Introducing: HamdiMay 22, 2023
Hamdi is having a moment — one of those rare moments that define an artist’s career; a lighthouse of shining confirmation that signals years of hard work finally paying off. I am, of course, talking about the success of his massive bass banger, “Skanka,” which launched the UK producer, born Alexander Hamdi, into a whole new era of global stardom last year.
It’s been roughly 18 months since “Skanka” first reached the airwaves, but Hamdi has celebrated a lifetime of creative milestones since then, including working with dance music’s most influential solo artist in recent memory (and according to many, one of the best producers in the history of electronic music, period), Skrillex.
“Hearing Skrillex drop our collab track at Coachella was one of the maddest moments of my life,” he says. “I was almost in tears. Skrillex was one of the reasons I started producing in the first place.”
The track — tentatively titled “Push” — came together last November when Skrillex paid Hamdi a visit at his house in Oxford, England. When Skrillex knocks on your door and asks you to work, you answer. And you better have some heaters ready. Hamdi certainly did.
Photo by: Jordan Landwehr
“Push” features the dizzying sound design Hamdi has been chasing since “Skanka.” It’s the sound of deep, distorted bass thrown onto a cutting board, chopped into tiny pieces meant to be consumed with the finest cutlery — or in this case, speakers — at your disposal. It’s the entree in a four-course meal that leaves you completely satisfied, but shamelessly craving the next plate. “Skanka”’s whirly, dubstep-adjacent effervescence may be Hamdi’s signature dish at the moment, but it’s far from the only course in his flavorful discography.
“I never want to be stuck in one genre,” Hamdi says. “I’m releasing a lot of dubstep tunes at the moment because that’s what I’m really enjoying right now. But it hasn’t always been that way, and it won’t always be that way in the future.”
Even at a quick glance, it’s clear that Hamdi has never been confined to a single sound or genre. His roots are planted firmly in UK garage aesthetics, which inspired much of his earliest work, but he’s experimented with countless genres throughout his decade-long career. He even dropped a techno-inspired EP, Okay / Yum earlier this year.
Whatever sound Hamdi leans into during his recording sessions, there’s one thing that he chases relentlessly: energy. That’s the backbone of Hamdi’s unique take on modern dance music. “No matter what kind of tune I’m making, it always has to have tons of energy,” he says. “Even if the song has a chiller vibe, I’m always chasing that energy. You can feel it when you hear it.” If you’ve ever been to a Hamdi set, you know exactly what he’s talking about.
The energy Hamdi is referring to isn’t something you can force — it has to come naturally. This means letting the music lead the way; at times, that’s much easier said than done.
It’s tempting to chase whatever trend the industry is supporting at the present moment. It’s quite easy, too. But is it authentic? Probably not. “When people hear music, they can sense where it’s coming from,” Hamdi says. “If it’s not coming from your heart, if you’re just chasing whatever sound you think is going to pop off, people will know.”
That’s why much of Hamdi’s music is directly inspired by real-life experiences, often directed by global travels and foreign cultures saturated with musical emphasis. Hamdi sees the world through a mellifluous lens; every aspect of his life is touched by music in one way or another. So, when he went to Cuba, and later Brazil, in 2020, he resonated with the immense musicality and rhythm deeply engrained into those societies — so much so that he dedicated entire projects to the tropical aesthetics of Brazilian and Cuban culture.
“It’s hard not to get caught up with the music in places like Cuba and Brazil,” he says. “You just can’t avoid it. In Havana, there’s salsa music and people dancing on every corner. Then in Brazil, they’ve got an insane grime scene over there. It’s so cool to see what they’re doing with the UK sound, but making it their own. That’s what I wanted to do with their music — put my own spin on it.”
In this way, Hamdi is a storyteller, not through lyrics, but through his sound. His discography is a subtle narrative of his own life, from youthful days exploring the grimy aesthetics of UK Garage in his hometown of Oxford, to diving into deep, rhythmic oceans of Latin and South American fusion in Cuba and Brazil. But there’s a new chapter being written in Hamdi’s adventurous dance music memoir, with a fresh sound and setting. Let’s call this chapter “Hamdi Finally Comes to the United States.”
Photo by: Jordan Landwehr
Photo by: Lane Jackman
Hamdi, who’s currently crushing his way through his debut US tour, has been dreaming of coming to the US since he first began producing music in the early 2010s — an era many, including Hamdi, consider to be the “Golden Age” of EDM and dubstep. “American dubstep was some of the first music that really inspired me,” he says. “That was a lot of the music I made when I began producing around 2011. To this day, that’s one of my favorite eras of dubstep. I still play tons of tracks from back then, and they still bang just as hard.”
When Beatport caught up with Hamdi backstage at his DEF performance in Atlanta a few weeks ago, his smile said it all: he’s living his dream. “This tour is a huge full-circle moment for me,” he says. “Honestly, I’m struggling to even process it. I was just in little old Oxford, I had no idea what to expect. But everyone in the US has shown me so much love and support. It’s been amazing. I’m overwhelmed, in the best way.”
Of course the US loves Hamdi; his sound represents the future of our global dance music community in all the right ways. It’s massive. It’s loud. It’s dynamic. But, more than anything else, it’s authentic.
Hamdi doesn’t chase trends, he creates them. That’s why every producer under the sun, from Skrillex to Zeds Dead and beyond, wants to work with him. It helps that he’s a genuine guy whose gratitude for music fills up every room he walks into. It also helps that EDM is having a massive moment — a moment that Hamdi is proud to be a part of.
Electronic dance music, at large, is gaining a new level of popularity in 2023 thanks to artists like Skrillex, Fred Again.. and Four Tet, who collectively replaced Frank Ocean as the headliner at America’s notorious Coachella festival in 2023. For the unaffiliated, headlining Coachella is the biggest accomplishment any artist, in any genre, can hope to achieve in America. Roughly 80,000 people heard the now-iconic trio spin a handful of Hamdi tracks during that performance, too.
Photo by: Lane Jackman
The fact that dance music artists held the biggest spot on the 2023 Coachella lineup says a lot about the demand, and the direction, of modern electronic dance music. “Coachella was such a huge moment for the whole scene,” Hamdi says. “Ten years from now, we’re gonna look back on that day as the launching point for a whole new era of electronic music. It’s already happening. I feel so blessed to be a part of that.”
The future of EDM is a promising one, without the constraints of traditional dance music genres that attempt to trap artists into a creative echo chamber. Dubstep and riddim no longer have to compete with house music and techno for the spotlight, there’s plenty of room for both. In fact, the average consumer actually wants both. They also want drum & bass and ambient downtempo.
According to Hamdi, this is the next evolution; the second coming of dance music is upon us. With Hamdi’s expansive, diverse catalog and daring experimental soundscapes, he’s the perfect artist to steer us into new horizons.
Definitely catch Hamdi on his debut US tour while you still can (including a recently announced Red Rocks debut at the sold-out Deadrocks 9), and expect a ton of new music from him this year. On Friday, May 26th, he’s set to make his debut with Zeds Dead‘s Deadbeats imprint with the viral track, “Counting,” which has made an uproar across social media and international clubland.
We’re “counting” on the fact that the sound of Hamdi will continue to make immense strides and build his international legions of fans as he continues to astound both in the studio and on stage.
Logan Sasser is a freelance music journalist living in Denver. Find him on Instagram.