In operation since 2003, First Word Records is a collaboration between music heads Aly and Andy born out of the desire to put out music they wanted to hear. Sixteen years later the label have a diverse selection of talented signees and a string of successful releases under their belt. Their signature sound is based on their take on modern soul music, described as ‘conscious lyricism, jazzy beats and heavy basslines’.
From their early hip-hop/rap influenced signees (Kidkanevil, Tall Black Guy); to jazzy experimental offerings from Ross McHenry; to recent signee R&B/Soul artist Olivier St.Louis – First Word is a label that champions musical diversity. One of the label’s most successful signees to date are soul duo Children of Zeus, First Word signed the pair from their debut single ‘Still Standing’ back in 2016, two years later they released album ‘Travel Light’ to widespread critical acclaim and played the opening concert for leading underground music festival Outlook, Croatia.
Children of Zeus at Outlook Festival 2018, picture credit: Rob Jones, Resident Advisor
A big year for the label, 2019 saw First Word win the coveted Worldwide Artists Label of the Year award, label-boss Aly commented on receiving the prestigious award: ‘I’d say the biggest moment was winning the Gilles Peterson Worldwide Label Of The Year Award in 2019. And not because of the award itself (although that was nice!) but because it was the culmination of several years of grafting at making the label what we wanted it to be. We were so proud of what our artists had created in the preceding months and years and it was great to be recognised for it.’
Left: First Word Co-Founder Aly Gilani, Right: Worldwide Label of the Year
Speaking to Aly on the future of the label, First Word HQ show no sign of letting up ‘We’ve got an EP and then album from new signing Olivier St.Louis, a fantastic soul singer based in Berlin (but from the US originally), a new EP from our longest serving artist Souleance, more new music from Kaidi Tatham and Children Of Zeus, plus 2 new signings that I’m very excited to welcome into the fold (sorry I’m sworn to secrecy so can’t say more than that!).’