C2C fit the definition of a hugely successful turntablist crew. Comprised of four members with impenetrable monikers that could rival the pioneers of the ’90s, their trophy cabinet has healthy looking shelves filled with renowned DJ championship titles.
In Tetra, 20SYL, Pfel, Atom and Greem have a bold and emphatic statement, making them ripe for global consumption. Their material screams ‘household name’ – from the catchy hooks and beats to the inventive, well-packaged videos – threatening to hit with the force of Mint Royale’s Singin’ In The Rain, Fatboy Slim’s Praise You, or OK Go’s eponymous treadmills. Like these artists, they make ideal MTV fodder, but like the former two of these three, there’s substance beyond the natty packaging.
Speaking of natty packaging, various, niftily placed fancy dress items and props are all that stands between the album cover and immodesty. A hint of cheekiness and a nod to Harajuku styling on the cover girls leaves the door ajar on the bombast and flirtatiousness within. C2C – formerly known as Coups2Cross – have definitely decided it’s high time they were let in on the popular music party.
But they follow a long line of turntablists attempting to break larger circles. And while this particular hip hop subgenre broke from the underground post-2000, seldom have their peers chosen to forcibly propel themselves beyond more secular slices of the mainstream. DJ Shadow and DJ Yoda are a case in point, touted as figureheads of their own chosen arenas. But with big hitters like The Cell, Down The Road, Happy, and F.U.Y.A, Tetra could see them catapulted beyond those spheres.
Of those higlights, The Cell tiptoes its way in with woven chimes and flutes, before a dirty bassline bursts through, wielding gospel choir fragments and a hip hop rhythm that gets pally with breakbeat. With swagger, confidence and a treasure trove of their own, sublime samples, C2C begin with their faultless best.
Far from being anticlimactic, the track butters up its listeners for the rest, made all the more engrossing by the fact the Nantes four create their own samples, playing strings, brass, guitar and even a selection of vintage instruments and equipment. This injects freshness and a signature, unstifled by reference to any other artist. It’s this kind of belief in their own abilities and material that earned Tetra the number one album spot in France last year, with single, Down The Road, also reaching those dizzy heights. And on this track, a mix of jazz, harmonica and blues guitars sit with a slave song vocal, cut up using French electronic sounds that touch upon Daft Punk and Justice. The airwaves will eagerly lap this up.
A spot is reserved for Detroit master of soul Derek Martin on Happy, with classic organ loops, and percussive and melodic jazz rhythms that make even more sense against the backdrop of the video’s Biblical theatrics and liquid dance moves. F.U.Y.A packs the same audio and visual punch – both music and film mirroring its angular, stop-start production that touches upon the Far East, before getting the cut-up treatment that really brings it to life. The distinctly poppy feel of The Beat has Beastie Boys rhyming touches and calls scratching to the fore, harking back to more melodic slices of genre trailblazing crew Beat Junkies.
There’s a place for smoother sounds with the R&B, Kanye West Slow Jamz air of Give Up The Ghost – only the excess and bling is replaced with melancholic strings and the altogether more apologetic vocals of Jay-Jay Johanson. This, like others, doesn’t quite reach the endorphin highs of other tracks, but they by no means tarnish the skill shown across the 14 tracks. Arcades reveals what happens when hip hop is introduced to 8-bit and French electronica, while DJ Kentaro, DMC World DJ Championship winner – a gong C2C won four times in a row in the team category – is one of the guests to lend their dexterity to Le Banquet. Like its name, it’s a veritable finger buffet of artists.
Tetra is the music industry’s gain and the competition circuit’s loss; and it signals a successful transition from one arena to another. But C2C remain products of their history, translating the energy they’ve gained from competing into the recorded dimension, which makes for material that is both original and populist, credible and catchy.