King Britt

King BrittAsk any fan of dance music who their favourite male vocalist is and nine times out of ten Robert Owens name will come back. Sure, there are other great male house vocalists out there, but with more than twenty years as a gifted singer, songwriter, producer and DJ under his belt, Robert has not so much embellished house music as played a large part in defining it. ‘Tears’, ‘I’ll Be Your Friend’ and ‘Ordinary People’ are just some of the tunes that have borne his black velvet voice and gone on to become truly classic dance records. Finally, 2008 will see the release of Robert Owens first artist album in 10 years – ‘Night-time Stories’.

Like many other great vocalists, Robert Owens began his career singing in church gospel choirs. Growing up in the poor areas of Chicago and L.A., where gang related shootings were part of day-to-day life, music proved to be his inspiration and determination to get out of those sad circumstances. Entry into the nascent world of house music came not through Robert’s singing but his skills as a DJ. By the time people like Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles were designing house music’s blueprint on the dancefloors of legendary venues like the Warehouse and the Music Box, Robert was DJing at block parties and smaller clubs in Chicago.

In 1985 Robert met pioneering Chicago producer Larry Heard, who invited him into his studio. Together they formed Fingers Inc with Ron Wilson and released a series of excellent singles such as ‘Mysteries Of Love’ or the instantly recognisable house standard ‘Can You Feel It’. This cooperation culminated in one of house music’s first full-length albums ‘Another Side’ in 1988, after which the group amicably disbanded to follow their individual solo careers.

Following the call of Frankie Knuckles, Robert went to New York in 1989 to record a track with the Def Mix posse – consisting of David Morales, Satoshi Tomiie and Frankie himself. This tune, so casually constructed, was to become one of clubland’s most emotive and defining moments: the sublime ‘Tears’. That song all about his life and struggles was the ignition of Roberts successful career as a solo artist. Signing with 4th & Broadway in 1990 he showcased his beautiful church-honed vocals and heartfelt lyrical style on the album ‘Rhythms In Me’, completely produced by the Def Mix crew. His 1991 single ‘I’ll Be Your Friend’ finally gave Robert the overground success he so obviously deserved, climbing the charts to 1 all over the world!

Leaving New York behind, Robert relocated to London in 1993 where he founded his own label imprint Musical Directions and started assembling his own studio. He continued composing and singing on a series of dance classics such as ‘Love Will Find Its Way’ or ‘Ordinary People’ and collaborated with a remarkable list of influencial artists like Sandy Rivera and Photek (on his smash hit ‘Mine to Give’), and more recently with Ron Trent and Coldcut (on the stunning ‘Walk a Mile in my Shoes’ single).

But Robert also stayed true to his records spinning club roots. As an innovative and globally in-demand DJ he is still dazzling crowds across the UK, Europe, Japan and America with his special blend of the deepest house and electronica. He also established two successful London club residencies – Journeys at Egg and 2 Feet Deep at The Key.
Which brings us to “Night-Time Stories”. Robert’s latest musical offering is an incredibly cohesive collection of collaborations with some of contemporary house music’s biggest and most respected names. Producers like Wahoo, Jimpster, Atjazz, Charles Webster, Simbad, Marc Romboy, Kid Massive, Kirk Degiorgio and Ian Pooley all demonstrate their talents, which combined with Robert’s famous voice, make this one of the most exciting and anticipated dance records of 2008!

You certainly won’t find an artist with a better potential to transpose the many different musical genres into a marvelous standard of grooves full of feelings. His comprehension of what we should call the phonographic culture lies much ahead than the common ones. With a work forged a mixture of Jazz, Soul, Funk, the percussive Afro beats, Hip Hop, Broken Beats, Deep House and the new Electronic Jazz fusion, King Britt has proved to be a very eclectic and open minded soul.

Original from Philadelphia, he absorbed the many styles of grooves and settled a unique vibe. His professional career had its first major ascension in 1992, times when King Britt was the DJ for the Grammy winner Hip Hop-Jazz fusion band Digable Planets (alongside Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, Doodlebug and
Ladybug Mecca). Their absolutely innovative sounds are a mixture of the contemporary side of Hip Hop with the Jazzy scats and lyrics.

His career pointed to different directions as he started to travel the World with the Digable Planets tours and with his own ones on the international House scene as Disc Jockey. At the very beginning of his journey as solo DJ, he settled a partnership with the well-known New York DJ, producer and owner of the label Ovum Recordings: Josh Wink, who also contributed for the development of his career. One of their first projects together was E-Culture, the one behind the classic “Tribal Confusion” released by Strictly Rhythm in 1990.

The seventies funk roots of this Philadelphia native are also represented through his Sylk 130 project, which brought the traditional Philly sounds elements and alliances with artists such as Ursula Rucker, Alma Horton and Alison Crockette in a combination of a funk-soul aura. The highlight of this alias was attained with the long play “When The Funk Hits The Fan”, an excellent combination of the traditional grooves and more contemporary elements.

King Britt’s natural talents as a remixer resulted in a total subversion of rhythms and of the original tunes conceptions, from the works of Yoko Ono and Femi Kuti to the ones of Erykah Badu and Macy Gray. Perhaps that should be the cause why he received, as well as other celebrities like Masters At Work and Joe Claussell, the invitation by the people from legendary Jazz label Verve Records to give his contribution to the acclaimed compilation “Verve Remixed”. He finally owned the title on the category “Remix of the Year” with Danny Tenaglia and Basement Jaxx, which granted him the status of one of the most respected remixes all over the World.

The musical conception of King Britt can be explained by the depths of his backgrounds. All his influences mix together in a unique sound with no limits of style, and his combination of Soul, Hip Hop, Afro Beats, House, Funk and Future Jazz will be always worth of listening.