We hung out with the boys in Brooklyn to hear about this unlikely collaboration
This is the UK premiere of "Hero", a brand new song by Frank Ocean, Diplo and The Clash.
You can download the full song here.
Consideringly he's the most critically-adored and sought after singer in the world, Frank Ocean has kept a pretty low-profile in the past year. Yeah he's popped up on the Beyoncé, Kanye and JAY Z albums, but mostly with ethereal low-in-the-mix harmonies. But if anyone was going to coo him out of hiding, it was Diplo. In a brown suit and sneakers he tells us that he got on the blower with Frocean, and got him to work on something new. It helped that the other two collaborators were Mick Jones and Paul Simonon from The Clash.
All photos by Brad Ogbonna
We're in the Converse Rubber Tracks studio in Williamsburg with Diplo, Mick and Paul, as they recount how they started working on their new track. Located in the bit of Williamsburg which you don't see on GIRLS, Rubber Tracks is a permanent space for new and usinged artists to record, but today it's playing host to a bunch of wisecracking icons brought together through Converse's Three Artists One Song initiative, which has previously seen disparate trios like Gorillaz, Andre 3000 and James Murphy and Pharrell, Santigold and Julian Casablancas together.
Mick says Diplo first came into contact with them, "through our lawyers" when he sampled "Straight To Hell" on M.I.A's "Paper Planes". But it quickly transpired that Diplo was a long time fan of the band.
They worked out initial ideas in Damon Albarn's Studio 13 in London, which they treated as a bit of a playground. Unsurprisingly, Damon has picked up a few souvenirs from his travels with Africa Express and Gorillaz so they played with giant bells from Tibet, hundreds of drums "and an electric sitar that we spent an entire day trying to work out to play," says Diplo, "it didn't happen though." They mucked around on YouTube for hours, Paul playing Diplo a lot of 50s and 60s Pakistani music.
When it came to recording, there was a mutual understand of each other's music, but technologically they were on different planes. "Everything was just so...fast with him," says Paul of Diplo. "Just switiching on a computer seemed to go quicker."
After working together across five different tracks, playing with live instrumentation and samples, the trio thought they had something that they could convince Frank Ocean with. "I spoke to him and played him what we had," says Diplo. "It wasn't easy but when he'd heard the track he felt it was right."
They also spent a lot of time listening to each others music and drawing connections across genres, "hip-hop is punk, it feels like it shares that same spirit," says Paul.
The song itself doesn't sound like much any of the artists have done before, dispensing with a traditional structure to take you on a kind of journey beginning with a bluesy guitar line before Frank's vocal evolves into a full choir. Majestic and unexpected, we reckon it stands up alongside the best of all three artists.
There's more to come from Diplo, Mick and Paul on Noisey. Stay tuned.
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