Funk, soul, and disco runs deep through all house and techno music, but it is the task of the truly great producer to take that legacy and craft a new musical journey through those reliable old sounds. Such is certainly the case with Seven Davis Jr., whose relationship with soul and funk music is as deep as the bouncy, rich array of house tracks he crafts.
Davis’ journey began in Houston, where, as the son of a jazz session musician, he was exposed to gospel music, jazz, and blues, the soundtrack of the major entertainment industry in which he would become involved; a rich but conservative prelude to his later excursions. Seven’s first pull to the world of electronic music came from a move to California where he discovered jungle and hip-hop, exposed to a world of psychedelia populated by artists like Jimi Hendrix, Portishead, Tricky, Bjork and J Dilla.
While making headway into San Francisco’s underground, Seven turned down various major label offers in favor of a more private, self-exploratory life involved in ghost writing and producing for hip-hop artists. During those years of musical discovery, Davis’ outer world narrowed and his inner-world expanded a bit too much as he began to experiment with drugs. Davis is candid about this time, aware of his past struggle with addiction, but at peace with the notion that this time changed and shaped his art. In an interview with Red Bull, he explains that “It might sound weird, but it taught me a lot as well and opened me up. I learned a lot about myself during that period… my world was flooded with all this other [music].”
The lost tapes released on Kutmah’s label, pulled from this time, embody the raw spirit of Seven’s work. On tracks like “I Don’t Give A Fuck,” Seven mobilizes his roots in gospel vocals to protest its (and his) clean cut traditions. A swaggering Timbaland-esque beat with the slightly-present pulse of sluggish deep house music, vocals defiantly coat the track: “I don’t give a fuck/I live my life the way I want to/mind your business.” With his work on Kutmah, Davis established the exploratory spirit present in his current, more complete work — but to get there, he had to pull back a bit. The drugs became a distraction, and Davis fought to overcome his addiction for a long time without telling a soul.
Davis’ lastest album, Live From The Other Side, is a reflection on this trip — first traditional gospel, then a dive into the underground, and finally, emergence on the other side of it all, bringing us a synthesis of every step of his journey. “This Weekend” floats like date in a park, Motown tambourines and chord progressions abound, while “Playboy” is a 4AM club track: dark, pulsating, with no way out but to move your body. Seven Davis Jr.’s narration is present at every moment, his words in conversation with the pounding drums he crafts. He tells us many tales of his sojourn, but one thing is certain: his swinging soul has been there every step.
– Ben Ritz