With his new '2020 Donuts' EP series, Boca 45 is keeping the collectable funk nuggets coming
2019 was a big year for Bristol beat merchant Scott Hendy. Being called Boca 45 and hitting the grand age of 45, it kinda had to be a big year, but it became a little bigger than he expected as US hip-hop label Mass Appeal picked him up. Releasing his fourth solo album - entitled Forty Five (naturally) - it presented his club-busting, crate-dusting, sample-trusting funk signature to a world audience, validating everything he’s been fine-tuning since he first emerged in the thick of the thriving Bristol scene in the 90s.
Not letting this significant career high go to his head, however, Hendy is back and chomping into a new year with a back-to-roots mission, as this week sees the launch of a new limited series of floor-focused 45s. Classic Boca breakbeat bonanzas, vibing with same strong sense of fun and funk he’s always been known for, his 2020 Donuts series takes off where his Club Donuts left us in 2018 before Nas’s mega-indie signed him: seven-inch coloured vinyl, highly collectable at strictly 300 copies per single, and liable to command some absurdly flipped prices on Discogs in the coming months.
For the launch single, there’s a strong political message, too. Powerful features the formidable vocals of UK soul storm Hannah Williams (a singer who recent found herself being sampled by Jay-Z on his track 4.44) who sets the agenda with a female perspective on the grubby, greedy political climate experienced in the UK. The track lives up to its name and, besides the limited vinyl copies, the only place to hear it will be on YouTube, complemented by a now cult graffiti piece that went viral around the time of the referendum (the video will be posted this Saturday).
Powerful is backed by the equally striking, albeit not quite so politically charged b-side Sparky Evans. It will be followed by more monthly 2020 Donuts dispatches which will eventually culminate in his next studio album.
2019 was a big year for Boca 45, we reckon 2020 will be too. So we gave the man a call…
Are you a New Year’s resolution type of guy?
"Not really, but I am a ‘start of the new year, lay down foundations’ type of guy. I guess the biggest resolution I made was to give up meat a few years ago, but in general I do plan ahead. And this year is going to be the 2020 Donuts series. That’s the plan."
Before we get to that, I want to recap on your last year. That was a big one wasn’t it? You released your album Forty Five as you turned 45.
"That’s right! My mates have always joked and said ‘what are you going to do when you get to 45?’ It felt like so far away I didn’t think about it for years, but then I hit that age and totally embraced it.
"When you’re in your 20s and 30s you don’t think it’s ever going to come, but here I am, still loving what I’m doing. So I documented the moment with loads of my friends who I’ve worked with, and good friends who I wanted to work to work with, to join all the dots of my musical life up to that point.
"I was going to self-release it, but it ended up being signed by Mass Appeal which is Nas’s label. I grew up listening to him so that was a real honour.
"It wasn’t always easy – these things never are. They had control over certain things, but it was great: I’ve always listened to American urban music and have DJ Shadow, Run The Jewels and Nas as labelmates. That’s good going. It does validate all the energy and time you put into this, because it’s not always plain sailing, so it was good for that to happen."
Did it lead to any big moves in the US?
"I was hoping it would ramp things up a bit, but because I’m over here and they’re in the States there wasn’t that sense of closeness. they’re very US-centric. They’re great in many ways but it’s a British record and some things got missed across the Atlantic.
"What was cool was the fact they recognised that I have following who are super supportive and buy records direct from me, and they let me release the album before they commercially released it. A lot of labels wouldn’t do that. I’m very lucky I’ve got such a loyal collective supporting me, which is why I’m always thinking of new things I can give them."
It makes the fans feel part of something…
"Yeah, it’s a tangible thing. Streaming is great in some senses, you can have everything at the click of a button, but people want something they can hold on to and love and cherish. People are enjoying the stamps and numbers, so the release are like artwork prints. They’re special. If they go up in price, which they have done, that’s fine. But people shouldn’t buy it for that reason. They should buy it because they like it. They trust what I do, which is fantastic."
Have your records been flipped for crazy prices?
"Yeah. I buy on Discogs myself and still DJ with vinyl so I see it all the time. I can see the guys who are buying them in twos and threes. I don’t restrict them to how many they buy. You can’t police that. The 2018 series Boca’s Club Donuts started going for silly money and I wondered what I could do to curb that. So I repressed them all as a box set, which stopped the big prices because people could get all five for the same price they were selling individual singles. That seemed to work quite well. These ones are strictly 300, though. It is what it is, though. People flip things, you can’t get your knickers too much of a twist about it."
Do you keep the 001s?
"No way, I sell number one. People who follow me want number 045 or 001 or whatever so I don’t keep them. I sometimes keep 022 or 002 or 222 because I have a thing about twos, but the numbers correspond with the order numbers. If you’re the first person to order, you’ll get it. There is a guy who tried to get number one every time."
Salute to that guy! What’s your thing about the number two?
"I was in a diving competition as a kid and won. I was second to go, so after that two was my lucky number. I also had twins on the 22nd of the month in the year 2000, so all these things with twos kept happening. Maybe I should have been Boca 22, but that doesn’t really work."
Well the new 2020 Donuts series has two big fat twos!
"There you go. We can only hope I’ll be on Top Of The Pops by the end of the year!"
Ha ha! With this series, was it nice to go back to raw club hitters after working on a big album?
"Well, all of these little donuts will create a bigger donut at the end of the year. So there is an album vibe in there too. Mass Appeal were cool with me doing this, too. I think sometimes if you’re on bigger labels there are certain things you don’t have control of. With these I have full control, I sell them on my channels. I like it that way. Maybe I’m a control freak at heart. But I like going back to basics."
Big up Hannah Williams on the first single, too. Powerful indeed!
"I heard her album Heartbreak and realised it was produced by a guy called Malcom Catto, who’s the drummer in The Heliocentrics. He’s ridiculously talented. Anyway, I hadn’t done any female collaborations on the last album so wanted to sort that out and had this track which needed someone with a strong voice. Like a gritty, rocking, funky voice and I immediately thought of Hannah.
"She’s not that easy to get hold of but I tracked her down and she was up for it. She knew about my stuff too, which was a great starting point. I gave her a rough demo, she came back with a vocal that nailed the vibe and I went down and recorded own there. We’re both really proud of it. It’s her interpretation of how the political landscape from her female view."
Bang on point, too…
"The working title of it was No Borders. Even before she wrote her vocals, it was a politicised song. We spoke about how it makes her feel and it feels like we’re going back into the dark ages. It’s just shocking. I thought about the graffiti piece painted around the referendum with Donald Trump and Boris Johnson kissing. It was a mate of mine who did the piece, so we’re able to use an image of it on the YouTube video. We weren’t sure which way the election would go and hoped we wouldn’t have to use that image."
A miniscule silver lining of a very dark cloud…
"That’s it. When the results came in, we were like ‘okay, we’ll have to use the image’. You’ve got to do something. Even as a newt, you’ve got to try. And I think Hannah did a beautiful job of explaining how it makes her feel as a women in the current climate."
Totally. I guess another silver lining I’ve seen is the increase in people getting involved in charities and pulling together to help each other…
"You’re right. I think about the 80s when I was in school and people were a lot more politically driven. We’re at an all-time political low and things have to get better. If we pull together we can do good things. That’s especially evident in Bristol. I’m proud to be from here, and will do my best to keep that tradition going myself."
Words: Dave Jenkins
The first 2020 Donuts seven-inch is out on 1 February. Order it here.