With Pharrell Williams rediscovering his Midas touch, Mariah Carey releasing her best single in over a decade and TLC announcing a full-blown reunion, Beyoncé appeared to have been right on the money when she claimed that “we all want the 90s R&B sound back” in an interview earlier this year.
Of course, the EDM movement has played an instrumental part in steering the genre away from its urban roots, but Los Angeles-based Le Youth is one of several DJs/producers who are currently proving that R&B can venture onto the dancefloor without being swamped by bombastic bass wobbles and trashy synth-led breakdowns.
Born in Toledo, Ohio, Wes James initially began his career as a drummer in various bands before a colleague at department store’s record section introduced him to the world of electro. Inspired by everyone from the melodic house of Black Box and Technotronic to powerhouse divas Ce Ce Peniston and Robin S to the futuristic R&B of Aaliyah and Ginuwine, he then began writing his own material and remixing tracks by the likes of Goldroom, The Hint and Russ Chimes.
But it was Le Youth’s inspired reworking of Cassie’s 2006 single “Me & U” that launched him into the spotlight, his transformation of the minimal R&B number into a sun-kissed nu-disco anthem eventually racking up over 300,000 plays on Soundcloud, and landing him a deal with Ultra Records as a result.
Describing his sound as “music to listen to poolside or at a house party,” Le Youth has uploaded a handful of other tracks that prove that the aforementioned “C O O L” isn’t just a one-off. “Dance With Me” combines a pitch-shifted sample of TLC’s classic “No Scrubs” with a wave of warm Balearic synths and blissful beats. There are shades of Daft Punk’s debut, Homework, on the chopped-up vocals, funky bass licks and chunky electro riffs of “The Night.” “Memories” is a glistening fusion of marimbas and synth-snares featuring a breathy melodic hook which could have been lifted straight from Janet Jackson’s janet.
Joining the likes of Cyril Hahn, Perseus and Moon Boots on the quest to restore dance music’s reputation, Le Youth’s utmost respect for classic R&B suggests Mrs. Carter would definitely approve.