It’s been a whirlwind year and a half since Mobbluz made their formal touch-down on the Philly music scene. The world was just starting to re-open post-lockdown, singers and rappers alike were looking for open mics to flex and sharpen their craft, and a top-notch house band was a must.
Led by the dynamic MusikalDunk, aka M.D., aka percussion powerhouse Barbara Duncan — who we first met playing in the pop/R&B outfit Rubber, and got to know more deeply in this interview with our Melissa Simpson — Mobbluz coalesced around a network of talent from Philly: beatmaker Omar Saleem, keys virtuoso Dan Saleem (of The Funkitorium), guitarist Joshua, bassist Doc Downs (of Ikechi Onyenaka’s band), and sax player and flautist Gabe Preston (of You Do You and GPS). Their nimble playing backed singles like “Feel Good” from Illadel and their knack for covers made for engaging open mic sets at spots like Dahlak and Pentridge Station. Along the way, they began writing and recording their own music as well.
Upward Spiral, which hit streaming services in May, is the perfect name for Mobbluz’s feel-good mixture of melody and energy, and they played the entire project live in WXPN studios this week for a Key Session to kick off their late summer run of tour dates. With guest sax player Lev sitting in for Preston on this set, Mobbluz grooves to “Grand Intro” and slams through “Coast 2 Flight” so strongly that M.D. is on her feet, covered in sweat, as it crescendos — and that’s only song two.
The slick and suave “Funky Polish” is a set highlight; Omar composed it while traveling across Poland on a train, and it channels the cool continental jazz soundtracks of the 1960s in a chopped and screwed kind of way; the sampled horns sound like they’re reverberating off of a mountain tunnel, and the rush of the rhythm conjures images of the verdant landscape zipping by; after a minute of appreciating his beat, M.D. counts everybody in and they collectively embellish on it. That interplay between sampler-centered hip-hop roots and jazz/funk/rock playing is what sets Mobbluz apart in the Philly “house band” universe, down to the digital Latin percussion and cascading 6/8 piano line on the set-closing “Finesse.”
Watch Mobbluz’s full set below, and catch them at various festivals all around the region this month and next. They’re at Muzikfest in Bethlehem on August 4th and 5th, followed by an afternoon set at Northern Liberties’ 2nd St. Festival on Sunday August 7th. On Tuesday, August 16th, they’ll play the Philly Grown food and music series at Liberty Point on the Delaware River, and on September 23rd, they’ll be on the bill at Funktoberfest at Germantown’s Attic Brewing Company. And more beyond that, too; don’t blink, Mobbluz moves fast.