Hip-hop producer Sango is unifying musical cultures

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      Up-and-coming producer Sango—or Kai Wright to his friends—would never have started creating tracks if his mother hadn’t worked in the computing industry.

      “Because of my mom’s job, we were gifted our desktop machine,” Wright recalls, talking to the Straight from his Seattle home. “I was lucky. I was about 12 years old, and it was rare, back then, to have one—you’d have to go to the library. My oldest brother and my friends and I messed around with it all the time, and after a while that we figured out that could make music on it. I was always a creative kind of person, so when I found out how it was possible to make beats, I was blown away.”

      As the sophistication of computers increased over time, so did the maturity of Wright’s music. Coming of age at a time where experimental or electronic artists like Flying Lotus and Toro y Moi were top sellers in CD stores, the young producer began to realize that he could carve a career solely from crafting beats.

      “There started to be this new generation of musicians that didn’t need to have lyrics attached to their work,” he says. “That was where I started out. Early on, I wanted to make records for people, and help them produce projects. But as I started out doing studio stuff, I went into doing my own thing, and realized that I can actually be an artist by myself. And then from that, I realized that I needed to find some way to make myself stand out from all these other bedroom producers on SoundCloud.”

      Wright’s shrewd awareness of how to navigate online promotion led him to pursue three different genres: light trap and hip-hop records, chill electronic rhythms, and, most bizarrely, Brazil’s baile funk. Recognizing that, in the internet age, the cross-pollination of different musical styles is fast becoming the norm, the producer mastered the art of digging for obscure samples and sounds by using social media platforms.

      “I was just looking for something different,” he says of discovering baile funk. “It was an accident really—I fell into a wormhole, and got obsessed with it. I ended up meeting my friend Alisson on the internet, and he’s from Brazil. He wanted to make beats, and he wanted to pick my brain on how to make hip-hop and R&B, and I wanted to pick his brain on Brazilian funk, so we traded files. He brought me into that culture, and now I’m messing with that stuff so much that it’s like second nature now.

      “I work in different styles, but what really ties them together is the rhythm,” he continues. “Certain rhythms hit me, and it just reminds me of other rhythms. Something like baile funk has a driving beat, and that’s really relatable. You can step side by side with cumbia from Colombia or dancehall from Jamaica, Afrobeat from Nigeria, trap from Atlanta—it’s all the same rhythm, just with different languages spoken.”

      Sonically speaking, Wright’s scope is so broad that his music eludes classification. Shifting between working on his baile funk beats to earning sought-after writing credits for major stars like Kahlani, Bryson Tiller, and Tinashe, the artist’s work is endlessly versatile and complex. Currently completing his latest album, In the Comfort Of—a record that has been in the works since 2014—Wright is keen for the release and his accompanying tour to showcase the cohesiveness of his production.

      “It’s mainly a mixture of hip hop and electronic,” he says. “It’s a commercial, official, proper release—something weight to it that I can push and be proud of, and it can be the forefront of my whole journey to this point because it includes elements of everything I write. It’s got sample-heavy beats. It has traditional songs like ballads, love songs, and some Brazilian stuff. There are interludes, and some African voices on there, and just hard-hitting 808 stuff as well that you would hear on Soulection Radio. And it’s not just songs slapped together, like ‘Oh you’ve got this song, you’ve got this one, and this one’—everything makes sense as a whole, it’s linear, and it’s got a story. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s worth the wait.”

      Sango plays the Imperial on Saturday (January 28)

      Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays