Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Heroes of UK Bass Culture 1977-2008



This is an illustrated article on an incredibly vibrant but neglected aspect of late 20th century music and cultural history. It records, from a personal perspective of a sometime participant, the influence of UK punk and sound system culture (incorporating Ska and Reggae styles) on the emergence of modern Black British culture; and youth culture in particular. Focusing on selected ‘heroes’ of what I would term ‘Bass Culture’ that now incorporates contemporary UK Hip Hop and RnB, Drum n Bass/Jungle, Grime, Bashment, Bassline, UK Garage and Dub Step (phew). The mix included here is a bit of a tribute to The Clash and helps illustrate the topic, but is not a pure UK based mix and includes tracks produced in the U.S and Caribbean.

Below is the set list for my little mix (as best I can, it includes some obscure ‘mash ups’ by various DJ’s such as Poj Master, Mr Wyse, Soundhog and Go Home Productions)

Mixtape Artwork, feel free to copy
Too Many DJ’s : Ghost Town/Say My Name (The Specials V Destiny Child)
J Star : Unbreak My Dub (Toni Braxton v ?)
Barry Adamson : 007, A fantasy Bond Theme
Ballistic Bros : Peckings
Bastard Jazz : Play that funky reggae
Balkan Beat Box : Bulgarian Chicks
Bastard Jazz : Thinking Toy
Niney – Blood & Fire
Junior Reed : One Blood
DJ C & Quality C : Crazy Baldheads
Nextmen & Dynamite MC : Blood Fire!
Top Cat : True Confessions
Public Enemy V The Clash v Stevie Wonder – rock the casbah/uptight/bring the noise
Afrodisiac Sound System - We Love to Party
Heatwave – Creezzy Hype (Gnarls Barkley v Elephant Man v Jay Z)
The Clash / Ini Kamoze – Guns of Brixton/Hot Steppa (DJ Crash n Burn mash up)
The Specials – A Message Too Rudy (re-edit)
Dizzie Rascal & Lilly Allen – Wannabe
Public Enemy v Skatalites - Guns of Navarone/Bring the Noise
The Clash- Should I Stay or Should I Go?
The Clash v Grandmaster Flash – Guns of Brixton/The Message
Althea & Donna v Queen – We will dub you
Outro: Sleng Teng riddim versus Ali G

Feel free to download and distribute. Contact me for track incremented, high quality CD versions (£5 each)

Recently there has been a bit of welcome activity highlighting the importance and relevance of the scene from arch vinyl archivists Soul Jazz records with the compilation album ‘An England Story’(2008)
A fab compilation headed up by Ipswich’s very own YT with his take on the track ‘Ghetto Story’

An excellent mix and article can be found here: An England Story (Mix)
from The Heatwave 75 mins

The set list is here :

YT - England Story, Sleng Teng remix (Sativa Records, 2006)
Kenny Knots - Watch How The People Dancing (Unity Sounds, 1986)
Ackie - Call Me Rambo (Heavyweight, 1986)
Rodney P - Riddim Killa (Low Life, 2002)
Estelle & Joni Rewind - Uptown Top Rankin' (Ill Flava, 2002)
Blak Twang - Red Letters (Blakjam, 1998)
Top Cat - Love Me Ses (Dance Vibes, 1988)
Glamma Kid - Fashion Magazine (Mafia & Fluxy, 1995)
General Levy - The Wig (Fashion, 1992)
Tubby T - Ready She Ready (Big League, 2003)
LD aka Da Riddla - Peace Ah Dat (Freedom Sounds, 2004)
Apache Indian - Chok There, Bombay remix (Island, 1993)
Jay Sean, Juggy D & Rishi Rich - Dance With You, Diwali remix (Relentless, 2003)
Dynamite MC & Emptyheads - Shake, Jstar remix (Surface2air, 2006)
Troublesome - More Girls, R'n'B mix (Mafia & Fluxy, 2000)
Yungun - Push (Heatwave special, 2005)
Shizzle - Rotate Dem (Kray Twinz, 2006)
Roll Deep - When I'm 'Ere (Relentless, 2005)
Slew Dem feat Jammer, G Man, Shorty Smalls, Ears, Chronik, Kraze & Knuckles - Joy Ride (Slew Dem, 2006)
Rossi B & Luca - Run 4 Cover (white label, 2005)
Klashnekoff - Jamrock Freestyle (white label, 2005)
Tippa Irie - Complain Neighbour (UK Bubblers, 1985)
Papa Levi - My God My King (Taxi, 1984) - watch video
Tenor Fly - Bump & Grind (9 Lives, 1994)
Massive Attack - Daydreaming (Wild Bunch, 1990)
Skibadee - Tika Toc (Ahead Of The Game, 2006)
Lady Sovereign & Riko - Random, Menta remix (Casual, 2004)
Dizzee Rascal - I Luv U (XL Recordings, 2003)
Lady Stush - Dollar Sign (Social Circles, 2002)
Warrior Queen & Sunship - Almighty Father (Casual, 2004)
Tricky - Hell Is Round The Corner (Fourth & Broadway, 1995)
Suncycle - Somebody (Jamdown, 2004)
Blackout JA & Marley - Hot Show (Ball A Fire Muzik, 2004)
Navigator & Freestylers - Ruffneck (Freskanova, 1998)
General Levy & M-Beat - Incredible (Renk, 1994)
UK Apachi & Shy FX - Original Nuttah, Bhangra Jungle remix (SOUR, 1994)
Top Cat, Shy FX & T Power - Everyday (Digital Soundboy, 2006)
Jakes & TC - Deep (DSR, 2006)
Smiley Culture - Police Officer (Fashion, 1984)
Jah Screechy - Walk & Skank (Blacker Dread, 1984)

This comprehensive mix is from The Heatwave who are a seminal UK sound system, collective and record label that continue the link from some of the aforementioned heroes such as Shut Up Dance, Rodney P, Black Twang and current artists like Klashnekoff and Durrty Goodz, who have all worked with these much respected don’s of uk dancehall. They put out wicked productions and anyone who listens to the included mix or has heard me play at the Vibe Bar knows I hammer their fantastic RnB/Bashment mash up 7” vinyl’s on a regular basis. Do yourself a favour and go straight to and check them out.

Linton Kweesi Johnson and Bass Culture LP Label

The term Bass Culture was first coined by the U.K's underground poet Laureate Linton Kwesi Johnson in his poem and subsequant album 'Bass Culture' which includes such classic proto rap masterpieces such as 'Inglan Is A Bitch' and 'Loraine'. Johnson was a former student of Goldsmiths College in New Cross and former member of the British Black Panthers and art collectives such as Rasta Love. His published poetry and collections such as 'Dread Beat an Blood' made him the recognised voice of Black youth in the late seventies and eighties, highlighting injutices such as the New Cross Fire (A devastating house fire which killed 13 young black people during a birthday party in New Cross, southeast London on Sunday January 18, 1981. The black community were shocked by the indifference of the white population, and accused the London Metropolitan Police of covering up the cause, which they suspected was an arson attack motivated by racism; the protests arising out of the fire led to a mobilisation of black political activity. Nobody has ever been charged in relation to the fire.) and the murder of anti racism campainer Blair Peach in Southall in 1979 as well as predicting the Brixton Riots in his track 'All Wi Doin Is Defendin'

Don Letts & Dub Cartel

John Lydon in Jamacia

The link between Punk, Reggae and the origins of UK Hip Hop are better explored in this article by Greg Whitfield ‘Bass Cultural Vibrations: Visionaries, Outlaws, Mystics and Chanters’ (

In this extensive article Greg Whitfield covers the origins of the Dub / Punk crossover from Jamaica to London. PiL and their entourage feature heavily throughout; along with the likes of Jah Shaka, Adrian Sherwood and Lee Perry, and bringing the story up to date with London's Disciples and More Rockers. Of particular interest to me was John Lydon’s (AKA Jonny Rotten of Sex Pistols/PIL fame and now sadly Anchor Butter ads ) trip to Jamaica with Don Letts after the split with the sex pistols and his encounters with Dillinger and other 1970’s reggae greats. The article also has an Ipswich connection with mention of Jah Warriors. As a young punk in the early 80’s in Ipswich, the Jah Warriors were and still are an important band and there was a deep and genuine respect by the punks of that eara for Reggae and Reggae artists and ultimately Rastafari religion and practice. The main Punk venue in my teens was the Ipswich Carribian Club and this reflected a tradition of white working class empathy with Black culture that goes back to the early Mod and Skinhead movements and continues today with Grime culture. The whole marriage of white and black youth culture has a history of misunderstandings, conflict and failure and patronizing attitudes and crassness as well as creative triumphs. The outro on the mix Sleng Teng riddim versus Ali G illustrates some of this perfectly and is also highlighted in Greg’s article in a story told by Donn Letts of how he invited punk goddess Ari Up (and lead vocalist of The Slits) to his local Rastafari temple and hogged the old chalice much to the Elder’s horror! (Incidentally I notice The Slits version of ‘Heard It Through the Grapevine’ is getting played out again in clubs along with the likes of New York’s proto rap/electro legends E.S.G)

Ari Up of The Slits

Don Letts in an interview about his punk days
I am working on a mix of other punk/dub favorites at the moment that will probably form vol 3 of this series and will include anarcho punk dub crusties Culture Shock, RDF, Jah Wobble/P.I.L, The Ruts and perhaps the most important skate punk/reggae/thrash metal act of all times ‘Bad Brains’ from New York. I was a huge fan of Bad Brains in my teens and they had a massive effect on my peer group, ultimately influencing Ipswich thrash punk legends The Stupids and Extreme Noise Terror. The Stupid’s lead singer, Tommy Stupid, is now top drum n bass producer, Klute. A video of Bad Brains performing at New Yorks CBGB’s is pasted below-check out the stage diving!

Bad Brains 'Banned In DC' CBGB'S NYC

Another early 80's punk band that flirted heavily with reggae and roots and culture are the The Ruts and their biggest ‘hit’ track ‘Babylon’s Burning’ was recently covered by grime MC Lethal Bizzle, which should have been great but is actually quite lame, and you can almost here the record company exec with the ponytail telling Lethal Bizzle what a good idea it is in the background.

In an attempt to try and give this article some structure I will highlight some of the tracks in the mixes linked to this blog that exemplify what I am talking about.

My mix starts with Belgian outfit Too Many DJ’s (Soulwax) awesome mash up of The Specials 'Ghost Town' and Destiny’s Child's 'Say My Name'. The Specials are incredibly important to this whole uk bass culture story and ‘Ghost Town’ is so apt for today’s financial crisis and fears of ‘Broken Britain’. The Specials were also a beacon to black/white youth unity and the struggle of the Anti Racism movement in the early 80’s and picked up the torch from The Clash and the whole ‘Rock Against Racism’ era of youth culture lead political demonstrations. If ever we needed a new Specials to fuse black and white youth culture with a radical political message and passionate polemic it is certainly now (I still have my Harrington jacket somewhere). For anybody wanting a good nostalgia fix for this era of UK music, and an excellent portrayal of the racial and gender conflict in youth culture in the early eighties; go see Shane Meadow’s excellent film ‘This Is England’.

There is a rumour about a Specials reunion/re-forming, I hope this is true and isn’t going to be as embarrassing as The Sex Pistols reunion. One word of advice too the Specials members Jerry Dammers and Terry Hall is beware the inevitable attempts by Amy Winehouse/Mark Ronson at a collaboration. I am sure we could all do without a smacked out ska/jazz light cover of ‘Ghost Town’ or ‘Too Much Too Young’. I would however be excited about a link up with some of the bass culture heroes mentioned in the article. Terry Hall with Estelle and Tony Rotten from Blacktwang and Teenie Tempah would be good to see, perhaps doing ‘Gangsters’.
A video of ‘Gangsters’ my favourite Specials track is pasted below.

The Specials : Gangsters
There is a lot of Ska in the mix, as this genre (also acknowledging calypso and now soca) has an enormous influence on modern Black music styles. My theory is that while the US explosion in Black Music culture in the form of Hip Hop and B Boy culture, at about the same time, had an enormous Hispanic/Latin element. British Hip Hop culture is influenced by the largely West Indian Sound System culture in this country which is uniquely British. The sound has recently evolved to incorporate British Asian sounds (UK Apache, Punjabi MC)

But keeping in mind the influence of Ska, we have the Barry Adamson track ‘007, A fantasy Bond Theme’. Barry Adamson, Mancunian, producer and musician who has worked with art school favourites such as Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Peckings record shop

Blackerdread record shop, Brixton

This track is followed by ‘Peckings’ by the production outfit Ballistic Brothers. It is a tribute to the ‘Peckings’ music store in Sheppards Bush. Peckings along with Dub Vender and BlackerDread and Red Records in South London have a huge importance in this whole story and these small shops nurtured, and were the hub, of this culture and its legacy. A mention must be made too Nicky Blackmarket and Blackmarket records in Soho for undying support for the movement.

London has always been a home from home for Jamaican artists, one of the most exciting aspects of running the studio over the last three years has been the work with veterans like Michael Rose and Gregory Issacs and knowing that for a few hundred pounds you can get big names in international reggae to do a dub plate for a few hundred quid without any contract nonsens

At this juncture it would be useful to discuss the language of Bass Culture as it can be argued it has had the greatest effect on wider British culture. From the earliest days of British Hip Hop culture there has been a dilema of dialect. By this i mean ; do you try and sound like the US acts you so admire and want to compete with and affect a cod US accent?(Caveman, Silver Bullit) or do you try and reflect your own street language and rap with your Brummie, scouse or 'estuary english' or cockney accent (Roots Manuva, Rodney P/London Posse, Black Twang)

The dilema was ultimately solved by one of our nominated heroes ; Smiley Culture, in his hits such as 'Cockney Translation' and 'Police Officer' by mixing cockney with (Jamacain) Patois.

Smiley was part of the legendary Saxon Sound and 'Cockney Translation' was a huge hit in the UK. Almost 30 years later Dizzie Rascal and Estelle are a huge sucsess with the US market who just love those cute accents (They probably think they are Australian!)

Smiley Culture : Cockney Translation

Simon Reynolds, renowned music journalist and author of Rip It Up and Start Again: Post Punk 1978-1984. Faber and Faber Ltd has often cited this song in his writings, arguing that it presaged the creation of a new hybrid accent in which white East Londoners would adopt many terms of black originSmiley's biggest hit was his follow up to Cockney Translation 'Police Officer' on the Fashion Record Label."Police Officer", released towards the end of 1984. This was the supposedly autobiographical tale of how Emmanuel was arrested for the possession of cannabis, but then let off when the police officer recognised him as a famous reggae artist. In spite of the subject matter - and possibly because mid 1980s radio station bosses in the UK did not understand the terms 'ganja' and 'sensimania' - the single was a Top 20 hit and earned Emmanuel two appearances on BBC Television's flagship music programme, Top of the Pops. The record, although humorous, did have a serious aspect, in that it highlighted the way black people often feel they are unfairly treated by the police.

UPDATE 13/4/11

We forget to include part two of this mix which can be listened to via Mixcloud (below)

 Track List : 
1.Ini Kamoze : World a reggae
2.Singer Blue : If i know Jah
3.Richie Spice : Youth So Cold
4.A-tola : Soundbwoy (Feat. Skinnyman,Dready,Rukus,J2K)
5.J-Star : Tooting Gangstar
6.Drump up sound (Bootleg)
7.Blacktwang : Redletter
8.Rodney P : Riddim Killer
9.Dead Pres v Roots Manuva (Tommy2bob mash up)
10.Roots Manuva ; Witness (Dub version)
11. Akala : This is London
12. Kellis v Capleton ; Trick me
13.Dizzie Rascal : Oldskool (7"breaks mix)
14.Caveman : Im ready
15.Chase n Status feat Kano : Against all odds
16.Diplo : Diplo riddim
17. Sunship and Warrior Queen : Almighty Father
18.Skream v Linton Kweisi Johnson (Tommy2bob mash up mix)
19.Ice Cube v Beenie Man (Tommy2bob mash up)
20.Nextmen : Piece of the Pie
21. LP/Blessed Love Studios : Roots n Narm

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

A Fantasy Film Soundtrack

A Fantasy film soundtrack by blessedlovestudio
Track Listing :

Azymouth ; Butterfly
Cinematic Orchestra & Roots Manuva – All things to all men Kidulthood
David Axlerod – Holy Thursday
Labi Shciffrin – Road Too San Mateo Bullit
Jaydee (J Dilla) – Dreamy Dayz
Jaydee (J Dilla)- Think Twice
The Pharcyde – Runnin’ (Phillipines remix instrumental) 8 Mile Soundtrack
Ray Barretto – O Elephante (re-edit)
Pete Rodriguez Band – I Like It Like That (re-edit)
The Mexican (Ultimate Breaks & Beats instrumental version) For a few Dollars More
Truth & Soul Orchestra – Money Is King
David Axlerod – The Edge
Roy Budd – Carter Gets a Train (Main theme)Get Carter!
J.Murphy – In the House 28 Days Later

Originally broadcast on the ‘Offworld’ I.C.R.F.M 107.5FM 4th December 2008

Okay, not a lot of these tracks were from actual films (except where listed – or if you can tell me different) Its more inspired by my ideas for my own ‘fantasy’ soundtrack that is purely in my head.

Sorry about the talking on the mix (I never knew I said ‘You Know’ so much)
I will try and post a ‘clean version’ without my witerrings on it. If I was a little more, you know, articulate, and could, you know urm, educate the listener urm, with like urm, interesting facts about the tunes urm, you know, I might have said this…


The mix starts off with a tune played by Tommy ‘Smoothgrove’ . It’s the mighty Brazillian funk masters, Azymuth and the song 'Butterfly'. The guys have been playing sine the early 70’s (not constantly of course) They played the Jazz Café in London recently and are wowing the new breed of broken beat and Brazillian/Afro DJ’s and producers they have inspired. If you like this check out their new studio album 'Butterfly'

Kidulthood film poster

Next is the Cinematic Orchestra who I think have already been cursed by being used as backing music in ‘Changing Rooms’ type makeover shows. I don’t know how much money Kinobe and Nightmares On Wax and ultimate offenders Groove Armarda have made out of TV interior design’s love of blunted hip hop instrumentals to illustrate their fantastic rag rolling techniques on Surbiton Semi’s; but probably enough to afford to get someone else to do their decorating!
At least they don’t seem to have polluted this anthem ‘All Things To All Men’ which was used in the Kidulthood film. It features the Big Dadda of UK Hip Hop ‘Roots Manuva’ . I am a huge fan of Mr Manuva who hails from my beloved Streatham (Or Streat-Narm or Balham Border’s as some of its residents depending on their perspective on property prices) The track is used in the film ‘Kidulthood’ and resonates with me from my work with young people with similar lives to the characters in that film. Its still not the definative UK Hip Hop/Grime culture film. Obviously I have an excellent film script in my head of a film that would be ‘Bad Boyz’ meets ‘Rita, Sue & Bob Too’ and would be a ‘Grime Opera’ where all the characters including Policeman and Teachers ‘spit bars’ instead of conventional dialogue and stars grime scene saviour (17 years old) Chipmunk with North London hip hop vetran Skinnyman as his dad and top female comic Gina Yashere as his mum! Its going to be directed by the excellent Shane Meadows and has zombies and an amazing set piece of a 500 moped’s in a chase that passes every major gritty London film location (Trellic Towers, Aylesbury estate and West way) in a five minute sequance in the cinematic tradition of defiance of basic London geography. I reckon I need two million to produce it, so get in touch if you are interested in financing it.

Songs of Innocence LP

Back to the music now and next up in the mix is David Axlerod with ‘Holy Thursday’ Axlerod is an American composer, arranger and producer, across a wide range of musical genres. Best known perhaps for his work with Lou Rawls and Cannonball Alderly and other sixties jazz legends.
Dr. Dre used 'The Edge' for "The Next Episode" from 1999's 2001. Masta Ace also used a cut from 'The Edge' in his song, "No Regrets" from the 2001 album, Disposable Arts. Both the edge and Holy Thursday were not used in actual films but were included in the soundtrack to the blockbuster video game Grand Theft Auto IV.
"Holy Thursday" was looped by rap producer
Swizz Beatz for the track "Dr. Carter" which is on Lil Wayne's album Tha Carter III. Holy Thursday is from Axlerods album 1968 album ‘Songs of Innocence’ which was inspired by the poetry of William Blake.

Next is Soundtrack Supremo Lalo Schifrin Argentine pianist and composer. He has produced many film soundtracks…perhaps best known for Dirty Harry and Mission Impossible. Road to San Mateo is on the soundtrack to the film ‘Bullitt’ starring Steve McQueen. My favourite cut on the album which when I play it on my Volvo’s CD player I can imagine im driving a Corvette and the streets of Ipswich or Peckham become more like San Fransisco!


Next on the playlist is J.Dilla or Jay Dee. An American
record producer who emerged from the mid-1990s underground hip hop scene in Detroit, Michigan. He began his career as a member of the group Slum Village, and was also a driving force in the production trio The Ummah.
Not on any soundtracks that I know of, he is well known for his ‘Neo Soul’ sound that inspired a new generation of ‘intelligent’ RnB artists from the late nineties onwards such as Gill Scott and D’Angelo. J Dilla died on
February 10, 2006, three days after his 32nd birthday at his home in Los Angeles, California. According to his mother, Maureen Yancey, the cause was cardiac arrest

Next up is the The Pharcyde with the track 'Runnin' . The Pharcyde are an
Alternative hip hop group from the West coast of the United States. The group was formed in South Central Los Angeles. The group is best known for the hit singles "Drop", "Passin' Me By" and "Runnin'", as well as their first album, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde. They were also produced by the afore mentioned J.Dilla. I love this instrumental remix of ‘Runnin’ by The Phillipines. The original track is on the soundtrack to Eminem’s biopic movie ‘8 Mile’.

Ray Barretto

Next we go into Latin territory with a new remix of Ray Barretto’s ‘O Elephante’. Ray Barretto a.k.a. King of the Hard Hands (
April 29, 1929February 17, 2006), was a Grammy Award-winning Puerto Rican jazz musician, widely credited as the godfather of Latin jazz. He was also the first Hispanic to record a Latin song which became a "hit" in the American Billboard Charts. I could not recommend more highly his 1968 albums ‘Acid’ and ‘Hard Hands’ which are reguarly hammered by my DJ partner in crime Simon Landin AKA DJ Crash n Burn. Check out for downloads of his epic funk,soul and boogaloo mixes.

The Peter Rodriguez Bands version of ‘I like it like That’ is a Boogaloo anthem, a sound pioneered by Joe Cuba, Richie Ray, Johnny Colón, Hector Rivera and Joe Bataan from the streets of the South Bronx. They rose to overnight stardom and then fell into general oblivion during the boogaloo years—1966 and 1967. What’s more, their signature song and biggest hit, I Like It Like That (A Mi Me Gusta Así is the quintessential boogaloo tune of all time, the heart and soul of that exciting, and somehow prophetic, crossover outburst. Boogaloo has been called the "first Nuyorican music." You might know I Like It Like That from one of the many cover versions, most notably the chart-topping 1998 hit by Tito Nieves the 1994 movie by that title or the Burger King commercial (Aaaargh! The horror) . But for sheer energy and that contagious hook line, there’s nothing like the original by the Pete Rodriguez band. It is this song—composed, arranged and sung by trumpeter Tony Pabón— that hit the national Billboard charts by becoming a standard of salsa clásica, allowed the group to tour extensively to excited audiences in Latin America and Puerto Rico and put the conjunto on the map of Latin oldies for all time. It’s an oldie, but goodie. And if you listen to the words and the music, the song is actually about boogaloo itself and that’s what makes it such special party music: that blend of English-language rhythm and blues.

Few Dollars More film poster and Ultimate Breaks & Beats Album cover

Next in the mix is an instrumental track from the 'Ultimate Breaks & Beats' series of albums.aThe Mexican" is a piece of heavy rock music on the album First Base by the 1970s British band Babe Ruth.
The song is based on the whistling from the music soundtrack by
Ennio Morricone for the film For a Few Dollars More. It has been compiled, covered and mixed many times. "Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaataa features an interpolation of a portion of the song. The song was covered in 1984 by Jellybean Benitez (Madona's first producer and former partner) with vocals by the original singer, Janita Haan. "The Mexican" was mixed into the third track of The Dirtchamber Sessions Volume One by Liam Howlett of The Prodigy in 1999.The version on the mix is on the latest 'Ultimate Break & Beats' album that includes instrumental versions of classic tracks in the series performed by a new generation of bands that are re-interpurating classic funk soul and hip hop tracks in an instrumental style such as the Truth & Soul Orchestra who perform the next track 'Money Is King. It sounds like it might be produced in 1968 by Axlerod but is actually a new track. Truth and Soul hail from Brooklyn and are bringing funk into the future, remixing revisionists like Amy Winehouse and backing up Wu-Tang Clan for a live-set version of the hip-hop collective's greatest hits. But its true love is the abandoned work of old-school greats like Lee Fields or undiscovered talents like Tyrone Ashley. Michels and Silverman are archivists first, moguls second, and have no problem mixing future tech with past art, as long as the performance doesn't suffer.

Next in the mix its Mr Axlerod again with 'The Edge' followed by 'Carter gets a Train' which is by Roy Budd and from the film 'Get Carter'. I highly recommend both the film and soundtrack to 'Get Carter'. Its proper 'Grimey' but lush and beutiful at the same time and all by Roy Budd. Michael Cains best film i reckon. the
Finally we have a modern soundtrack piece from the British zombie classic 28 days later. Its by J.Murphy and is called 'In the House' and should put a shiver down your spine

Friday, 14 November 2008

Grime & Punishment:How the authorities criminalise youth culture

This is a response to an article in the register : Full article here :

Police vet live music, DJs for 'terror risk'

Locking down garage...and RnB, basement
Andrew Orlowski
A dozen London boroughs have implemented a "risk assessment" policy for live music that permits the police to ban any live music if they fail to receive personal details from the performers 14 days in advance. The demand explicitly singles out performances and musical styles favoured by the black community: garage and R&B, and MCs and DJs.
However all musical performances - from one man playing a guitar on up - are subject to the demands once implemented by the council. And the threat is serious: failure to comply "may jeopardise future events by the promoter or the venue". (End of extract)

As an organisation that works with black and ethnic minority youth, who make 'grime' music and are linked to so called gangs, we have found the young people we work with are increasingly recent converts or sympathetic to Islam, a religion at odds with criminal behaviour or anything normally associated with 'gangs'. There is undoubtedly a degree of militancy in their conversion or sympathy with Islam, and we are aware of some who term themselves 'Taliban' and are openly hostile to the police and authority. Perhaps this would convince many that these measures are appropriate. The truth however is that these same young people are often searching for a discipline and structure to their lives that Islam answers and which their own communities have failed too deliver. They also have an identity as 'Black British'. This identity allows them to feel pride in their community, nation and heritage, that is different but not necessarily in conflict with mainstream British Identity. This does not mean they are terrorists or sympathetic to terrorism. Like us they were horrified by the events of the 7th of July when the Tube Network was attacked, but remain highly suspicious of the blame placed on Islam or 'Islamic Terrorists' and place much significance on the shooting of innocent Brazilian Electritian, Jean Charles DeMendez, at Stockwell Tube Station a week later.

If these young people pose a threat or risk of harm to anyone, it is sadly most often their own peer group or just themselves. Although we understand and seek to reduce this harm through education, discussion, and advocacy; the 'persecution' or 'targeting' of their music or events seems ridiculous and counter productive.

Their music is a reflection of the brutal realities of their day to day lives (getting stop and searched by the police, being excluded from education & training and a constant fear of harm from street rivals) Most have spent time in the secure estate (Feltham Young Offenders Institution has been identified by informed observers as a principle recruiting ground for 'street gangs', and a steady stream of alienated, disaffected young people are constantly being referred too them by our criminal justice system) It is perhaps no surprise that some have formed an identification with the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. Most of our young people refer to their community (Peckham) as 'Peck-Narm' in reference to the conflict in Vietnam, which US soldiers referred to as 'Narm'. This is confirmation, along with the dark humour of the use of terms such as 'Taliban', of their outsider status and alienation from mainstream society.

Measures like those mentioned in the original article serve to remind black youth, and those that work with them, that they are always under suspicion, and if they insist on getting together into groups and express their anger (or anything else) they can be branded 'terrorists'.

We feel this was recently highlighted by Newsagent's Jeremy Paxman asking Dizzie Rascal 'do you consider yourself to be British?' over a debate about Barack Obama.(5 minutes into the interview pasted below)

Dizzie Rascal on BBC 'Newsnight'

The assumption being if you are a young black and ethnic minority person in the UK and speak non standard English you are somehow open to having your national identity questioned.

We know young people are very sensitive to 'projections' from those around them, and if society in general label them terrorists, criminals or just thugs...that's is inevitably what they will be. Each generation seems to forget that from Teddy Boys to Punks, young people have attempted to 'shock' and unsettle the status quo. Long may this continue. The alignment of youth culture with something as repellent and horrific as terrorism is taking this nations tradition of demon-izing youth to whole new levels of scare mongering and smearing.

Listen to the tracks 'Positive' and 'Reality' on our ReverbNation player (on the right of this blog) for an insight into the thoughts of our youth.

"They say I'm a criminal,
But the government are thieves.
Ive been hit too many times
To turn the other cheek (crooks!)
They took the bible, re-wrote the psalms,
Took coke from Columbia and oil from Afghanistan.
Wars in Iran, they celebrate when they hung Saddam
Malcom X is gone, he told the black man too stand up strong.
Wars carry on between the good and the Babylon,
Never saw the footprints, the Lord had me in his arms.
Why do the media think all Muslims carry bombs?
And anyone dressed in a hoodie has a fire arm!
Don't get it twisted man."

Jahmai : Reality

Blessed Love : One way to work with gangs

We have been operating a Youth Record Label and studio for the last 8 years.
The last four years have seen us make a considerable investment in our youth recording studios 'Blessed Love ' based in Camberwell. The location is important, being based in Camberwell young people can get to us from either Brixton, Peckham or Croydon without crossing rivals boundaries. Our clients/customers are exclusively young people with an interest in producing their own media/music. Due to thier situation and identity they could also be pigeon holed as being associated with so called ‘gang culture’; this means they are mostly black, male, out of education, employment and known to the criminal justice system. They are also extremely talented, creative, and incredibly loyal and protective to each other and those they care about.
We are totally self funded and receive no support from central or local government. All our revenue is from our principle 'customers' who refer young people to us such as Kids Company and a small band of other youth services who book our services. We work the studio in our spare time outside of our roles as Youth Worker, Music & Technology Tutor and Foster Carer. We are not ‘Saints’,'do-gooders' or anything else like that; we just love our work and are totally committed to supporting young artists who we feel are often marginalised by mainstream culture ('hoodies', 'gang members', 'ghetto', 'thugged out', 'urban' etc) We also felt that our artists needed sensitive non exploitative management.

The offensively named UK 'urban' music scene is undoubtedly manipulative and disrespectful to black musical talent. They are routinely dumped by their labels for white artists, who are often very talented and deserving of success, but ultimately are felt by record companies as more 'marketable' and receive the lion’s share of investment. Recently we have seen a host of talented black UK artists being 'dropped' by record labels in this manner. UK black music artists only ever get one chance at success. Just look at Estelle who had to go to the States to re-launch her career after being dropped by her UK label. There are many more examples of this frustrating and disappointing tendency on behalf of the UK Recording Industry and this will be the subject of future posts.

Slam Poet, Talaam Acey on Hip Hop Culture and exploitation in the United States

Our company was set up because of the huge demand for our unique service that started off in Culture's front room studio. Ten, or even twenty, young people would cram into Culture’s small flat to record and write music on weekends. Many of them had never had the experience of being invited into a functional, loving home in this manner. Wonderful as this was, it could not continue like this. This is what inspired our desire to build a dedicated studio and put in effect our business plan. This resulted in a successful business start up loan from GLE One London. We believed, and still believe, we could build a healthy and socially responsible business that we can pass on to our own children and the young people who helped us mix cement and plaster the studio over one summer in 2004.

The 'Beat Bunker' during and after construction

Recently our service has expanded and now works with young people in Ipswich, Suffolk. This has been a fantastic new development and we are now regularly mixing young people from Ipswich and South London on joint projects and collaboration, dispelling myths about how ‘dangerous’ young people are in London and that any young people outside of the M25 are ‘carrot crunchers’ and ‘farmers’. Our young people tell us there is no other service like ours and we have never had a single incident of breakage, violence or abuse in all the time the studio has been running. Our secret? It is all about ownership and trust, simple as that.

Ipswich artists, Lion I, Rudey Beat Box and Sketch visit the studio

We instinctively distrust the media obsession with gang violence and moral panic over youth crime and especially ‘black on black’ crime. We refuse to capitalise on the Media’s obsession with the subject and its associated moral panic as we feel it only serves to pathologise/criminalise young people and their culture more than it already is. We know the reality of gang culture and know the solution is not solely through policing or legislation. It is also damaging and unfair to accuse the vibrant and creative culture around hip hop/grime music for the recent spates of deaths. It is ludicrous to accuse artists of perpetuating gang violence when they are merely expressing a daily reality. We don’t censor our young people’s music, but encourage them to write 'positive bars' (lyrics) for their songs. We understand its not the youth culture that’s killing black youths but an institutionally racist and oppressive system that excludes them from schools and services and then dumps them in the ‘secure estate’ (prison) that has brutalized many of them or left them with often 'unspecified' personality disorders akin to Post Truamatic Stress Disorder. We are not questioning the need to protect communities from harm from these young people or the need for Justice; it is just that the gross over representation in the statistics of young black males in just about every category of concern (mental health, educational failiure, life expectancy...the list goes on) highlights the damaging and counterproductive nature of current social policy and law.

"Black people of all ages are three times more likely to be arrested than white people. Black people constitute 2.7% of the population aged 10-17, but represent 8.5% of all those arrested in England and Wales. Black people are just over six times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people.
Once they have been charged with an offence, black young offenders are significantly less likely to be given unconditional bail compared to white young offenders and black young offenders are more likely to be remanded in custody compared to white re-offenders.In 2004/05, 8.1% of black people under 18 were remanded in custody, compared to 5.1% for Asian and 4.4% for white people of the same age-group."

Select Committee on Home Affairs second report 15 June 2007

It is also about the pointless and enormously destructive 'war on drugs', that like the 'war on terror' only piles on more misery on the victims of poverty, exclusion and exploitation. That’s why our music sounds so offensive and upsetting to some sensitive ears; it’s a reflection of a highly offensive situation that is being 'spat' back into the faces of a deeply uncaring society.

From left : Sipo, Big Show

From left : Boogie, Younger Base

Rest In Peace, Andre Drummond(Sparrow), Sipo Dube, Jamal Newton (Big Show) Ezekiel Adeboyego Ojo (Boogie) Nathan Douglas (Younger Base) those we have known and loved.

We have been to too many funerals of young people who have died as a result of this 'warfare'. We believe we are at the ‘front line’ of an ugly civil conflict that is killing our kids and destroying communities. We work with rival gangs from different postcodes and believe make a modest but vital contribution to the situation that could be replicated. Time and again we have resolved conflicts and kept young people safe from violence and abuse. We are not jumping in front of gun shots or seizing knives; we simply put a bit of love, understanding and respect into the situation. Crucially we are not scared of children/young people. That sounds ridiculous, but probably rings true to a lot of young people who feel no one in authority actually cares about them enough to say "Stop! Lets do something positive and constructive!"

People often ask us why we are not a charity or why we don’t go for funding from local authorities or central government. We reply that many young people sadly distrust organisations with a brief to educate, protect or train. That does not mean we do not believe in education/training or community safety and child protection. We believe we do all of these 'protective' factors successfully without our service users even being aware of them. We have rules and policies and sanctions in place that we enforce, but they are in addition to our non exclusion policy and wish to create a service that’s foremost a fun and exciting environment that feels like a business that values their talent and creativity rather than a service that is trying to reform, change or rehabilitate. We do not feel this does exclude us from funding streams, but we have found it a challenge to remain true to these values and also sucseed in getting funding.

We have always understood that it is dangerous and immensely difficult for our young people to be turned away from gangs into the fabled ‘productive members of society’. Firstly there just are not the jobs or opportunities that are realistically available, and the gangs offer them a real protection from violence on a day to day basis on the streets...we just can’t be with them all the time to be able to facilitate this transformation safely. We wish to engage with so called gangs and work with them too reduce risk and harm. There is an obvious danger here that we could be seen as mitigating, justifying or strengthening the so called gangs or criminal lifestyles. However we feel that these groups are totally missed by most statutory or voluntary agencies that should have a brief to work with them. We know if we started collecting ‘data’ from our 'service users' or demanding that they start accredited courses we would alienate young people who are incredibly distrustful of any sort of officialdom. The problem is often right at the reception area of most services were details are collected and agreements, behaviour contracts, are asked to be filled out.

Ultimately we feel this problem has its roots in the legacy of slavery and a refusal by world governments to apologize, make reparations and instigate a truth and reconciliation process along the lines attempted by South Africa after the collapse of Apartheid.
Perhaps only then can the word n**** can be dropped from hip hop and it no longer seems necessary to punctuate every bar with this brutal and ugly reminder of racism, slavery and oppression. We often express to our artists how we disapprove of misogyny or the glorification of violence and hatred. We are open to young people about our political and spiritual beliefs and cultural preferences and demand that no one be judged or excluded for theirs.

What we really need is a show of support. Please visit our website

and sign up to our mailing list (Its also on the right hand column of this blog) Listen to our music and videos on our Reverb Nation and Youtube page (you are automatically directed to them from the links on our website) Leave us positive or constructive feedback, show our artists you care about their work. The more hits and ‘fans’ we create will help us get to the point of being able to sell our music on ITunes/Napster and set up our own merchandising range (branded clothing, DVD’s etc) We also need you to spread the word about us, we readily admit we are not the best publicists and are the victims of our own humility at times. Perhaps you have skills or experience that could be valuable to us? Please get in touch and spread the word. Thank you for your support .

Blessed Love