In 2002 a producer by the name of DJ Oli Lazarus established a record label called Papa Records, with the intent to present all things soulful.
To celebrate this milestone, Papa is releasing an anniversary compilation, Play It Like Papa, with three glorious CDs divided into soulful house, deep house & house, and finally broken beat & nu jazz. But not only that, they’ve included a giant digital download release of 120 more songs from their catalog.
My mind reeled as I played cut after cut of endorphin rushing music from the likes of Reel People‘s “The Light,” Blaze’s “Sapporo” and DJ Spinna’s “Back 2 U.” The favorites are the broken beat tracks, they simply ooze jazziness and cool, and are irresistible to dance to.
These are full-on richly produced songs – no filler tracks, no throwaway cuts. They are classics, but not in the sense that they have been played to death. I’ve been so jaded by the mind numbing process of going through the most banal of tech house tracks and pseudo-soulful songs that when I played the promo for this I stopped everything I was doing to give all three CDs a listen.
The cast of producers is as timeless as the music with the likes of Blaze, Eli Escobar, Atjazz, Dennis Ferrer, Bugz in the Attic, Jon Cutler, Osunlade, Richard Earnshaw and of course the label’s homegrown band founded by Oli, Reel People. The latter feature their collaborations with star vocalists such as Angela Johnson, Vanessa Freeman, Sharlene Hector, Jag and Dyanna Fearon.
One particular producer that has had a very close relationship with the record label is DJ Spinna, whose incredible Intergalactic Soul album was released on Papa along with other remixes and releases. He has created three separate DJ mixes for each of the three different genre CDs, and 5 Magazine is proud to exclusively debut his soul, broken beat & nu jazz mix.
How did you first begin Reel People and what do you think has made you have so much staying power throughout the past one and a half decades?
Well, Reel People was actually created and started by myself back in 2001. Originally I worked with an engineer/producer called Tom Davidson and then the amazing Mike Patto came on board. Lately I have been working with my now production partner Toni Economides and the voice himself, Mr. Tony Momrelle. We have been blessed to work with so many other great vocalists such as Angela Johnson, Vanessa Freeman, Dyanna Fearon, Joy Rose, Imaani and of course the legendary Omar. So it’s really been a massive group effort.
Reel People is rooted deeply in soul music and with that as our inspiration we have always just been driven to make good heartfelt soulful music, and luckily it seems to have stuck for us.
When you started Papa was broken beat just starting to blossom? Were you one of the first labels to champion it?
It had been bubbling for a little while and I just got exposed to it through a lot of the people around London at that time. For us we were never a broken beat label but the sound was dope and exciting and the producers at the time like Bugz In The Attic, Domu, IG Culture, Phil Asher, 4hero, etc, were all making great music that fulfilled the soulful dance criteria that Papa was all about. So it was natural for us to support and get involved.
How do you see the evolution of soulful music since your label first started? Some say it’s taken a back seat to the techier side of the music spectrum for the last several years and it’s now coming back. What are your thoughts on this?
It’s really hard to say, but I feel there will always be a place for good quality soulful music. Writing great songs and working with the best vocalists around has always been fundamental for us, so we will continue to do our thing and it will be interesting to see how the sounds develop over the coming years.
15 years is such an amazing achievement! In your quote you talk about some ups and downs that the label has had… What were some of them?
Highlights, there have been quite a few. On a personal level anytime you finish making an album it’s a great feeling, so the first two Reel People records were big for me.
From a label point of view just being able to work with so many dope artists over the years such as Osunlade, Atjazz, DJ Spinna, Dennis Ferrer and so many more is a special feeling.
There have definitely been a few downs too, I don’t think any small label that was around during the big change of how music was consumed and bought didn’t feel it, but we managed to stay around and keep doing our thing.
And as to the future of Papa?
Obviously we are just about to drop Play It Like Papa compilation which is our 15 year anniversary project. This is a triple CD release and also a triple digital album release which includes three exclusive DJ Mixes by our boy DJ Spinna. Also there is an exclusive Saison track thrown in for good luck!
We are just gonna continue to do our thing. Always looking for exciting new artists to work with and develop and hopefully be around for another 15 years!!