If you ever get chatting for a while to any grime MC or producer, often it'll transpire that their dad was a "big soundman" back in the day. When you enquire as to the specifics of this declaration, the details start to become hazy and the subject quickly changes. The closest I have come to discovering any truth in such claims in the past is this video my friend Jamie filmed of Jammer and his dad doing a Bob Marley cover in their kitchen on Christmas Eve a few years back. Not that this tells you much about anything.
When I met with Dexplicit a few weeks back, talk turned to the producer's dad, but this time there was substance in the claim to reggae fame. His dad produced for a group called Scatta Rocks. They toured places as far afield as Japan, and were played by David Rodigan on his radio show. A search of obscure Japanese reggae blogs rewarded a number of songs by the group. I have since found myself wandering about aimlessly muttering to myself, "They don't make 'em like they used to," while listening to these tracks on repeat. Check my favourite one below.
Scatta Rocks, "Suddenly"
Dexplicit, I'm sure you will know, is the guy that produced "Pow" AKA the biggest song the grime scene will ever throw out. When we met, we talked quite a lot about that – how it came about, etc. We also talked about other interesting stuff. You can read it all below.
How did you get into producing grime? What were you into before?
Well, I was raised on revival reggae, but when I started to listen to music myself, I started listening to American hip-hop, and then I went on to drum and bass. I first started making hip-hop seriously – putting tunes together and producing for any MCs around me. Then, the garage thing – old school garage as we call it now – popped off.
Did you produce garage back then?
No, I was listening and raving to it, but I was making hip-hop still.
Was it UK hip-hop or US-influenced?
More US-sounding stuff, but obviously it wouldn't have sounded as fat as the US stuff. Back then – this is when I was fifteen – I used to listen to a lot of the Yankee rappers. Then, during old school the Social Circles thing happened and I got involved with them lot.
Yeah, 'cos people were saying to me, "Dex, you should build some garage." But I thought back then I was being a traitor, and everyone around me – all the hip-hop lot – would say, "Look at him switching over."
Did you know Sticky then?
Nah, it was only after I made a few garage beats – I hadn't even had anything played then – and my manager, Martin, who knew Jason Kaye and Sticky, brought a few tracks to them. Then they picked an EP out straight away, called "UK Ravers."
What style was it? Just straight forward 2-step?
Yeah, 2-step, kind of bassy stuff. You know what, some of those tunes, sometimes when I go up north and I'm in a club, I hear people dropping remixes. And all they've done is added a 4/4 beat to it. Really, this bassline stuff is not too far from the dubby stuff from the garage days, like some of those Narrows tunes.
So, yeah, that's what I was doing first. After that, I just kind of got my foot in the door at that label and then the label closed. Back to square one. Grinding, grinding – as you do. Then, a DJ called Slik D – he was on a pirate station called Heat FM – he had his own crew, but he'd play my instrumentals the whole set, every single time. I'd just load him up. Whatever he needed for the set, I was just crafting it and giving it to him. One time, More Fire came down as guests and he played the "Pow" instrumental and he played the "Might Be" instrumental as well.
I knew "Might Be" was old, but I didn't realise it was that old.
Yeah, Lethal B wanted "Might Be" at first and I said no 'cos Jason Kaye wanted to put that out originally, so he took "Forward" instead and said he wanted to put ten guys on it, and it went from there.
It's lucky he did take "Forward."
That's it, definitely. Everything happens for a reason, they say.
What did you think would happen to the song when Lethal first approached you?
You know what, I was just excited about having ten MCs – ten big MCs – on my song. I was like, "Yeah, let's do it, what are we waiting for?" When he sent it back to me as well, it was a bit surreal – listening to all those big MCs that I grew up kind of watching. I was at the raves watching Pay As U Go and all them lot, Dizzee Rascal and all that. I was in the crowds wylin' out to that.
So, did you sign over the song to Lethal and then he got it signed to Relentless?
Nah, there was a lot of hearsay about that, though. I heard I got bumped. I heard he gave me £200 and said keep it movin'.
HAHAHAHAHA. It was a joint deal, then?
Yeah, straight down the middle. All the way.
That's good to hear. Why did the guy with the "shoot it, shoot it" bars get taken off the original version of "Forward"?
Lethal told me he had to go to uni, so he couldn't be on the PAs. They had to take him off the tune 'cos he wouldn't be able to be involved in the campaign.
Someone told me he converted to Islam and didn't agree with the gun lyrics any more.
I guess that story never reached you?
Why do all your bassline tunes have girls on and all your grime tunes have guys on?
It's the vibes. Bassline tunes, the vibe to me – that I like to go for – is sweet on hard. I like to have a deep bass, hard bass, but something soft on top just to balance it out. Also, with bassline, it goes back to sing-along. It's just more of a girl-friendly thing.
What about the grime stuff?
With that, I like to go for energy and hype. That's what I love about grime. That's why I like to go for more MC-based tracks. I just think they work better energy-wise. Bassline is restricted to a 4/4 beat pattern, but MCs are way more free on a grime track.
Tell me about the funky stuff you've been making. I like the one on your MySpace.
That is with a guy called Steelo. I haven't made loads and loads, but I'm coming to a point where I'm gonna make another batch. I do stuff in batches. I'll just sit down over a month and just build loads of them.
Who do you rate in that scene?
Apple, NG and Naughty – those are the three guys.
Finally, tell me about your area. What is good about Enfield?
It's quiet, no hype. When I first moved here there was absolutely no hype. You're right out of the excitement and you can choose to go into the excitement when you're ready. It's changing slowly and there's more excitement happening. Soon it will be like Edmonton. Edmonton used to be nice – no rubbish on the street, nice place. Now it's just not as nice anymore. I'm watching this place deteriorate as well. It's quite interesting, actually. But we got Krispy Kremes, though, so we're all right, still.