Gone To A Rave #15 – Proto Grime
The late 90s and early 00s saw a period where the English rave scene really didn’t know what to do with itself. Drum & Bass was plowing a clanking, screw faced furrow. UKG was producing some great pop music, but had nothing to say to the streets it came from. Those house and techno clubs that weren't completely underground had turned into huge shiny cattle sheds pounding out hideous Judge Jules sponsored trance for Mitsubishi boshing ‘Crasher kids. Trendy DJs tried desperately to feel excited about media created non-genres such as ‘smash house’. There was an easy listening revival. Breaks, the least sexy genre ever created, played in clubs across East London. It was a dark time.
Then, in 2001 So Solid Crew came- seemingly out of nowhere – to assault the charts, signalling a shift to an MC led format that would eventually pick up the name grime. The rave scene cranked back into life. Thing is, So Solid didn’t come out of nowhere. Around South and East London, there were hordes of other kids experimenting with garage, taking it to a harder, meaner and cheaper place, stripping it down to itchy snares and bass hits, leaving plenty of space for them to spit bars over.
There’s been a fair bit written about the first grime tracks, about how they were made by kids feeling disenfranchised from garage, making a noise that was closer to their reality. As with most narratives, that one has been tidied by hindsight. There was no sudden cleavage, and this week I want to post some proto grime; those records that had the basic elements of grime, but were made before the scene had a name. These tracks are from producers still ostensibly operating within the 2 Step scene, people who were contemporaries of So Solid, and those producers that followed immediately in their wake. Whilst what they made may have been light years away from anything Posh Spice was getting up to in the charts, the chances are the people behind these gems would still have said they were making garage – Wiley's Wot Do U Call It was a few years off yet. What these obscure, unfairly forgotten records may lack in complex structure and production trickery, they more than make up for with sheer vitality of ideas. If anyone can tell me any more about any of the following I'd love to know…
Mr Gunz, Drama, Detinator – Don’t Let Me Get Sick
According to the internet, this track doesn’t exist – by which I mean it’s not on Discogs, it’s not on Youtube, it's not on Hard To Find, and there’s no pictures of it anywhere (except now). All I can tell you is that it’s on Horra Records (the logg of which makes up todays main image), numbered #HOR03 (which suggests there’s a HOR01 and 02 about, although probably best not to bet on it…). It’s an excellent, heavy mix of sub low bass and crew MCing, and I place it as coming out sometime round 2001/ 2002.
I can’t be sure, but I think I picked this 12” up from a record shop off Commercial Rd in Whitechapel – it was the kind of odd record shop you don't see anymore; the owner was a really old East Londoner with a greasers quiff. He was a classic rock fan, but in order to survive he’d started stocking tracks produced by local kids. This meant his stock was a mix of knackered Elvis records, and gleaming new garage white labels, names scrawled in pen over plain paper sleeves. I kinda got the feeling he hated the garage, and was caught in an unholy marriage. He was always a misery, but Jesus he had some tunes. I’d love to know what happened to all that stock when the shop closed. He probably burnt it.
??? – Ghost Town???
I’ve got next to no info on this orchestral cypher – again it’s not on Discogs, eBay, or Hard To Find Records, which I guess makes it pretty rare… I got given it by a DJ friend back in the early noughties, so I’m not even sure if it’s from south, east or whatever. Plus I'm not 100% that it's called Ghost Town. Not much use eh? You'll just have to listen to it. The catalogue number is #Art001, which is the same as the first release on the grime/ dubstep label Heavy Artillery records – interestingly that release is produced by Mr Fidgit, better known as Donae’o, and the production on this shares more than passing similarities with My Philosophy (Bounce), the 2003 Donae’o tune – maybe just a coincidence though, as a lot of these early tunes tend to use the same bass sounds, hats, kicks, strings etc. Anyway, I love the sung bars that come in towards the end, following that pre-autotune bashment tradition of MCs singing, regardless whether they could hold pitch or not. The wolf howls at the end are kinda cute as well-
Aylesbury Allstars – Buss Red Light
This tune is so British it should come with brown sauce. For those of you outside England, Aylesbury is a suburban town on the London commuter belt – it’s the kind of place shitty people move to so they can moan endlessly about the foreigners in London without any chance of actually meeting one.* EDIT* since writing this I've had Carl from Heavenly Jukebox point out that there's also a massive dutty Aylesbury Estate in South London. To be honest it's more likely these boys came from there. This proves 2 things 1) people actually read this column 2) I know nothing. Anyone else care to let me know of another Aylesbury?
*EDIT 2* I just tweeted Tippa to get to the bottom of this. Embrassingly, I truly know nothing:
@IanMcQuaid yes. We were from Aylesbury estate in walworth. Lived in gayhurts & missenden blocks on hopwood road/Portland street