By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The result is an album that deftly blends soul, blues, funk and gospel influences without falling into a “time-machine” syndrome.
The mastery of these styles have propelled the Dap-Kings into pop music’s go-to sessioners for artists seeking a “classic” soul sound. The Daptone Horns recently backed Anthony Hamilton on the American Gangster soundtrack and recorded with Al Green, a remarkable full-circle of a soul pioneer collaborating with his artistic progeny. “Getting the call was unbelievable,” Sugarman says. “I think all of us are fanatics [for his] records.”
Even more unexpected was Jay-Z’s recent anthem “Roc Boys,” which liberally samples from the Menahan Street Band’s “Make the Road by Walking,” a song literally recorded in Brenneck’s bedroom. He, Roth and Sugarman had to meet with Jay-Z and his team to approve the sample. Brenneck recalls trying to keep a poker face during the negotiations but admits, “It was amazing just to sit there with him. [Jay-Z] was obviously feeling it ... head-banging to the track [while] we were acting extracool on purpose.” Sugarman adds that in the Bushwick, Brooklyn, neighborhood where Daptone Studios unobtrusively resides, they hear “Roc Boys” played on their block and “people have no idea [the song was] basically mixed in the house across the street from where they are.”
Despite crossover success, group and label prioritize their family of artists first. As Roth puts it, “The pop stuff is cool and it opens a lot of doors for us,” but he’s quick to note, “that’s not really our meat and potatoes.”
Instead, Daptone is readying the release of Como Now, an anthology of gospel a cappella songs recorded in Como, Mississippi, a small town 45 minutes south of Memphis. Roth admits, “It’s definitely not a party record,” but it’s not “a Library of Congress field recording. ... It’s so deep, it’s just the rawest, most soulful thing we’ve ever put out,” Roth notes.
The grind between recording, touring and running a label has only gotten worse with time and fame, but it’s a burden the Dap-Kings have sought since they formed. “We’ve grown slowly and stayed true to our vision of what we think a record label should be,” Sugarman says. That includes “sticking to a conservative release schedule and only putting out records that we really loved.”
Even with the high-profile collaborations and chart-topping singles, the ultimate goal is more subtle but no less lofty. “Hopefully, people see ‘Daptone,’ and [feel] the same excitement [as] when you saw a Motown label, or a Gordy label, or the Stax label, you know?” Sugarman asks.