Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008: thank you and good night

Well, 2008 is nearly over. Merry Christmas and happy New Year to you all! So I thought a little present might be seasonal, scroll down for more.

Looking back it's been a pretty amazing year for me and Dusk. "Margins Music" got finished and came out as the same time as a 12 page booklet and 6 minute video and I didn't quite have a total mental breakdown. I dont think I have ever put so much of my heart and soul into any one thing before, so thanks massively to Baked Goods (distribution), Transition (mastering), Charles Nomad (PR), Stu Give Up Art (art), Shaun Bloodworth (cover shots) and Jonathan Howells (video). Thanks to everyone who put it in their end of year charts (Simon Reynolds, Starkey, The Observer, The Wire, Time Out Chicago, T++, Boomkat, Melissa Bradshaw and more).

DJ-wise it's been amazing too. Highlights were definitely the album launch at FWD>> and any time we played for them at Plastic People. Joining Rinse was a total honour: having Trim show up unexpectedly was a total buzz. Playing DMZ and Dub War in New York were both pretty incredible. Clashing on Mary Anne Hobbs' Radio 1 show was a lot (audio here and here). Emptying the room after Ghetto's Dirty Canvas album launch was remarkable. Going out onto the main stage of The Big Chill was hillarious for that "what are we doing here?" vibe. Hold tight Fabric, The End, Scala, Ministry, Herbal, Bristol, Belgium, 93 Ft East and Plan B.

So what does 2009 hold? Onwards and upwards I think. More blogging: if there's stuff I'm inspired enough by to want to share I'll give it coverage here. More Rinse shows, trying to maintain the standard of the beats we select. More Keysound releases, of that there is no doubt. Starkey ft. Durrty Goodz EP is next. More comps: Roots of El-B is done, expect samplers v soon. Musically I want to keep pushing at the edges, in multiple different directions and styles be they 2steppy, percussive, beatless, funky, wonky, grimey, instrumental, vocal, MC-lead, masculine and/or feminine but mostly bassy. 2009 should be a make or break year for dubstep: it's time to ride on through, or indeed past, the darkness. Let's roll.

Digital Mystikz in Deuce Magazine Jan 2004 p1 - by Martin Clark

So yeah, a little present, as tis the season. I recently scanned in my 2004 Deuce magazine interview with Digital Mystikz and my more in depth piece featuring Loefah from Dummy in 2007. I'm pretty sure the Deuce piece is the first ever DMZ interview, commissioned when "Pathwayz," their breakthrough track, was on dub. You can either download them all here or check them on Flickr. They're upped as hi res, just click on the image and "all sizes" for the largest version. Enjoy.

Digital Mystikz in Dummy Magazine Spring 2007 p2 - by Martin Clark

Merry Christmas. See you on the other side.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Going on differently: grime meets the YouTube refix

Tenchuassassin screenshot 1

From the moment Dizzee and Wiley decided they were “artists” not MCs, grime has presented itself as a culture rather than a musical sound. Moving beyond the UK garage legacy of being just one-dimensional DJ-hosts in clubs, this shift suddenly enabled new directions of creative possibilities. One of those was, naturally, the visual angle.

For a while grime specialised in gritty realism. The grime DVD, be it Lord of the Mics or Conflict was, before the mixtape took over, one of the dominant mediums. A classic example of this is the fallout between Crazy Titch and Dizzee, from Conflict. As they spill out on the twilight of the Déjà Vu roof, the contrast between their respective fates couldn’t be larger: Dizzee began the new phase of his self-signed career with a number 1 single. Titch is inside for murder.

There’s no shortage of gritty grime footage on YouTube, moving from rave footage and roadside DVD slewage to increasingly professional music videos, like JME’s Serious Remix or Ruff Sqwad’s “RSMD”.

But as the audience of YouTube grew, so did it’s potential to become a front door for exciting new video talent, allowing grime to move away from these two styles into new avenues (check Newham Generals viral "Violence" video).

This post highlights two video directors not central to the core grime scene but taking it in an entirely different visual direction. Starting from a sampling and refix mindset and applying it to visuals, these videos combine manga and cartoons to provide both free promo for grime MCs and exciting new visual/audio contradictions to boot.


Plastician featuring Skepta- Intensive Snare
Directed by DR. SMOOV

The first interview is with DR. SMOOV, who by his own admission isn’t steeped in the grime scene, but was definitely the first visual artist I noticed working with grime in this style.

Blackdown: Can you tell me a bit about your work, how did you get into making videos? how long have you been doing it?

DR. SMOOV: I'm an artist, I reside in Los Angeles, CA, been working as a freelance Producer/Director/Editor for about 9 years in the industry. I have hundreds of videos on the internet, and have worked professionally for all the major American television networks at one time or another in the last decade. In the past couple years, my web series of GiJoe and Transformers cartoon mashups have been gaining significant popularity. DR. SMOOV has a long history. Between film school, producing cable access programs in NY in the 90's, and working professionally in LA, I've logged about 18 years total making videos- I started when I was 13 and have never stopped. (nor will I ever) It's just what I do.

B: Can you tell me about how the Plastician video came about?

DR. SMOOV: I was contacted by Plastician in early 2008 about the possibility of commissioning me to cut a video for a track off his upcoming "Beg to Differ" album. I had directed and edited professional music videos in the past, and Plastician expressed that he was particularly a fan of my mashup music videos using GiJoe cartoons. He wanted me to custom craft a video to his track using retro cartoon footage. He sent me a track called "Intensive Snare ft. Skepta." After hearing it for the first time, I knew I wanted to do it.

I had a lot of ideas right off the bat that I pitched him like using some of the black characters to represent Skepta and using some of the "computer tech" characters to represent Plastician. I wanted to incorporate cool action sequences, images of technology, and feature some of the badass characters like the ninjas: Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow, and also tool on the lame characters like Lifeline. But more importantly, I wanted to create a video that would have that retro 80's cartoon feel and be relevant to the song regardless if the viewer was familiar with the original cartoon or not. I think he chose me because he was familiar with my style and knew that I could pull off a video that would deliver that and appeal to our fan-bases respectively.

B: Your video for intensive snare seemed to be almost visual sampling, how do you go about finding all the relevant clips?

DR. SMOOV: Because I'm familiar with much of the material, I usually have a ballpark of where to look for certain subject matters. But the process takes a long time. I scroll through hours upon hours of footage and make detailed logs. I am quite thorough. The video for "Intensive Snare" features footage from approx 30 different episodes of the 80's GiJoe cartoon by Sunbow. For this video, I wanted to use a lot of footage of computers, sound equipment, cars, satellites, and technology, so I would pull as many of those clips as I could find.

The next step was carefully placing them and manipulating them appropriately. Every image in my videos is placed where it is for a reason - everything you see is pre-meditated. In any given instance, I try to capture the essence of the lyric, or the feel of the hook, or in some cases provide a literal example of what's being said (which can sometimes be quite humorous like "Are you stupid in the face?" and a woman pulls her face off) And that's the point - each image is a commentary or makes a statement based on where it pops up in the video. So yes, it is like adding an extra level of visual samples on top of an already massively brilliant track.

B: How do you feel about remixing, appropriating and re-using copyright content in general?

DR. SMOOV: Being an artist first, the challenge of using "found footage" to create something new and interesting is the goal, and the results can be quite rewarding. You can take something that was already cool in the past and make it cool in a whole new way - sometimes better than it was before. (unfortunately the flip side of making it worse is far too common amongst certain artists these days.)

But using familiar material can be a way to connect with audiences on a common ground. I am continually amazed at the diverse cross-section of people throughout the world that connect with the GiJoe cartoon (or Action Force in the UK.) and are willing to give something new a shot if it has anything to do with it. But in general, I think "sampling" is an excellent vehicle for both presentation and re-introduction.

Anyone who's sampling from the "old" is usually doing it because they like something about the material. By freshly re-appropriating it you're sharing it with new audiences, vouching for it, and making it relevant again.

The footage from cartoons I tend to use is 25 years old already. For many, they are nostalgic images that rekindle the excitement they once had for it. For others, it's their first time seeing it. I think it exposes a lot of younger viewers to the material. I receive a lot of feedback from younger people that say they became interested in Transformers or GiJoe after seeing the footage in my videos - it peaked their interest enough for them to learn more about it. I personally became a fan of a lot of classic 70's funk/soul/jazz due to all the sampling I heard in early 90's hip-hop. Made me want to find out where all that great music came from. So I think that re-use and re-appropriation is a major way in which older franchises receive new exposure. It's essentially free advertising for them. The entities that are smart about it and can recognize that, seem to reap the benefit of longevity.

B: Have you watched many other grime videos?

DR. SMOOV: In the grand scale of things, I have not seen that many. Working with Plastician on this video was my first exposure to the grime/dubstep scene overseas. I did some initial research on the web and watched a handful of videos on youtube trying to see what was already being done and familiarize myself with the style and some of the artists. The most informative video for me however, was a documentary on the London grime/dubstep scene which told about the evolution of the music style and the characteristics regarding unique tempo, the electro sound, and the innovative ways the synths are being used. Being a fan of both hip-hop and electronic music (I grew up listening to a lot of Kraftwerk as well as being a fan of great lyricists like KRS-1 and Big Daddy Kane) the sounds of grime were quite appealing to me right away. Not to mention the clever vocals and lyrical flow of the MC's - Skepta and JME stood out to me in that respect. When taking on the video for "Intensive Snare," I wanted to be just as intricate and meaningful with the visuals as the work that Skepta and Plastician had put into the lyrics and tracks.

B: I'm interested in the fact that visually your video doesn’t use the same old grime narratives, was that deliberate?

DR. SMOOV: I think Chris (Plastician) is responsible for some of that in terms of the vision he had for what this video could be - If he wanted to shoot a typical grime video, he could have hired me or anyone else to do that, but that's not what he wanted. He came to me because he was interested in letting me "do what I do" to his track - knowing that I would be able to find visuals that would compliment his music and put it together in a way that was unique. He's a true artist and innovator in that respect. He wasn't interested in trying to do what everybody else was doing in their videos, he wanted to take this video to another level entirely and I think we achieved that with this piece.

tenchuassassin screenshot 2


AMV-Wretch 32 Ft Ghetto - Ina Di Ghetto
Directed by Tenchuassassin

Blackdown: So, where are you from?

South east London, New Cross

B: Can you tell me a bit about your work, how did you get into making videos? How long have you been doing it?

Tenchuassassin: At first I just watched other peoples videos then I asked a friend how can I do that he told me window movie maker then I started making videos. Anyway I’ve being doing this for about 5 years on and off. I use to make hip hop & rock vids but then I said why does everyone make hip hop & rock vids so then I made my first grime vid skepta autopsy

B: your video for Wretch 32 seemed to be almost visual sampling, how do you go about finding and choosing all the relevant clips?

T: I just listen to the tune over & over then remember what anime I just watched and take the clip from there.

B: In practical terms if you hear a word like "stripe" or "flame," how do you and find a scene from another video to match it?

T: When I hear stripe I think of gun grave a gun anime & flame that will be naruto

B: How do you decide when to match the visuals to the words and when to deviate?

T: Well when it comes to matching words I have about 3 or 4 choices and I just pick the best one. The only time I deviate is when I can’t find what the person is saying

B: How do you decide how many different sources to sample from, in each video?

T: I don’t limit myself I just use as many clips as I have to.

B: How do you feel about remixing, appropriating and re-using copyright content in general?

T: It’s not like I’m selling them I just do this for fun

B: Have you watched many other grime videos? What do you think of them?

T: yeah I’ve seen some good ones by:

ELITE1010, Ozyboi and Coolkavi.

B: have you had any feedback from the artists you make videos for, like JME or Wretch 32? What do they think?

T: Yeah 3 artists have contacted me Nappa, MC Ribz and Faith SFX they were saying what I’m doing is sick and they will contact me to do future songs for them.

JME - Ju Ju Man
Directed by Tenchuassassin

From Dizzee’s “Street Fighter” beat to Wiley’s “Crash Bandicoot” riddim and Bashy’s recent Superhero’s video, you can see a proximity between grime and computer games, animation and CGI but it is perhaps is tied the strongest through its audience and their shared interests outside music.

What makes Tenchuassassin and DR. SMOOV’s videos so compelling is the contrast between when the visual and audio elements converge and diverge. What grime and manga have in common is that they are both youthful and violent mediums. In these videos, lip synching and clever choice of visual themes ties the soundtrack and the visual subject matter further together. Yet in the face of these similarities are the massive differences which make for such a striking contrast. Manga and GIJoe’s cartoon textures are a million miles from the gritty photorealism of “Lord of the Decks.” And while the directors have worked hard to find synergies, in essence the heritage of US cartoons or Far Eastern manga have little in common with UK street grime. Yet though the clever editing and direction we see here, they find shared space with the end result an opportunity to expand grime’s fan base beyond its heartland.

Looking at the stats, Tenchuassassin’s view seem to recieve up to 9,000, except for “JuJu,” thanks to the endorsement of JME, who’s inclusion on his main MySpace page has pushed the views up to 44,000. It'a a size of figure that competes favorably with a monthly magazine circulation.

This success owes so much to the rise of YouTube. Just as grime can be attributed in part to the ubiquity of cracked digital music production tools (Sony Playstation Music 2000, Fruity Loops…) and the democratizing effect the ability to share them had on young garage fans circa 2001, so is it also hard to imagine these videos being popularized without the massive YouTube audience.

It can surely only be of benefit to grime artists. Ever since the birth of MTV, labels decided to see videos as a marketing expense not a primary commodity to sell (like music), and as such they bore the brunt of these costs, costs that can prove debilitating to independent acts. With a Darwinian pool of talent competing to make videos for artists for free, the survival of the fittest in the YouTube elemental pond should only serve to naturally select the best new generation of video directors. If artists see common ground with hungry new directors, they both stand to gain.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The man who cycles through glass walls part 2

In the second part of my interview with photographer Nico Hogg, the first part of which is here, Nico takes the time to talk though some of his shots...

Blackdown: The Thamesmead estate. This is the first shot of yours I ever encountered and it was my laptop desktop for some time. A black south London-born friend of mine saw it and shuddered, explaining that for someone who remembered the 80s, the Theamsmead Estate was synonemous with anti-black racism. What were you doing there at this time of the night? How long did it take?

Nico: "I think I'd been out in Central London one night and come the end I decided to jump on a night bus out here to see the place under the cover of darkness. I was amazed by the concrete madness of Thamesmead straight away - I don't think there's anywhere else in London that has that sort of urban chaos quite like this.

"One thing I learned from coming back to this place is that appearances can be deceptive; it isn't nearly as rough as first impressions give out, and there's a lot more to the Mead than just the grey estate here. It's still growing with new bits springing up every few years, and it's one of the few places a family might be able to afford to move to from inner London to raise a family – name a cultural group and they're here with their children, London's next generation.

"It's about people trying to get on with their lives to the best of their means. (And some of it is going amazingly, spectacularly wrong – blocks of flats built in New Labour's time sitting semi-derelict with weeds flourishing in pavement cracks.) The games are played out, new lines are drawn, new territories defined as the new streets arrive. It must've been the same every time a new bit of Thamesmead was built, from the sixties to today and it'll probably stay that way into the future as more of the place appears. That fascinates me, warts and all. I think perhaps this photo marked the beginning of coming to see the special in the place."

B: Becontree Heath. This is just pure light...

N: "A spot few Londoners know about, but one I felt like it was worth giving a bit of exposure."

B: Broadwater Farm Estate. This just looks epic, cinematic...

N: The other way round! A well documented place, difficult to get a shot of that could count as unusual. I was just riding through the rec on my bike when I saw the skate park flooded out and saw a rare opportunity. I wanted to try and get the tower blocks reflected in the water and it sort of worked, but I was kicking myself for leaving my tripod at home – I was balancing the camera on a bench for this.

B: South Kilburn Estate, NW6 - do you research the estates before/after you shoot them? Do you think 'estates' as a housing concept are successful?

N: "Yeah, I do a bit of research, especially if they're going to be coming down soon. I like to bring some background to the pictures, and some of these photos are already history in themselves just a few years after they were taken.

I think the view, the popular one, that dictates that estates should be pulled down, that's highly politicised. Some of these estates that are going really have failed, an entrenched rot that can't be shaken off, but sometimes I think the authorities are too quick to come to that decision to demolish, and that falls back to ideologies and agendas on their part.

I think basically speaking they work – and I like the extra layer of identity that coming from a certain estate has over, say, living in a terraced house in a street in a grid of streets.

But in a way the perception of that identity comes from the same sort of misty thought that says estates have failed, estates need to be pulled down, flamed in some sort of witch-hunt ritual. If you strip that layer of thought away, on the basis of it, people could (and can) live quite ordinary, happy lives within the estate – many do, and for them there's no reason why an estate isn't working for them. But the loudest get heard. It's about mindsets. Really though, it's hugely complicated."

B: This is North Woolwich, what can you tell me about this shot?

N: "This is one of my own favourites. You get a sense going to North Woolwich that it's a very different place to the rest of London – elements of an earlier time, shabby union jacks, graffiti that looks like it appeared in the 80s – some racist, some of it to do with class warfare. It's cut off on three sides from everything else by water, probably one of the hardest places to leave on many levels. It can feel pretty miserable."

B: Kurdish march, Stamford Hill: who and what were they marching about?

N: "They were marching for the leader of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party serving a life prison sentence in Turkey. It was a pretty major march, there were a lot of people there. That part of North London has quite a large Turkish Kurd population, and they're in strong support for his release as far as I know. But it's a seriously complicated and contentious issue along ethnic, historical and political lines, and I really don't know enough about it!"

B: Sundermead Estate, Lewisham. Do you know anything about the fire damage?

N: "I don't think there was any fire involved here. The estate was being demolished and it's normal to have hoses running in to douse the rubble as it comes down, to stop any fires breaking out."

B: Looking west. Don't you think sunsets paint a very rosy picture of London? Is it a 'true' one? What about West London, how do you feel about it? It's different to the other quarters, right? And not one you choose to shoot much...

N: "I surprise myself at how few pics I have of West London, I'm across there a lot but it feels slightly alien to me in a way I haven't got to grips with yet. London is probably as different West to East as it is North to South, but there isn't a big river cutting down from the top of the city to the bottom to define the divide in the same way that the Thames does, so there's less debate.

But still, taking a trip on the Hammersmith and City Line west from Paddington gives one of the best pictures of the city you can get. It never loses its magic for me – out alongside the Westway, over the terraces around Ladbroke Grove, between the tower blocks round Latimer Road, over Shepherds Bush Market and the cranes of the new Westfield centre, stasis and change, success and failure sitting as two sides of the same coin. But it's all the same city, good and bad and I think it deserves to look beautiful sometimes, even if it is in a cheesy sort of sunset way.

"But eh, if there's a great sunset sky there's something reassuring in knowing that, even in a divided city, there are probably thousands of people from all different walks and minds seeing and thinking something at least similar to you for a few minutes. We could do with a few more unifying moments like that. It doesn't have to be sunsets – thunderstorms, raining tea, locusts, a good riot, anything [carnival? - Blackdown]. Just no more bomb explosions on the tube."

B: Do you use reflections in your work? Is the reality of the photo inevitably much less glamorous?

N: "It is, but this one is best seen in the context of all the other photos I have of that area. I feel a sort of personal responsibility, it's home to me and I was beginning to feel at the time that I was taking a lot of photos of the place in too much of a negative light. This one seemed to make a bit of a compromise on that. The opportunity was there and I jumped at it."

Read the first part of the interview here. The next parts of this interview will follow on soon...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Beak tuff

zomby's parrot, Rebel

The Zomby parrot quiz

Blackdown: I hear you're a parrot fan and owner, what kind of feathered friend do you have and what is his name?

Zomby: yeah he’s called rebel after rebel mc, he’s a Senegalese, I’ll buy a Congo African grey soon and call him Natty.

B: What is keeping a parrot like?

Z: Pretty fair-to-chillin, they demand a lot of attention and I mean you have to feed them and clean them out and tolerate being shit on and stuff but really it’s bless, like having a monkey with wings.

B: I love how you describe him just pottering around your house, twittering to himself. What kinds of noises do they make and which is your favourite?

Z: There’s various parrot noises as stock but then also like dub siren whistles and space fx twitters, he growls too if you vex him, my fave is the wonky shangooli lead he whistles.

B: What roughly different kinds of parrots are there and how are they different?

Z: There’s a few you know, hyacinth macaws are probably top of the tree for brains and size, they look pretty fucking rad, Congo African greys are good too, they’re bright and talk a lot, the Macaws are generally pretty arsey but they’re good fun too, and the Senegal which is like the Marmoset of the parrot world I suppose.

B: Parrots are reportedly very intelligent, have you seen this in action? Which type is smartest?

Z: The Hyacinth Macaw are the smartest. They’re fully switched on, but the average parrot isn’t a fool, mine seems fairly busy a lot of the time,

B: Parrots are reportedly emotional, have you seen this in action?

Z: Yeah kinda, he’ll get excited if your excited, like if I see a record on Discogs cheap and I’m buzzing, he’ll sqwawk with enthusiasm for the bargain.

B: What do you think Rebel thinks about mostly?

Z: Getting it on with Rihanna's parrot.

B: How does Rebel feel about your aquabases/aquacrunk/w**ky?

Z: He’s kinda into it I think, I mean he’s comfy enough to sit on me and crap while I’m playing synths... maybe he’s not feeling it actually.

B: How does Rebel feel about the Rebel MC?

Z: Yeah he’s a big fan you know. I know he likes a tune cuz he’s quiet as it plays. Otherwise he’s sqwaking in disapproval.

B: How does Rebel feel about YouTube?

Z: It’s a lot for him, he’s feeling a few vids. Lots of old skool and jungle mostly of course.

Zomby's top three parrot YouTube videos:

1. Einstein
2. Python
3. Kaja

Margins Music makes Observer albums of the year

"Margins Music" has made The Observer 50 albums of the year. We're officially bigger than Guns & Roses!

Shout to Emma Warren, without who's advocacy, this would never have happened. Shout to Charles/Nomad too.

UPDATE: We made The Wire top 20 of 2008. Rah.

Also look out for "The Bits ft Trim" on Rough Trade Shops's compilation "Counter Culture 08" out in Feb.

UPDATE 2.0: Out to Dusted Magazine, who put our album in their list not just once (in the top ten) but twice.

UPDATE 3.0: Out to Simon Reynolds, who puts our album in his top 16!!!

UPDATE 4.0: Time Out Chicago put "Margins Music" in their top 10 Dance/Electronic albums of the year. It's an album about London, Time Out London where are you?! Par.

UPDATE 5.0: It's made Melissa Bradshaw and Jonny Mugwump end of year round ups too.
As well as Boomkat's top 100, Starkey and T++'s top 10.

UPDATE 6.0 It's South Africa's The Weekender's album of the year.

Woofah 3

Woofah 3 cover

Woofah magazine volume 3 is out now. Out to John Eden, Grievous Angel and everyone else who put in the hard slog.

If you're able to ignore the inane waffling by me and Dusk, you'll find great features on Soulja and the Bomb Squad by Mel plus Flowdan, 2562, UK Dub and of course, my personal favourite, the Badman Commandments.

Badman nah miss nah copy of Woofah. Seen?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Rinse November

Rinse FM


Dusk and I were back on Rinse last Thursday. Since it's was the last show of the year, we were...

...only going to play slowjams and lovers rock, some country with a mid section focusing on tuba solos. Lock in for Dusk's live countdown of just how quickly our career is being ended

...going to get half way through the set when we get sucker-punched by super surprise guest, TRIMBALE!

"I heard my tune and some weird beats so I decided to run up here..." - Trim.

Then, it was ON!!!

DOWNLOAD the set here...

Rinse FM: Dusk + Blackdown ft Trim November 08

Wonder ft Kano "What Have You Done?" (Nu Era Music)
Basement Jaxx "Jus One Kiss (Sunship mix)" (XL)
Abacus "When I Fall In Love (El-B bootleg mix)" (White)
Ghost "Gritty" (Ghost white)
The Beard "Someday (Phuturistix remix)" (Inspirit Music)
Nude "Wake Up" (On Course)
Kode9 "Ping" (Rephlex)

Joker "Do It" (unreleased)
Keisha Cole "Should Have Let You Go (Rustie resmack)" (unreleased)
Rudekid "Spaceman" (unreleased)
Starkey "Gutter Music ft Durrty Goodz" (Keysound Recordings unreleased)
Zomby "Gloop (Starkey remix)" (unreleased)
Wiley and Bless Beats "Where's My Brother" (unreleased)
Joker "There She Goes" (unreleased)

Trim "Say It Aint So" (unreleased)
Zomby "Be Reasonable, Expect the Impossible aka Firefly Finale" (unreleased)
MC Trigga "A Little Darker" (unreleased)
Zomby "Earthbound" (unreleased)
Starkey "Strikenow VIP" (unreleased)
Zomby "One Foot Ahead of the Other" (unreleased)

Mount Kimbie "Maybes" (Hotflush unreleased)
Kuma "Mine" (unreleased)
Kryptic Minds and Leon Switch "One of Us" (unreleased)


Solar Constant "Phidiana Indica" (unreleased)
RSD "Accepted" (R8 unreleased)
Starkey "Gutter VIP" (unreleased)
DOK "Bigbang" (Aftershock)
DOK "Crossover" (Aftershock)
Joker "Digidesign" (unreleased)

Gemmy "Johnny 5-0" (unreleased)
Ikonika "Please" (Hyperdub)
Starkey "Pressure" (Planet Mu)
Jerzy "Outside Looking In (instrumental)" (unreleased)
Jerzy "Datski" (unreleased)
Wiley (Target & Danny Weed production) "Pick Ur Self Up (instrumental)" (Aim High)

I think we just had our "Kode9 v Wiley moment". I still feel dazed and giggly with hype. Given Trim's sucker-punch surprise visit, we have half a show's worth of upfront dark, percussive and rolling dubs. So time permitting, Dusk and I are going to put these together a mix for download. Hold tight for that...

Dirty Canvas 2009 Calendar

Dirty Canvas 2009 Calendar: D Double E
Dirty Canvas 2009 Calendar: JME

Ohmydays this is too much...

"London's leading grime night Dirty Canvas has teamed up with photographer Will Robson-Scott to bring you the first calendar of grime music's biggest and best loved stars. This limited edition A3 calendar features Wiley, Skepta, Tinchy Stryder, Trim, JME, Roll Deep, D Double E, Ghetto, Jammer, Chipmunk, Griminal, Tempa T, Badness, Ice Kid, Frisco, Double S, P Money and Lil Nasty.

With 500 copies printed available online at www.dirtycanvas.bigcartel.com this unique piece features never seen before photos, capturing your favourite grime stars in the studio, performing live, backstage, jamming on road, in the chicken shop, getting a haircut and even assaulting an 80's TV Star!"

What more needs to be said?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dusk + Blackdown v MAH

Our mix for Mary Anne Hobbs' Radio 1 show went out late on the evening of Tuesday 18th. Here's the tracklist. Out to Ramadanman and Geiom for a nice clean fight.

Dusk + Blackdown mix

DOWNLOAD the mix here.

Starkey ‘Gutter Music ft Durrty Goodz’ (Keysound)
Starkey ‘Gutter Music VIP’ (Keysound)
Geeneus ‘Knife & Gun’ ft Riko, Wiley and Breeze (Blackdown remix) (Keysound)
Geeneus ‘Knife & Gun’ ft Riko, Wiley and Breeze (Blackdown Devil mix) (Keysound)
Blackdown ‘Beta’ (Keysound)
Blackdown ‘deFocused’ (Keysound)
Dusk ‘Focus (Blackdown VIP)’ (Keysound)
Geeneus ‘Knife & Gun’ ft Riko, Wiley and Breeze (Dusk & Blackdown remix ft. Farrah) (Keysound)
Badla Lata Ka ‘Badla Lata Ka’ [unreleased]
Starkey ‘Gutter Music VIP (cont.)’ (Keysound)

(Thanks to rob booth at electronicexplorations.org for the hosting).

PS Geiom and Ramadanman had had the cheek to start slewing us on the Dubstep Forum. Check the banter there.

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" NOW.**

listen to the tracks audio on our myspace

keysights by Nicobobinus
mastering by transition
vinyl distribution by baked goods

Monday, November 17, 2008

The man who cycles through glass walls

The search term "Big Ben" into Flickr yields 134,706 results. By contrast the term "Crossways Estate," (aka east London's "Three Flats"), yields 23, three of them about maypole dancing at a village fete. It was in this way that I first found Nico Hogg, aka Nicobobinus' photos.

It was around two years ago, when the first ideas around "Margins Music" began to coalesce that I found great resonance with Nico's photography. Time and time again I would search on Flickr only to find a visual representation of the sounds I'd heard in my head or the environment I'd been inspired by. At first I don't think I clocked it was always Nico's shots I came back to, but then one day Stuart from Give Up Art, who designed our album artwork and does all the Tempa, Rinse and Applepips art too, emailed me a photo. On the surface it said "No Spitting" but, written in two languages, it also screamed "grime" and "London", while tugging at the respective definitions of those two words.

People talk about glass ceilings in UK culture caused by race and class, but London has glass walls. Throughout this decade I've found myself coming back to the realisation of how insane it is that people so densely geographically located in a city can pass so close without any meaningful sense of understanding of each other. People pass each other without contact, like planes stuck in parallel concentric holding patterns above Heathrow, unable to converse with those just a few hundred feet away from them. On the ground, the glass walls of class and race cause peergroups defined by vocation, education and affluence, forming pockets of self-reinforcing values (in analysis of how the London tube bombers were radicalised, experts point to the participation of training camps, not because the camps particularly gave them extra skills, but because by isolating them from the population, they were able to self-reinforce yet-more extreme viewpoints). "It's a small world," people say, acting surprised at finding commonality with a "stranger" who also happens to be their age, race, class, vocation and live in the same city as them. But is their world only small because the glass walls make it seem so?

Nico Hogg is a man who can cycle through glass walls. For me I have Wookie's remix of Gabrielle to thank for opening the door in the wall, because discovering garage taught me a shared language and showed me I had the appetite for finding common ground in places I didn't belong and in which my peers don't go to. But Nico, he just rides on through. His Flickr account is littered with Google Maps screenshots of east London cycle paths, locations he rides pro-actively into, shattering the glass, to take shots of. And by locations I don't mean Westminster.

I think it's safe to say that Flickr doesn't need any more photos of Big Ben. If you're the 134,707th user to upload a shot of the central London landmark, what incremental value are you really adding as a photographer? But by contrast, as serendipity threw me into Nico's photographs time and time again, it became clear that here was a man doing something, going places and recording areas precious few others were. "Three Flats" (above) was one of the first ever locations for Rinse FM. Who else has taken a shot of it though? For these reasons, long before I'd found a Keysound release by Rinse regulars Geeneus, Riko, Wiley and Breeze to use the "No Spitting" image on, I'd begun a long process of interviewing Nico about his shots.

In the first post, Nico explains in general about his approach to photography and his chosen subject, the margins of urban London. In a second post, to follow, I've presented him with his shots, often grouped in themes, and asked him to explain a little more about how he got himself there, why he took it.

Blackdown: So tell me a bit about you as a photographer: how long have you been shooting?

Nico: Years... maybe since I was about 8, but back then it was different – I'd drag a 35mm compact around with me and take photos of anything, anything at all. I was racking up these massive bills for developing reels of film containing, say, 25 wonky pictures of a reservoir on the outskirts of Edinburgh, shot straight into the sun so hardly anything came out properly. My family were going mental. Then I went over to digital when I was 16, got the internet, met other people taking photos and started taking it a bit more seriously... still working on that last point though!

B: what makes you want to pick up a camera? Why did you choose light as your medium?

N: I just wanted something I could pick up and use to express something. I can't play an instrument, I had a brief spell of writing when I was about 15 but didn't feel it was worth going on with, I can draw stick men but no more than that. It seemed like the best thing to go with. It's that easy, more people should do it. It's the days when I want to show people something new that I want to go and shoot most. Sure, in London people can be quick to match up tower blocks with poverty, inner London, but there are towers dotting the skyline in Twickenham, Kingston and Kew Bridge too. If the Brentford Towers were closer to Central London they'd be icons. I can see them on an album cover now, but that's off people's radars looking from the centre of town. Most of all I enjoy taking pictures of the things other people might overlook – try and show people something new, even if it is very ordinary. The internet is good for that, giving a bit of exposure.

B: Do you feel like you are documenting London? Is there also an underlying theme of social comment to your photography?

N: If I am, it's a funny sort of London. When I started I don't think I was doing it consciously, I just went for what took my interest, but as it unfolded it started to look like a documenting of sorts. The social comment aspect is not one I've actively pushed, but I have my own views and they must have leaked into it over time. It's as much a process of coming to my own understanding of London as it is the pictures telling a story.

B: I'm most excited about your coverage of the margins of London - you seem to cover a disproportional amount: east, south, north east, north. Do you find yourself in these areas or seek them out?

N: It's a bit of a mishmash of both. When I started travelling out to areas with the camera I picked on the places I'd spent time in as a young child: inner south London - Walworth, Burgess Park, Peckham. That was a bit of a personal mission, really. I've only got memories to go on from that period as there were few photographs and none of the people involved in my life at that time are in touch anymore. I wanted to try and grasp a sense of how things were at that time and get a better understanding, so I decided one day to just visit, to try and catch the essence of the place, see how it made me feel. I brought the camera to see how a photo would be influenced by that, and I was pleased with the results so I started broadening out to other areas I knew well; I live in north east London and have friends scattered all round that area, so that's where I've tended to wind up.

I find outer London interesting, heh, maybe too interesting. I think looking at the city by dividing it into travelcard zones is a good way of doing it – round the outside the zone 5/6 areas with their own identities separate from London, especially the ones off the tube map: Romford as Essex, London is somewhere 'that way'. Most of these are settled in themselves, in the grander scheme of things. In the middle, Zone 1 looks at itself, in a mirror, a self aggrandising project, while eyeing up zone 2 – inner London - with hungry eyes. Somewhere new to colonise, to the point that it becomes more akin to 'central' London in the classic sense, where there is this huge wealth, the towering office blocks of the Docklands and the penthouses that come with it. But the time has come where they're pretty stable now too – so expensive to live in that they only attract the wealthiest, while the scramble for council housing is so intense that nobody in their right mind gives up a flat once they've got one.

That leaves the middle belt, these 'ordinary' areas, and I think that's where the true London is now – where the 'old' inner city has been pushed out to, that's where the change is happening. And like the old inner areas that were given short shrift and ignored by the arbiters of hot-or-not 15 or 20 years ago, these areas further out now are too often forgotten, for their better and worse attributes. When the people with money to burn arrived in areas like Whitechapel and Bethnal Green they were force-fed words like 'vibrant' and 'diverse', a showcase model of how London came to be the melting pot that it is, but it's these suburban areas that are seeing the process being repeated now: Walthamstow, Woolwich, Barking, Thornton Heath, Edmonton, and it's like nobody is noticing. And it's worth doing so, because sometimes it isn't a pretty sight – friction between old and new communities, sometimes within the new communities, issues of the sort that the BNP jumps on in Barking & Dagenham, does its scaremongering and gets council seats out of it. But there's something worth celebrating in there too – above all, the fact that the diversity of these areas hasn't had a price tag slapped on it yet by estate agents. Yet. And that's why I like to go and see these places as they are now before it happens, because I think eventually it will.

B: In practical terms, how do you get in and out of these sometimes quite serious areas, often in the middle of the night, while carrying a camera?

N: The camera just sits in my bag until I need it. I like to get a good sense an area before I start going around taking pics of it at night – at least one or two daytime visits first, as much to know where I'm going as it is to see whether it's worth a trip at night in the first place. A good knowledge of where the night buses go from helps too. But most of all, knowing exactly where you are and what's round the next corner makes all the difference with how you carry yourself.

B: Many of your photographs are taken after dark. Do you like being out at night? How does it make you feel? How does it make your shots feel?

N: It's my favourite time to do it – the smallest hours and into dawn. There's something about an empty city, being the only person in such a vast, urbanised space that is very special. Even the scent in the air is different, there's that dewy pre-dawn moisture in the air. You hear more in the silence, you see more in the dark, all the senses are heightened, you become so much more aware of your surroundings, I like to see how that affects me. It's made me realise that the chaos of the daytime city can dull your senses from overload, that London can
be two completely different cities. Compare riding a bus at 5pm to sitting on a night bus coming out of the West End at 3am. Even if people are out of their heads and making dicks of themselves, it's a certain trueness you don't get with the hundred impermeable bubbles sitting around you on the way home from work.

B: Lots of your photos of are of signs, defaced signs, details of local identity, key signifiers: tell me about this theme in your photography...

N: I've always enjoyed exploring what counts as a key signifier for an area – a street name, a mural, a building, that signifies a whole wider area, the one thing that everyone will have an understanding of. The 50p building in Croydon. A pub, a kebab shop! A point of agreement in a divided area, or symbols of the fact that an area is divided, tags on signs. But more interesting is when there aren't any. Is it because the idea of defending a local identity by drawing on signs never caught on, or because it's passed beyond that and it's being done some other way. But what? A balance of power between two different groups built on spoken words? I think things like defaced signs are just a 'stage' in the maturity of a local identity, it isn't the ultimate point.

B: Many of your shots are either signs or buildings, but seldom people. I find myself doing this too, but it eliminates the whole side of portrait taking and of the myriad emotional/gender/age/cultural/racial nuances of the human face, leaving the surroundings to imply the culture and people. Do you consciously shoot this way?

N: One day I really want to get into taking portraits of people, but it's just something I've never really tested the water on. In principle I'd like to get more people into my shots, but I instinctively wait until there's nobody in the frame before I shoot – not sure why. But I like to think someone will look at a picture of a properly grotty tower block, look past the emptiness outside and put on hypothetical x-ray specs, and see the hundreds of people inside doing ordinary daily things, but it's up to them to form their own views.

B: To me, much of what makes London fascinating is not just the highs and lows, but their proximity and inseparability. Is this something you see too?

N: Yeah, I see that. It is the rule rather than the exception now, I think. The city is a pressure cooker of a million different causes and interests, slotted into a thousand different sorts of environments. But it isn't completely harmonious, and barriers are going up all the time – not just gated luxury developments, but regenerated council estates that get fortified round the perimeter with massive fences, and a concierge hut at the entrance monitoring all-seeing CCTV. Who are they keeping out? Who are they keeping in? It doesn't matter whether Londoners are willing to tolerate their neighbours or not if the authorities keep putting up things like that, because a new generation is going to become used to living one side or another of a fence.

B: Given London has both rich and poor, What draws you to the less affluent edges of london?

N: I don't find much of interest in the more affluent areas. I grew up on a council estate in Tottenham, so what happened in Muswell Hill or Highgate was of no interest to me as a child, and to a point that's still true now. I like visiting the parts of London that feel like home, where things are actually in the process of happening, the blatant playing out of different views and opinions, rather than places that are trumpeting about what has already happened, where it is done and dusted, mission accomplished – and they tend to be the more affluent areas. There is a voice in those areas, but it's an energy busy keeping things the way they are so you don't see much obvious evidence of its existence. There's very little different
to see in, say, Highgate from one year to the next, so I don't find myself there often.

B: Crossways estate, Broadwater, Stonebridge, Aylesbury - estates being demolished. You seem to have been to pretty much every estate with a reputation in the capital. These are very territorial places, such that people who live there feel very safe to repel or confront locals or outsiders. How does this affect you when you visit?

N: I've never had to deal with any confrontation! I tend to stay low-key when I'm visiting an estate, especially one with a reputation, but when I have ended up talking to people it's always been pretty amiable. At the end of the day, if you don't put up a front to people then 95% of the time they won't put up a front to you, and that's as true on an estate as anywhere else. But if I do see a situation coming from the distance, I will melt off round a corner... practically speaking though I like to get onto an estate early in the day so I can hit the 'tradesmen's button and get into the blocks, and it tends to be a lot quieter then. On a basic level, if I'm visiting an estate I want to respect that space and not rub anyone up the wrong way while I'm there, because I know I'm an outsider. On some estates, though, they must be used to people wandering in and out with cameras – I was visiting one in Poplar a couple of years ago and took a photo of a multilingual council sign of some sort, when a load of kids came up to me. "There's another sign over there!". I thought that was a nice touch.

The second part of this interview, where Nico talks through some of his shots, will be published shortly...

Friday, November 07, 2008

2008: "not boring"

November 2008: end of year round up

Soul Motive 001: Joker

My end of year round up for Pitchfork featuring the best dubstep, grime, funky and wonky releases. My brain still hurts having tried to remember and rank every record I've heard in 12 months. That said Dot Rotten, Joker, Darkstar, Crazy Cousinz and Hyperdub: stand up tall.

Here's what the rest of the year in dubstep, grime, wonk and funk looked like. 2008: it was "not boring..."

October 2008

Zomby: Forest Friend

This month on Zomby plus grime's inroads into the mainstream (on its own terms).

September 2008

kode9 and Spaceape

The rise of the boundary smashers aka The month in dubstep, grime, garage, funky, soca-grime, wonky, UK hip hop-that-thinks-it's-grime, grime-that-thinks-it's-trance, -or house, -or pop, plus chip tunes, vocoder funk or free (road) jazz. Here.

August 2008


This month featuring LD and JME. Serious!

July 2008

Dot Rotten

The death of Young Dot and the resurrection of 2step by Grievous Angel here.

June 2008

the bug

On Rude Kid, The Bug and 2562. Check it here.

April 2008


The Wonky special which features Rustie, Hudson Mohawke, Quarta 330, Ikonika, Darkstar, Zomby, Flying Lotus, Samiyam, Starkey, Dev79, Joker, Guido, Gemmy, Pinch and Trim. Probably my favourite column of the year.

March 2008

This month's ramblings about Cotti, Skepta, Spyro, Rapid and funky. All roads leading to funky.

Feb 2008

Oneman at Generation Bass, Maida Vale

Up for this month is Oneman, TRG, Wiley, Bless Beats, Flowdan, Jerzy, Kuma, Horsepower, Trim and more.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"It’s special"


Today is an historic day, where the world basks in the energy from the people of the planet's most powerful nation instigating change. Dubstep DJ, Baltimore resident and long time election enthusiast, Joe Nice relays his reaction to an amazing night in American politics.

Blackdown: So Joe let's start at the top, did you vote in the US 2008 election and who did you vote for, or is that a silly question?

Joe Nice: Not a silly question at all…..I voted in this election and my choice for president was Barack Obama.

Blackdown: What was it about Obama that you think made them the man for the job?

Joe Nice: Obama was speaking to me. His politics were in line with what I was looking for in a presidential candidate. Obama’s candidacy was based on change. For years, the political scene in Washington, DC has been the same thing over and over again. Bi-partisan backstabbing, party-line rhetoric and wasted time. I was looking for change. America was looking for change…a change from the status quo and a new direction for the country.

Blackdown: It's seemed like a very unique election, with so much engagement and involvement from the US electorate: what's made it different for you?

Joe Nice: This election has been different for a few reasons:

1. This is the first presidential candidate I’ve ever believed in. I wasn’t alive when Martin Luther King or John F. Kennedy were around in the mid-to-late 60’s, but I’ve read enough history books and seen enough to know what each of them meant to America. When I hear and see Obama, it’s a mixture of the natural charismatic leadership of MLK combined with the hopes, dreams and aspirations that JFK wanted for America. Obama is a leader for our generation. I hope and pray that he doesn’t suffer the same fate as MLK and JFK.

2. The marketing of the Obama campaign. When was the last time you saw people wearing t shirts with the image of a presidential nominee on the front? Obama reached out to voters (new and old) where we are. Myspace. Facebook. Emails. His campaign has changed politics…..Obama has changed politics. He’s ended the mudslinging that’s taken place in years past. He’s raised the standards of politics by being honorable and truthful. Future elections will follow suit.

3. I felt like my vote really mattered. This isn’t like in years past…where you go to the polls and you feel the inevitable will take place. This election was different. I care about who wins….

4. The historical implications of this election. Long before Obama received the democratic nomination, he had to win the democratic primary…his opponent, Hillary Clinton….meaning you would have had either a woman or a black man as your democratic nominee for president. That’s never happened before. Additionally, Sarah Palin (provided a GOP win) would have been the first female VP.

5. The odds of anyone defeating Hillary Clinton. This can’t be overlooked. She’s a former first lady and currently a U.S. senator. Her husband, former governor of Arkansas and a former two-term president of the United States. The name “Clinton” in politics is a brand….a powerful brand…..not that much different than ‘Kennedy’. Americans know who they are and what that name represents. Obama vs Team Clinton is David v Goliath. David won. Obama won. One term senators from Illinois aren’t supposed to become president 4 years later. The odds of this are astronomical….but Obama said it best – “YES WE CAN”.

6. There’s never been an election that’s been so demographically different between the two candidates. You have a younger man running against, for all intents and purposes, a senior citizen. You have a black man versus a white man. You have a Harvard-educated lawyer against a career military soldier. The candidates are completely opposite…and that’s the reason this election is so polarizing – and so emotional. For every elated Obama supporter, there’s a dejected McCain follower.

Blackdown: In your lifetime, did you ever think you'd see a black President?

Joe Nice: Never.

Blackdown: As a black American, what does a black President mean to you?

Joe Nice: Martin – for me…this changes everything. A black president is a source of pride….for more than just black Americans or black people in America. His victory has been felt worldwide. The status quo has always been in place and there’s been a feeling of a glass ceiling for black people in the political arena. Sure…we can be congressmen, senators and members of the House of Representatives, but president is something that seemed out of reach…..every president before Obama has been a white male. No reason to think things will change, but Obama’s win – this changes everything. There will be more black people in higher political positions of power. 48 hours ago, I never thought there would be a black president. Now…I honestly believe there will be a black VP in my lifetime. Same for a black Speaker of the House. The glass has been broken….and this is more than just for black people. This is for all ethnicities. There’s every reason for a person from Hispanic descent (for example) to become president. It can happen. Obama’s win is also for women. I also believe there will be a female president in my lifetime. Look - there are more than a few people overseas that I speak to on a frequent basis and each of them are happy for the Obama victory. Obama has spoken about change and his victory proves it. The ultimate sign of change is having a black man as the “leader of the free world”. Having a black president – that’s progress.

As a side note….when it’s all said and done, you’ll see landmarks named after Obama. His win – it’s that historic.

I’d send my kids (when I have them) to Obama Middle School.
I’d live on Barack Blvd.
I’d fly into Obama International Airport.

Why not? It can happen……

Blackdown: What do you think Obama as a President will do for race relations in the US?

Joe Nice: Obama has challenged race to the highest degree. When he announced his candidacy, there were other black leaders that were saying that he wasn’t “black enough”. Naturally, there are going to be white people that weren’t going to vote for him because he’s black. Obama isn’t gonna rid America of racism…..that’s not happening anytime soon. Obama’s presidency will raise the level of tolerance and understanding among blacks and whites. That’s more than previous presidents can say for themselves. Once you start understanding each other – things change.

Blackdown: Describe the scenes and emotions in your neighbourhood in Baltimore?

Joe Nice: I’m typing this up and it’s after 1AM. I live on a major street in Baltimore city. Cars are driving by and horns blaring in the distance. People are screaming and shouting. Plenty of noise. Chants of ‘Obama’ and “YES WE CAN” are loud and clear. I haven’t heard people this fired up since 2001, when the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl. You can feel the energy and electricity of excitement in the air. It’s special…..

Blackdown: Do you think Obama will implement real change?

Joe Nice: Yes, but the change he wants will take time. He won the election and the work starts now. There’s never been a president-elect with this much work on the table.
Here are the issues:

1. the economy
2. ending the war
3. healthcare
4. ending the dependency on foreign oil.
5. creating jobs.
6. finding renewable sources of energy

Joe Nice: If an incoming president had just one or two of those issues, that would potentially take a term to resolve…..especially # 1 and 2. America wants these issues resolved right away and there are just not enough hours in the day. Let’s not forget – there could be an attack on American soil or a catastrophic natural disaster that will also need Obama’s attention. These aren’t issues that require a Band-Aid and 3 days…. These are issues that will take time to heal. I fully believe he’ll get the job done. I’ve got faith in him. I was chatting with Martyn a while ago, just after Obama’s speech in Germany and he said something that struck a chord, “Obama isn’t just presidential, he’s a world leader.”

That statement made all the sense in the world and it got me thinking….is there more Obama can do for America and the world outside of the confines and constraints of the American political system? The answer is yes. I believe there’s a destiny for America and the world that he can fulfill. This world needs help – lots of it. Homelessness. Poverty. AIDS. Clean water. Education. Food. Environmental issues. The list goes on…..

There’s a worldwide humanitarian need and I fully believe Obama is the man for the job --- whatever job that is. I don’t know if he becomes an ambassador, the CEO of Unicef or if he starts his own foundation. Who knows what the future holds? I know there’s more hope the future with Obama as president.

Obama’s win has also changed the view of America around the world. America has lost a lot of respect from other countries around the world because of the past 8 years. Yesterday morning, I was awake very early and I was on AIM chatting with a few people from overseas. The topic of conversation wasn’t “how is the election” it was “when does Obama get elected”. A McCain victory would mean at least another 4 years of the same Bush tactics and neither the world nor America needs or wants that to happen. People around the world will relate to Obama. He’s seen poverty. He’s lived in a foreign country. He is real. He’s completely different than GW Bush. America is in a much better place now than they were 24 hours ago.

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.