How ‘P+F Sounds’ By PLACES+FACES Captured The Heart Of Young LDN ❤️

Words: Yemi Abiade

2017 was a great time to be outside in London. Musically, our scene was flourishing in the newfound freedom that grime’s resurgence allowed, enabling all corners of the underground to build and mutate as new heroes rose to the surface. With live shows, radio and streaming on the up, the frenetic energy that was sweeping the UK capital was almost impossible to miss. This coincided with a cultural boom as, in the fashion and lifestyle world, the brand running the roads was PLACES+FACES (P+F). Taking photos of everyone from Skepta and Headie One to Kanye West and Rihanna, the brand, headed up by Imran Ciesay and Solomon Boyede aka Ciesay & Soulz and active since 2014, had negotiated its position in the game with its intimate flicks, frequent parties and streetwear dictating what was cool and fresh in modern LDN.

With far-reaching connections across music and fashion and considerable cultural clout, 2017 would mark a step into the relative unknown for P+F: making music. But, when commissioned by London’s Red Bull Studios, the task came to fruition. Accessing their vast pool of collaborators, fans and friends, P+F would construct a SoundCloud-exclusive mixtape, P+F Sounds: The + Tape, that would define the underground movement they were part of. Household names such as slowthai, Kojey Radical, 67 and Jeshi, then just budding (and, in 67’s case, notorious) musicians, would grace the tape and etch their name in an interesting anecdote of UK music. Speaking on the project’s concept in 2017, Ciesay told Red Bull Music: “The tape isn’t really trying to tell a story but more showing off the relationships that PLACES+FACES has with artists. We started off shooting musicians and we’d also put mixes on our SoundCloud. However, because the songs in the mix weren’t original, they always kept getting taken down, so we had the idea of using our SoundCloud as a platform where our friends could make exclusive songs and we’d push it out.”

P+F Sounds played out like one of the brand’s legendary parties, where anything can happen and anyone can pull up—an audio All-Star Game where every artist involved showcases their skills in a public forum, across sounds as variant as drill, UK garage, trap and rap courtesy of Darq E Freaker, Kelvin Krash, Soundboi and KC. Creating a sonic foundation that felt like home for each contributor, P+F Sounds provides optimum conditions for shelling. The tape’s playfulness is evident from jump with one of the first voices heard, Daniel OG, interpolating the lyrics to Mims’ 2007 rap anthem, “This Is Why I’m Hot”, on intro track “Hot”. Meanwhile, NN’s finest, slowthai, and grime spitters Peigh and Scrufizzer utilise Darq E Freaker’s slick chop of Ramsey+Fen’s UKG classic, “Love Bug”, for the entertaining anti-love cut, “No Love Ting”. There’s a nimble back and forth between Mini Kingz brethren Oscar #Worldpeace and Ragz Originale on the glistening “PRS Cheque Flow”, while cult crooner Lancey Foux sings of his night-time activities throughout “Covered In Fire”, underpinning the tape's thematic fluidity.

But make no mistake about it: there is A LOT of hunger on display, the type that comes with wanting to prove your worth in this music thing in the scene’s new, level playing field. Jeshi’s piercing introspection shines on the Fredwave-assisted “Care”; Kojey Radical tap dances over his and Pearl De Luna’s “Safehouse”; and the tape’s main event, “What’s Next”, is a bombastic posse cut featuring rappers trying to prove they’re better than each other—all before 67’s “First Degree”, a prototypically ominous contribution packed with the inviting lyrics that fuelled the group’s infamy at the time. It sums up the culture in a nutshell: striving for more and better, while having fun along the way.

Then there are the tape’s unsung heroes: Pearl De Luna’s two-peat of serene vocals on the first two tracks; a young Benny Mails rapping like he had only a can of baked beans in the fridge, outbarring the majority of his collaborators; Last Night In Paris’ Danny Seth channelling his inner Eminem on “What’s Next”; Scrufizzer’s lyrical acrobatics throughout. Each player planted their own personality firmly on the tracks, making P+F Sounds such an exciting and unpredictable trip from beginning to end. Though the tape didn’t necessarily break these stars, you only have to deep what many of them have become in the five years since its release. slowthai and Kojey Radical have gone on to become Mercury Prize nominees for their respective albums, Nothing Great About Britain (2019) and Reason To Smile (2022), and 67 have become UK drill’s godfathers, dictating the course of an entirely unique UK sound. Meanwhile, Lancey Foux, Oscar #Worldpeace, Ragz Originale, Kasien and Sam Wise have established themselves as UK music fixtures, gaining fanbases the world over. Consider that mission accomplished.

Across its 12 tracks, the tape has clocked over 800,000 streams on SoundCloud to date, but the numbers pale in comparison to achieving its overall objective. “[P+F Sounds] reflects the sounds of London,” Ciesay said of the tape back then. “When other countries, especially the United States, think of the UK music scene, they’re either looking at grime or UK drill and not really noticing that there’s another style of music which has similarities to music coming from the States but is also our own sound.”

Ciesay’s words hold true. Primarily, P+F Sounds emphasises homegrown talent over homegrown sounds, packaging them for P+F’s vast audience, while pushing the sonic boundaries in ways that feel authentic to every artist involved. But it’s also a time capsule, of an era of unmissable vibes that engulfed UK underground music, that would soon bubble upwards. An era we may never see again, but one that—if you were there—you’ll always remember. P+F Sounds is a quintessential picture of what the scene was and has become as any release before or after.

Posted on October 18, 2022