Right now, the most exciting producer you’ve never heard of is British-born Ghanaian afrobeats producer ‘Juls’. 2020 was a breakout year for him, involving collaborations with some of the biggest artists around and expanding his signature crossover sound. It was the standout track “U‑Say” with Goldlink and Tyler the Creator which put him on the radar in the UK, with plays on BBC Radio 1 and over 10 million views on Youtube. It was the unique fusion of funky, dancy beats and smooth rhythmic vocals which piqued my interest and kept me digging.

In comparison to typical dance music styles, where drums are often rigidly programmed and quantized to four beat grids, it’s been interesting to learn about Juls’ more syncopated and creative approach to composition. His Fact magazine studio session showed a little bit about his approach: he built up intricate layers of percussion before adding chord and synthesizer sequences. Live instruments such as the saxophone are treated as sampled stabs on “Soweto Blues”, almost like an extension of the rhythm section. There’s a huge amount of funk and bass in the often-stripped back production style, combining with the percussive rhythmic sparseness for an overwhelmingly danceable effect.

This rhythmic juiciness is especially tasty when it’s combined with rapping and vocals. Juls has collaborated with a wide group of vocalists, from UK hip hop artists such as Kojey Radical on up‑tempo “Normal” to Nigerian Banku singer Mr Eazi on mellower tracks like “Cake”. Even in 2020, the year the studio lights were turned off, Juls released collaborations with thirteen different artists. His productions have helped to catapult relatively unknown artists from West Africa to global superstars, such as the aforementioned Mr Eazi on the breakthrough track “Bankulize” in 2013.

A really interesting aspect of Juls’ production is fusion, mixing the afrobeats sound with elements from other genres, such as grime, reggae and innovative UK bass music remixes. Juls himself talks about a patchwork of influences: the African continent has distinct musical styles such as in Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Kenya, which are all combined in Juls’ music. References to his African heritage abound both in musical language and lyrical content, for instance in “Soweto Blues”, he references the pivotal South African freedom song released in 1976 by Hugh Masekela. I love the tracks with live instruments such as the saxophone on “Let Me Down” with Jaz Karis; Juls wields the sax like a restrained artist wields their paintbrush, it creates a link harking back to the days of afrobeat great Fela Kuti. “Saa Ara” shows this effect in direct action leading, with three bars of a traditional 70s afrobeat sound before dropping with a characteristic Juls beat inspired by hip hop.


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Maybe Juls is flying under the radar for now; his two biggest productions have received a combined 47 million streams, but with no artist credit or the trademark ‘Juls baby’ producer tag. Should producers be given more recognition in the popular sphere? Perhaps they are less marketable than the lead singer, but they are just as key to establishing a musical identity. Certainly, the Juls style seems to run through everything he touches, and it feels like a matter of time before his name is more widely known in the UK.