I'm a bit busy with non-blogging activities this week but fear not, cos the man like Kid Kameleon (left) has put together a truly stunning post and mix for the Gutterheadz. I've been a fan of his blog for some time now (and you may recall that the first mix I did myself was dedicated to him) and I'm truly honoured that he has agreed to post this here rather than his own space. One of the biggest pleasures I get from this blogging lark is getting to know people all over the world who broadly share my own tastes and attidude towards music, and I like to think of KK as one of my Stateside brethren - someone who I can totally trust to produce a great post for my blog, and make no mistake - this is blogging and mixing of the highest order. So without further ado, over to you KK...
It can now safely be revealed that the silence on my blog for the last couple weeks has been due to preparations for a post on this one. Gutta, we've got to figure out a way to have you as a guest round my spot sometime.
So, Distance is a bit of a hard act to follow and I'd never try to beat him or any of you Brits at your own Stepstep game. I couldn't even probably touch Cooper over at Urban Renewal Records, who plants a foot on either side of the Atlantic for the scene. I will say though one thing about non-UK grime/dubstep, which is there's a lot of good stuff that's being made out there and further mutating and twisting the sound. I talked about Wasteland on my blog several weeks ago (here), about how they're "Outsider Artists", not actually in the way that phrase gets used for the art art world, but rather simply as musically drawing on the sounds of a scene without being physically present. Blackdown wrote a great piece about purism vs. hybridism on a musical level. I'd say the same debate can be transferred to the people who make the music itself and where they're from. I know that Croydon isn't Essex isn't Bristol, but the fact is that at this distance (ha) England is definitely an "outside" space to us non-brits who follow the scene, and it can all seem fairly small. And in a way, great, because it forces the rest of us around the world, myself, Joe Nice in Baltimore, Bass Djunkii in Hamburg, Dev 79 in Philly, Com.A in Japan, MiniKomi in Australia, Rupture in Barcelona, Drop the Lime and Shadetek in New York/Berlin, to push that much harder and come up with our own take on DJing/production, and tracks are already bubbling through that are Grime influenced and yet clearly not of the same purism/fusion spectrum of sound. Maybe we can call that genre nonukstep.
So what does this have to do with my mix for Gutta? Only that again I'm thinking about outsider artists, but this time it's even harder to figure out who's out and who's in.
So, this is a mix of (almost all) new (almost all) North American (almost all) Ragga Jungle. Huh, you say? Ragga jungle, that's like Remarc and Kenny Ken and Shy FX from back in '94 ... back when, to hear in hind sight today everyone including the pope AND the pope's mother listened to jungle "back when it was good, but then [insert stock phrase about too dark too metal too white too much a scene too big too small too after 1996 ad infinitum...]" And a lot of these charges leveled against what D'n'B mutated into are true for sure ... But it should be said for all the comparisons that are rightly being made between the sounds of Dubstep and Grime and the influence that early jungle had and has on both MCs and producers, Wiley and extended Co. were not the only ones to pick up on what was really great about '93-'96 and run with it.
In the middle of 2001 I walked into Breakbeat Science and checked out a record by Soundmurderer that had to be heard to be believed. All crazy amens, processed and cut up and changing throughout the whole track, and sections of about 4 different recognizable tunes in there, including the Tried by 12 koto and I think R.I.P. or something similarly well-known as both a dancehall and a jungle tune. And, tellingly, I didn't buy it (although my friend did), since at the time I was spending my money on things like Bad Company and Cause 4 Concern and even J Magik (that was the era of Space Invaderz, if that gives you a reference). But I did think to myself, wow, this is crazy, this sounds like something I probably missed the first go around, but the processing sounded pretty current, what's this all about?
Flash forward a year and I returned to the store and found the first three things from the Big Cat label and General Malice ... by that point it was starting to sink in that great things were happening, music that combined the cut-up nature of the old stuff that everyone loved to reminisce about while cherry picking the best vocals from both classic stuff I knew from old tapes and new stuff like Sean Paul and Elephant Man.
It became clear that there was a real movement being started. Soundmurderer, General Malice and Krinjah put out a slew of great tunes in 02-03 with this particular sound, and then others followed. A ton of them are out of Toronto. Debaser, who is arguably both the most consistent producer and has the most releases under his belt and heads Pressup Records, Jungle Royale, and New Lick, ran it down for me. "Rhygin, 16armedjack, Krinjah, KGB Kid, C64, Rcola, Saigon, Demolition Man (the voice of Fire, among other things), DJ K, DJ Mayday, 0=0, [and I] all [live] within a couple hour drive." That's like a who's who of the new new school of ragga, with C64 and 0=0 crossing into both the Breakcore and Drumfunk/Inperspective worlds a bit as well.
Others I'd be amiss to not mention: Mashit, my crew based in Boston and held down by DJ C, about who I've talked a lot on my blog; Jacky Murda of Chopstick Dubplate, late of New York, now in Brussels, at who's studio many of these guys get their masters made; LA peeps like U-Ome and Loqtus turning out scads of great material, some of it on the Cause and Effect label, as well as the N2O/Big Cat/Good Fortune Sound army that's headquartered there. But then there are other artists from all round the US and Canada, producers like Twinhooker and Paulie Walnuts in Ohio, Trinity Don, Frankus, the venerable Tuffist and Human in New York, Tester/Trilogy Sound AND Soothsayer in Atlanta, Murderbot in Kansas City, Brim in North Carolina, and ArtBreaker in Fargo, North Dakota ... and on and on and on.
So where's the scene? Nowhere/Everywhere. There's no FWD for this scene, there never has been, there's no show on 1Xtra, there's no pirates, not one you can turn on your radio and hear anyway. And yet I'd argue it's as big a scene as a lot of the stuff that Gutta has been talking about. The nexus for me is twin between http://www.ragga-jungle.com and the warehouse/squat parties that have always championed Jamaican-derived musical hybrids throughout the world. There's a lot of it in renegade sound systems in the UK playing this stuff, and definitely all over France, Germany, and Benelux, where it fuses into the Breakcore, Speedhall, and Raggacore etc. pretty easily under the watchful eye of Bong Ra and others.
OK, so those are some of the players, but what is it exactly? Well, have a listen to the mix for my best answer, but if I had to put a couple characteristics on it, it's (A) Jamaican flavored vocals (either nicked from dancehall or else voiced originally) (B) Cut-up and chopped (so not current DnB so much with the exception of Inperspective/Offshore axis) (C) Not frenetic in the extreme like Breakcore, still a musical thread to each track that holds it together on its own merit. Of course, all these rules are made to be broken, and on my mix Ali Deek breaks (A), Salute the Don breaks (B) and the Soothsayer almost breaks (C). The idea, general, is a lot of stuff built around the influence of Remarc, heavy tracks with lots of tuned Amens, but sizable, recognizable chunks of vocals as well. I think it's no accident that Planet Mu re-released a lot of his stuff, not just because it ties to the ex-idm post Plug/Squarepusher/Aphex world of Shitmat and Peace-Off and the rest of that world, but because it also connects to the producers listed above who are carrying on a tradition of, dare I say it, songcraft.
As a note, Jr. Kelly, the first track on the mix, in a way has nothing to do with the ragga of the rest of the mix, it's just a 7 inch that I got last week that I quite like and think sounds like some of the stuff that both Loqtus and Debaser incorporate into their tracks. I included it at the beginning and the LXC track at the end kind of to bookend the mix, like sign posts pointing where from and where to. Always rooted in Jamaican musical culture and yet easy for the harder stuff to slip into the manic energy of the squat sound and the long-standing tradition of free tekno/noise that has existed quietly as its own scene with its own networks for a decade and a half.
Otherwise its all there in my mix, and at its best it's a ridiculously vibrant scene. It does have points that I consider not as cool, basically when it strays too close to apeing heavy metal and relying too heavily on lots and lots of incoherent shouting from sound clashes and if the breaks aren't cut up enough to hold my attention. But at its best it makes yuh wine yuh waste and hold your lighter aloft calling for a rewind not because MC Sockpuppet tells you this tune is unreleased and therefore the DJ is worth your respect simply because s/he has it regardless of whether it's good or not, but because you really want to hear it again.
And what does that have to do with the outsider artist factor I was talking about above? Merely that I find it interesting that this question of what this scene is is complex in the extreme. Here we have a whole group of mostly American and Canadian mostly white boys using samples of mostly black MCs, influenced very very heavily by a particular, relatively short period of time in British musical history that was far removed from many of them. But then, there's an exception to every thought in that last statement, and while the community is tight and makes tunes that reference its own history quite a bit, there are heavy dips into three realms that have a much different cast of characters, 1) Reggae/Dancehall, 2) Drum and Bass, and 3) -Core music of the squat scene the world over. It's a slippery fish, but also one with coherent ideas and ideals, and it's that interplay that gives rise to some damn near amazing music.
I'll end by running down a bit here and there about the tracks in the mix, just some random thoughts:
Jungle Royal - Put together by Debaser to get some original vocals going on with a distinctly happy vibe. Then he turns them over to others for the remix. The Visionary mix is unique on this mix in that the beats are the most straight forward of any track here. He's an old school Toronto/North American producer and party thrower, and his stuff rolls more than it cuts. He's part of the school that makes Vinyl Syndicate and Crunk (long running ragga label that predated a lot of what I talked about above) sound more like UK stuff. But still great, nice to hear that tune have a revoiceing and a rework.
Istari's track - Not a North American but a Hamburger, runner of Sozialistischer Plattenbau (it's a really good joke if you speak German). Of all the Germans I know, his stuff has enough cohesion within the tracks to separate it out from Breakcore stuff (which, again, isn't a dis on the 'core, it just is somewhat different than R-J stuff). Love this one 'cause it's got the Jump Up/Prisoners of Technology feel but still is always changing up.
Twinhooker - "Nuh Time Uh Day" - What can I say? Jamaicans, especially Elephant Man, will musically quote the weirdest, cheesiest stuff... why should ragga jungle shy away from this on the remix front? Enya massiv...
Soul Slinger - "Abducted" - My one track that's not from 2003 onwards on the mix. Soul Slinger is a visionary in the American Ragga Jungle scene and before there was anything in the United States label-wise, there was "Jungle Sky". Now, what makes this track great is actually not American, the Vocals by MC Det and the drum work which is straight up classic 1995 T-Power, a Brit, but still, I thought it worked and Greg from Eats Tapes likes it, so I put it in.
Aaron Spectre - Anyone who has read my blog has heard me sing the praises of both Aaron and Mashit. Aaron's been experimenting with vocals from the Arabic world and the South Asian world, and I couldn't be happier. While so many of the identifying bits of the Ragga world come direct from Jamaica, the patois, the sound clashes, the versioning, there's no reason other vocals and instruments can't be in the mix.
X13 - Unfortunately, anyone who deals with current Jamaican-derived music eventually has to come to terms with their position on anti-homosexual lyrics. Basically, I try my hardest not to play 'em. I'm all for burning out wikkid men, corruption, bomberclaats in general, but the evidence is too strong that Jamaica has a problem with endemic violence towards homosexuals, and while I don't blame dancehall artists for that violence directly I feel I need to follow a policy of "do no harm" for my own mixes. I won't knowningly play openly anti-gay lyrics, although I'm OK editing them out with backspins. It's not a comment on the producer of the track as he managed to snag vocals that are killer in every other way and should be put to use. It's a comment on the vocals themselves. It's a tricky line, but I call on ragga jungle producers to steer clear of incendiary lyrics since I really don't believe the producers are making a statement of deeply held beliefs like the people they are sampling. Please take the time, producers and fans alike, to read LFODemon's Battybwoys are alright manifesto which I wholly endorse. (Note: While I've done my best, there are definitely parts of some songs on my mix that I'm at a loss to generate sense out of [mostly Elephant Man samples]. If anyone can point out anti-gay talk I've missed, I'd like to know.)
Double 0 - This is Selecta Hoogs of Buffalo, and as far as I know this is the only thing he put out on vinyl, which is a shame cause it's killa killa ... and he's the best ragga DJ I've seen to boot, knows how to masterfully work a crowd.
KGB Kid - New to me as of a couple weeks ago, but man, what a wikkid drop. All sci-fi like with those keyboards. Bong Ra's (the 2nd of the three non North Americans on the list) Clash label walks the fine line between ragga and breakcore with style, and makes you decide that it doesn't really matter anyway.
End of the Mix - Bong Ra and Enduser tracks are the darker end of Ragga that I like. Heavy heavy growling stuff, but processed through and through and none of the "Shouty Jungle" that looses me quickly and comes across as gimmiky. Enduser can do no wrong really, every track on that EP is great.
"Terrorist" - Who doesn't like this song! Who doesn't like that ringing, time-stretched sounding snare?
So, there you go. Hooked on the sound? Want to know more? The whole entire crew, plus everyone who didn't get mentioned above is hanging out over at: http://www.ragga-jungle.com It's like Cheers, only Beenie Man's sitting at the bar instead of Norm. UK heads also take note that Robo Orgy is happening at Electrowerkz tomorrow night, with Remarc headlining.
Wanna buy some? Just a few options below:
Aight then? Thanks to Gutta and to all who listen out of one scene and into another. Great musical inspiration comes that way. And to all Ragga Junglists who see this, nuf big ups are in order. The people get to know, seen? But nah jump if you didn't see your name above or think I left out a vital piece of history (cause I know I did). I only get so much webestate and you're all repped in my sets constantly.
DOWNLOAD KID KAMELEON'S "RAGGABLOGGA" MIX (dead link)
Jr. Kelly - Blood Money (Penthouse)
Jungle Royale feat. Jimmy Riley - A1 Sound [RCola Remix] (Jungle Royale 003)
Jacky Murda, RCola, & Liondub feat. Harry Brown-
Junglist Far East (Chopstick 007)
Jungle Royale feat. Johnny Osbourne -
Salute the Don [Visionary aka Division One Remix] (Jungle Royale Dub)
Unknown - Untitled (X13 005)
Twinhooker - My Golden Dub (Top Ranking 001)
Murderbot - Fi You (Mashit 007)
Istari Lasterfahrer - Living in Concrete (Sozialistischer Plattenbau Dub)
Loqtus - Tell Dem Inna Babylon (Cause and Effect 002)
Twinhooker - Nuh Time Ah Day (Dub)
Debaser - Clash Night (Press Up Records 002)
Debaser feat. Demolition Man - Fire Remix (Dub)
Soul Slinger feat. MC Det - Abducted [T-Power Remix] (Jungle Sky)
Aaron Spectre - Ali Deek (Mashit Dub)
Unknown - Untitled (X13 005)
Double O feat. General Levy - Missing Renk (535)
KGB Kid - Any Bwoy Test (Clash 007)
Malice - Infiltrate Dem Bumbaclot (Big Cat 005)
Loqtus - We Got It (Dub)
Rhygin - Destroy Dem (Ten Pound Sound 003)
Aaron Spectre - Look Out Fi Liar (Death$ucker Dub)
Bong Ra feat. Dirty Dread - Blood and Fire (Soothsayer 001)
Enduser - Manoeuvre (Soothsayer 002)
Sumone - Terrorist Remix (Trinity Don Dub)
MZE vs LXC - Stick 'em Up (Alphacut 002)