathlessly ambitious project.

“I feel like I’ve grown musically,” he says. “I feel like I’ve grown into a better place than I was two years ago. This project just represents me coming into a new space with myself. I’m just having fun making the music that I want to make with artists that I’m a fan of.”

“I think I’ve got better at executing my ideas,” he continues. “But also just in myself, just trying to think broader than what I was before. I feel like I used to maybe get concerned about limiting myself to do more on one side of things, but over time I’m like, nah, just make what you feel and don’t put any boundaries on anything.”

This boundary-less creation helps provide ‘Tree’ with some of its most thrilling moments. ‘Just Know’ is a track that could only come from London right now – what other city in the world could provide artists like jazz provocateur Henry Wu, vocalist Venna, and Newham General don D Double E… and then place them all on the same track?

“I mean, I’m a fan of jazz anyway,” the producer explains. “I had a skeleton for that beat, I had a body to that beat, and I’d been toying with it for a while and it wasn’t quite right and I thought, let me shout Henry and see if he wants to play on it.”

“Initially on this track I had an OutKast vocal chopped up, and I knew I would never be able to use it so I thought, let’s make it more relevant to the city that I’m from. Obviously I worked with Double before. It all came together as it was meant to when it was meant to.”

The poignant ‘En Route’ finds JD. Reid sparring with Mr Mitch, a producer known for his instrumental grime work and connection to the Boxed club night. “Me and Mr Mitch have been friends for a long time,” he says, “and we’d always spoken about getting into the studio to make something. This tape was just the perfect opportunity for that to happen. I’m a fan of Mr Mitch from a long time ago, and we share some of the same tastes in music as well so it was the right fit, man.”

Although ‘Tree’ utilises some of the best new MCs in the game – slowthai makes a stellar appearance on ‘Piggy Bank’, 808INK star on ‘Hum’ - JD. Reid also excels at working alongside vocalists, applying new melodies to underground beats. Rinse queen Katy B appears on ‘Call Your Bluff’, and it’s a wonderfully natural pairing.

“I love working with Katy,” he enthuses. “We’ve done a lot of work together over the past couple of years now. She’s got a great voice, she’s a lovely person, and she writes a good tune. I feel like she really understands, actually, the music that I like and the vibe that I like to put across, and it’s always good when you’re working with a singer who understands the vibe the producer is on.”

It’s all about the vibe; getting the right atmosphere, the correct timing, helped turn ‘Tree’ from just the seed of an idea into a stellar mixtape. “I mean about the whole thing just being linking people up and getting people together to make some good tunes,” he shrugs.

There’s a unique atmosphere to the tape, pinning together murky, twilight tones, with something brighter, more outward. “In the music I always try to put people in a place with what I’m doing, to set a certain tone or mood to it,” he says. “Even though all the styles of music are different there’s maybe a certain palette in the instruments that I use or the sound choice or my groove or whatever that helps to tie it all together. I just wanted to make sure that even though I was doing these different types of beats you could still hear me in all of it.”

One key aspect about the project, though, is the role of place. It feels like a definitively London object, from the cast down to the atmosphere on the recordings. “I can only really speak for myself, but I just know that growing up in London meant I experienced a lot of different types of music and I was influenced by a lot of stuff. So I think that it’s only natural that in time we’re going to want to start delving into different worlds and trying out different stuff.”

At times, it feels as though JD Reid has led a charmed life – collaborators simply fall into his lap, accidentally stumbling through the studio door. Then he has one story that floors me, and it relates to the name of his newly minted label Baby Gravy.

“It’s a nickname I got given by RZA, back in the day,” he laughs. “Funnily enough! He put the Wu chain round my neck at my mum’s old workplace and said: “You’re baby gravy!” I’ve been wanting to use it for a while, and here we are.” Seriously? “The man himself. I don’t know if he’d remember it now, but… true stories, man!”

Timing is everything – and it seems JD. Reid’s timing is perfect.

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'Tree' is out now.

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