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Camae Ayewa and Zubeyda Muzeyyen (Moor Mother and DJ Haram) are preparing to drop Nothing to Declare, their second multi-track collaboration as 700 Bliss, this Friday via Hyperdub. The Philadelphia duo announced the album in March along with its lead single, “Totally Spies” featuring Lafawndah, and have since released two mid-album cuts, “Bless Grips” and “Candace Parker” featuring Muqata’a. Today, they’re premiering the project’s opener and title track with The FADER.
The new song is a sheep in wolf’s clothing, an easy-going freestyle cloaked in Moor Mother’s caustic flow and DJ Haram’s ruthless percussion. “Blow a little smoke in the atmosphere,” a cartoon voice intones at the start of the track, and Moor Mother proceeds to rap in near monotone, rhyming every line with “atmosphere” for another 16 bars or so. Later, DJ Haram practically sneers over the beat, her exaggerated vocals the perfect foil to the track’s overall austerity.
Listen to “Nothing to Declare” and read Moor Mother and DJ Haram’s interview with The FADER below.
The FADER: Your production, Zubeyda, and your delivery, Camae, feel really natural side by side. When did you start working together and how was 700 Bliss ultimately formed?
DJ HARAM: We began working together in Philadelphia [in] 2014 and naturally found our name, 700 Bliss, and our sound through dj/mc sets and improv noise jams.
“Nothing To Declare” is an intense first track. How did you decide to make it the opening statement and title song of this album?
MOOR MOTHER: I think this track is very fun and playful and not intense at all. I was thinking of getting right into it vs. opening the album with a soundscape or something chill. The track was called “Nothing to Declare” before we decided to call the album that. But it really just felt like it captured the vibe of the album.
The beat is so dynamic, but it’s pretty much all percussion and a little sub-bass. Zubeyda, can you talk about creating tension without relying on harmony?
DJ HARAM: Think of this beat like a one-sided argument, an emotional outburst that can’t be held back. There is tension and that’s partially because harmony is not the objective. The moments in between the arpeggiated drums are the most tense to me. I used moments of silence and a low vocal sample to amplify a kind of antagonist sound.
Camae, you stick with a really simple rhyme scheme on your verse. It’s a minimal approach that, to me, sort of mirrors the severity of the beat. Is that what you were going for?
MOOR MOTHER: I was just having fun/vibing in my studio, and I wanted to get that feeling on the track.
Zubeyda, your vocals relieve a bit of the tension on the track. Did you write your verse after hearing Camae’s, and if so, how did you approach it?
DJ HARAM: Yes, all my verses on Nothing to Declare were written after hearing Moor Mother’s lyrics. I think you can tell that in my writing/references/attitude. The hook in the song was something that she had on the end of her verse in the demo and I was like “Noooo this is fire, let's rearrange and make it the hook.” The vibe was this casual and clever harshness that is as much petty as it is pretty. This was the first verse I ever wrote… so I approached it repetitively. The modulation at the end was a last-minute decision.