Whether it was an innocent longing for love or an enticement for forbidden fruit, throughout lockdown we were all waiting in anticipation for that special ‘end of isolation’ day. Capturing all the tensions of the pursuit, with ‘Big Poppa’ – accompanied by equally racy circus video – Grove takes us from the mundanity of lockdown to the dizzying heights of steamy satisfaction, all in one big, hip-hop drenched queer fantasy.
A welcome narrative in the wake of government-inducted sex bans and a long-term lack of parties, Big Poppa is a hard-hitting and unapologetically liberated track. Throughout, Bristol-based producer/vocalist Grove channels their deepest desires (and probably those of many others) into slick lyricism, seductive synths and heavy, reverb-laden beats that not only subtly reminisce the sounds of turn of the millenium r&b, but also sonically encapsulate the intensity of the chase. It’s confident, it’s visceral, it’s sexy – which is what exactly Grove is all about. The song flourishes in its levels yet doesn’t hesitate to drop out to hypnotic, almost dissonant harmonies that keep you on the edge, all whilst bringing an energy that can’t be faltered.
The video, funded by Arts Council England’s emergency COVID fund and released as part of Bristol Pride’s online festival, features a collaboration with Bassline Circus and intoxicating appearances from world-class queer black talents, including explosive drag queen Deja Da Bomb and circus artists Symoné and Zaki Musa. A kaleidoscopic frenzy of flashing lights, sensual performance and body architecture, Big Poppa is both visually and audibly a bright, loud and colourful celebration of queer culture.
Your music thrives in the late night scenes. How has it been affected by the lack of being able to go out and be within Bristol’s night life community?
I’ve done a few livestream events/gigs, but honestly, I can’t hack it. The music I perform is so people-centric, so to be performing to a wall for forty minutes left me totally dejected. A definite highlight was the Colston Hall takeover, but that was because ya boi got a cheeky pre-record on the go.
Overall, the lack of going out has meant a lot more time reflecting, as well as practising sobriety for once in my delinquent life. As a result, a load of the music I’ve made & written is super chill & contemplative. Just want sweaty nights at The Old E back so we can all get back to the chaos.
Obviously the funding from ACE must’ve been so helpful – how did it enable you to further do what you wanted to do and realise your aspirations for the single?
So I actually have huge anxieties about releasing music in general. It was Bassline Circus who helped me realise my aspirations for the track. They applied for the funding back in February/March, with intention to film the video at Glastonbury with the performers in person, which would’ve been epic! I initially released the track as a Soundcloud little ditty in Jan 2020, so for an organisation to roll through and see the potential in it honestly helped me believe in it and elevate it to this next level.
Do you feel like ACE/ government emergency fundings are enough, especially for grass-roots artists?
Big question! From what I see and what I’ve experienced, they have got their hearts in the right places and have a genuine want to help grass-roots artists. The only thing I can speak to is that if you aren’t well-versed in writing these long applications, it can be a lot harder to benefit from them.
Big Poppa’s instrumentation seems to so perfectly reflect the song’s storyline. Does your process of song writing and production involve consciously crafting the instruments to replicate the narrative of the song?
Thank you! Yeah, when I sat down to create ‘Big Poppa’ I was thinking pure sexy tongue-in-cheek attitude, and that progressively got more intense as the song went on. I’d hype myself up to make the sound bigger, then rewrite the lyrics to match the sound, then big up the production again, then restructure the lyrics to POP OFF, and the cycle repeats. Sounds intricate, but is pretty much the result of me obsessively staring at a laptop screen, scribbling on some paper and intermittently chair dancing.
Are you looking forward to being part of Bristol Pride’s festival again, and how has the work for it adapted to being online?
Yeah, it should be good – we really enjoyed bringing that less-polished more-underground queerness to the event in 2019 and hopefully doing the same again this year. Having three amazing queer performers of colour (Zaki Musa, Symone & LJ Marles) as part of the video is an absolute dream, and yeah, hopefully bringing a few smiles in relation to lockdown along the way. Get ur booty calls in folks.
Words: Ciara Bains Photography: Amia Watling