Sunday, September 28, 2008

Spyro v Marcus NASTY v Mak 10 v Maximum = wot do you call it?

· Spyro v Maximum
· Spyro v Marcus NASTY
· Marcus NASTY v Mak 10

Over the last month, the rate of acceleration of the funky scene and it’s interaction with grime, has seemed to speed up through the sets of four super selectors. No doubt the warm, 4x4 housey end continues to flourish, but it’s the interaction with grime DJs that has been enthralling.

Recently there seems to be a loose collection of super DJs, a-list grime or funky selectors, who’ve been collaborating on Rinse in various formats in ground breaking fashion. Marcus NASTY, head of grime’s NASTY crew but longtime uk house/funky DJ on Déjà Vu, turned up on Rinse for an impromptu b2b with grime’s Spyro which featured MCs Griminal and Badness. Marcus also went b2b with NASTY’s DJ Mak10, once the grime DJs’ DJ but now a convert to funky. Spyro then went b2b with Maximium, the Roll Deep and Boy Betta Know selector, the latter of whom have spent several summers in Napa trying to take the pan-genre entertainers crown off Heartless Crew, and succeeding, by all accounts. (It was Maximum who broke Benga and Coki’s “Night,” turning it into an anthem in funky, bassline and grime).

Of the three sets - Marcus NASTY v Spyro, Mak10 v Marcus NASTY and Spyro v Maximum – it’s the latter that seems to break most ground. Here’s some highlights:

Spyro v Maximum on Rinse

Within 5 minutes Maximum is mixing the instrumental of (ex-grime and UKG) Donae’o’s funky anthem “African Warrior” into Frisco. In general most funky is around 130 bpm, which is standard for funky house, while grime’s stayed around 140bpm but feels slower because of the MC-friendly halfstep drum patterns.

Within that mix, you can see the power struggle in grime evolving. As grime moved into the mixtape era, where the mix CD was the dominant format and creative goal, once major deals became scarce, the beats chosen began to massively favour the listening experience over the dancefloor. MCs wrote to establish their “artist” status, not to scream a trademark one-liner it got a reload on Slimzee/Logan/Cameo’s Sidewinder set.

The roles of the DJs have increasingly become marginalised in grime, which is why it is little surprise to see DJs like Mak10 or Ruff Squad’s Scolar migrating through the porous border with funky. If grime is all about on-road peer status, and being the DJ is second fiddle to the MCs, who wants to be a DJ?

As grime went further down the MC/mixtape/rap/halfstep route, it made grime raves increasingly like concerts and less like, well, raves. Crowds would wait for the clashing and sending to start and only react when trademark bars were dropped, not a big riddim. This makes for an amazingly raw spectacle, as Ghetto’s mixtape launch at Dirty Canvas showed earlier this year, but the rise of funky does suggest many of the female urban music fans had long since migrated to the more danceable funky.

(Yes I know, saying girls don’t like grime and only want to dance sounds like a bad argument, but I’ve chatted to funky promoters who’ve been worried no men would turn up and have had girls complaining to a-list funky DJs that there’s next to no men at the rave. Conversely grime nights are overwhelmingly male dominated, in my experience.)

I’ve been saying grime needs to get more danceable for about two years now but given how the power balance in grime favours the MCs, who pre-“Rolex Sweep” have little incentive to go danceable, it’s been down to the DJs to make the change.

Given the rise of funky, and the subsequent influx of ex-grime producers/youngers into the older scene, it’s inevitable that part of it would go grimier. Add in the fact that DJs like Spyro and Maximum are master artists with the Pioneer CDJ1000 decks, which have massive pitch bend range (most vinyl decks = +/-8%, CDJ1000s = +/-100% !!!), and the 130 > 140 bpm barrier is near irrelevant, as Maximum shows when he blends in “African Warrior (instrumental).” Shorn of the (embarrassing) vocal, its dark strings sound Eski; it’s flailing percussion add energy to Frisco’s bars: funky and grime begin to blur, just like Kode blurred dubstep and grime on Dubstep Allstars 3 with mixing and EQing.

Dusk and I had talked about funky earlier, how interesting it was and how it might apply to us and our sound, as I know a lot of London producers in dubstep and grime are too. The question is, with parts of dubstep off chasing the post-new-school d&b wobble dollar at 145bpm and above, do we cut out and drop to 130 bpm? Dusk was like “ah don’t worry, let’s wait: there’ll be a speed war and before you know it, funky will be up with us at 138bpm.” And he was right, only far quicker than either of us anticipated.

“Dem man are happy with a reload/me I want a dutty yard in Finchley...”
- Frisco “Big Man Ting”

The electro angle is an interesting aside to this debate, but it’s essentially motivated by commerce. Electro isn’t big in the ends, it’s the preserve of the NME/Hoxton massive, but grime MCs have never been shy of doing anything that will get them fame and money. Once Wiley took the risk and hit the jackpot with “Rolex Sweep,” Skepta, Stryder, Ghetto, Lethal Bizzle and Flowdan weren’t afraid of getting involved too.

Additional highlights:
28 mins
In comes the bongos, like it was Skream’s “Konga”.

31 mins
“Ner ner ner... n n ner...”. In comes Lil Silva’s funky anthem. “Next one sounds angry!” shouts Spyro.

35 mins
D1’s “Oingy Boingy” gets mixed into Lil Silva’s “Mash Up the Ends.” “This tune is so effed...”

If any more proof of the interaction between grime and funky, then Maximum’s special of Lil Silva’s refix of “Pulse X,” the tune that cleared the vocals out of UK garage and made a (dark) space for grime.

Roll Deep’s Danny weed or Target come in with some driving congo work out

59: hold tight Will [Wiley] on the last one.

Dizzee on IceRink!!!

JME refix/Maximum special of Groove Chronicle’s remix of Myron. Spyro: "What can i play after this that can do damage? Nothing. You're an idiot..."


Beyond and around

One of the things that I’ve found fun about funky since I first interviewed Gee, Supa D and Soulja, is the sense of familiarity of the patterns of evolution of funky, having seen UK garage expand and then fragment. It all seems to be one big Circle, sorry circle. Simon Reynolds, in an amazing piece of insight describes it with a swing of a pendulum’s arm.

“Historically, there's been an internal pendulum between pleasure and the more-than-pleasure X-Factor/Edge-Factor... This pendulum swings back and forth between pure-pleasure-and-nothing-else versus the ascesis/punitiveness of Edge Factor pursued to the exclusion of entertainment. It's a self-correcting mechanism... These mechanisms are activated (deejays, producers, promoters responding to the desertion of the dancefloor, or deterioration of the vibe) whenever the music goes too far in one direction... techstep leading to speed garage was the classic landslide election "swing" (punters voting with their dancing feet)....

Funky house seems to have been activated by the doubled upshot of grime and dubstep, indeed there was a trial run of it a few years ago called "urban house" (timmi magic talking about getting rid of the MC and the rewind and restoring "live percussion"--clearly the latter is the hallmark of funky house! [that Timmi Magic Deuce piece was by me, I really must dig it out sometime... – Blackdown]), but perhaps has swung back too far in the opposite direction, to the nullity of pure pleasure.”

On Thursday I swung down to the launch of Geeneus’ funky night, Beyond @ Bar Rumba. One of the circles, cycles that goes on is the relationship between a genre’s incubation on the margins of London, in clubs like grime @ Sidewinder and Rex, jungle @ Peckham Lazer Drome and then how they migrate into the centres and broaden their audience/gain visibility with the media, i.e. Speed @ Mars Bar or Forward>> @ Velvet Rooms. Beyond had the feel of that moment again, this time for funky.

Beforehand I was thinking to myself: when did I last go to Bar Rumba? It reminded me of a time in about ’97, though I’m sure I’ve been back since. I was doing work experience at Mixmag and ended up at some launch party there. A friend and I got wedged into one of those a booths they have there and started chatting to the people next to us. I met some bloke called Neil, who worked at a distribution company, then forgot all about him. Two or three years later, circa 2000, I was Mixmag’s garage editor. I bought this dark garage record on Shelflife, emailed the contact name on the sleeve to say I liked it, and realised it was put out by Neil. That year he quit his job to found Tempa and Forward>> with Soulja.

So as I came down the stairs, I bumped into Kode9, preparing for his set. I was just beginning to say “I was thinking to myself: when did I last go to Bar Rumba?” when 9 cut me off mid flow.

“You know Neil’s here?”

Full circle anyone?

To add to the headspin, Beyond felt like early Forwards>>. Kode was playing the warm up set (he was the resident warm up DJ to empty crowds at Forward>> for years! Hard to imagine in these headlining, Sonar-rocking times!) to an empty dancefloor. Literally: the club had put a curtain and cordoned off the dancefloor so you couldn’t go on it. Inside it felt like early FWD>> again only because of the overwhelming number of headz: shout to Soulja, Grevious Angel, Boomnoise, Dan Hancox, Farrah, Dusk, Chris from Kiss, Dave from Rinse, Melissa Bradshaw and no doubt more.

Soon we invaded the dancefloor, to hear Kode b2b sour funky. One tune of his has been beguiling me since he dropped it at FWD>>. It is such pitchbent analogue sour broken bliss I videoed it so everyone can hear it.

The urban crowd, late as always, began to full the club as Kode’s set ended. Dee and Perempay stood at the bar with a bunch of dressed up gyals. MA1 began dropping some more standard funky, including the epic “Something in the Air” by Dee and Permpay (aka Da’vinche and Bossman). Never let it be said I only like the dark stuff - I love full on vocal tunes and Kyla “Do You Mind” is one of my tunes of the year - I’m just fussy about which ones.

I had to cut out long before the night ended, due to a very unfortunate very early start the next day. But if the cycle goes round to where previous rotations have taken us, Beyond is just the beginning.


CLUBMOSS said...

LDN makes NYC seem boring.

pollywog said...

fnky like grime wil neva take off worldwide like dubstep has !!!

...2 years and it wil disappear up its own nose in a blaze of violence like UKG

there's my prediction...

...and for the record no one gives a shit what london is listening to anymore

Anonymous said...

pollywog said:
"fnky like grime wil neva breakstep breakstep take off breakstep worldwide like dubstep has breakstep breakstep !!!"

why not? funky is way more commercial than dubstep, which i doubt will take off in a truly commercial sense - it might get crowds on the magnitude of justice, or the bigger players in the techno scenes, but i doubt any of its going to make the charts on a regular basis (not neccessarily a bad thing, mind). funky, on the other hand is ready made for chart success.

Anonymous said...

wow pollywog is really coherent

what do we care about please do tell!?!?

Anonymous said...

bottom line is, when all the theorizing about what uk funky represents or how it fits in is over, these 3 sets are fucking great!

Elijah said...

What you said about Spyro & Maximum making grime more danceable, is right in theory. But they aren't playing sets like this in the clubs.

Because we are rarely treated to grime in the clubs, they are pushed to do "certified banger" sets. Mainly vocal as well. Top 3 selected, Duppy, I spy,Forward Riddim, (yes grime djs still play that).

As you said, the grime crowd come out to most of the time come to see the biggest clash or hype moments. DJ's doing really creative sets is limited to radio. It is a shame really, but that is the best way of documenting it anyway.

I do opening sets at Chockablock so there's no pressure to play a lot of the massive vocal stuff, allows me to get out the instrumental stuff , and go crazy with the pitch bend, I love it! It is a shame the top dj's cant be as daring in the dances.

daniels said...

That 9 tune is nuts. Consider me interested.

cólz said...

This article is bang on the money

James said...

You have to get on Kode 9's case to release that tune its insane!

This is getting interesting I'm all for a massive melting pot of grime, funky, dubstep, wonkey...

I have my 50% pitch shiftin viynal decks at the ready.

These mixes are wicked too cheers for putting the links up and the good words.

Anonymous said...

It's a real shame seeing how grime slowly gets away from the dance music spectrum, although it's good to see how good djs always find a place to explore their ideas. I hope more and more djs take the chance to investigate the links between genres, not only grime and house, but also other kinds of music around this tempo.
(thoughtful) diversity was always where it's at for me.

What I'm not feelin though, is the use of the term 'electro' on tunes like Rolex Sweep, people is confused enough about what it means (probably because of misguiding terms like electroclash or electrohouse) and I feel like at this point we should be very careful not to make it any worse.

Great to see Kode9 getting his hands on something that's not dubstep too, this and his funky tune in collaboration with L.D are some of the most original and refreshing tunes I've been hearing as of late.

Thanks a lot for the sets and the piece, always a good read :) It'd be nice if you dug out that article about Timmi Magic too, I'm really curious about it now.

Corpsey said...

Marcus on rinse tonight was heavy!

Unknown said...

oh damn the Rinse links are now broken? i should not have slacked off on those. anyone still have a good link for those two sets?

pollywog said...

fnky will get the hipsters shakin their asses for about half a minute til the next *ahem* big london thing comes along but it lacks the subtlety and space of dubstep in all its variations...

...fnky just seems to one dimensional hence its accessablity to the great and dumbed down unwashed

fuck the charts, i'd like to see dubstep stay underground never become commercial or go mainstream, its what'll protect its longevity and substance...

... and fuck burial for outing himself over a stupid award he didnt even win

fwiw that kode9 trak sounds like some Hell Science Dept shit from 5 yrs ago but not as good...heh

...that'll about do it for today, have yourselves a right ol time yeah ???

Anonymous said...

"fnky like grime wil neva take off worldwide like dubstep has !!!"
I seriously doubt that.i mean neither fnky nor dubstep will take off worldwide.there are areas where ppl never heard of dubstep even nowadays..

Charles Irish

Charles Irish, Bridgton, Maine 4009 - SSN, Credit Records, Arrest Records, Court Records, Criminal Records ..

Anonymous said...

Some people claiming the funky scene is attracting some of the wrong people.

Anonymous said...

The link did't publish correctly. Somebody got shot at SE1 on Saturday, at a funky/garage night. Interesting discussions taking place.

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