wax Poetics
Photo courtesy of Paul Clement, Resident Advisor.

Kon

World-renowned beatdigger crafts original album of disco gems

published online
Originally published in Issue 57
By Allen Thayer

    Growing up with a roller-disco mom and drummer dad, Kon has been chasing the perfect beat his entire life. “I was the only kid out with their mom at the roller disco on Saturday night,” Kon remembers. As a young Christian Taylor, he soaked in the deep, round bass bouncing off the wooden-slatted rink floor where skaters and spectators moved to the groove with hands reaching to the rafters as space-age synthesizers danced in time to the strobe light and laser effects. With his first album of entirely new music, On My Way, Kon returns to the sound of his youth with a tribute to early ’80s dance music from labels like West End, SalSoul, AVI, and Prelude. 

    In the beginning of his career, Kon’s name was more associated with hip-hop than dance. But back in the early ’80s, hip-hop was the new dance music. “What they call hip-hop these days doesn’t even qualify as dance music,” says Kon, who mostly keeps his distance from the genre these days. And that’s coming from a former b-boy. Throughout rap’s “golden era,” Kon navigated the adolescent industry between New York and his hometown of Boston, focusing on production (Rawkus Records and Bobbito’s Fondle ’Em label) and digging, known to crate diggers worldwide as one half of the digging duo Kon & Amir.

    “Dance music isn’t as dependent on image as hip-hop,” Kon says like a man who’s had his heart broken by hip-hop. Despite making his name in hip-hop and the chance (however slim) of becoming the next “it” beat-monger (mind you, he’s already supplied beats to Dre and Kanye), Kon’s focusing instead on dance music and the freedom it provides a producer with musical ideas that aren’t limited to “Halloween beats” for “corny rappers.” Kon’s clearly more comfortable in the background. The LP version of the album’s gatefold spread reveals Kon’s eyes looking through a rearview mirror in what we can safely assume is a disco DeLorean. “I love that a dance-music producer can do thirty different projects all under different names.”

    Kon & the Gang, Nitetime, and Sir Own are but a few handles Kon’s used for a variety of projects both legit and otherwise. Before I was even aware of his productions, it was a few of his reconstructions of some beloved and underappreciated gems from the multitrack tapes (Eagle Scout–level beatdigger territory) that opened my ears to Kon’s editing abilities. Whether it’s uncovering ridiculously rare beats (Matthew Larkin Cassell’s “In My Life”), rocking dance floors worldwide, or reconstructing dance classics from the foundation up, Kon’s a triple-threat DJ/producer and true dance-music scholar.

    Therefore, it should come as no surprise that On My Way plays like a best-of classic dance grooves whether Kon’s channeling Taana Gardner, Larry Levan, Rinder & Lewis, or Leroy Burgess. Kon provided all of the beats and production, collaborating with the extremely versatile Yuki Kanesaka on various keyboards, and different vocalists such as Induce, Amy Douglas, Ben Westbeech, and Georg Levin. While many of the songs have distinctly vintage effects or instrumentation, the album as a whole would better suit Justin Timberlake than Sharon Jones. And that’s hopefully the next step for Kon. Like Niles and ’Nard produced dance records for Diana Ross and David Bowie, Kon could produce some pop or R&B acts and help bring back some artistry and musicality to dance music.