DJ Vadim and Blackstone–Double Sided.

Label: BBE.

The first time that Californian singer-songwriter Katrina Blackstone collaborated with Barcelona-based hip hop producer DJ Vadim, was on his 2014 album Dubcatcher. Katrina Blackstone was part of what was an all-star cast of vocalists and MCs that featured on the album.  She joined YT on Give It Up and Serocee on Magnetic. These two songs were among the highlights of Dubcatcher, and showcased a truly talented singer who had a big future ahead of her. DJ Vadim realised that too.

Not long after the release of Dubcatcher, DJ Vadim embarked upon another lengthy tour, and invited Katrina Blackstone to join the tour. Since then, DJ Vadim and Katrina Blackstone have toured the world and when time permitted recorded a number of tracks. Eventually, the pair had recorded enough tracks for their first full-length album  Double Sided which has just been released on BBE and marks the debut DJ Vadim and Blackstone. However, Double Sided is no ordinary hip hop album.

Indeed, Double Sided is a hip hop album with a difference. While many hip hop albums featured a myriad of samples, DJ Vadim and Katrina Blackstone have taken a very different approach. They’ve used an array of guitars, synths and drum machines to record Double Sided. They provide to a backdrop to Katrina Blackstone’s vocals on this album where the hooks certainly haven’t been spared. There’s everything from dubby down-tempo grooves to upbeat Afro-boogie on Double Sided, which is the first much-anticipated debut album DJ Vadim and Blackstone.

For those unfamiliar with Katrina Blackstone, she was born in Tennessee, and after graduating from high school, enrolled at the prestigious New School University in New York where she studied vocal performance and jazz. Having graduated, Katrina Blackstone headed to the San Francisco, where her musical career began.

Since then, she’s been a familiar face on the indie-electronic scene, and had worked with, and alongside, a variety of artists and producers. This included collaborating with Bluetech on his 2010 album Love Songs To The Source, where Katrina Blackstone also collaborated with Dr Israel. Katrina Blackstone also worked with Killah Priest on the Legba’s Light project was created by Ron Carter, Brian Jackson and Mike Clark. Sadly, the project was never released. More recently, Katrina Blackstone has been working with veteran hip hop producer DJ Vadim.

The future DJ Vadim was born Vadim Peare in St. Petersburg, Russia. At the age of three, he and his family moved to London, which became a home from for Vadim Peare. It was also where later, Vadim Peare beam DJ Vadim. 

By 1994, the future hardest working man in hip hop had just founded his own record company Jazz Fudge. Just a year later, in 1995, DJ Vadim released his debut album Headz Ain’t Ready on his nascent Jazz Fudge label. However, later in 1995, DJ Vadim signed to the Ninja Tunes label, and released four albums between 1996 and 2002. 

Nowadays, these albums are referred to as the U.S.S.R. Quartet. The first of the U.S.S.R. Quartet was U.S.S.R. Repertoire (The Theory Of Verticality), which was released in 1996 to critical acclaim. It was a similar case when U.S.S.R. Reconstruction (Theories Explained followed in 1997 and U.S.S.R. Life From The Other Side in 1999. Completing this important and innovative quartet was U.S.S.R. The Art Of Listening in September 2002. Just the like the rest of the U.S.S.R. Quartet, it featured DJ Vadim pushing musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes beyond. In dong so, this launched DJ Vadim’s career.

Five long years passed before DJ Vadim returned with a new album.  During that five-year period, During that period, DJ Vadim was busier than ever, producing, DJ-ing and collaborating with numerous artists, including The Herbaliser, Fat Freddy’s Drop and The Super Furry Artists. After working with so many other artists, the time came for DJ Vadim was ready to make his comeback.

Having decided to make a comeback, DJ Vadim signed to one of Britain’s leading independent labels BBE. It would become home for DJ Vadim for the next ten years. His career began in April 2007 with the release of The Soundcatcher, with The Soundcatcher Extras following in November 2007. Both albums marked the welcome return of a pioneering producer who had been away too long. 

Sadly, just when everything seemed to be going well for DJ Vadim, tragedy struck during 2007, when he was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer, Ocular Melanoma. Thankfully, DJ Vadim recovered from Ocular Melanoma, and within two years was ready to return with a new alum.

DJ Vadim returned with his eighth album U Can’t Lurn Imaginashun in April 2009. It was a glimpse of what hip hop had been missing for the past two years. The release of Can’t Lurn Imaginashun marked the welcome return DJ Vadim, who would spend the next collaborating with a number of artists and crisscrossing the globe DJ-ing.

Over the next two years, DJ Vadim was one of the hardest working men in hip hop. He divided his time between DJ-ing, collaborations and recording his eagerly awaited ninth album, DJ Vadim Presents The Electric’s Life Is Moving. When it was released in March 2011, DJ Vadim’s four album for BBE was hailed as a fitting followup to U Can’t Lurn Imaginashun. Critics and hip hoppers everywhere loved the album, which was an album of vintage hip hop from a hip hop veteran. 

Just over a year-and-a-half later, DJ Vadim made a welcome return with his new album Don’t Be Scared in October 2012. Again, critical acclaim accompanied Don’t Be Scared which was the tenth album DJ Vadim had released since releasing his debut album Headz Ain’t Ready in 1995. This was pretty good going, considering DJ Vadim hadn’t released an album between September 2002 and April 20007. DJ Vadim had essentially released ten albums in eleven years. It was no surprise that many within the hip hop community were calling DJ Vadim the hardest working man in

When DJ Vadim returned with the followup to Don’t Be Scared in June 2014, hip hoppers everywhere were confused as Dubcatcher wasn’t a hip hop album. Instead it was an album of dancehall reggae. That was only part of the story. Dubcatcher encompassed everything from bass culture, boogie, boom bap rap, roots music, soul and UK 2 step soul. Essentially, Dubcatcher is a genre-melting album that featured an extensive cast guest artists. This included Katrina Blackstone who joined YT on Give It Up and Serocee on Magnetic. Katrina Blackstone was one of the stars of Dubcatcher, and would work with DJ Vadim over the next few years.

When DJ Vadim headed out on tour, he was often joined by the Californian singer-songwriter Katrina Blackstone. The pair forged a successful partnership, and when time permitted, they recorded a number of tracks together. Some of these would eventually find their way onto DJ Vadim and Blackstone’s album Double Sided. Before that, DJ Vadim would release two more albums.

The first of these albums was Grow Slow, which was a collaboration between DJ Vadim and Sena. It was released in June 2015, and by then, the pair had known each other for ten years. DJ Vadim and Sena had first met at a festival in Budapest in 2005, and soon, the pair were working together. This cumulated in the release of Grow Slow, where the hardest working man in hip hop and Ghana’s musical First Lady collaborated on an album that was guaranteed to get any party started. 

Just eight months later, DJ Vadim returned with the sequel to Dubcatcher, Dubcatcher II-Wicked Ma Yout. It was released in February 2016 and found favour with critics. Since then, DJ Vadim’s many fans have awaited his next album.

Some of his fans were expecting another collaboration with Sena,  given the reviews of Grow Slow. However, the smart money was on a collaboration with Katrina Blackstone who had played a starring role on Dubcatcher. It was obvious to some within the music industry that she had a big future ahead of her. 

When the time came for DJ Vadim to record his fourteenth album, he chose Katrina Blackstone  to costar on his next album Double Sided. This was no surprise, as Katrina Blackstone, whose  a versatile vocalist who can breathe life and meaning into lyrics. Seamlessly, she moves between crystalline and tender to powerful, soul and sassy. Katrina Blackstone puts her vocal prowess to good use on Double Sided, a hip hop album with a difference.

Unlike many hip hop producers who rely mostly on samples when they’re recording a new album, DJ Vadim decided to take a different approach on Double Sided. He eschewed samples and brought to the studio an array of guitars, synths and drum machines to record Double Sided. They provide the backdrop to Katrina Blackstone’s vocals. She’s joined by a number of guest artists, including Aima The Dreamer on Choose and That’s Not Me; Tiggy Tafari on No No; Parly B on Stand Up; Dakini Star on Magnetic and Pugs Atomz on the album closer Shoop Shoop. It’s the last of fourteen tracks on Double Sided, which is the fourteenth album from DJ Vadim. However,  Double Sided is the first album where DJ Vadim and Blackstone takes equal billing. Hopefully, it’s not the last.

Opening Double Sided is Burning Love where buzzing synths, handclaps and harmonies prove the perfect foil for Blackstone’s sassy, soulful vocal. It returns on Double Sided, which features squelchy, buzzing and beeping synths, handclaps and percussion. They provide the backdrop for Blackstone as she struts her way through the track delivering another sassy vocal.

The tempo drops on Luv 2 Luv, as chirping, chiming guitars, crisp beats and synths accompany Blackstone. As she delivers an impassioned, soulful vocal, cooing harmonies accompany her as Nu-Soul meets hip hop. 

MC Alma The Dreamer makes the first of two appearances on Choose, adding a breathy, sensuous vocal as Blackstone unleashes a powerhouse of a vocal against washes and stabs of synths. Later, MC Alma The Dreamer adds one of her trademark vocal which is the perfect foil for Blackstone. It becomes impassioned as Alma The Dreamer  also adds a soulfulness to the track. Alma The Dreamer returns on the hook-laden That’s Not Me, which is a melodic and memorable track that will strike a note with many women.

Another of guest artist Tiggy Tafari features on No No No which was penned by Willie Cobbs and Dawn Penn. It was the title-track of her 1994 debut album, and twenty-three years later it’s given a makeover by Blackstone and Tiggy Tafari. They take this familiar song where  dancehall, soul and hip hop are combined by DJ Vadim and Blackstone.

Re Run sees the tempo drop again, as DJ Vadim and Blackstone combine hip hop, soul and later, even a hint of dub. Keyboards, crisp beats and effects accompany one of Blackstone’s most soulful vocals. Later, DJ Vadim unleashes effects and Blackstone’s soulful vocal briefly becomes dubby. Still, though, it’s one of the highlights of Double Sided. The same can be said of Been Waiting All Night, where drums and a bass synth play leading roles in the arrangement as Blackstone delivers a vocal that is full of frustration on Been Waiting All Night. Especially as she sings: “I’ve Been Waiting All Night for you to call, waiting all night to phone, I need to know the truth.” As she does, Blackstone brings the lyrics to life and it’s as she’s lived them as Nu Soul meets electronica and hip hop.

Doncaster based Parly B has been involved in various collaborations over the last couple of years. They range from reggae, dubstep and Jungle. He joins Blackstone on Stand Up which is fusion of hip hop, soul, reggae, dub and drama, as two of music’s rising stars unite to create a slice of musical ear candy. The the tempo drops on Ride Slow, where drums and synths combine before effects are added to the arrangement. They create the perfect backdrop for Blackstone as she delivers a sassy, sultry vocal. 

Magnetic features another guest artist, Dakini Star from Oakland, California. She’s a versatile artist and has worked on various projects over the past few years. The soulful MC joins Blackstone on a genre-melting track where dancehall, electronica, hip hop and Nu Soul melts into one. Another genre-defying track is How Long, where elements of dancehall, dub, electronica, hip hop and Blackstone’s unique Nu Soul sound combine. It’s a heady brew. It’s a similar case on Shoop Shoop where Chicago based Pugs Atomz MC joins Blackstone on Pugs Atomz. They play their part in an unforgettable hook-laden track. Rewind which closes Double Sided, and features one of Blackstone’s best vocals. It’s heartfelt, needy and deeply soulful and one of her finest moments on Double Sided, which ends on a high.

Three years after Blackstone made her debut on DJ Vadim’s Dubcatcher album, the pair have equal billing on Double Sided. This is reminder of why Blackstone is regarded as one of music’s rising stars. She has a big future ahead of her, and proof if any was needed are the fourteen tracks on Double Sided. 

DJ Vadim unleashes an array of drum machines, synths and guitars, which are augmented by five guest artists. This includes familiar faces like Alma The Dreamer and new names Parly B. They all play their part in the sound and success of Double Sided. Playing a starring role is Blackstone, who breaths life, meaning and emotion into this genre-melting album Double Sided.

For most of the time, Blackstone’s vocal is soulful, and veers between traditional soul and Nu Soul. This is combined with DJ Vadim’s trademark hip hop sound and a few secret ingredients. Among them, are Afro-boogie, dancehall, downtempo, dub, electronica, reggae and sometimes, even a hint of funk. Just like most of DJ Vadim’s thirteen previous albums, Double Sided, is much more than a hip hop album. 

There’s a soulfulness on Double Sided that is missing on many new hip hop albums. This soulfulness comes courtesy of Katrina Blackstone who costars with DJ Vadim on Double Sided. DJ Vadim and Blackstone are joined by a stellar cast of guest artists on their genre-melting collaboration  Double Sided, which is a deeply soulful album thanks to the addition of  Katrina Blackstone.

Singer-songwriter Katrina Blackstone has a big future ahead of her. Hopefully, Katrina Blackstone will return with her debut solo album sooner rather than later. She’s a talented singer-songwriter, who studied vocal performance and jazz at the prestigious New School University in New York. With a background in jazz, maybe she should return to her roots and showcase a much more organic sound on her debut album? This would give Katrina Blackstone the chance to showcase her skills as a singer and songwriter. Especially with a band that features some of top session players. They would provide a much more organic backdrop for Katrina Blackstone,  rather than the myriad of synths and drum machines that feature on Double Sided. This would certainly show another to Oakland based diva—in-waiting Katrina Blackstone

Having said that, the synths and drum machines play their part in the sound and success of Double Sided which is without doubt one of the best albums  he’s released on BBE. There’s a reason for this, the addition of  Katrina Blackstone. She steps out of the shadows and takes centre-stage where she plays a starring role on Double Sided, which  is the much-anticipated collaboration between DJ Vadim and Blackstone.

DJ Vadim and Blackstone–Double Sided.

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