Friday, October 31, 2008

A great day in Brixton

A great day in Brixton '06

If you read this blog regularly or have follow dubstep for a bit, you’ll know what happened early in 2006: dubstep, to the complete surprise of most of its core members, blew up.

Around that time Chantelle and Hattie were asked to do a special edition set of features for a style mag, one of which they turned over to me. Alongside photographers Tim & Barry, I got asked to get a whole bunch of the class of dubstep ’06 together for a “state of the dubstep nation” photo. It immediately made me think of the jazz classic “A Great Day in Harlem.”

After a load of phone calls we got everyone together in one place at the same time. Could you imagine doing that now? Global dubstep would have to pause for a second and headz would have to fly in from all over. Further phonecalls, from Mala to the guys at Mass, secured us 3rd Base and the system there to boot, once church had ended. It felt so right, getting everyone there, right there, in the spot that had arguably broken dubstep as a global phenomenon and under those speakers that had unleashed so many big tunes. The photo even features Burial: this is long before his success snowballed beyond the genre.

Suddenly dubstep ’06 had it’s “A Great Day in Harlem” moment. Until disaster struck. I say “struck” I mean more, gently crept in through the back door. The issue of the magazine got delayed, then stalled. Tim & Barry proved hard to get hold of, though every now and then I’d see them in a club and they’d promise it would happen. It went on so long that they even lost their exclusive: this is the first and up to that point the only press shot of Burial. The Sun newspaper have since forced him to publish one [Update: I've since heard a newspaper tried to buy this photo to out Burial during that time but Tim n Barry said 'no,' gwann lads!]. So I’d long since accepted the Mass ‘06 photo would never appear in public. Until last week, out of the blue, Skream sent me a link to it online.

A great day in Brixton '06 (named)

I’ve included a version here that lists who’s who but roughly it goes:

Sitting (L to R): Kode9, Loefah’s Vinton, LD, Task, George (Drumz of the South)

Front row standing (L to R): Spaceape, Jason Transition, Loefah, Youngsta, Burial, Mary Anne Hobbs, Skream, Scuba, Chef, Benga, Hatcha, Coki, Mala, Crazy D

Back row (L to R):
D1, Jamie Vex’d, Blackdown, N Type, Pinch, Cyrus, Sgt. Pokes, Cluekid.

Obviously there were people who couldn’t be there, most notably Soulja. The thing is, this isn’t the first time dubstep has had it’s “A Great Day in Harlem” moment, but Soulja could make the first. It happened in the summer of 2001, when Forward>> had just started. I’d pitched a piece to The Face (RIP) magazine, calls were made and a rooftop invaded. The appearance of the ’06 photo reminded me that The Face shot wasn’t easily available, so I’ve dug it out and scanned it.

Forward>> in The Face 2001

Like the Mass ’06 photo there are absentees, most notably Zed Bias, who was a massive part of the foundation of dubstep but couldn’t make it, but sent his production partner Injecta to rep for Phuturistix. Looking back I don’t see Artwork either, but while he was obviously making garage back then, I don’t know if he was on dubstep yet. That said “Red” set the Big Apple foundation from early, and I remember an early version being played by Hatch at Velvet Rooms, so I’m sure he was about, but it wasn’t until 2002 before I heard Hatcha talk (at the Maddslinky album party launch at Cargo) about his two secret new protégés, Benga and Skream.

It’s also interesting to look at the overlap between the two scenes. In five years, despite dubstep being such a tiny scene, there’s only a little continuity. Only Hatcha is in both photos, though I was at both shoots and Soulja was invited to them both too. Kode9 I met at Velvet Rooms and Benny Ill’s played DMZ, so there’s overlap too. El-B and Phuturistix both moved away from dubstep, though Jay Da Flex was about for quite some time after and was asked to close the very first DMZ (but didn’t). He seems to be DJing again. Neil Joliffe co-founded Forward>>, Tempa and Ammunition yet moved on to focus on other things a few years ago. That said he makes his FWD>> debut next week, which should be emotional. Zinc and Hype appear in the photo as part of the “Forward>> sound” umbrella (dark garage + breakbeat garage + proto-grime), though their influence was more felt on the breakstep sound, which the DMZ sound didn’t represent. Looking back, perhaps Slimzee should have been in the shot too? He certainly played early grime at Velvet Rooms.

It all goes to reminds me of the transient nature of movements and collectives, and that despite all the greatest efforts of the artists, creative inspiration and musical relevance is fleeting, or at least hard to sustain. I had this feeling listening to a grime set from ‘06 the other day. At the time you feel so familiar with each ubiquitous big tune or classic lyric that they simply feel permanent, yet in retrospect they’re often so fleeting and transient. With the difference in the personnel in the photo, it makes me ask is it the people in the scene or the ideas they carry that remain?

I wonder how many of the Class of Mass ’06 will feature in the State of the Dubstep nation 2011?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rinse October

Rinse FM


Dusk and I were back on Rinse rolling the grimey, wonky and skippy last Thursday 11-1am.

Download the show here until the Rinse podcast arrives.

Dusk + Blackdown Rinse FM Oct 08 tracklist:

Maddslinky ft Juiceman and Simba "Doing My Thing" (Laws of Motion)
Nude "Digitize" (Shelflife)
So Solid "Oh No" (Independiente)
Hatcha "Bashment" (White)
Skepta ft JME and D Double "Serious Thugs" (Dice Recordings)
Menta "Snakecharmer" (Road)

DOK "Crossover" (unreleased)
Zomby "Hokus Pokus" (unreleased)
DOK "Big Bang" (unreleased)
Joker "Nicole" (unreleased)
DOK "Timberdok" (unreleased)
Kotchy "One For the Money (Starkey remix)" (unreleased)
Silverlink ft Badness and Jammer "Message is Love (Starkey remix)" (unreleased)
Gemmy "Rustie Tin" (unreleased)
Gemmy "Jaeden's Dream" (unreleased)
Skream "Clap" (unreleased)
Grievous Angel "Harpy" (unreleased)
Slugabed "ODB" (Stuff records unreleased)
DOK "When Will I Be Famous" (unreleased)
Guido "Way You Make Me Feel" (unreleased)

Naptha "Soundclash VIP (Grievous Angel mix) (unreleased)
Zomby "M25" (unreleased)
Erika Badu "Tyrone (Kulture refix) (unreleased)
Skream "I Love the Way You Loved Me" (unreleased)
DJ Mujava "Township Funk (Skream unofficial remix)" (unreleased)
Pangea "Memories" (unreleased)
LV "Don't Judge" (unreleased)
2 Bit "Ancient Archive" (unreleased)
Grievous Angel "Darkness" (unreleased)
Brackles and Shortstuff "Melvin Blue" (unreleased)
Kowton "Countryman" (unreleased)

We'll also be playing Forward>> this Sunday (2nd Nov) at Plastic People.

And while we're on an update tip, we're currently working on a mix for Mary Ann Hobbs' Radio 1 show, due for broadcast Nov 17th. Strickly upfront Keysound material. Check our Myspace for more DJ dates including Why Not? @ Scala and Petrol in Antwerp.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Goodz: putting the heat into Heatwave

So I’m at home last Friday after a long hard week, relaxing after some food and everything's nice. Except there’s this nagging feeling in the back of my mind.


Ohshityeah, it’s Durrty Goodz at Heatwave! R U Dumble? So I jump in the car, slam in the NASTY Crew sessions CD from about ’03 and get in night drive mode. Normally my night drive is autopilot these days, heading for east or south, but this time it’s west. I never go out in west, in fact I drive past the spot we ended up at carnival this summer, which was the last time I’d been out in west, and that in itself had been for the first time in even longer. But mostly I drive known routes now.

The thrill of the dark unknown makes this nightdrive particularly delicious. Recently, when a studio session was going nowhere, I debated getting in the car and just driving, TomTom off, to some corner of London I’ve never been to. Just keep taking turnings until I’m long past properly lost, exploring. But this journey’s a good ‘un. Somewhere near Brondesbury a guy tries to throw himself in front of the car, not to escape certain death, it transpires, but to get into a phone box. Damn, that must have been one important call.

Inside the club I feared for Goodz. Well, I feared he hadn’t even showed. The dancefloor was patchy and when they dropped his classic vocal of “Pum Pum Stealer” there wasn’t a flicker of reaction.

But the crowds slowly built and who’s that over there, hat down rocking the black combats and the biggest gold chain you’ve seen since Rakim? Damn Goodz has made it. I duck into the shadows and wait for the PA.

The second Goodz takes to the mic it’s on. “Gather round people, gather round…” he spits on the small stage, before launching into an Axiom-ish PA.

Now I can’t lie, most PA’s are air. By and large gimme 15 mans on stage in a Sidewinder/Dirty Canvas clash, rather than a PA, but Goodz is different. Everything you know already about his music, his energy, is lyrical dexterity and content is just hyper magnified by him when you add the visual angle.

His arms flail, demarking different axis’ in the air. His hat is on, then off, his eyes glare. Never has a one man PA been so compelling. “You can see I'm one MC, I dont carry no hypeman, I'm the hypeman, I'm the hype, man…” he jokes. In 30 high octane minutes, he kills it.

The audio of the PA is here download it here.

After the PA, Gabriel from Heatwave talks Goodz into some mobile phone video-bars (democratised portable technology massive stand up!). Not wearing a bling chain but actually some humble shells, Goodz is barely begun when this guy, who’s not even been in the club comes past and jumps in. Brave man. He doesn’t die the expected death but bwoy there’s no touching Goodz. Wanna know what’s best about it? The smile when he spits.

A lot of grime MCs go to extreme lengths to convey how dark they are. Goodz just smiles his way past them. Quite a few non-music people have said to me how scary Goodz’ eyes were in the Margins Music video, I should show them this.

So I jump back in the Focus, pop in “RIP Youngdot” and wonder how I’m ever going to get out of this cold west London industrial estate. But the glow of Goodz fire keeps me warm.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bristol bound

Dusk & Blackdown @ Crazy Legs, Bristol

Two years after flu prevented it, Dusk and I are finally making our Bristol debut. We're well up for this, given how much incredible music is coming out of that city right now. Damn, two of the two of the guys we're most excited right now, Joker and Gemmy, are on the same bill with us.

Better still we're doing a two hour set: one hour upfront fresh dubplates and one hour "Roots of..." classics. Should be fun. See you down there if you're about.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Devotional Dubz

As I alluded to in my recent interview with him, Grievious Angel has done an amazing mix, originally for On The Wire but now showcased by Fact Mag.

It's an incredible blend of soul samples and early dubstep classics, r&b vocals and 2step garage rollers. An early version has been on my iPod all year and simply wont leave.

Download it here.

Grievous Angel mix

00:00: Jill Scott: Slowly Surely (Grievous Angel's Erzulie Edit)
02.20: Craig Mack: Brand New Flava (Grievous Angel's Iron River Edit)
05:19: Grievous Angel: Lady Dub
08:07: Jill Scott: Watching Me
09:30: Vaccine: Wishful Thinking (VIP Mix)
12:03: DJ Abstract: Touch
15:18: Jill Scott: Crown Royal (Grievous Angel's Fucking In Sunshine Edit)
17:07: Jill Scott: My Love (Grievous Angel's Deeper, Tighter Edit)
19:29: HorsePower Productions: Gorgon Sound
21:56: Grievous Angel: Lady Dub (2Step Remix)
25:10: Groove Chronicles: Be Happy
28:09: Grievous Angel: What We Had
31:47: El B: Bison
31:58: Groove Chronicles: Faith In You
34:13: Dru Hill: Freak Like Me (El B Remix)
39:11: El B: Two Thousand
40:34: Our Lady of Rage: Afro Puffs
42:00: Grievous Angel: I Love Dem
49:13: Ends

Monday, October 13, 2008


Keysound Recordings 008

geeneus ft. riko, wiley and breeze "knife & gun"

a) "knife & gun"
b1) "knife & gun (blackdown remix)"
b2) "knife & gun (blackdown devil mix)"

out on 12" on november 17th

listen to the tracks audio on our myspace

keysights by Nicobobinus
mastering by transition
vinyl distribution by baked goods

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Where is grime?

Kano gig @ Indigo, London: red glow

The other week I rolled through the free Adidas/RWD Mag/Kano gig at the O2’s Indigo.

A few years ago I saw this talk by this hairy hilariously named American new media dude called Randy Farmer. Only in America. My mate reckons he once knew an American guy called Randy Bender. [For all the American’s reading this who are bit lost in translation, calling yourself Randy Bender in UK is like calling yourself first name Aroused, second name Homosexual].

Anyway I digress.

I saw this talk once by this hairy hilariously named American new media dude called Randy Farmer. His talk was called “Context is King,” a social media twist on Bill Gate’s (?) quote “Content is King.”

So who is right, Bill or Randy?

Kano was performing at the O2’s Indigo club, which on inspection was more like an old school theatre converted into a live venue. Even before I get in the venue I’m asking myself: “is this going to feel wrong.” The context was all wrong.

Grime is a genre born out of frustration and alienation of an urban community. It’s born out of the anger of the glass ceilings of race, class and culture within urban London and of the cycles of violence endemic in it’s community. Its original heartland are the margins of the capital: Milton Keynes’ Sidewinder, Stratford’s Rex and the ethereal pirate radio stations like Rinse, Raw Mission and Déjà.

So what’s it doing in Indigo? The context doesn’t feel real right…

Randy 0 Bill 1

When hip hop journalist Steve Yates interviewed Dizzee for Jockey Slut (RIP) magazine, he described the interest in the violence that surrounded the young grime star as cultural tourism; misery voyeurism. Logically, for all their frustrations, to ask them most grime stars would unashamedly love to make a lot of money out of the genre (regardless of whether they know how to, which is a whole ‘nother issue…). Sure they’re inherently raw, that’s their surroundings, but ask them to stay raw and never profit is to condemn them to the confines of their upbringing.

If you’d asked me ten years ago, I’d have said “forever underground.” I’d have said “fuck all sellouts, in all and every forms,” and to an extent I still feel that way to this day. Certainly I spend my time trying to push exceptional underground sounds a little further up the “long tail.”

But here’s the catch .22, sorry, twenty two with grime. For the most part, bar “Boy In Da Corner” and “Pow,” raw authenticity and originality have been diametrically opposed to financial success. So the question is, with a momentum behind a genre and a need for its stars to make a living at some point, who would you most like to be the ones to take it to the mainstream? The original innovators or the cloners/fakers/manufactured grime boy bands?

Gimme “Rolex Sweep” over Blazing Squad all day every day.

[I was asked by a major to write Blazing Squad’s artist biography once, a piece of paper used to sell them to other journalists, but I was busy in a world music shop on my birthday buying the CDs that would end up being sampled for Keysound 004’s “Akkaboo”. Nuff said!]

So the question is: if grime’s to succeed commercially, it’s not a question of whether it should, but will it get there on its own terms? On tonight’s evidence, it will. Randy 1 Bill 1.

First time I saw the Dome was in the winter of ’99 when I was a journalism student working at The Guardian and the venue was preparing itself for the Millennium. Since then it’s gone from being a political bête noire to an American mall-style venue. (Tonight featured KA and friends at Indigo but Stevie Wonder in the main arena. Boy was I confused on the train ride there. “These don’t look like Kane’s core fanbase…”).

I last saw the dome this was summer. I’ve not blogged about this before but I spent a long long time in June and July sitting in the Isle of Dogs waiting and waiting and waiting for, erm, a well known grime MC, trying to make him part of our video. When I say a lot of time, I mean upwards of 20 hours spread over about five frustrating, fruitless visits. (See my point above about “if grime’s to succeed commercially”. Some people just aint ready for that).

Killing time, the video director Jonathan and I got to know the Isle pretty well, wandering between soulless City-worker flats, east end pubs, avoiding gangs of youngers throwing water bombs at joggers, navigating The Telegraph printing presses and heading into quite serious looking estates for stock shots – despite my better judgment. As you go east on the IoD one very serious looking estate gives way to a long set of railings, beyond which is the muddy Thames, beyond which unveils the most epic view of the Dome, unreachable across the river. Very few other contrasts of the haves and have nots are quite so well visually articulated in London.

So yeah, the Dome: now an American mall-style complex, as good as any as a metaphor for sellout MCs' commercial ambitions: massive, successful, clean and slightly sterile. But, while I don’t think it will probably be their most essential work, I still support the MCs’ right to want that success: just look at where many of them have come from. Think about the message it gives to the entire grime community if everyone of their most visible acts continually fails?

This year has been a great year for grime MCs succeeding on the overground, as my Pitchfork column outlined this month, and successful events like this are integral to giving the message to the powers that be, in the major labels and the live circuit that grime can both pack big venues and behave in a civilised way. Tonight did both.

The importance of live performance is especially important in the post-MP3 era, where the largest revenues available to artists has shifted from sales to live performance, certainly for the biggest acts. But the transition from pirate radio/club DJ network to the lucrative live circuit (think Camden, Soho, regional venues or even the mega-festivals), often creates some musical watering down. Think Destiny’s Child produced by Rodney Jerkins on CD versus Destiny’s Child with limp live band.

But Kano, to his credit, keeps it raw: one mic and two turntables. No live percussionist or fat bloke on slap bass giving it some Seinfeld riffage. It’s a healthy half way compromise between Sidewinder-style 25 mans on stage grime clash and, well, said Seinfeld/Destiny’s Neutered Child (live).

I reached the venue with a mate who’s much more of a hip hop fan than grime. It’s interesting watching his reaction to grime, as he has a totally different position on it. He’d seen Kano before and been left unimpressed. Here’s what he felt this time:

[disclaimer: the following text does not represent the views of, as we think grime owns UK hip hop and most of US rap too if we’re honest, but we respect the right of UK-based rap fans to express their views, even if they did get free tickets for the gig only cos they know some waste-blogger]

“The wizardries of production on Kano’s albums have masked his darkest secret – he is a one trick rapper with an average trick. This truly comes out when you see him live.

Kano’s voice carries no lasting impact. It’s plain & forgettable and as needs to be molded in someway to drive his tunes. He does this by mock angrily spitting out words in short stanzas. These short bursts of angry monotone grind you down, and choruses come as a big relief.

Twang and rhythm are what keeps music interesting and it is Kano’s lack of the former and solitary delivery style in latter which ruins my ability to appreciate him as an artist of any lasting quality.”

It’s funny, because it’s “these short bursts of angry monotone” that I like Kano best, like when he double time switches into “I was on Raw/I was on Déjà…” And I think this energy-over-rhyming is what separates grime from rap. But if I’m honest I don’t think KA will ever be my favourite grime MC. He’s too, well, emotionally restrained to be top 3 selected. (That’s fought over by Wiley, Dizzee, Trim, Goodz and Ghetto right now.) But he’s definitely a credible grime MC. And that’s important if you’re claiming to be grime and filling the Indigo

Kano gig @ Indigo, London: hands up

Hype moments of the night were the highlights. Tinchy’s proven to be a polished, gyal-friendly solo act. Ghetto burst on stage and up the energy levels. Skepta did the same but came on rocking (only) a white silk dressing gown. By the time Wiley had turned up to do “Rolex…” even the upper tiers of the theatre were on their feet.

Wandering home, the night felt like a success: it brought it’s content to a whole new context. If grime’s to succeed it needs footholds like this on terms like this. Onwards and upwards.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pitchfork October 08

Zomby: Forest Friend

New Pitchfork column from me on Zomby and grime's inroads into the mainstream but on its own terms.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Rinse Sept (delayed)

Rinse FM


Dusk and I were back on Rinse rolling the grimey, wonky and skippy recently.

You can download it here.

Dusk + Blackdown on Rinse Oct 08

Wookie "Far East" (Manchu)
Ms Dynamite "Boo" (FFRR/Social Circles)
Sunship "Cheque One-Two" (Filter)
El-B and Nude "Reality" (Shelflife)
Hotboys "Hotboys (vocal)" (Hotboys)

Zomby "Helter Skelter" (unreleased)
Asher D "MO pt2 ft Durrty Goodz and Sway" (unreleased)
Gemmy "Johnny 5 0" (unreleased)
Joker "Do it" (unreleased)
Zomby "Notes From the Underground" (unreleased)
Starkey "Gutter Music VIP (demo)" (unreleased)

Scratcha DVA "Bullet A Go Fly ft Badness, Riko, Flowdan and Killa P" (unreleased)
Joker "Solid State" (unreleased)
Guido "Beautiful Complication remix" (unreleased)
Blackdown "deFocused" (dubplate)
Shortstuff "Regression" (unreleased)
Jtreole "The Loot [Sully rmx]" (unreleased)
Sully "Reminder" (unreleased)
Ramadanman "Dayride" (Soul Jazz unreleased)
Skream "Memories of 3rd Base (Eyes Down)" (unreleased)

Pinch "Midnight Oil" (unreleased)
Unknown "unknown" (unreleased)
Grevious Angel "Move Down Low (funky remix)" (unreleased)
Wiley v Heatwave "Wearing my Rolex refix" (unreleased)
Kontext "Plumes (Ramadanman remix)" (unreleased)
Dot Rotten "Talking the Hardest" (unreleased)
Geeneus "Knife and Gun ft Riko, Wiley and Breeze (Blackdown remix)" (Keysound dubplate)