Mr. Cutts

Selected by: James Keith
Photography: Israel Peters

Name: Mr. Cutts

Where He’s From: North West London

Genre: Hip-Hop/Soul

File Next To: Tom Misch, Maths Time Joy, The Avalanches

When He Started: 1999

Sounds Like: “For me, I just make soul music. It may sound like hip-hop, but to me it’s soul. It’s designed to hit you in the chest.”

First Music That Inspired Him: “I think it was either ‘G’s & Hustlers’ from DoggyStyle or 36 Chambers. I couldn’t work out how they were switching between things so quickly. I had no idea they were sampling! Once I found out, that’s all I wanted to do.”

It’s becoming increasingly commonplace for producers to emerge from the anonymity of the backroom and into the spotlight. Of course, producers releasing their own projects is nothing new, but an increasing number are spending the formative years working behind the scenes, soaking up influences and dreaming up an artistic trajectory, before putting out ambitious blockbuster albums. This year it’s the turn of Mr. Cutts—real name Owen Cutts—who’s spent much of the last two decades honing a rap-inspired soul sound with an emphasis on timelessness.

However, while others have opted to call on the extensive contact lists they’ve accumulated for A-list features, Cutts has kept it lowkey for his debut. His debut album, Carriage 8—a hypnotising whirlpool of disembodied vocal samples, soaring string sections and looped, dusty hip-hop beats—is a purely solo affair, calling only on Tom Misch guitarist Tobbie Tripp, Rag N Bone Man collaborator Fred Cox, and multi-instrumentalist producer Phil Simmonds for assistance. That in itself is impressive given a CV that includes work with everyone from Stormzy and H.E.R. to DJ Premier (“He’s my idol and I got to cut it up with him,” he beams proudly). Whether it was a question of cohesion (tying together guests from a diverse range of genres has the potential to leave a project sounding scattered and thrown together) or whether he just wanted to put out something that was purely himself, what we’re left with is an almost hymnal love letter to the art of sampling.

When you dig a little deeper into Cutts’ life, it becomes apparent that the roots of Carriage 8 stretch much further back than his career in recording studios. “I grew up on blues and rock & roll, but also world music,” he says, explaining his lifelong passion for music and the early education he was granted in his childhood. “My parents took me to an international folk festival every year where we saw everything from Eastern European folk to African jazz. In the house was The Beatles and Stones, but also Abdul TJ.” On those foundations, he would soon discover hip-hop and the sample culture that continues to inspire him to this day. “Making hip hop was all I wanted to do,” he says and by the late ‘90s he was rapping, making beats and gradually working his way towards being the fully-fledged auteur he is today.

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Posted on November 25, 2020