In The Middle with Wilkinson

Last week saw the video release of Wilkinson’s latest collaboration with Wretch 32, Flatline. In 2014 the pair worked together on Wretch’s track 6 words, in which Wilkinson punctuated Wretch’s mellow verses with a punchy drum n’ bass chorus. Wilkinson’s talent as a producer means that this is regular in his line of work and artists often come to him to “boost” their songs. Flatline on the other hand is Wilkinson’s song, with Wretch as the featuring rapper, and a predominantly drum n’ bass outcome. I managed to catch up with Wilkinson himself to discuss his latest release.

Production of the song actually began about two years ago and it’s been the longest record he has ever taken to make. I wanted to work with a hip hop tune and Wretch was up for it”, he tells me, “It developed as a hip-hop beat with this Ronnie Foster sample [‘Mystic Brew’] and then Wretch just came over and killed it”. While Wilkinson enjoyed playing around with different genres than his usual drum n’ bass, the song was too good not to play at his sets. “I really wanted it to be drum n bass, for it to work, and to be an uplifting song” he explains, so two years later, some live recorded horns, and his recognisable touch, Flatline was completed as a drum n’ bass record.

The electric new track has been described as “high-octane” and “unrelenting”, achieving that uplifting feel that Wilkinson had set out to achieve. Discussing the title, he talks about it in terms of stasis, about moving a “flat” audience into a more excited one. “Flatlines every time/ We go wild, yeah, everybody clear?” Talay Riley sings over the chorus. On the other end, he also recalls “flat line” as the straight line on a heart monitor, musing that “it’s kind of an interesting thing, because the chorus is about going on stage and performing and taking the crowd by surprise and making them have a heart attack, I guess”.

Wilkinson points out Wretch’s lyrical ingenuity, explaining that “Wretch kind of took from that idea the whole story of being on stage, “78,000 people”, and also imagining a social media thing and how the crowds react and about the generation.” Wretch’s intricate wordplay takes the madness of performing in front of so many people and eventually develops with images about the madness of our generation, social media and our selfie-culture. “It feels like there’s such a good narrative in that whole song and that’s something that I’m really proud of”, Wilkinson says, “and there are a lot of songs out at the moment just singing about absolute bullshit really”. As an artist, Wretch touches on real-stuff.

Wilkinson’s admiration for Wretch is clear, calling him “one of the finest lyricists in the UK”, and their easy-going bond and mutual respect shows in both the video and the success of their song. Part of Wilkinson’s character is his appreciation for new talent, and particularly UK talent. He likes to use vocals on his tracks, and tells me that “as well as working with bigger artists it’s exciting to discover a new artist or singer who’s bringing something new to the table and being part of their journey as well”. With his reputation on the music scene, Wilkinson has the facility to help artists who are still trying to establish themselves and introduce something fresh to the table. He talks about “raw talent”, pointing out that he likes “people to buy the records because they like it not, because it’s someone they’ve heard before”.

While most of us have heard of Wretch before, it’s great to see such a dynamic collaboration of two distinct artists. The direct collision of hip-hop and drum n’ bass is exciting and effective and while their distinctive talents are unmistakeable, they clearly also work great as a team. Released just in time, Flatline looks set to become one of summer’s leading tunes.

Wilkinson sold out for his Spring Tour this year and has fixed a new date at London’s The Forum in Kentish Town on the 8th April where Wretch joined him on stage. Their video for Flatline was released recently, which you can check out here.


Mamie Hamshere

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