Brixton-based artist Wu-Lu is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and vocalist, as well as an engineer and producer, whose uncommonly dynamic work as a collaborator and solo artist traverses jazz, R&B, hip-hop, punk, metal, and virtually every underground club sound birthed in his native South London. While Wu-Lu has often been classified as part of London’s jazz scene — due in some part to his work on recordings by Nubya Garcia and Zara McFarlane — his solo output is undeniably vast in scope. It ranges from the atmospheric Ginga (2015), a primarily instrumental beat tape, to the bristling Loggerhead (2022), his Warp label debut, a zeitgeist-capturing collision of punk and hip-hop further distinguished by elements of drum’n’bass, dub, and folk.
Miles Romans-Hopcraft was born and raised in South London. His mother, an alumna of Alvin Ailey American Dance School, is a contemporary dancer and lecturer. Robin Hopcraft, his father, is a trumpeter and bandleader of Soothsayers, with whom he has performed as a bassist (his primary instrument). The wide breadth of music Romans-Hopcraft heard as a youngster, through his parents, expanded with personal discoveries through skateboarding and graffiti culture and video game soundtracks — including but not limited to hip-hop, grunge, alternative metal, and pop-punk — while the turntablism documentary Scratch provided him with an epiphany about the creative potential of DJ’ing and sampling. He and twin brother Ben (of the band Childhood) would also turn one another onto old and new sounds. As his interest in making music continued to intensify, Romans-Hopcraft soaked up virtually every underground club sound with local roots — from drum’n’bass, garage, and broken beat, to grime and dubstep — and got into production and performing with the groups Matted Sounds and We Are Dubist.
Having named himself Wu-Lu (a moniker inspired in part by the Amharic word for water), Romans-Hopcraft introduced himself as a solo beatmaker in 2015 with Ginga, a heady set of predominantly instrumental tracks featuring the voices of Grace Acladna, Andrew Ashong, and Binisa Bonner. A collaboration with fellow producer Mndsgn connected the half-hour mixtape to the Los Angeles beat scene. Two moodier and more emotive singles Wu-Lu fronted himself were released in 2017 and 2018, and reappeared later the latter year on N.A.I.S. (short for “not as it seems”). The four-track EP contained another collaboration with Bonner, “Sailor,” that was selected for inclusion on the 13th volume of Brownswood Bubblers, the compilation series of BBC DJ Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings label. Wu-Lu returned the following April with S.U.F.O.S. (“save us from ourselves”), his second EP, highlighted by the crackling, rumbling single “Seven.”
Wu-Lu offered another beat-oriented set, Overgrown Interludes, in March 2020, but he took a sharp left turn in 2021 with “South” and “Times,” singles of rage and resilience fueled by punk energy. The spacier “Being Me” quickly followed the latter that May. The November release of the barreling “Broken Homes” coincided with the announcement that Wu-Lu had signed with Warp Records. Previews of Wu-Lu’s debut album for the label led up to the July 2022 arrival of Loggerhead, which contained “South” and “Times” among its high-energy tracks. Wu-Lu’s extensive supporting cast featured the likes of Tagara Mhiza, Lex Amor, Morgan Simpson (Black Midi), Ego Ella May, and Mica Levi. ~ Andy Kellman