We Interviewed Kyla, the UK Funky Queen Who Became a Drake Collaborator Overnight
“They didn’t even send us the song. It was just played to us over the phone during a meeting.”
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.
On first hearing Drake’s latest single “One Dance,” you might have said something like this: “That’s… Nah it’s not. Yeah it is. No, surely not. Turn it up a bit. Is that? No. Rewind to the start again. That’s Kyla. Isn’t it? It is! Drake is sampling a UK funky track! Alright turn it down again, we’re on a bus.”
If you did say something like that, you weren’t wrong, and as you’ve probably noticed the ever-increasing circles of UK funky devotees have been going wild for the past week over Drake’s use of Kyla’s “Do You Mind?” The track, specifically the Crazy Cousinz remix, was one of the standout hits of funky’s heyday, first released in 2008 and rising in notoriety in the first half of 2009. And it's become Drake's latest British cultural co-sign, since he got his BBK tattoo.
But, as every downvote on a “Drake brought me here” comment on YouTube will tell you, there’s a lot more to this story than Views from the 6. Rewind seven years, against a backdrop of waning UK garage, dubstep, and grime scenes, an ebullient strand of house-styled African and West Indian rhythms was capturing UK dance-floors, albeit briefly. “Do You Mind” was one of the totemic tracks of this era. The soulful, syncopated counterpart to head-on vibes of “Giggle Riddim” and the like. The track was the center of a club sound that so nearly became something.
Which means, intentionally or not, when Drake featured it he was tapping into beats that have been neglected in the UK’s nightclubs for far too long. He also gave a considerable shock to Kyla herself who, completely unknown to her, became an overnight Drake collaborator. Despite having an unimaginably busy week—the sort of busy you must experience when you feature on Drizzy and its online within 24 hours—Kyla found some time to talk to us about the new feature, what it means to her, and UK funky in general.
Noisey: Yo Kyla, thanks for chatting to us. How crazy has the last week been?
Kyla: I’ve had no real time to process it to be honest. It’s been so quick. I feel truly blessed and humbled.
How long have you known this was on the cards?
It’s only been in the past few weeks. Initially—because they wanted to drop the track April 1—I thought it was an April Fools. It’s not every day Drake calls. I signed all the paperwork last Monday and thought, right, it’ll be a couple of weeks now before it drops. Then the next day, it was out. So, it literally happened overnight. It was brilliant, but I wasn’t ready.
And it’s not just a sample right? You’re billed as a feature.
They first contacted me asking if they could use a sample. But when we were on the phone in a conference call, they asked if we’d like it to be a feature instead. They said that Drake had a third verse but he really liked my part in it and he didn’t want to take me out. So would I like to be a feature because it was more than a sample. I’m not going to say no to that, am I?
Did you get to hear the track in progress?
They’d already recorded it, and everything was ready to go. They were just waiting for the okay from me. They explained that there’d been leaks of some tracks, so they were playing things really safe and keeping everything to themselves. They wouldn’t even send us the song, it was just played to us over the phone during the meeting.
What do you think of “One Dance” now you’ve been able to listen to it properly a few times?
I thought it was so clever, even when I heard it down the phone. Going in, you only really know your song, so you never really know how sampling will work out. But, I love it. I feel blessed to have my name next to Drake’s.
Do you know how he found “Do You Mind"?
I have no idea. But I was told by Drake’s manager that they’d been listening to it for a good two years in America, and had been wanting to do something with it.
What about Crazy Cousinz and Paleface: have you spoken to them about the whole thing?
I talk to Paleface a lot, as I’m married to him. And Crazy Cousinz are a family unit. Never say never. There’s talks of them doing stuff together again, and I’d love to do something with them.
What have you been up to since the funky heyday?
I went away to get married and build a family, but I was always going to come back to music. When you’ve been in the studio for that long, it’s really hard to get back into the music world. It’s been a good three years, but this feels like the perfect opportunity to return and show everybody what I’ve got.
Could this kickstart a renewed interest in UK funky?
When you talk to Drake’s camp, it’s very obvious that he loves all types of music. He’s very open-minded and that’s very much where I stand as well. I would say it is a great thing for UK funky. I know that with Wizkid he’s very into the afrobeat thing as well, which is similar to funky.
Do you still see yourself as part of that scene?
I always hear people refer to me as the Queen of UK funky, but I’d never really heard funky until the Crazy Cousinz remix. I think it’s just about the music. I love the funky sound but I wouldn’t stick myself in that one genre. When you listen to a lot of my material you’ll see I’ve got a lot of pop, R&B, some funky, some normal house. I’m really proud to have been in the UK funky world—that’s where people first started to recognise me – and I’m humbled to be seen as such a big part of the movement, but there are lots of other sides to me as a performer.
Thanks for chatting to us Kyla. What a time to be alive eh?
You know, you live for these moments. I keep thinking I’m going to go to bed, wake up, and think: that was a really good dream.
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