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"Out of one, many" JA influence on 00s UK underground

Previous post was about the effect of dancehall on the overground. I guess I could have worked it so we end on overground success, but I value underground over mainstream success. So in saving best 'til last, I'm talking about underground.

Now if you've followed me for a bit, you'll know that people don't seem to understand the influence Jamaica has on the underground lineage. Obviously, those with sense know it, but I will explain it. Like the other genres I've written about, I'm not saying Jamaican music (or in this case, dancehall) is the only factor or they'd all sound exactly like dancehall.

What has made UK excel at music over the generations has been mixing our various influences to create something unique. Many say our music isn't original because we just copy everything else, but I disagree. Our music is original, because we take influence from everything. Be it house, hip hop, r&b, soca or Jamaican music. I doubt there is anywhere in the world that has the access to different cultures, therefore different musical influences like UK, London to be precise.

UK garage

Yeah, some songs sounded similar to US, but many others didn't. When the emphasis was placed on bass, you knew it was something different. When MC's hosted sets similarly to toasting, it was something different. Then they started making dubplates (full vocal songs), it was something different.

All of these above elements were distinctly part of the UK rave scene linage, many of which can be traced back to sound system culture Jamaicans brought with them in the 70s.

(I'm doing this next bit from memory so I may placing some of the next events out of sync, but here goes.)

Ms Dynamite "Boo" was a game changer. It was effectively sped-up dancehall. Sped-up Bogle riddim to a certain level. When this tune dropped, the door opened for a new vibe. I'm from south of the river, so So Solid had already begun pushing a new sound as far as we heard. "Oh No" sounded completely different to anything I'd ever heard, it was a garage song with hip hop arrangement, "Boo" is the dancehall equivalent.

So Solid, who I know used to play ragga (cos it's just what everyone did) made dancehall-fused "They Don't Know" and roped in the ferocious female MC to deliver two of the best verses a UK MCs spat on "Envy". Deep Roller remix of "Ride Wid Us" is also dancehall-fused (bass melody is similar to Bogle riddim) merged with sped-up New Jack Swing drum pattern.

Barbershop dudes K2 Family charter top 40 with "Bouncing Flow". Another classic from this era is dancefloor-filler "Oi" by east London collective More Fire Crew - name itself is inspired by reggae artist Capleton. p.s. Ozzie B's verse is another of the best verses ever. Both he and Neeko utilitse a dancehall pattern with a slight Yardie twanged accent. "Hey" sample, bass pattern and stabs are all prominent dancehall influences.

Fellow east London collective Pay As U Go entered the top 40 with "Champagne Dance". Despite some faux-American accents, the beat is dancehall-garage. PAUG member Maxwell D had a big underground hit with "Serious", Maxwell + other members of PAUG, Gods Gift, Major Ace and Wiley's classic "Know We" is a song that Wiley himself names as one of his earliest attempts dancehall productions.

North Londoners Heartless Crew were probably the purest example of a vintage dancehall sound system in a garage setting. The trio dropped classic "Heartless Theme" in 2001. To hear them in full sound system mode, listen to Crisp Biscuit.

Powerful anthems such as "Are You Really From The Ends?", Stush - "Dollar Sign", Tubby T "Tales of the Hood", Brasstooth "Pleasure" all relied heavily on dancehall influences alongside others.


Classed by many as UK's first independently British genre. (Well, it depends on whether you class any of the above as grime.) Grime became the known as the voice of "urban" youths.  Seminal tune "Wot Do You Call It?" by grime's god father Wiley could be a King Jammy's or Bobby Digital riddim sped-up. The melody of the bass is similar in style to say Shabba Ranks "Peeny Peeny". It isn't a copy, but bears a resemblance, yet done in a uniquely British style through warped synths and a fresh drum pattern. And more importantly a British rave BPM.

Jammer's breakthrough "Murkle Man" is also another that sounds similar to dancehall in a British style. Once again, a classic, fusing our elements. If I recall correctly, Jammer's dad is a sound man. He has a lyric where he says he loves something "more than Frankie Paul loves Sarah". That isn't a regular song to name check.

These guys grew up hearing dancehall in their houses, so regardless of whether they were trying to or not, they were unconsciously drawing from that influence to a certain degree whilst keeping in line of what British lineage.  Much like So Solid "21 Seconds" before it, a song like "Pow" captures the pass-the-mic toasting which has travelled the generations from Jamaican immigrants. Approx a quarter of the MCs on the track utilise a yard accent (Ozzie B, Flowdan & Jamaka B). Bass and synth stabs are dancehall-flavoured

And just like dancehall, reloads are order of the door. Crews are basically sound systems compromising of MCs and DJs (in Jamaica they were DJs and selectors). They also liked to clash a bit.

Modern day grime carries more of an independent vibe or imitation of trap south beats, but there is still some dancehall influences to be found. Go to 2:00 on this to hear Tempa T using a dancehall flow when drawing for "Fletcher" lyrics. That video also features "Circles" by leading producer Preditah which not only contains a dancehall 8-bar, it's another element of Jamaican music, dub. Total underground smash-hit "Next Hype" has a few dancehall patterned rhymes ("Pulling out lengs everywhere/ Dun know we got the shotgun there" for example)

UK Funky

I would write about bassline, but I don't know much about it. I'm from London. Never listened to it, wouldn't even know where to back up my thoughts with facts... pretty pointless. However, in London around a similar time, UK funky emerged. Drawing on influences from a variety of places funk, US house, UK garage, soca and dancehall. Much like UK garage before it, people left from harsher sounds of grime to female-friendly UK funky.

As the story stands, UK funky is the last in this lineage made, played and enjoyed by London's African and Caribbean communities. We'll get onto that in a second.

Examples are as follows:

MC's toasting

Maxwell D (of Pay As U Go fame) turned Lil Silva's bashment-funky banger "Different" into "BlackBerry Hype"

Femcee Shystie linked up with Ill Blu for a remix to her track "Pull It". Her yard matches the vibe of the distinct dancehall bassline in typical UK warps synths and soca drum pattern.

KIG hit top 20 with a instuctional dance song. Would post it, but I hate that song. I'll post Gracious K - "Migraine Skank" instead. Didn't like the replayed beat on the official video version either, you can watch that here.

Jamaican dancehall artist Aidonia jumped on Crazy Cousins "Attraction"


While African and Jamaican communities went wild for UK funky, dubstep appeared to come out of nowhere. Dubstep's roots are in Croydon, just outside of south London. Earlier dubstep took a more explicit influence from Jamaican dub music. Rusko sampling Mad Professor "Kunte Kinte" dub for the monster "Jahova" for example.

Or Coki remixing Mavado's breakthrough "Weh Dem A Do"

True Tiger "Slang Like This" is Jamaican dub friendly.

Nowadays dubstep has gone similarly to when jungle became drum & bass (a.k.a. dead) with more techy stuff, but to a certain levels there is still the same understanding. Dub from King Tubby's studio was about the engineer creating songs from what the bands already cut, adding echoes, distortion and delays. Dubstep still does this, and usually operates on similar drum beat structure.

Skrillex, a man many credit for killing dubstep, recently called upon Damian Marley to appear on his album. "Make It Bun Dem" is the result, showing reggae influence still about.

UK Rap

Sound the African and Caribbean youths are creating at the moment is UK rap. Basically, "let's pretend we're American", hence calling UK funky the last of the traditional UK lineage. However, there is still some Jamaican influences, naturally.

Pioneer of the whole road rap movement is a guy from Peckham called Giggs. There were guys rapping the road life before him, but people didn't care as much as they do now post-Giggs. He burst onto the scene with "Talking the Hardest" a freestyle on a Dr. Dre beat, but had a timing similar to dancehall artists. Low and behold, I find out he used to be a ragga DJ.

Whilst it was a hip hop beat, it was dancehall-friendly. A few other UK dancehall guys jumped on it, 1Xtra remix king Seani B blended dancehall vocals on there and it's generally been a gun fingers all-round type vibe to this day.

His other banger, "Look What The Cat Dragged In" is pretty similar. Fluid drums in the intro make it sound more dancehall than the prominent ones throughout the song, but the rest of it could easily be a dancehall song.

Brixton-repping rapper Sneakbo is probably the only guy to get the streets buzzing as much as Giggs did. Sneakbo's approach is unashamedly bashment, choosing to rap over established and unestablished dancehall riddims directly from Jamaica. Breakthrough song: "Touch A Button" freestyle over popular Vybz Kartel song.

Just as comparison, listen to how Sneakbo's "Touch A Button" lyrics sound on "Talking the Hardest" beat (I just came across this). End plays "Wave Like Bo", another dancehall riddim.

US superstar Drake recently bigged him saying he loved that he was "rapping over dancehall beats" (watch video of interview here).

Cashtastic and Ard Adz & Shallow have good buzzes at the moment, Cash's biggest tune is still dancehall, "Call Me Up" over the Sex Appeal riddim.


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