Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I had a dream

Dublime @ Fabric Sunday 25th May featuring Lee Perry Soundsystem, Congo Natty aka Rebel MC, Dillinja, Loefah, Don Letts, Souljazz Soundsystem, MCs Pokes, Warrior Queen and Rod Azlan. Pole, Sleeparchive, Kode 9, Scuba, Pinch, Appleblim vs Peverlist, Downshifter with MCs Flow Dan and Rogue Star. Iration Steppaz, Moody Boyz, Anti Social, Dusk & Blackdown, Earl Gateshead and Jonny Trunk.

It was around the end of 2001 that I decided I wanted to learn to produce. The early Forward>> parties at Velvet Rooms had got me hooked and so I set myself some goals.

One of them was that I dreamt of playing Fabric. It seemed laughable at the time, in fact my friend, who I expressed this goal to (hey James!) definitely had a good laugh. Getting to a stage where I’d play the club seemed so impossibly far away that I couldn’t even see the steps required to get there. In fact they remained distant as close as this Christmas, over seven years later.

But I’m playing Fabric this Sunday. I blame the dream.

In general, I’m not overly mad about dreaming. The term seems synonymous with people of no action or direction. It conjures up suggestions of naivety, which won’t get you very far.

But there’s another kind of dreaming.

I guess I tend to focus on what’s possible, what’s real or what’s around me. Electronica’s headspace irritates me because it’s all plastic utopias, whereas dubstep’s bass is grounded in reality. But the key part of getting to where I’ve wanted to be has been allowing myself to not just accept what’s around me but to dare to imagine what could be.

The first time I mentioned the words “Dusk + Blackdown album” it was summer 2006 and I’d been on the phone to our (very understanding) distribution company. Just me saying the words out loud had left me shocked. I came away from the phone and thought “damn, I’ve said it out loud now, I better go work out how to do it.” I’d dared to dream.

So there we are: Dusk and I are playing Fabric on Sunday. Seems insane but it’s true. I for one won’t be taking it for granted.

Friday, May 16, 2008

"I'm not saying I'm big/but my face is in the Guardian..."

Isle of Dogs

Mr Stelfox comes correct with a piece in today's Guardian about grime mixtapes. Thanks to Dave not just for the kind words about "The Bits" but for getting a massive shot of Trimbale into the paper, where he rightly belongs. "...Nan, thanks for the cardigan."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Rinse May this Thurs

Rinse FM


We were back on Rinse this week, Thurs 8th 11pm-1am rolling the grimey, wonkey and skippy. The lights blew out half way through, which actually added to the vibe.

Here's the offical download link.

Dusk + Blackdown Rinse May '08 show

United Grooves Collective ft Gods Gift "Mic Tribute" (Jameson remix) (United Grooves)
Craig David "Fill Me In (Sunship dub)" (Atlantic)
Darqwan "3 Note Blue" (Hospital)
Zoom & DBX "Coming Again (Tubby remix)" (white)
Sound of the Future "Sound of the Future" (SOTF)

Skream "Angry World" (unreleased)
Sully "Duke St Dub" (unreleased)
Shup Up and Dance "Epileptic (Martyn remix) (unreleased)
TRG "Sputnik" (unreleased)

Gemmy "BK To Tha Future" (unreleased)
Zombie "Revolution" (unreleased)
Joker "Snake Eater" (unreleased)
Doctor and Ny "Street Soldier" (unreleased)
Skream "Smokers" (unreleased)
Forsaken "Fighting Spirit" (Immerse)
Al-Haca "Kryptonite (TRG remix)" (unreleased)

LD and Cluekid "Not Gonna Cry" (unreleased)
Starkey "Gutter Music" (unreleased)
Doctor and Cotti "Temperature" (unreleased)
Martyn "Vancouver" (unreleased 3024)
Kosheen "Guilty (Plastician remix)" (unreleased)

Sully "Sleezy" (unrealeased)
Grievous Angel "My Dub" (unreleased)
shonky "Eternal" (unreleased)
Mavado "Dying (Blackdown refix)" (dubplate)
Dusk + Blackdown "Akkaboo" (Keysound Recordings dubplate)

Out to David M for saving our audio bacon with the recording of this one.

In the meantime, you can still download the last show from the Rinse podcast (via iTunes) or from the Rinse blog here. You can still download the February show here.


Photo by infinite
I'm going to reach Sonar for the first time this year. Mary Anne, Mala, Shackleton, Flylo, Diplo and some sun, sea and pedalo seemed too much to resist.

Now, I could just as easily pack a few dubs with me. You know from our Rinse show we've got a few.

So if you're in Barcelona and looking for some bass pressure around the festival, give me a shout.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The flow dan

Greenwich foot tunnel

Photos by Alex sturrock

It goes without saying how much I love grime MCs but there’s something unique about the delivery, the local information in the encoded in the tone, nuances and flow of grime MC bars, that – in my experience – often get lost if you try and write them down on “paper.”

Recently I noticed Trim’s bars are an exception to the rule: playful, coded and layered. So here’s a breakdown of “The Low Dan” a “talking ting” aka spoken dis-dub that is the highlight of his recent “Soulfood vol 3” mixtape…

"The Low Dan"
(Soulfood Vol 3)

Alright, lemme tell you the Low Dan, haha…

Trim sets out his stall on this dis-dub by taking the classic grime route of attacking an opponents’ identity by abusing his (brand) name. Hence “Low Dan” is a play on both the explanatory term “the low down” and Roll Deep’s MC Flowdan’s name, the crew Trim is now an ex-member of, which this dis-track is aimed at. The fallout of Trim’s exit from Roll Deep dominates this track and many others on his recent mixtapes.

Lemme tell you the saga,
I’m ape-looking and marga,

Marga is Jamaican slang for skinny, Spaceape explained to me once. I found it funny, given there was an MC called Marga Man and another called Skinnyman.

Trim’s also has an odd obsession with monkeys and adorns the Soulfood artwork series with artwork that apes (sic) the film “12 Monkeys.” Oddly, he regularly talks about monkey business and various ape analogies, despite the historical use of this metaphor (i.e. looking like a monkey) by racists.

Came in this game for a laughter
I’m a monkey that will split your banana

Here he replaces the word “laugh” for “laughter” for rhyming sake, before using a variation on the monkey theme and twist on the usual MC boasting-as-pre-emptive-threat bars, which together make comical bedfellows.


Grime MCing isn’t that profitable. It’s pretty risky too. It is however, all about peer group visibility.

Lemme tell you the Low Dan,
They should have called me Flowdan

Grime MCs are obsessed with status through identity and vice versa. Trim promises to tell the truth but re-appropriates Flowdan’s name: a direct attack on the MC’s identity, suggesting that his bars (flow) - and by inference not Flowdans - are so good they should have called him a don, a term that’s often altered in urban slang to “dan.”

Look! Talking ting.

Grime MCs “spit bars,” but sometimes the anger on dis-dubplates overwhelms them, such that they speak. Sometimes people involved with the scene but who aren’t MCs need to visibly, make that audibly, retaliate to war that concerns them. The upshot is a “talking dub,” a spoken word diss-dubplate.

Volume 3. I am Trimothy.

In a scene dominated by identity-based status, Trim plays with his name: Trim, Trimbale, Trimothy, Trevan, Shank-van … bouncing his name, bending his brand, expanding its worth with each transformation.

You’ve got the wrong end of the stick.
The wrong person: I ain’t him.
All this talk about… like… all this talkin’
Wrong end of the stick, wrong person, I ain’t him.
All this talk about slappin’ like I’m scared to clench my fist…

Much of MC bars are advanced bravado. I had this explained to me in the early days of grime by the Dizzee’s manager, yet I’ve always found it hard to qualify how much to believe, how much to take literally.

When I find myself wandering dark parts of London trying, as I have recently, climbing into places where I don’t belong to try and locate Trim (long story, will tell you later...), I hear these words again. People with me, who haven’t listened to as much grime as I have over the years, don’t seem so as affected. How much is bravado, and how much is … real?

…and tump someone in the face.
Listen, I got magic tricks,
Like: now you see ‘em, now you don’t
No matter how small the hat the rabbit fits.

Nice magic metaphor from Trim.
“Tump” is a corruption of “thump.”

Isle of Dogs

I smoke weed.
I’m from E14

Almost more prevalent than status-related identity, are location-related identity bars. In grime, disputes over tiny disparities of turf are the be-all and end all. Roll Deep got angry at me once when a sub changed an intro to say that their Baring House/West Ferry/Lime House aka “Whilehouse” (“because it gets so wild”)” was “proper east end like the Isle of Dogs.” I.o.D is where Trim, now ex-Roll Deep, is from, and it’s little more than a mile or two down the road: yet it made all the difference.

I slip.
You got a squeeze on Vol 1 & 2.
About you telling police about what I did.
But I ain’t Flowdan:
I ain’t gonna hold my mouth while you’re hyping.

This in essence is the root of the dispute between Trim and Roll Deep, and why he’s no longer a member: that when things got serious (“hype”) between him and the owner of a certain other crew in Napa, he wasn’t stood by.

Look. Listen.
You can only talk so much Vol 3: Soulfood, Soulfood.

Trim calls his mixtape “Soulfood,” because “because there’s drugs out there that fuck with people’s souls.”

It’s me, Trimbale,
And I’m on the streets, in the area.
Aks for Trim, aks for Trimothy

Trim’s got an amazing way of pronouncing “ask” like its written “aks” or “azk”.

Between his corruption of pronounciation, his road slang and wordplay, Trim’s got an amazing grasp of the Queen’s English. It makes me think of all those stuffy, establishment grumpy bastards like John Humphrys, who use their expensive educations to write books bemoaning the demise and diversity of the English language.

I don’t buy it.

No one complains as business dullards invent and distribute Corporate Inc-speak or countless meaningless acronyms. And these establishment guys are the ones who celebrate those that recite past variants of the language like Chaucer or Shakespeare. Yet when young people use text speak or their own slang, it’s an attack on the Queen’s finest, not a celebration of diversity. Sure I appreciate the value of one, standard common language, to promote common understanding, but meaning is so easily conveyed by nuance or inference, why should we accept that language is static or centrally owned, by the Queen or those mistakenly defending her. I’d prefer to aks for Trim.

And what’s worse about the establishment claiming definitive ownership of the English language is that grime so clearly cherishes it too. Look at how expressions are overtly created and propagated by its key players through mediums like mixtapes or pirate radio. Take Flowdan’s use of “NASA” last year or the current row over “it’s a lot”.

And you know when you used to look up to certain man, doe?
And you just… y’get me.
But I don’t look up to no one, in that term
But I just thought certain man were real, get’me?

Grime’s always had an obsession with reality, with being “real,” despite much of it being bravado or an over emphasis on aggression. In many ways that’s what set it apart from both the escapist, dance-focused UK garage scene and the hyper-surreal riches of this decade’s US rap.

Within this real aggression, the currency of war is reputation. Slewing, clashing, parring: they’re all methods of damaging an opponent’s most important asset, their standing within a peer group. And while this is something Trim specialises in, it’s still not to be taken lightly, hence the culture of the “indirect” bar where an opponent is alluded to but not directly named. “Call out me name/call out me name…” spits Trim elsewhere on “Soulfood Vol 3,” daring other MCs to abandon indirects.

He’s on his last legs,
He ain’t got a leg to stand on, he’s past dead.
I can’t wait to hear the album,
You should have called it “Past Tense”
Big for nothing, some say coward,
You’re having a bubble bath about shower.

This final bar is the most incredible line on the whole of “Soulfood 3.” It’s proof that Trim’s bars are absolutely leaden with complex meaning and delicious wordplay.

Trim’s from east London, where the white working class stereotypes of Cockney’s come from. By legend, real Cockneys are born within the sound of Bow Bells church and they too have their own twist of language. Here Trim uses Cockney rhyming slang, to swap “laugh” for “bubble bath.”

“Shower,” like Flowdan’s “NASA,” is an expression propagated by Roll Deep (primarily Riko) circa 2004/5. In the first instance it comes from the legendary Jamaican gang the Shower Posse, but comes to mean “good” in the way anything in street culture with strength, power or a fearless reputation is equated with good.

By neatly pairing “bubble bath” with “shower” in a washing metaphor, Trim says

You’re having a bubble bath about shower.

Which in the Queen’s (yawn) English means:

You’re joking if you think Flowdan has a reputation for being hard.

He continues…

And I’ve always said that Jamakabi’s better,
Riko’s the best,
But now Killa P is better than you,
You’re pissed.

Here he groups all the grime MCs who, like Flowdan, have a Jamaican “Yardie” twist to their flow, and ranks them, naturally with Flowdan coming out worst. Note also the US use of the term “pissed.” Whereas in conventional UK slang, “pissed” means drunk, the pervasive influence of US rap and cinema means Trim’s fans will recognise this as meaning “annoyed.”

And Killa P ain’t in Roll Deep for them same reasons
I’ve noticed.

But you ain’t told him,
He just thinks…
Why don’t you tell him certain man don’t want him in it?

The use of “certain” to mean someone undefined is signature grime parlance. It stems from the severity of calling someone’s name out and from knowing that by calling that name out, the person will be duty bound to retaliate. In this case we can speculate that Trim’s avoiding involving members of Roll Deep he doesn’t have a direct issue with.

…FlowDan’s a big guy, a big man, like.
I’m only 23, he’s 28, 29.
I’m just lookin’ up to him and talking to him in certain ways.

More use of the word certain, this time used to hide how he used to act with respect around Flowdan.

And cause his parents are from the same place, getme,
We socialise, but…
He does certain tings to make me think, like,
He ain’t really out for me, getme.

This seems to suggest some of their past respect was based on shared cultural roots (Trim’s parents are from St Lucia), but now present local politics have over-ridden them.

So, he could be one of the reasons why I aint in Roll Deep right now.
He could be.

Because he’s chatting shit,
And we know he is,
Can’t pull the wool over,
You’ve been Rowing since 1990,
So let me have a go at it.

The “Rowing” reference, Trim explained to me after he used it in “The Bits,” is a coded reference to Roll Deep. The age dis is another grime feature. Grime MCs are often kept on their toes by “youngers,” members of sub crews that rank lower in the pecking order but are often more eager to prove themselves and hence, more unhinged. The age concern is present in bars like Jammer’s “I’m a big man/ but I’m not 30…” as reaching that age would be the end of the world, an idea possible only if you’re 15 and 30 seems an un-imaginable horizon.

They should have called me Flowdan,
What’s he flowing with?
He’s doing drive by shootings with no van,
He’s full of shit,
And daddy’s a badman,
Ask daddy about Lee Van Cleef,
I’ m Lee Van Spit!
Your belly went when Marcus turned into He-Man and switched...

Aye, there’s the rub.