Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Happy Birthday: I am 5

DJ Hatcha mixtape hi res

Five years ago today I started this blog. It was an accident of sorts: I was curious how hard it would be to register for one. Answer: not very. Liberated to write about whatever I felt strongly, I quickly grew to love blogging... and so here we are.

Over the years I've published a bunch of interviews with Dizzee Rascal, Skream, Burial, Burial again in depth, Shackleton, Trim, Skepta, Grievous Angel, Appleblim, Spyro, Mala n Loefah, Loefah, Loefah and Kryptic Minds, Silkie, Newham Generals, DVA, Dot Rotten, Marcus NASTY and Zomby's parrot.

I've documented my trips to Tokyo, NYC once, NYC twice, LDN by night, LDN by Nico Hogg's bike, Southall and China (imagined).

Some of my favourite posts include the What do you call it: funky? with Supa D, Soulja and Gee, *ahem* wonky, where is dubstep, and Trim's flow.

So, as it's traditional to give presents on birthdays, I've got a little something to share: an exclusive vintage mix CD by Hatcha from the foundational days in high quality.

· Download the Hatcha 2002 mix CD: here.

UPDATE: Skream's worked out a tracklist!

Skream and Benga - The Judgment
Benga - Star Wars
Skream - ?
Skream - Dubsteppa
Macarbre Unit - Its All About
Benga - Skank
Benga - Skank VIP
Jameson - Switch
Skream N Benga - WAR BOOTLEG
Dubchild - Roll That,Light It,Smoke It
Benga - The Virus
Skream - The Bug
Menta - Jacknife
Jammin - Tonka - Menta Remix
Benga - Full Cycle
Benni Ill Vs Hatcha - Highland Spring
Skream - Futures Dark
Skream - CapeFear

In the earliest days of dubstep the scene really was a tiny collective, with perhaps no more than 50 or so interested participants. In those times the way music got distributed (long before broadband), was by the passing of CDs, often down at Forward>> and this promo mix CD by Hatcha is one of several he gave out. I have two or three (including the 2005 "Practice Hours" one) and I bet even more exist. They're unique records in the development of dubstep, not least because more than anyone ever has and perhaps ever will, Hatcha singularly had more influence over what dubstep was and has now become.

The hardest part is dating it. My educated guess is 2002 or failing that late 2001. You can date stamp it by book-ending it with producers it doesn't feature. At one end you have no Ghost, Zed Bias or warm garagey beats, so that rules out 2000 and early 2001. On the other hand there's no Mala, no Loefah or coki, so that rules out 2003 when "Pathwayz" and a whole host of DMZ other beats began to emerge through his sets. And it's long before he began blew up Scuba, Distance and Caspa by playing their new dubs. There's even a little bit of 8bar grime, from Jon E Cash and Soulo (aka Jameson), which was never a huge feature of Hatcha's sets, though it popped up from time to time.

(To go off on a tangent, this CD is from even before Rinse embraced dubstep but I remember one time a few years later listening to Hatcha on Rinse only to hear him drop a mashup of Danny Weed and Cage's "Creeper" and a Whitney Houston accapella! It was awesome but it stuck in my mind as so out of character, as his sets were 90% exclusive dubstep dubs.)

What this CD does have is shed loads of Benga and Skream plus a little Artwork/Menta and Horsepower. The first time I recall hearing of Benga and Skream is when Hatcha boasted he had two new protégés while in the coat queue for the Maddslinky album launch party at 2002. It was memorable because in those times dubstep (though it wasn't really named yet) couldn't get into clubs like Cargo. It seems unimaginable now that Skream's remix of La Roux is a chart anthem and Benga is producing for Eve but it's true - and that state of affairs persisted for years, really up until DMZ proved you could successfully do dubstep clubs on a large scale.

So let’s say this is 2002. What you do hear is a snapshot of the early Benga and Skream sound. In many ways it was this just a little of a broad body of work - they were prolific writers, with literally thousands of tracks made between them, many now lost due to hard drive crashes and PC viruses - that transitioned dubstep from the dark swung garage of El-B, Horsepower and Zed Bias to the mid era of Loefah, Mala, Coki, Kode9, and of course Skream & Benga themselves.

You can hear the differences. On one hand gone is the housey warmth and r&b soul that El-B scattered in his bassy tracks to create a potent sweet/sour mix. Equally this is before Mala brought this bright spectrum of technicolour to dubstep with expansive, visionary tracks like "Neverland" and "Forgive" (compare Skream's sound here to his 2005 promo mix, where he admits Digital Mystikz gave him a kick up the arse). It's also before Loefah popularised the halfstep beat: the structures here are all 2steppy, with snares on the 2 and 4. (Interestingly, I've since noticed that DJ Abstract's early classic "Touch" is sorta halfstep, with snares on the 3 and 4, though it never caught on at the time).

What you see in Skream, Benga and also Plastician's sound of the time is a vision that's dark, clipped, minimal and grime-inspired. Indeed Geeneus has said in interview to me that he and Slimzee (an early champion of Benga), when they weren’t busy smashing up raves as proto grime godfathers Pay As U Go used to refer to dubstep as "safe grime." Listen to their sound, built on Fruity Loop synths, and there's a coldness to it. The warping basslines, which became a signature at the time, were built on the TS404 plug in. It was to Croydon what the 303 was to Chicago in the late 80s.

While Skream and Benga have since made more emotive records, I'm nostalgic for this era, especially as it now no longer makes up such a large proportion of the output of the scene. But this proportion played a crucial role. Around these times UK garage as a scene was all but collapsed, grime was going it's own angry way and no one wanted to touch what would be dubstep with a barge pole. El-B got frustrated at the darkness in the Forward>> scene and disbanded Ghost to form El-Tuff while Zed Bias began to be interested in broken beats. So as the dubstep scene narrowed while everything around it collapsed, in retrospect these sparse beats acted like a palate cleanser. Some critics mourn loss the house/garage/r&b touches, and with good reason, but the narrowing into Benga and Skream's sound made room for subsequent possibilities. Here was a dark minimal plateau: what can we build on it?

Well next came "Pathwayz" obviously, then "Indian" and "B" and before you know it we're into "Horror Show," "Neverland", "Request Line" and beyond. As Snoop Dogg jumps on Chase & Status riddims it's hard to imagine, but at once stage, indeed for several years, dubstep's flame flickered perilously - it could have gone out. This mixtape is primary evidence of what kept it burning.

So anyway, there it is. I hope you enjoy it. To complete the birthday celebrations, I believe it's traditional to make a wish. My wish is to blog for another five years. God knows who, where or what I'll be in five years time, but I hope I still feel as strongly about music as I did on both November 3rd 2004 and 2009.

· Permalink to the wav: here.


Rob said...

hey man i just wanted to say congratulations and that your blog is consistently illuminating and well written. cheers and all the best.

Dart Adams said...

Happy 5th birthday, Blackdown's blog. Ironically enough I'm linking you to a blog I'm posting today. Thank you for a lot of stuff I can't even begin to explain right now.


alex said...

you fucking G!!!

will have to have an old hatcha 'set off!!'

seriously though, thanks for this, any t/L?

oh and that creeper tune DID come out as a white label, had some big shot re-work on the flip, big!

fractal said...

Happy 5th! thanks for putting so much time and energy into this, its a constant source of good reads and great music

@witts_bntl said...

Big up Blackdown, superbly written and extremely insightful as ever.

Thanks for your hard work and may you continue to educate and insight for years to come!

Anonymous said...

Big up, always a pleasure to read when I see a new post on your blog.

Was the Whitney Houston / Creeper boot with the accapella of 'Its not right, but its ok' ?

That was made by a guy that used to work in my old local record shop in Basildon!

Came out on a luminous yellow 10" vinyl with some mental Sesame Street/Grime mashups on the flip, check it out...



jasl said...

Hey what can i say? This is one of the best blogs around and i try to come here every day since early 2006. Outstanding reading and a great look inside the scene.
Happy birthday and may it go on for another 5, 10,... years or many more!

namhenderson said...

Cheers and another 5..

Unknown said...

Hey - just ran across your blog today, actually. DLing the Hatcha set and adding you to my blog role.

Congrats on #5!


southside allstar said...

Just to boost your ego, if it wasn't for your blog i would have given up on dubstep a long time ago.

Top mix, keep up the good work

Blackdown said...

@ Dean John Powell omg I remember that record, Plastician brought it and played the Sesame one on our Groovetech show back in the day and we nearly died laughing it was that funny/bad!

C4TR said...

Big up Blackdown! It's always a pleasure to read your posts! Thanks for the background information on Bass Music! Keep on the good work for as longas you feelin' it!

Maximum Respect

weston said...

Large up, 5 years takes dedication!
I have no doubt that an articulate voice like yours in the scene has been a real positive. Good luck with the next 5!

rubin said...

big up.

consistently one of the best blogs on the net, and a driving force for UK bass music in all its forms.

nathan melon said...

Hey blackdown, your page has introduced me to so much new music in the last year i still have yet to listen to it all. Thank you for the blog!

Elijah said...

congrats bruv, one of my influences to start, and continue blogging! Bring on the next 5!

Sire said...

Big up Blackdown, congrats for the first 5 years - looking forward to the next 5! Always a good read.

weight loss said...

Thanks for the background information on Bass Music! Big up, always a pleasure to read when I see a new post on your blog.

Littlefoot said...

Thanks for upping this one Martin,


2BiT said...

Congrats on the anniversary! It's pretty good goin to last that long in the internets without losing your passion and commitment. Thanks for it all!

blessedlove studios said...

Congrats Blackdown
Havnt listened to the mix yet,but an excellent written blog
Blessed love from Pecknarm

Anonymous said...

maximum respect for this great blog and a happy 5th birthday! still remember your first interview with burial... thank you very much for the hatcha mix!

ben blackmore said...

Always excellent writing, happy birthday, keep it up!

Bandshell said...

big up.

Bandshell said...

Congratulations and big up. Mix looks sick.

ill1 said...

ayoy, congratulations for the 5 years of great writing!

your 'where is dubstep' post was where it all started to me, with hatchas's allstars vol. 1 and kode9's burial album preview in the soundtrack. that post still is the definition of dubstep's vibe to me :) I even translated it to Polish in the early days of dubstep movement here. biggies!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on 5 years and thanks for all the blogging, AND this new mix.

Oli B

Tom MacInnes said...

Hats off for five years! Blackdown and hyperdub celebrating 5 years in the same month. What did we do before them? Top mix, too - cheers!

Tom said...

Blackdown and Hyperdub both celebrating their 5th birthdays in the same month! What did we do before them?

Hats off, and cheers for the mix

Mr. Utley said...

Respect to Blackdown from the U.S. massive...Hatcha is the original badman from day, and you need to do a extensive interview w/ him for the blog...Great set you have unearthed...

Mr. Utley

cólz said...

Thanks for all the excellent reading material over the years, heres to many more.

Anonymous said...

happy birthday from LISBON
much respect and keep up the good work

Anonymous said...

Tracklisting, yes! Nice one Skream.

Of course, the biggest props go to Blackdown for five years of this blog and upping the mix. Hats off.

DJ Shiva. said...

Awesome! Thanks for the mix, and thanks for a peek into the history of dubstep that so many of us never really got to be a part of.

pollywog said...

yeah congrats fulla...

...seems like only yesterday that we too we were tinkering round with halfstep and sub bass in my backroom in suburban christchurch NZ but it definitely was 2002:)

was wondering if you still have a copy of kode9's 'uneasy mix' from that year as well and could up it ?

...he sent us a copy back in the day and was genuinely surprised that we were mutating the low end contagion contemporaneously with london

BTW i still think you should let me interview you ;P

Tomity said...

Thanks sir. Have been reading the blog since 06 and will continue to do so as long as you can be arsed :)

j u 5 t i n said...

big up your status blackdown. respect.thanks for the music and this hatcha mix. stay up! i always checkin this blog an you flickr ;)

digininj said...

Congrats on the 5 years and thankyou for sharing this piece of history with us :)

sollabong said...

HBD Mate..big time!!


cyrusfx said...

Wow, excellent find!

This mix makes it easier to see the transition between garage/grime and dubstep, and its interesting to see how dubstep has evolved in the last 7 years.

Most educational, thank you & big ups from Hawaii.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't around back then.

You're blog's like a Darwinian text of the scene over the years. Thanks for helping me pull everything into perspective. Thanks for everything.

Long live Blackdown.

Stu_GUA said...

Hey M.
Just seen this... and now gone all misty eyed!



JoeNice said...

Martin -- classic mix. This was in serious rotation for me 8 years ago. I still have this on CD.

Three things:
First Skream tune: Affekz (the original mix) there was a remix that Skream did, same title.

The tune after Affekz, it's called Raggage.

The blank tune - it's by Optimal Noise. I can't think of the name of the tune, but I know I have it.

Awesome article!

Anonymous said...

Pretty interesting place you've got here. Thanks for it. I like such themes and anything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Joan Simpson

Anonymous said...

It was rather interesting for me to read the blog. Thanks the author for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

Hilary Kuree

dubstep said...

that creeper tune DID come out as a white label, had some big shot re-work on the flip

pollywog said...

OK...what did I miss?